Do you wrestle with fear or anxiety? If so, you are in crowded company. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million people. Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 16.2 million U.S. adults have had at least one major depressive episode.
Even knowing how widespread mental health challenges are, it can be difficult to come to terms with them for yourself. Sometimes we may think our struggle is the result of a lack of faith, but mental illness is not about your character. It is about your brain chemistry. The good news is that hope is alive, and help is available. Countless individuals have battled mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and with faith, healthy lifestyle choices, and professional help have learned to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.
As someone who is thriving despite having a mental health condition for over twenty years, I would like to share five healthy ways I manage my mental health.
Cry Out to God For Help
Mental illness can be unbearable at times. One of the symptoms of severe depression is hopelessness which can rob someone of the desire to live. The Psalms reveal that even King David struggled with depression. When we are wrestling with our thoughts and emotions we can turn to his honest prayers and make them our own. You can personalize verses such as Psalm 34:18 and pray, “Thank you, Lord, that you are near to the brokenhearted and that you save the crushed in spirit,” If even one day is overwhelming, pause, then take it breath-by-breath and offer prayers of lament before God. Ask for His help and trust that He will hear your cries and give you the strength to endure.
Lead a Healthy, Clean Lifestyle
Choosing healthy lifestyle habits can increase your psychological well-being and greatly enhance your mood. Choices such as practicing good sleep routines, getting regular exercise, making beneficial food choices, taking medication, if needed, managing stress, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol can ease the severity of your symptoms and put you on the path to greater health. Ultimately, we are responsible for managing our mental health, even if we need help. If we want to be made well, we must become active and willing participants in our healing journey and put in the hard work.
Manage Your Inputs and Pull the Weeds From Your Life
My husband and I are new homeowners, and our house has a small yard that is full of weeds. In my effort to create a beautiful garden I discovered that seventy-five percent of gardening is pulling weeds and pruning. It caused me to reflect on the weeds in my life that were robbing me of peace and joy, such as the excessive consumption of social media and depressing news items. God has given us the ability to exert power and discipline in our lives. If we want our lives to be transformed, so we can experience greater health, the best thing we can do is identify and pull the habits, relationships, addictions, and false beliefs that are robbing us of peace and joy. Managing negative inputs in my life has helped decrease my anxiety while empowering me to focus on what I can influence. God is our master gardener and stands ready to help us pull our weeds so we can bloom.
Transform Your Mind
Our thoughts determine our beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. Just as we must guard our heart, we must be a gatekeeper on the trails of our mind, holding every thought captive and deciding whether it can stay or must go. Renewing our minds is a spiritual practice that has a physical effect on our brains. Research shows repeating thoughts over and over creates new pathways in our brain. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired. God can physically transform and rewire our brain as we think and meditate on what is true, making it healthier and more resilient.
I use memory verses and Biblical truth declarations daily that remind me of my identity in Christ, which allows me to fight the lies, anxiety, and fear. Memorizing scripture and keeping God’s word in your heart can equip you with truth in times of doubt, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. It is our weapon for a very real spiritual battle.
Additionally, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a form of therapy that “helps the client discover, challenge, and modify or replace their negative, irrational thoughts (or cognitive distortions)”, is a powerful technique to overcome negative thought patterns and has been proven to be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression.
Create a Support System and Accept Professional Help When Needed
Mental health issues thrive in isolation.We have a spiritual enemy who tries to shame and convince us that we are the only one who has ever experienced the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come with mental illness. It is important to reach out for help and tell trusted individuals so they can support you with prayer and community.
When mental illness interferes with your ability to function properly, professional help is always advised. God can use tools like counselors, CBT, and medication to help restore your mental health. Mental health is like an onion with many layers (physiological, circumstantial, behavioral, spiritual, relational, etc.) and every layer needs to be tended and nurtured for optimal health. Mental health conditions are not terminal conditions but are often highly treatable. Reach out and receive the help that is available to you.
You are profoundly loved, and your life is of immense value. Your mental health matters to God. Help is available, hope is alive, and you are worth it.