How To Create A Godly Relationship With Your Mental Health
The weather is warming, and it is time to kick off our shoes, throw our hands in the air, and celebrate summer, right? For some, that may be the case, for others — specifically those struggling with mental health challenges — the season of sun may not be bringing increased feelings of happiness; the opposition of our minds does not take a summer vacation. You may be one of those people. If so, fear not, because you are never alone (Matthew 28:20).
Mental health illness is a real trial that is faced by so many in our society, yet it is something that is still somewhat stigmatized — we do not address it (at least not out loud) for fear of sounding insecure, weak, or just plain crazy. Yet, statistics show that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. alone struggle with mental health challenges.
When we struggle with mental health illness, we, almost by default, want to separate ourselves from our relationship with God because we feel that we have failed Him in some way. We have not been able to love ourselves, so why would God want to love us? But the truth, friends, is that God embraces us in all our times and seasons of life. He is there in the beautiful moments of abundance and the dark moments when we feel consumed by our mental state want to relegate our problems to the dark recesses of our hearts. If you are dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other psychological illness, know that God loves, embraces, and continues to choose you. He desires nothing more than for you to turn your face to Him and accept His kindness.
You can create a loving relationship between yourself, your mental health, and the God who loves you above all else, beginning right now, by following these simple steps:
This may seem like a no-brainer, but God truly does want to hear all of our prayers and petitions both in times of praise and in times of lack or need. The Word of God instructs us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). God wants you to bring Him your prayers — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and place them at His feet. He wants nothing more than to care for you, and by admitting that you need His help, through the intercession of His love in dealing with your mental health struggles, you are intentionally inviting Him into a closer relationship with you.
Find a Community
You undoubtedly have a support network of individuals around you that you can turn to for help. Your tribe may come in the form of your family, friends, or faith community. Or, maybe you’re in a position where you need to reach out and connect yourself to a therapist or a support group. No matter whom you select to support you, let them know that because you trust them, you want to form a unique relationship with them so that you can express your feelings, emotions, needs, and dreams in a safe space that you form together. In doing so, you are living out God’s will in seeking a community full of like-minded, loving individuals, who demonstrate compassion and love in response to our need (1 Peter 3:8).
You are not your mental health struggle — believe that! Your mental health is just one part of the God-made masterpiece that is the overall person you are. When you speak with others about your mental health, try not to say things like "I'm depressed" because that kind of phrasing applies your mental state to your whole being. Instead, reframe your thinking and share with others that you "have depression" which limits the scope of its reach. When you present your challenges in a way that dissociates them from your physical being, you will feel a shift in your relationship with yourself and, subsequently, the people and things around you. I'm going to say it again: you are not your mental health struggle. Likewise, practice positive self-talk. Get creative with an approach that resonates with you, but if you don’t know where to begin, try one of these suggestions to get yourself started:
Write your favorite quote or Bible verse focused on self-image on a post-it note (I like Genesis 1:27, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10, and Psalm 139:13). Then, stick that note somewhere where you will see it frequently throughout the day. We are each responsible for reinforcing the way we want to feel and choosing a favorite quote or verse that we identify with is a way to make the message of positivity even more personal. Each time you see your post-it throughout the day, read the message, and take a moment to reflect on what the meaning of that message means to you and the way you view yourself.
Set reminders on your phone that include messages of positivity. We set so many alarms for our days — reminders to wake up on time, to get to school or work without being late, to take our dinner out of the oven so it doesn’t burn, you get the idea. But we should also be using our phones as tools of positivity and encouragement. Download an app that sends you positive messages throughout the day, or create your own reminders. By regularly viewing positive words on our phones, we can remind ourselves of all that we are and all that we are becoming.
Use a journal to document your feelings. Use this practice as a way to focus on the good things in your life. At first, you may find that the only bright spot in your day that you have something positive to say about was your morning cup of coffee. If that’s the case, write about how that coffee made you feel, how it tasted, smelled, and why it fills you with happiness. Over time, you will find that through your natural response to the practice, your journal entries will become longer, that you will be able to find more points of goodness in your day. When we document our emotions and monitor our progress over time, we become mentally programmed to shift our focus to a desire to share the things that are healthiest for our growth, and bring our attention to the many blessings that are present in our lives.
You, exactly as you are with all of your imperfections, have been fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord of all goodness (Psalm 139:14) and are beautiful in His sight. Do not allow your own perceptions of your image or your capacity to diminish the power of all that He has created you and called you to be. While self-care sometimes gets a bad rap for being too focused on selfishness, in the case of caring for your mental health, it is absolutely essential. The way you light up the world is unlike the ability held by anyone else that God has made, so it is important to fall in love with yourself by really getting to know who you are, and, perhaps most importantly, how you want to know God. Get started in the journey to self-love by doing one (or more!) of the following:
Open your Bible. We are all reflected in God’s Word. Perhaps you will find a mirror of yourself in one of the women of Scripture and their story, or maybe you will read a particular book or chapter of the Bible that resonates deeply within your soul. Find that niche of the Word that feels most authentic to you, and read it regularly. You may also consider joining a Bible study group in your area or online where you can connect with other like-minded believers, expand your understanding of the Word, and grow in your relationship with God alongside others.
Treat yourself to a date night. (I know this sounds silly, but if you want to fall in love with yourself, you need to commit, right?) Make plans to spend an evening with yourself, even if you need to write down your date night on a calendar or planner to hold yourself accountable. During your date night, do the things that make you happy — order your favorite takeout, watch your favorite movie on Netflix, take a soothing bath, or choose another activity that fills you heart with joy. The goal here is to accept and celebrate yourself exactly where you are.
Learn to say ‘no’. Mental health issues are often exacerbated in moments when we are putting the wants and needs of others ahead of our own self-care. While there is nothing wrong with living in service to others, it is an easy way to become burnt out. When we accept the fact that we cannot be everything to everyone at all times, we become empowered to take on the roles that speak most closely to who we are and to our relationship with God. We learn to say ‘no’ to the things that are beyond our range of ability. Sometimes it’s hard, and maybe even intimidating, to say ‘no’, but the more we practice, the easier it becomes. When we say ‘no’ to the people and things that are beyond the limits of our time, our interests, and our abilities, we are better able to perform in the tasks that we have agreed to because our field of focus is narrowed.
As someone who is overcoming a mental health struggle, you have been blessed with a special gift. Your challenges are part of God's purpose for you, and that purpose is a great one: “'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11). You have the ability to embrace the person that you are, independent of your mental health, and understand how you relate to the contention that you face. The more you identify and talk about your mental health with others, the more comfortable you will become with loving who you are and desiring to share your unique knowledge and wisdom with others. Everyone struggles with something that cannot be seen by others, and for many, that challenge is an issue of mental health. The courage you will demonstrate in speaking up about your issues will not only open the door to finding help for your own needs, but will also provide a way for others, who may be hiding in the shame of their challenge, with a way to be brave and speak out themselves.
Remember that you do not have to face your relationship with your mental health by yourself. Rest assured that there are so many people out there, both known and unknown to you, who hold you in prayer and love you. You are worthy of the love of God, the fulfillment of His mission, and so much more.
How do you practice Godly self-care in your life?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Rebecca Flasz is an avid traveler, lifestyle writer, and elementary school teacher turned college professor. She holds degrees in Education at the Bachelor of Science, Master of Education, and Doctorate of Education levels and has a heart for teaching others. In addition, she is a passionate free spirit who enjoys a good cup of tea, spending time outdoors with family, and listening to the sounds of wind chimes and singing birds. She believes in writing pieces that are reflective of the loving kindness of Christ, meant to help others feel worthy and loved. You can read more of Rebecca's writing on her blog Sagebrush and Salt or find her on Instagram at @with.faith.rebecca.