Good Morning Friends!
Welcome to part three of our five week series: Surrendering Our Health. If you are joining us for the first time, we're glad you're here! When you have time, take a few minutes to check out our previous two posts. So far, we've prayed for our physical and mental health. Today we will pray for our emotional health.
Briefly, let's talk about the difference between mental and emotional health, since these are often discussed interchangeably. Mental health refers to the overall stability of our mind. Are my thoughts rational? Am I experiencing any symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress? Emotions are how we feel and many times correlate to our mental health, but not necessarily.
For example, I may be experiencing depression and feeling sad at the same time. However, I could be experiencing anxiety, but coping well with it, thus I still feel confident and overall happy.
A key word here is "coping." Coping skills have a lot to do with how we feel or our emotional health. If our coping skills are strong, then regardless of the mental struggles we may face - we will emotionally be able to deal with those struggles.
As the video above highlighted - we face a lot of trials and tribulations. So many of those are brought on by our own poor choices and lack of healthy coping skills. Perhaps, some of the words mentioned at the beginning of the video resonated with you. Have you found yourself entangled in an addiction and seeing no way out? Do you carry heavy burdens, loaded down by guilt and shame? Addiction distorts our thoughts and makes it difficult to make wise choices, which in turn leaves us feeling guilty and shameful, embarrassed and unworthy.
But God tells us a different story. One of redemption. If you are experiencing difficult emotions we want you to know that you are not alone. God loves you and so do we. No matter what you have done. Regardless of why you are in the situation you are in - God still cares. He wants to see you succeed. He is for us and not against us!
Let's talk more about what we can do, so that we can stop the cycle of repeating the same mistakes over and over. After all, we want to live an emotionally stable and fulfilling life, don't we?
What are your coping skills?
If prayer is not at the top of your list, I encourage you to try it! If we build our foundation on Jesus, he will equip us for every situation and circumstance (Psalm 62:6-8). A healthy prayer life is simply a conversation between you and God. He's our parent and our friend. The same way our Earthly relationships need nourishing, so does our relationship with God. Spend time in his word. Understand his will. Make choices that coincide with how he has instructed for us to live.
So yes, prayer should be number one, but are there other healthy coping skills that can assist us through an emotional crisis? When Our emotions are out of control, we need a toolbox full of reliable tools that are capable of fixing the problem. Emphasis on the word HEALTHY! Often times we run to whatever is comforting, easily accessible, a quick fix, and not always healthy. Is junk food your coping skill? Drugs? Alcohol? Porn? Promiscuity? Gossiping? Complaining? Those are all band-aids for a gun wound.
The more we practice healthy coping skills - the less our emotional health is going to spiral out of control in the first place. The more you see your healthy coping skills work, the more motivated you will be to put in the effort and the less likely you will be to continue running to temporary solutions that often times make the problem so much worse.
These may sound like common sense, but if you haven't consistently tried them, you just might surprise yourself at just how well they really do work.
1. Go for a Walk, Exercise
When our emotions are running high - we need to relieve some of that energy. Get moving! Difficult emotions are exhausting. If we can exhaust ourselves through exercise we won't have the energy to be so upset. 10 minutes of walking, jogging (even in place) will do you some good. And if you've never tried weight therapy, you don't know what you're missing! Take some of those pint up feelings and lift heavy! Exercise is great for our overall health - so don't let this tool get rusty!
2. Gratitude Journal
Practicing gratitude is helpful even when we are not experiencing extreme emotions, but it's extra helpful when we are! If you are sad- gratitude. Angry? Gratitude. Shameful? Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude! Happy? A double dose gratitude! Check out this link to learn how to create your own gratitude journal. It's amazing!!
3. Talk it out
No one to talk to? No problem. God is always listening and there are so many free resources available as well! Click here for some references. But perhaps you do have a trusted friend or a pet that is willing to lend an ear... utilize your support system! And when you need expert advice, just talk to yourself! ;) Who knows you better than you? But seriously, self talk is a priceless tool. You are in control of how you feel. We may not be in control of what others say or do, but we do get to choose how we respond. Will you respond in anger or with mercy? Will you respond in bitterness or with grace? When you are experiencing a difficult emotion ask yourself out loud, "Is how I'm feeling helpful or harmful to this situation?" If you find that it isn't helpful then try a phrase or Bible verse that you can memorize and repeat until you are able to calm yourself. Some examples: "This too shall pass" "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" and my favorite "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." Words are powerful! And God's words work miracles! Use them!
If you're up for the challenge try this: the next time you find yourself emotionally unstable - pray. Pray before you do ANYTHING else. Pray before you try any of the other coping skills. Pray your way through your difficult feelings and watch God work!
This is an exercise that can get quite emotional, but the results can be life changing. Each time I've utilized this activity in therapy I've watched tears fall like cleansing rain.
Take a piece of paper and write everything that you are ashamed of. Every burden you carry. Every secret you hold. Write it all down. Make it real. Face your fears. However difficult it may be. Do it!
Then one by one read each painful memory out loud. Fight the tears. Battle the shame. Confront your regret. At the end of your list repeat the words, "These are things I did. This is not who I am."
Say it more than once if you need to. Then light that paper on fire and watch every burden burn! Be set free of every shameful action. Let every mistake vanish into ashes.
And if those feeling ever try to remind you of your past - speak with authority- "Those are things I did. That is NOT who I am!"
You ARE a child of God! Your identity is found in him! You are a new creation!
2nd Corinthians 5:17
Dear Heavenly Father,
Today we come to you broken and in need. You created us with all of these emotions that we sometimes get overwhelmed and don't know what to do. But you do. You are abundantly able. God, the more we seek you, the more we find you. Help us to be like the man from the quote that lost so much. God, help us to lose our anger. Help us to lose our guilt and shame. Help us to lose our self-pity and victim mentality. God, we want to gain what you have for us! Not the things of this world, but the blessings that only you can give. We continue to pray for the fruits of Your Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Yes, Lord, fill us with feelings of contentment and gratitude. Bless us so that we may be a blessing to others.
In Jesus Name,
Until Next Time,
Your Praying Friend
Substance Abuse Counselor