How to Mind Your Mental Health in Hard Times
If your life has been anything like mine for the last few months—or years, you probably understand that maintaining your mental health can be a challenge when life is constantly throwing curveballs at you by way of grief and loss, finances, health, and relationships.
That’s why I wanted to take the time in this inaugural issue of The Aim and Soar Life to highlight the importance of taking measures to maintain our mental health as we pursue personal growth.
We live in a “hustle and grind” society that bombards us with non-stop messages to do more and be more. Some of us are stuck in the rat race of working a 9-5 and a regular side hustle, while many of us have 9-5’s and multiple side-hustles! Now, I’m all for getting ahead financially and building generational wealth, but in the midst of our hustle and grind, where do we find time to slow down and make sure we are mentally healthy and stable? All the money in the world can’t buy peace of mind. I’ve talked to countless people over the last few years who have confessed to being burned out—not just job burnout, but life burnout. Yep. Good ol’ Christians and non-Christians alike are burned out from life. I don’t believe this is the way God intended for us to live.
Near the end of their lives, most people regret the things they didn’t do as opposed to the things they did do. They regret things like not spending more time playing with their kids or just enjoying their spouses, appreciating nature, or following dreams like opening a bakery or starting some other kind of business. I don’t think anyone on their death bed says, “I wish I had upped my hustle and grind!” Not a chance. Simple, beautiful things in life can help us mind our mental health and thwart stress and depression. So, I’m sharing a few.
#1. CENTER YOURSELF (Every. Single. Day.)
Have you ever found yourself so busy that you didn’t even have time for God??? I have. I’m going to be honest and admit that in that season of my life, my whole life was a complete hot mess. I was waking up every day stiff-walking around like Frankenstein, pretending to have it all together. I was doing all the expected things, going to work, going to church, attending business and other organization meetings, raising my son, but I was operating on fumes.
We must make time for God, our Creator. He made us. He knows what we need, and He can give us the rest we need. Centering yourself means spending quality time with God. It’s not the amount of time that counts, but we don’t want to give God drive-by attention. Give God a prime spot on your calendar and honor your divine appointment to the best of your ability. The time spent praying and meditating on Scripture can often rejuvenate you on your worst days.
#2. TAKE TIME for YOURSELF (Every. Single. Day.)
I hope you know I can read your mind. You are saying something like “But the kids…the grandkids…the husband…the job…” And I hear you. But you know what? You are no good to anyone else if you are not emotionally and mentally well. I remember taking a “mental health” day with my son when he was in elementary school. We played a few games and he wanted—needed more time with me. But I was the cranky mommy because I was mentally and physically worn out. I regretted not being at my best for him.
If I had taken some time for myself, I would have had energy for him too. So, get your ME TIME in every day. Even if you have to wake up an hour or two before the kids, hubby, or parents you might be caring for. Your ME TIME might look different from anyone else’s. Maybe your ME TIME consists of sitting at Barnes and Noble with a cup of something warm while reading a new book (Meeee!), or maybe it’s taming the elliptical machine at the gym. Do whatever allows you to be alone with your thoughts and relax without thinking about all the responsibilities that need attention. Take off your cape. Put up your feet.
#3 LEARN TO SAY NO
People-pleasing is one of the most damaging mental health busters, even when we call ourselves doing “good” for the Kingdom. Several years ago, I was complaining to my pastor about being worn out. I proceeded to tell him all the things on my agenda that left me with little time to breathe and were stressing me out. After listening patiently, he asked, “Did you pray about that?” No, I hadn’t. I had said “yes” too many times to too many people. God certainly wants us to serve, but at His leading and His direction, not because we want people to like us, or don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying no. There is only so much you can do. If you allow yourself to get caught up in the cycle of doing too much, you may end up being ineffective anyway. If you have already committed to some things, when your service time is over, like at the end of the season of coaching little league or being the den mom for your child’s team, politely step down. Step down from the things that may eat up your time, so that you can get your schedule to a manageable level.
#4 CELEBRATE THE GOOD (Every. Single. Day.)
I used to hate it when people told me “It could be worse.” I have come to realize that most people weren’t attempting to dismiss my pain by saying this, they were just reminding me that regardless of what situation I found myself in, it wasn’t the end of the world. I had something to be grateful for and thankful for. My mother always says, “Anything can happen. Life can change in an instant.” This holds true—especially when we are dealing with hard times. Life is not always challenging.
We must celebrate and continue to celebrate the good God has blessed us with. Having the ability to relate to others and communicate is a blessing. Having a reasonable amount of health and strength is a blessing. We must focus on the good that’s happening in the world when we become bogged down with news that drains us. We must thank God for the goodness He provides every day, even when life seems upside down. Celebrate the good and thank Him.
#5 SEEK HELP
Many of us have experienced losses during this Covid pandemic, whether it was the loss of loved ones or financial losses. For many people, coping during this season has been difficult as the emotional pain of continued loss has been insurmountable. Some of us have tried to make it on our own by praying and seeking God. And that is what we should do. In addition to that, God has provided us with resources like counselors and other mental health providers who have the training to partner with us and help us through grief, depression, and anxiety. There is no shame in needing help. I’ve heard Christians say things like, “Christians shouldn’t be depressed.” So, there is often a certain shame around seeking a therapist or even needing medication for depression and anxiety.
God knows we are human. I would invite people to study the Scriptures. Certainly, some of the Psalms written by King David were coming from a depressed heart, but he didn’t stay in that state because he knew God was with him. The goal is to seek help so that we can get unstuck and move forward when our mental health is being negatively impacted. Making someone feel ashamed for seeing a therapist or taking anxiety medication is just as ridiculous as making them feel ashamed for having cancer or any other ailment. Seek professional help when you need it.
You can also seek help from your support network of family and friends. A lot of times we want people to think we have it all together for fear of ridicule or because of our insecurities. It’s okay not to have it all together. Let someone know what’s going on with you. Perhaps someone can pick your child or grandchild up from school or pick up the things you need from the market. You don’t have to do everything alone.