Today we turn toward emotional health in our series on establishing and maintaining health in the near year. Last week, we looked at the importance of our physical health and maintaining our physical well-being. Now, we turn inward.
The last few years have been hard. Pandemics, politics, isolation, anxiety, depression, global crises. Many of us are still feeling some damage to our mental health, and the outcome can be felt in just about every area of our lives.
Here are some common signs that your mental health is not at its best:
- Loss of sleep – Whether you have trouble falling asleep, waking in the night or waking too early, losing sleep is one of the most common signs of depression and anxiety.
- Lack of motivation – You are less productive, have trouble concentrating and are reluctant to begin or finish tasks you know you need to do.
- Irritation – You are more irritable with the people around you. Things that wouldn’t ordinarily have bothered you are now frustrating you, maybe even in the form of outbursts or snapping at others.
- Loss of joy – things that once made you happy, like time with friends or a peaceful walk, no longer bring you joy.
- Low energy – You are often tired and feel sluggish.
- Change in appetite/weight – You are eating more or less than normal and gaining or losing weight in a short amount of time.
- Withdrawing – You don’t want to see friends, you don’t want to talk to your family, you have trouble asking for help.
Last year at this same time, I shared one of my favorite quotes on mental health along with these three observations:
“Mismanaged emotions not only determine whether you will become sick but also whether you will be happy, fulfilled, and successful in your life”
Hopelessness And Progression Of Heart Disease, Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis Vascular Biology
Everson, S A. Kaplan, G A. Goldberg. D E. Salon,R. 17, (8) pages 1490-1495.
Three Observations on Mental Agility
- What the authors of the above quote are not saying: if you manage your emotions well you will live a healthy, happy, fulfilling and successful life. We all know people who do all the right things to manage their emotional health yet suffer the cruelest complexities of life. Yet there are things within our control that, if managed well, can mitigate the side effects that lead to some physical ailments. The things that are outside of our control–like DNA, pre-existing conditions, or certain pre-dispositions–we have to navigate as they come.
- Happiness is not the same as joyfulness! Happiness is a temporary state. Joy comes from the ongoing, internal work of the Holy Spirit. You might not be happy at the moment–in fact, you might be suffering, grieving or feeling downright ornery–but you can maintain your joy in the experiential knowledge that God is always at work, knowing He can sustain you through the most difficult life and ministry challenges.
- Fulfillment and success are not the best gauge of well-managed emotions! Most–if not all–leaders who have led their churches well through difficult times have at some point questioned their judgment. This has led some leaders to new heights and others to greater depths than they have known before. Leading in this season is a wild roller coaster ride and not for the faint of heart.
Boosting Mental Health
Because mental well-being is so intrinsically linked to both physical and spiritual health, one way to boost mental health is to make sure you are caring for your body and soul well. If you take a look at the common symptoms above, you can see that many are related to physical health (low energy, appetite and weight changes, loss of sleep). Mental health is also connected to your spiritual health. Connecting with a deeper meaning can reinvigorate joy and motivation.
Here are some ways that you might boost your mental health:
- Exercise – Cardio is proven to lessen depression and anxiety. Working out actually gives us more energy and helps us regulate our sleep.
- Eating well – trade the chips and ice cream for veggies and hummus (or another healthy snack that you enjoy). Make sure you are getting proper nutrition- it will give you energy and help you focus!
- Prayer and reflection – taking quiet time to talk to God and share your feelings can be a great release and give you time to think about the underlying reasons for how you’re feeling.
- Talk to friends and family – share how you are feeling and why. It will help those around you be patient and compassionate.
- Ask for help – finding a counselor to help you explore and resolve some feelings can help immensely. They can provide wisdom and a perspective that we cannot see for ourselves.
7 questions to help you grow your mental agility
- What insights about your mental agility can you glean as you have led over the past 12 months?
- How can you consolidate those into new behaviors to manage your emotions?
- Reflect on a real situation and consider how you can apply that learning in real-time?
- What difference will it make if you do this well?
- Is the benefit worth the effort?
- What will you do to move the learning from a theory to a practice?
- After you have taken a step of action, what new insight(s) do you have?