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Tag: mental health

Anxiety, Anger, and Transitions

The last year is one for the record books. Literally. We certainly haven’t seen anything like a global pandemic in our lifetimes, and hopefully we won’t see one again anytime soon. Considering the magnitude of the life changes and grief that many have undergone this year, the resilience we’ve individually and collectively displayed is to be commended. Many of us transitioned to working, schooling, and going to church remotely, and we did it almost seamlessly. Our entire world changed the way it does business and travel, yet most of us kept on living day to day like we’d been performing remotely our whole lives. It quickly began to feel normal. Resilience is a beautiful thing.

Adaptation and survival are a part of resilience. Our bodies and emotions, however, may be telling a different story. As the pandemic began, anxiety spiked across the world. Fear and worry were normalized, as so many people were asking the same questions: How long will we be in lockdown? How soon will the vaccines be developed? How long will I have to homeschool my children? How long will we have to wear masks? And most importantly, am I safe?

Then, as the months slid by, anxiety turned to irritability. You see, anxiety and anger are two sides of the same system: fight or flight. Anxiety often causes us to avoid and worry. It makes us feel powerless. What then is the antithesis of powerlessness?

Anger. It fuels us with the adrenaline we need to affect change. When we lost control of our lives and the powers-that-be would not give us answers quickly enough, anger began to simmer. It is frustrating to not know how to plan your life! To not be able to plan a trip, a wedding, or even a school year. It is frustrating to be trapped at home with the same people day in and day out, even if they are your favorite people.

During a perfect storm of collective anger, the United States entered the election season. We all know how that turned out. People did not come together during the pandemic but, instead, became more angry and further divided and isolated.

Enter depression. As the long months of a pandemic wore on, and powerlessness compounded, apathy began to develop. I’ve heard depression called “frozen grief,” and I think that is an accurate phrase to describe what we experienced as a society. What happens when we can’t enact control over our own lives? Eventually, when anger doesn’t work, we give in to a sense of powerlessness and lose the energy to fight. We are created for community, and months of social distancing worked to make us feel alone and isolated. Add to this short daylight hours and the dreariness of winter, and I think we can say that many of us were living with at least low-grade depression over the past few months, marked by low energy and motivation.

Finally, however, hope is blossoming. Summer is on the horizon. Vaccines have been rolled out. Mask mandates are waning. Herd immunity is a real possibility. People are transitioning back to in-person work and schooling. It seems that now we should be overjoyed about getting back our “old lives.” Why then, does it feel like a mixed bag?

I propose that actually, anxiety, irritability, and emotional dysregulation may be on the rise again. Although it seems counterintuitive, seasons of transition (even good transition) create stress. After months of living life remotely, to then be told that we can go back to the old way of doing things is a little overwhelming. How do we go back to the way things were before? Will things ever be the way they were before?

This brings me back to the theme of resilience. You may think that you’ve handled this year like a champ. You probably have. You, after all, are designed to survive. Humanity is created to be adaptive, so like a superstar you’ve managed to navigate all that was thrown at you this year. Perhaps you didn’t even stop to grieve or acknowledge your own emotions. You just did what was required of you. Survival mode may have become a way of life.

Although not all of us pay attention to our emotions, our behaviors often give us insight into our mental health. As Bessel van der Kolk famously wrote, “our bodies keep the score.” Here are some signs you may notice in yourself, or your loved ones, while navigating transition: irritability, muscle tension, racing thoughts, social anxiety, avoidance tendencies, fatigue, mood swings, low energy or motivation, or not caring about the things you used to look forward to. You may also notice an uptick in the “behaviors” of your kids. They don’t have words for it, but their bodies feel the stress of change as well.

This is not a diagnostic blog entry. I don’t propose to have all of the answers. I do, however, want to encourage us all to pay more attention to what our bodies and our behavior are telling us. I also want to encourage us all to offer grace widely right now…to ourselves first and then to others. It’s impossible to offer grace when we can’t even acknowledge that we need it. And boy, do we need it.

A part of offering grace to ourselves is cultivating our own soul-care. What do you need during this transition time? Take time to think it through and make space and time to care for yourself intentionally. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Seek out a professional to help you process your thoughts and feelings. Therapy is not a sign of weakness. It is incredibly courageous to seek support.
  • Cultivate time and space in your routine for stillness and renewal.
  • Find physical outlets for your stress. It doesn’t have to be a gym membership. Walking, swimming, yoga, gardening, or dancing are all great movement ideas.
  • Engage in a hobby. Creativity and play are the substance of growth.
  • Prioritize healthy relationships in your life. Make intentional time to get together with friends, family, or neighbors, particularly those who are life giving.
  • Seek spiritual connection. Spend time in God’s Word. Listen to praise music. Talk with God and share your heart with him.
  • Find ways to serve others. Although it is counterintuitive when feeling down, reaching out to others in need can help us shift our internal narrative and focus.

More than anything, I want you to know that you’re not alone. There’s no prescription or self-help book for how to thrive and live your best life through a pandemic. We’re all just figuring it out one breath at a time. It is okay to be human. We’ve been given grace for that.

May we allow the Lord to cultivate His grace in us day by day.

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Companions in the Darkness: with Diana Gruver

Did you know that some of the great heroes of the faith struggled with depression? If you’ve ever had bouts of depression, you can know that you’re in good company with such people as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, and Charles Spurgeon. Today’s podcast guest, Diana Gruver, has herself experienced depression and knows firsthand how it can affect one’s faith life. In her new book, Companions in the Darkness, she writes about seven great saints who struggled with depression and other mental health issues.

Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints Who Struggled with Depression and Doubt,
written by Diana Gruver, released through InterVarsity Press

During our conversation, Diana shares about her own experiences and how she found a sense of solidarity in knowing that other people of faith have walked the journey of depression too. We talk about finding hope in the midst of pain and about seeking delight in the midst of a difficult year. We also chat about music, soul-care, and her time living abroad.

If you enjoyed this conversation and want to know more about Diana’s work and writing, you can visit her website: dianagruver.com. If something from this podcast episode resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it. Write a comment below, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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Signs of Life: An Interview with Stephanie Lobdell

Millions of people struggle with depression and anxiety, yet the church has been slow to begin talking openly about mental health. Today’s podcast guest, Stephanie Lobdell, shares candidly about her struggles with depression and anxiety and about her life in ministry. She has learned much about healthy vulnerability and describes how she’s watched the Lord bring resurrection to many areas of her life.

Stephanie Lobdell, campus pastor at MVNU and author of Signs of Life

In this conversation, Stephanie describes what depression has felt like for her and also how an important conversation in college encouraged her towards finding grace in the midst of a mental health diagnosis. We also talk about image, ministry, and what it looks like for Stephanie to rest well. Of course, there is also a healthy dose of talk about the Enneagram.

If you enjoy today’s podcast episode and want to hear more from Stephanie, check our her book, Signs of Life: Resurrecting Hope Out of Ordinary Losses. You can also learn more about her life and ministry at her website: stephanielobdell.com

What resonated with you from today’s conversation? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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Let’s Talk About Stress

If you feel like you are under a lot of stress, you’re not alone. Stress is a normal part of life on earth, but it definitely gets a bad rap. For years, we’ve been warned to avoid it at all costs. We’ve been told about the negative health effects it causes. Still, if surveyed, most of us would say we have a significant stress load in our lives. So, if we can’t eliminate it, how can we better manage it? I explore this question in today’s podcast episode.

In this episode, I talk about all things stress: from how the fight or flight response affects our brains and bodies, to research about our interpretations of stress, to the role support and community play, to practical ways to manage stress in our lives. Best of all, this podcast ends with a self-calming exercise, so you should feel relaxed by the end of the podcast.

During this episode, I reference a fantastic Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal entitled, How to Make Stress Your Friend. In it, she talks about a study in which thousands of people were surveyed about their interpretations of stress. If you find the information in this podcast intriguing and want to learn more, you may want to check out Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress.

If something in this podcast episode resonates with you, please leave a comment below the shownotes or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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Renewed and Transformed: My Story of Recovery

Full Disclosure: If I am going to be asking other women to share their faith stories on this podcast, then I thought I should be vulnerable enough to share my own story. Everyone who has walked with Jesus has a story of His grace to share, and this is one of mine.

In this podcast you’ll hear a story of sadness, fear, the devastation of an eating disorder, a life-changing experience, and the grace God used to rescue me from a path of self-destruction.

“I don’t remember a time that I didn’t know Jesus, but I think there’s a difference between knowing about Him, and reading about Him, and experiencing Him.  So, when I fell off a ledge, He caught me, and that’s how I experienced Him.”

Two passages of Scripture are mentioned in today’s podcast and both were important to my journey of faith and my recovery: Psalm 91 & Romans 12:2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 NKJV

I hope this story is an encouragement to your own faith. If something you heard in today’s episode resonated with you, please share in the comment section below or join in the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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Strength Through Anxiety: An Interview with Missy Stone

Anyone who has had anxiety can attest to the struggles and battles that it can bring into daily life.  In today’s episode, Missy shares her own struggles with anxiety and how God has met her and sustained her through her fears.

Missy shares in today’s episode how God’s faithfulness has encouraged her over the past couple of years as she has experienced intense bouts of anxiety.  She also talks about how God has used people (her husband and others) to support her along the way, as well as how Scripture helps her combat some of her anxious thoughts.

Missy also shares in today’s episode about how she reached out to JJ Heller and was encouraged with a book recommendation that has been very helpful to her:

From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett

One of my favorite JJ Heller albums

Missy also shared in this episode that two of her favorite Scriptures are Psalm 121 and Psalm 91.  They bring her comfort during times of anxiety.

If something you heard in today’s episode resonated with you, please share in the comment section below, or join in the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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