Doing Life Together

sport-1005882_1280I just returned from a very needed vacation. I had no idea how much I needed to rest and reflect until I began to relax and engage in a little self-care. One of the best parts of my vacation was being outside in nature. Something about being in the elements brings reflection and a reordering of priorities. The down time is good for our holistic health.

Most of us get so caught up with our work and staying busy with family and other commitments in our lives, we take no time to stop and rest. We might think we can’t, or that it is selfish or not necessary. But when you do take the time to relax, you quickly see how tense you have been and how much you need the break.

When was the last time you gave yourself time to relax and reflect on what really matters? Have you been so preoccupied with the stress of life, or escaping into mindless entertainment, or worse yet, self-medicating just to get through the days? If so, consider these ideas related to self-care:

  1. Nature is our preferred place to be when reflecting and recharging. It brings relaxing in a way that city life cannot. So find a place to sit in the beauty of God’s creation and just be for a few moments.
  2. Read a book on a spiritual topic. It will help you think about spiritual issues as they relate to daily living. This is an area we can easily neglect that correlates with our well-being. Reading spiritual books helps refocus our lives on what truly matters.
  3. Practice contemplative prayer in which you mediate on the Word of God and listen. Read, pray and listen. In our fast paced culture, this is a skill that needs to be practiced.
  4. Journal your thoughts. Find a journal and write. If you are going through a stressful time, how are you coping, what is helping you? Looking back at a journal, especially one in which you incorporated Scripture, can build resiliency. And writing  your thoughts can help organize them and put you in touch with how you feel.
  5. Exercise in nature. Get out and walk a trail or path. Ride a bike or participate in a sport like tennis or golf. It will refresh you. Exercise is good to do anytime, but doing it in nature can bring more stress reduction.
  6. If you can afford it, take a short retreat to a quiet, calming place. A short weekend get-away or even a night away can be recharging. Getting out of familiar surroundings helps you reflect on your life in a way you don’t do when you are caught up in daily hassles.

Most likely, no one but you is going to push self-care. So this is an area of your life in which you have to be intentional. Remember, it isn’t selfish. Rather, it is a chance to recharge and reboot. And when you do, it will be better for those you love as well.


praying-2179326_1280A reader sent me this question, “I ask God to help me with my depression every day. Yet, I am still very depressed. What is wrong?

We are body, soul and spirit. This means that sometimes we need to deal with the physical side of an illness along with our prayers. There are many causes for depression and there can be a genetic component as well. Some depressions, like the bipolar types, have an organic component that is helped by medication. The brain is not functioning properly and medication can help correct those dysfunctions.

Other depressions are the result of medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, cancer and heart disease. Others can be induced by medications or substance use. In other words, some types of depressions are biologically routed. Others are more influenced by life circumstances that need to be addressed. It is important to get at the root of depression in order to know how to treat it.

Prayer is always helpful, but there are times when we need to act by doing something to make things better. A first step would be to get a physical examination by a physician to rule out any medical cause or contributor for your depression. For example, it could be that your thyroid function needs addressing. Second would be to see a mental health professional and talk about when the depression began, circumstances of your life, stress and other factors that can bring on depression.

Once you have a better understanding about the cause of depression, you will know better how to pray and what to do. Depression is very treatable in most cases, but you have to know what is prompting and maintaining it. And a mental health provider can help choose the type of treatment you may need to consider.

Ask others to pray with and for you. Sometimes we need others to lift us up and one of the issues with depression is feeling alone. Do a search for Bible verses that help fight depression. Versus like Psalm 40: 1-3, Psalm 3:3, Psalm 42:11, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and Isaiah 41:10 are good places to begin.

Know that there are people who can help, but you may need to ask. For more information, check out my small book on Breaking Free from Depression.

discussion-2822066_1280If someone you love or care about it not OK, what do you say? A friend recently asked how to bring up the subject of mental health with someone she cares about. She has noticed that her friend is not eating well and is sad and down most of the time. He seems to be losing interest in things he used to like to do. She is wondering if he is clinically depressed, but doesn’t know how to begin a conversation about this.

Mental health is not an easy topic to bring up, however it is important if you have concerns about someone. One thing I hear often is that people are afraid they will say or do something that might make a person feel worse. That is rarely the case. Most times, people who are not OK value talking to someone who will listen. The important thing to do is listen and show empathy for their struggles.

To begin a conversation, simple say something like, “You know I care about you. I’ve noticed you aren’y yourself lately. I just wanted to check in and make sure you are OK.” If they open up to you, genuinely listen to their concerns. Make statements that reflect what they said, summarize their comments to show that they were heard. Always make eye contact and be attentive (no checking your phone in the middle of the conversation!). Express your appreciating that they trusted you enough to share. Validate what you heard and don’t offer a bunch of platitudes to try and make them feel better immediately. But always offer hope.

Finally, let the person know that they have your support. You don’t have to understand the ins and outs of what they are going through, simply reassure them that there is hope and help and that they can talk to you anytime. Having a conversation about someone’s mental health can feel a bit awkward, but a listening ear is usually welcomed.

If you can, direct them to helpful resources.  If you know of specific people, churches that have counseling support, or professional agencies, provide a referral or contact number.  Make it clear that you can’t necessarily fix the problem, but you know where they can get needed help.

Finally, encourage them to be a part of a group or get connected to others. Isolation is not good for any of us, especially when life becomes overwhelming. Being around people who can lift you up and support you goes a long way.


checklist-2277702_1280We just completed a 360 evaluation with my co-workers and leaders. The purpose was to get feedback from colleagues to help us become better leaders. Several people who work with me were  asked to evaluate me on specific questions. The computerized program generates a profile of how others see you. The more feedback you get, the better. If the way you perceive yourself is very different than the way other see you, this can be difficult, but good to know. Whatever the results, you have information from those who work with you that you would probably never get otherwise.

Feedback is something that can be extremely helpful if it is done right. It can boost our performance and leadership. None of us like to hear negative comments, but if we handle them well, they can provide insight. Without the feedback, we might be unaware of things we do that don’t get  the results or cooperation we need. And good leaders should want to hear about weaknesses as well as strengths.

But when you hear negative feedback, it is not always easy to digest. It might conflict with how you see yourself. Common reactions are to get angry, cry, feel unfairly judged, maybe saddened by how we are viewed, making us more self-conscious. If the feedback isn’t done well, it can be demoralizing.

One of the most important issues tied to getting critical feedback is whether or not you trust the source. Is the person giving you feedback someone who is insecure, maybe jealous of you or just doesn’t like you? If so, the feedback might not be accurate. So what can you do if you are given critical feedback that doesn’t ring true or is hard to hear? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. First, decide if this is a trustworthy person who is generally fair in giving evaluations.
  2. If you value the person’s feedback, Take some time to think about it. Don’t just react. Is there anything that was said that might ring true for you or that could be helpful?
  3. Take it for what it is –someone’s opinion of you or your performance through their eyes. It’s one view and it doesn’t define you.
  4. If you aren’t sure you trust the source, get more than one opinion. Ask people you trust if the comments rings true to them.
  5. Do something to show you are working on making change. After all, the idea is to help you be a better you.
  6. Don’t avoid the people who gave you a negative evaluation or critical comments. Instead, use the information to reset a relationship and work on improvements.
  7. Ask for help, mentoring or coaching. Admit your weaknesses to those you trust and develop a plan to move forward.

If you handle feedback in a construct way, it can help you grow and improve your team work and leadership. Keep an open mind and defenses down. Remember, if done well, the purpose is to help you, not upset you.