Click below to hear this post about emotional health on the Candidly Kendra podcast:
Every human being is susceptible to emotional un-wellness right now.
Listen, I don’t mean to make a “The Coronavirus made me do it” kind of excuse for our fragile emotional health and our unhealthy reactions to stress, but it can’t be ignored.
At first, worries about the Coronavirus added just a little stress to my cup. Not so much that I can’t handle, of course. Just a little.
Then a citywide shut-down poured a little more stress to that cup. Well, honestly it added a LOT more stress, because with the shut-down came distance learning, children bickering, a loss of my normal ability to cope through alone time, and a family that needed to eat three times a day. (“Can’t you give a girl a break, already?” I asked my son who told me he was bored…again.)
Next, more stress was poured into my cup with a terrible diagnosis for my mother…financial insecurity…societal anger about social injustice and how to respond…and a loss of regular church community as I’ve always known it.
So I shouldn’t be surprised that today when I hit too many red lights when I was already running late the stress in my metaphorical cup spilled over and made a giant mess.
Of course the red lights weren’t so bad. On a normal day that wouldn’t haven’t made me blink an eye. But today…I just can’t. There’s no more room.
An Honest Assessment Of Our Emotional Health
One of the first things I told my children about going to the doctor’s office is always to tell the truth so the doctor can make an accurate diagnosis and help correct any physical problems.
Similarly, we must honestly evaluate our emotional health, so we can take important steps to find healing.
On Monday we covered the first three of the Six Areas of Emotional Un-Wellness. I shared with you the addictive pull of Anger; I discussed the false comfort of Bitterness; and I brought to light the relational cost of Manipulation.
Now let’s discuss the last three of the Six Areas of Emotional Un-Wellness to further our pursuit of emotional health.
Six Areas of Emotional Un-Wellness (continued from previous)
Yesterday in my Tuesday Talk video I talked about King David’s unabashed worship of God when the Ark was brought into Jerusalem. I read the story from 2 Samuel 6. In this story, Michal expresses disdain for David. You can read her belittling of this “ridiculous shepherd-turned-king,” after all, she would know, because she was raised as a princess.
Disdain is when we put ourselves above another person in order to judge them and look down on them.
You see this the way wives treat their husbands on television, though, let’s be honest and admit that we see it in real life.
We do it in real life. When we treat our husbands as another child, when we roll our eyes, and when we shun them for their mistakes.
Men show disdain for their wives when they invalidate their emotions, or ask, “Are you on your period?” in order to dismiss the wife’s perspective.
Black people show disdain for white people; white people show disdain for black people.
This is a universal problem. We all want to be comfortably perched at the top, looking down smugly at the world that is beneath our feet.
Oh, we are great at hiding it. So great that we might not even be comfortable admitting that it’s true. But on the days when the stressors have filled our cups and the lights are all red, that disdain shows itself in our ugly faces.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28 ESV
I noticed something ten years ago when I was processing applications for college-aged young women to work on our missions team for a summer in Long Beach, California. Eighty-five percent of them disclosed that they were on anxiety medication. (Do you suppose that there were more who didn’t disclose it?)
Anxiety, for the sake of this post, is the presence of those intrusive thoughts and worries that something terrible will happen, or that it won’t all be okay. “Chronic anxiety,” on the other hand, is when those thoughts and feelings are recurring, and become barriers to healthy daily functioning.
I am so thankful for the mental health professional community who have found medications that can help people like those young women from the Long Beach mission trip. Anxiety needs to be arrested from affecting us every day.
But if you aren’t normally a sufferer of chronic anxiety, and suddenly you find yourself struggling with feelings that it’s not going to be okay, your emotional health cup may be spilling over.
God has hope for you! Your cup is in his hands. Let him pour your stress out at his feet and fill it with his love.
“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
I Peter 5:7 ESV
I once read the words of a suffering man who experienced great shame. He said, “I feel like God swept up the scraps of the people factory and used that to make me.” This poor young man, as I remember the story, later took his own life.
My heart breaks for anyone who carries the weight of shame.
Sometimes we can hide under the successes and normal-ness of everyday life. But sometimes that mask breaks under the weight of stress and we return to shame-thoughts:
- “I was a mistake”
- “There is something wrong with me”
- “There is no hope for me”
- “I’m broken”
Do you ever find yourself sampling those thoughts?
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.
Isaiah 61:7 ESV
First Aid For Emotional Health
As I walked you through the Six Areas of Emotional Un-Wellness I purposely refrained from giving you the solution to each one, because the solution for them all is the same. I didn’t want to get repetitive.
Not to oversimplify, but this is a matter of Emotional First Aid:
- Assess the symptoms (“I’m bleeding”)
Emotional First Aid – I’m responding to my family in anger (or bitterness, manipulation, disdain, anxiety, or shame)
- Identify and deal with the cause, if possible (“There’s a thorn in my finger.” Remove the thorn.)
Emotional First Aid – Identify the background cause of your anger (need more sleep, desire for control, stress at work…)
- Apply first aid (antibiotic ointment and bandaid)
Emotional First Aid – Apologize to your family and confess your sin to God, knowing he has already forgiven you. If you think it would be helpful, make a plan for how you will respond differently next time.
- Enlist help (“I can’t open this peanut butter jar with my injury”)
Emotional First Aid – Let trusted family, friends, and church community know what’s going on and how they can help you.
- If necessary, seek professional help (“my cut isn’t getting better and now it looks infected”)
Emotional First Aid – If further help is needed, seek professional help from a pastor or counselor.
Final Words of Encouragement
Does it make you upset to think that you have been emotionally unwell in some area? I’m actually very thankful for what you are willing to see in yourself! Jesus said that he came to heal the sick. Sometimes we don’t know that we are sick until the symptoms crop up.
But the hope you have is this: That God who revealed your sickness to you is also the God who heals (Rapha).
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
Our God took all of our shame – all of our wrongdoing – onto himself. He did that because of his love for us so that we can share his glory.
That’s our Healer God. That’s Jehovah Rapha!
For more about emotional wellness in marriage, check out my post called “How To Have A Healthy Marriage.”
For more about wellness in dating, see my post called “Should I Keep Dating Him? When to Call It Quits.“