I’ve had a weird relationship with anxiety throughout my life.
I come from a long family line of mental health issues on both sides of my family. Alcohol abuse ran rampant on one side, causing fatal health issues as well as relational turmoil, and on the other side of the family various mental health conditions go back generations.
I felt like I was doomed.
My battles with depression and anxiety began as a young teenager after experiencing a season of tragic loss. As a young follower of Jesus, I didn’t know what to do with what was going on inside of me.
I believe in Jesus, so I shouldn’t feel this way, right?
I went to counselors at different points of my life, and then there were other times when I suppressed the issues and lived in complete denial of my struggle. When issues began to creep up again, I eventually just accepted the lie that I would always deal with anxiety. I made myself comfortable with the unhealthy mindsets that I was living with.
When I welcomed the anxiety and made it comfortable, it became a constant physical presence on my chest. For the first time ever, I experienced panic attacks in private and even once in public (actually, in front an entire classroom of 7th graders as a teacher). After the scariest night of my life, I decided that this couldn’t possibly be the life that God wanted me to live.
I found God’s healing when I acknowledged the pain and made a conscious choice to live differently. I decided I would do whatever I had to do so that I would never get back to that place again, and not pass on my destructive mental habits to my children.
Now, I don’t believe that anxiety or depression are issues that I’m doomed to live with. Instead, I know that I’m free because of Jesus, and on a journey towards freedom as my soul is being transformed. As a part of that journey, I have to make an intentional decision to make the right choices for my mental health every day. I believe that my healing is both something I possess in faith as a believer, but it’s also a process I’m working out daily.
I’ve found that I can work with God toward healing, and this is how I do that:
Healthy Habits and Boundaries for Mental Health
- Gratitude: Gratitude is a quick way to drive anxiety away. I choose to dwell on what is good and true, and tell my thoughts where to go.
- Bible Reading, Worship, and Prayer: God’s word is life. I believe that something deeply transformative happens when I read it, sing it, and pray it.
- Sleep: A healthy mind needs an adequate amount of sleep. Taking care of my mind and body means going to bed early and allowing my thoughts to shut down.
- Diet: If I eat terrible, I feel terrible, and then my mind goes in the same direction. I believe that my mental health is attached to my physical health, so what I eat matters.
- Exercise: I have to make an effort to work exercise into my week, but I can always feel the results of this discipline. Even a short walk has a positive effect on my mood!
- Sunshine: Our bodies and our minds need sunshine (isn’t that cool?!). I always feel renewed and refreshed when I’m outside so I try to get outdoors as often as I can.
- Sabbath: We all need one day a week to completely rest and do a soul detox. Sabbath rest gives our week a reset and it reminds us that who we are is not simply what we do.
If I feel anxiety rising up inside of me, I always go back to these things to try to figure out what I’ve neglected. I use this checklist to keep my mind and soul healthy in an effort to work with God in the process of healing and mental health.
What are your habits and boundaries for mental health?