Sustainable Self-Care Ideas to Improve Your Wellbeing

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly trendy to talk about self-care. This is especially true for people whose work or lifestyle puts them in positions where it is hard to take time for themselves, whether because they work long, exhausting hours, or because they are home with children all day and can’t seem to get a meaningful break. Also, let’s be honest with our current times. COVID-19 has added additional stressors on top of everything else in our everyday lives.

But for many, the understanding of self-care doesn’t go too much further than taking time for yourself, whether by going out for a cup of coffee alone, meeting up with friends, or being available for a long luxurious soak in the bathtub.

However, I would suggest that self-care goes deeper than making sure that you can take those 10-15 minutes (or more) for yourself every day, as one can very quickly go from that relaxed feeling in one moment, back to feeling stressed and under pressure from the next triggering event.

This suggests that you are over-extending yourself and what you perceive to be a state of relaxation is actually a state of constant stress. This state of stress that you perceive to be relaxed is just a lower level of stress compared to the previous overwhelming event—which is why we are easily stressed out by any small event that is stressful. Our cup is already filled to the rim.

Self-care, when we are stressed, keeps our cups from overfilling. But, self-care when we no longer feel as overwhelmed will help lower your cup even more so that when stressful life events happen, you can handle them with more patience, grace, understanding, and love.

Self-Care Ideas to Maintain Overall Health

Self-care needs to make some sort of effort to meet your deeper needs if it is to be meaningful and sustainable. It needs to look at all the areas of your life, your physical needs, like rest and taking care of your physical health, as well as your mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Focus on your physical health

One of the first steps in self-care is recognizing that you are responsible for taking care of your physical health. As an adult, no one is going to remind you that you need to eat or to get enough sleep. So, you need to make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy and nutritious meals, and getting some form of daily exercise, such as going for a walk or cycle around the block.

All these things are important if we want our bodies to be operating at peak capacity. We need to make sure to set ourselves up for success by giving ourselves the fuel we need to feel good and manage our day-to-day responsibilities, and a healthy diet, rest, and movement all contribute to our general good health and wellbeing. Exercise is also known to help counteract feelings of stress by producing endorphins, so it has a double benefit.

Endorphins are chemicals produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress. These are often also called the “feel good” chemicals. If your body is not producing enough endorphins you might experience depression, anxiety, or moodiness. This is why your physical health plays an important role in your mental and emotional well-being.

Know yourself

The next step in self-care is to do a little self-reflection. Take some time to look at your life and think about how the various aspects of it affect you and your wellbeing. Understand your capacity and limitations, so that you can know more easily when to say “no” to taking on too much.

Recognize what energizes you and what depletes you so that you can know what to say “yes” to and how to best recharge. Think about what kinds of things add significant stress so that, if possible, you can remember to practice your coping skills and make plans to manage the stress.

Prioritize what relaxes you, make time in your schedule to unwind, and allow yourself to show love to yourself. For some people, a warm bath with music or a book every day is relaxing. For others, cooking, dancing, or drawing are relaxing activities.

Think about what motivates you, so that you can commit yourself to what is important and follow through. The better you know yourself, the better you will be able to anticipate stresses and work to mitigate them, and the better you will be able to identify what is important to you and be able to plan to meet your needs.

Only by taking the time to think about what works and what doesn’t work in your life can you make better decisions about how to use your limited resources of time and energy and how to be your best self.

There’s a saying about self-care being about choosing to create a life that you don’t regularly feel the need to escape from. So, ask the tough questions about your life, career, and habits, and whether these things are draining you or fulfilling you. And then make changes accordingly.

Establish boundaries

Once you have taken the time to figure out what is most important to you, and what you are best capable of handling, then you can begin to establish healthy boundaries for yourself. These will look different to different people and in different situations.

You may find you need a certain amount of time alone to refresh yourself, and once you’ve decided that this is a priority in your self-care you can determine where to take this time and set up boundaries to protect it. Your boundaries may look like saying “no” to certain commitments, or to saying “no” beyond a certain number of social hangouts. But there will be times where you need to establish a limit, and then enforce it.

Yes, life is not perfect, and things will come up that may require the relaxing of a boundary; however, the general trend of protecting your time and the things that are important to you should become a habit that you don’t feel guilty about. Boundaries will help you to prioritize what is important, and then you can let the less important things slide a little if necessary.

Focus on your mental and emotional health

Once you have taken care of your physical needs and taken the time to establish boundaries to protect what is important to you, you can focus on investing in things that will build you up mentally and emotionally. For some, this may look like a change in their job to find something more fulfilling or making better use of their gifts and interests.

But momentous changes like this are not always options for everyone and looking after your mental health may mean investing in a hobby or other activity that challenges you and gives you a feeling of fulfillment. This might include getting involved in community service or taking a class in something that interests you, whether art or economics.

For some, it might mean being available to regularly spend time reading an enjoyable book. However, it is important to be available for things that challenge you positively and give you a sense of progress and growth.

Invest in friendships that build you up

While you may have hundreds of friends on social media, it is important to recognize the friendships that you have in real life. One rarely has the time to invest meaningfully in many friendships in real life, but when you have a solid friendship that uplifts you and builds you up, take the time to invest in that person.

We are made for relationships and do not function well in isolation, and that time with a friend can be life giving, especially when you are going through a challenging time. So don’t forget to prioritize time and energy for investing in the people that are close to you.

Focus on your faith

For many people, the spiritual aspect of life is particularly important. This is a part of life that shouldn’t be left as the last priority. It should be our first priority. For a Christian, God is more than a distant idea, but a close comfort and help in times of trouble.

If your faith is important to you then you will not find fulfillment in just going through the worldly motions but will need to seek a relationship with God by reading His living Word daily, praying without ceasing, and following His commandments.

It will also be important to fellowship with people who share your faith, whether only for the weekly gathering or more frequently. Pay close attention to the people you gather with. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Invest in your faith community and you will find yourself spiritually fulfilled. If your spiritual life is not in alignment with God, it gives license to Satan to attack you in those areas that are not in alignment. Jesus gave us “The Great Commission” as our purpose on earth. Neglecting what Jesus commands us to do can be physically felt as an ache or need that we cannot satisfy in any other way.

This is the Holy Spirit convicting us, “and He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). When you are in alignment with God’s Word, you will feel peace in your Spirit and no longer be at war with your flesh.

Make time to fill your cup

All these things may feel like a lot that needs to be thought through and prioritized, but at the end of the day, we are complex people with needs across all parts of life. If any of these needs – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – are not being met, then we will struggle to feel satisfaction and contentment where we are.

But if you make good choices when it comes to how you fuel your body, what you prioritize, and how you guard what is important to you, you will find yourself increasingly fulfilled by the life you are building. And while you are investing in all these things, you mustn’t forget to allocate time to rest. “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man’”(Mark 2:28).

Give yourself time to unwind and do the things that fill your cup, whether that is spending time in nature, socializing with good friends, or relaxing with a book, or even taking a long candlelit bubble bath. When the rest of your life is well balanced, these moments of rest will easily refresh and revive you and help you feel prepared to face the next challenge that comes your way.

Photos:
“Wake up and Glow”, Courtesy of Ellieelien, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; Self Love”, Courtesy of Content Pixie, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Making Heart”, Courtesy of Jackson David, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “White Mug on Chair Arm”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Finding Hope in the Midst of Darkness

Depression as a Christian seems contradictory since the Bible promises us peace and joy. Peace and joy are very different feelings when compared to a depressed mood. We can have peace in our hearts about the future and our current situation. We can have the joy of the Lord through our salvation. However, our mood may tell us that we are sad even though there is no identifiable reason to be sad.

This is where I like to implement distractions. I may know in my mind that there is nothing to be sad about. I may have a wonderful life, a great spouse, successful children who are walking with the Lord, but I still don’t feel good, and I lack the desire to participate in things I once found interesting. The enemy tries to discourage a person and pressure them to feel guilty about these feelings. Naturally, we tend to look inward for the reason.

The goal is to immediately use Scripture to fight those automatic negative thoughts (fiery darts) that the enemy shoots into our minds. Find certain Scriptures that speak to you in the specific area in which you are struggling. Write these down on a small piece of paper to carry with you until you memorize them.

Do not allow these darts to enter your long-term memory. Short-term memory is anything under thirty seconds. If you rehearse something, a telephone number, a name, a time, or a phrase using certain rehearsal techniques they will convert to long-term memory. The trick here is to get to those fiery darts immediately with Scripture you have previously memorized.

Repeat God’s word to yourself and get his promises into your long-term memory. Carry your Bible around with you wherever you go. Put it in your purse, carry a small Gideon’s Bible in your back pocket so you can get used to using your sword. Keep seeking, keep knocking. Don’t grow weary.

Another reason we may continue to be affected by feelings of sadness is that we may have conditioned ourselves to be in this state. People find it comfortable to sit in darkness, wallowing in self-defeating thoughts. Though it’s not necessarily a desire to feel depressed, we may experience a physiological response (physical response throughout the body) to a depressed mood.

When we feel tired, we prefer to lay in bed to get some additional sleep. We feel hungry so we find something to nourish our bodies. Working through depression feels unnatural because our emotions or our bodies may prompt us to do things that will keep us remaining depressed:

  • Loss of interest
  • Excessive sleep
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive Guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

Depression has many faces and many different presentations, and the sufferer may experience a variety of symptoms. As Christians, we may think that the Lord would relieve us from these feelings if we were in His good graces. This is false. There are instances where we may be experiencing guilt, shame, sad mood, and difficulty sleeping due to unconfessed sin. If we continue to live in a specific sin, the Holy Spirit will convict us and prompt us in this way.

Do not mistake this for condemnation, however. Christ sent his Holy Spirit to us to encourage us and to convict us of sin. Conviction is meant to prompt us to repent, not to condemn us. The Bible says that His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Out of love, we turn back to Christ knowing that his plans for our lives are far better than our own.

The enemy has effective methods of making us feel as though we will never measure up, leading us to feel beaten down by the world and our sin. Don’t grow weary of doing good, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).”

A thorn is a struggle or an ailment that the Lord has not freed us from so that He may be glorified through us. This is not to be confused with a stronghold. A stronghold stems from a certain sin we continuously fall into (i.e., binge-eating, sexual sin, continuous anger outbursts, slander/gossip, pride, lying, or substance use.)

Jacob experienced a thorn following his wrestling with God. Paul had a thorn that he was forced to live with, the nature of which the Bible does not reveal (however, many Biblical scholars think it may have had something to do with his eyes). A thorn may also be the loss of a child, the death of a spouse at a young age, a physical ailment, cancer, and even mental illness. The propensity to experience depression may also be a thorn.

It may keep us clinging to Jesus, running back to Him for continual support because we realize that during periods of intense depression, He is the only way we can make it through the day. Ultimately, Jesus wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to spend time in His word and rely on Him.

This does not mean that the Lord is devious and crafty, but He permits these ailments so that we will cling to Him. We live in a fallen world and as fallen creatures we do not fully understand His methods. We may not know why He would allow a young child to die prematurely, but we trust in His essential goodness and love. We constantly fight a spiritual battle with an enemy who is much smarter than we are, so we reach to Jesus to guide and strengthen us moment by moment during times of depression.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-18

One biblical truth you can hold fast to is that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Don’t lose faith or become discouraged when the storm rages between your ears. Cling to the hope that though you may be sitting in darkness, the Lord is your light (Micah 7:7b).

If you are in grip of mental health difficulties such as these depressive symptoms and would like to speak with someone to help identify the problem in a more clear and identifiable way, please reach out to a counselor for guidance and encouragement. We have a team of mental health professionals that will provide a hand to help you walk through your spiritual wilderness. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Photos:
“A Walk in the Woods”, Courtesy of Geran de Klerk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Skeleton Keys on Book”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Zulmaury Saavedra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Victory!”, Courtesy of Svyatoslav Romanov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

In the Christian world, marriage is held in high esteem. It is largely considered a natural step toward a mature and fulfilling Christian life. This emphasis, while in many ways positive, can overly-glorify the experience of marriage. It’s not that marriage isn’t a significant gift from God, but that gift does not come without relational difficulties.

The tensions of marriage are not as often discussed as the beauty and sacredness of marriage. This absence can create an unrealistic expectation of marriage and even make newly married Christians think that marital problems are abnormal, creating a sense of shame surrounding getting help for their marriage.

Spoiler Alert: Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

One specific area of conflict not openly discussed is communication. Other than saying something like, “communication is key,” pastors and Christian leaders rarely spend much time illustrating the need for clear and honest communication or teaching on how to become a better communicator in marriage.

As a result, when seriously dating or engaged Christians experience conflict and poor communication, there is the temptation to brush it aside, thinking something along the lines of “when we get married this will get better.” That is a false reality.

Marriage will not make you a better communicator. Only you can make yourself a better communicator, and it will require time and effort. However, if you push it to the side and continue to hope for marriage to solve the problem, then your frustration at your or your partner’s inability to communicate will continue to grow into deeper and deeper marriage problems.

The reality is marriage will not make you a better communicator. Acknowledging this fact is a step toward building a better marriage. Once you are aware of this, you can begin identifying the communication issues in your relationship and work toward establishing healthy patterns of communication to fortify your marriage and intimacy.

The Marriage Lie

The marriage lie is the idea that marriage will fix the problems in your relationships. These problems can be financial, relational, in-laws, career – the list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, if you think marriage is the solution, you are mistaken. In fact, marriage often times intensifies the conflict. For the sake of this article, we will only discuss the issue of communication and how to become a better communicator.

How does marriage make your communication conflict more intense? For starters, marriage is initiated by the wedding, a season that often brings tremendous emotional, financial, and relational stress. Many couples survive the crucible of the wedding rather than thrive through the experience.

Even if your wedding is a positive experience, there is still the added stress of covenant commitment. When you are dating someone, there is always the security of separating if things don’t work out. This may sound callus or uncaring, but it’s human nature. If in the back of your mind you know that you can walk away, then there is always a certain level of security you feel. You have control and can opt out if you feel the need.

Once you get married, however, the commitment is final. If you are seeking to honor God with your marriage, then Biblically, there are very few circumstances that allow for a divorce. This sense of commitment can escalate your conflicts because where before you felt like you had a back door (whether you planned on using it or not), now, you are committed to this for better or for worse.

So when you experience conflict, things can get primal and instinctual very quickly as you fight for what you feel you need. It should come as no surprise that primal and instinctual are not great qualities for communication.

While you may have hoped for marriage to help your communication issues, you will quickly discover that the added commitment of marriage can actually create more stress, resulting in more marital problems.

It is important to note that marriage doesn’t create the problems. The problems were already there. It’s just that marriage cannot and will not deliver on the promise of solving your problems. That will require patience, love, commitment, and humility. You know, the hard stuff.

Communicating through Marriage Problems

So if marriage is not the solution to your communication issues, then what will help you handle your relational and marital problems? There are a lot of answers to this question. Each person and relationship will need something a little bit different. But that being said, there are some universal practices that can help you become a better communicator and resolve communication issues.

The first is recognizing your communication style. Are you someone who speaks what’s on your mind and can’t hide your feelings? Or are you someone who stuffs everything you feel inside hoping to avoid conflict? Step back and consider how you usually communicate.

Consider asking your partner or close friends to get their input. If you are struggling to understand how you communicate, then you may want to meet with a Christian counselor who can help you reflect on how you communicate with other people.

Second, consider the communication culture of your family. Was your family a place of healthy, mediated discussion where everyone got to share and express their emotions? Or was there an unwritten rule that the family does not discuss problems openly? Or maybe your family was more characterized by explosions of anger followed by peace as family members recovered from the intense outbursts.

You and your partner will likely repeat or continue the patterns you learned in your family. Discussing the pattern of communication in your family can be a helpful way for married couples to recognize their own issues in communication and set a vision for how they want to communicate.

If you begin to seriously explore your family patterns and find them painful or difficult to understand, then you should give serious consideration to working with a Christian counselor. Family of origin issues are complicated and very difficult to parse out on your own. Having a trained professional to help guide you and draw out your experience with your family is tremendously important.

Finally, recognizing the patterns in your marriage is key. Marital problems don’t appear overnight. They take time to grow and develop. Once you’ve considered your own style of communication and how your family communicated, it’s time to look at the details of how you and your spouse are communicating.

Look for patterns in your conflict. Are there topics, phrases, or behaviors that set you or your partner off? It is very important to recognize the detailed progression of your communication conflict in order to stop and resolve the issues before they get out of hand.

If things are already extremely tense between your partner and yourself, and you need relationship help, then consider Christian marriage counseling. Don’t wait until you are in a serious crisis to get professional help. A Christian marriage counselor can help mediate the conflict and explore the deeper issues behind the communication conflict.

These kinds of marital issues are not uncommon and there is no reason to feel ashamed to seek relationship help. Christian marriage counseling is too often seen as a last resort when it actually is much more effective at resolving issues earlier on in the process.

Don’t wait to get relationship help

In marriage, like in any other relationship, there will be conflict. But marriage is different because the commitment level is much, much higher. Most people put hope in marriage to solve their problems and are surprised to find that marriage can actually aggravate the problems.

Don’t let the shame of acknowledging issues in your marriage prevent you from seeking relationship help. Christian marriage counseling can turn a struggling relationship into a healthy, strong relationship. It will take openness, sacrifice, and humility, but remember resolving conflict in your marriage is possible.

Photos:
“Coffee”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Who Gets the Cat?”, Courtesy of Hutomo Abrianto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Knock Down Drag Out”, Courtesy of Afif Kusuma, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Conversing”, Courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Exploring Personality Disorders from a Christian Perspective

Personality disorders are some of the most misunderstood mental health problems that a person can face. Not only is there a stigma to be faced from the general public, but from the psychiatric community as well.

Although attitudes are slowly changing, it has not been that long since newly qualified counselors and psychiatrists were being advised to stay away from people with personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD).

An Overview of Personality Disorders

The most recent edition of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) considers personality disorders to be:

“enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts,” and “are inflexible and maladaptive, and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress.”

Personality disorders cause a range of symptoms that affect a person’s ability to function in their daily life and, contrary to popular opinion, people with personality disorders aren’t being difficult on purpose. A personality disorder isn’t something that a person chooses or decides to have.

There are ten different personality disorders and while their symptoms differ in many ways, there are some symptoms that seem to affect most people with personality disorders to some extent. These include:

  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining friendships
  • Addiction

Up to ten percent of Americans have a personality disorder so these disorders aren’t rare. In fact, if you have 100 people in your church, statistically, ten of those people will have a personality disorder.

Types of Personality Disorders

There are generally three clusters of personality disorders (as described by DSM-5). These are:
Cluster A (odd or eccentric disorders)

  • Paranoid (irrational suspicions and mistrust)
  • Schizoid (lack of interest in social relationships)
  • Schizotypal (odd behavior or thinking)

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)

  • Antisocial (lack of empathy and a pattern of criminal activity)
  • Borderline (impulsivity, black and white thinking, self-harm, manipulation)
  • Histrionic (exaggerated emotions, inappropriate behavior)
  • Narcissistic (high levels of jealousy and arrogance, grandiose behavior)

Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)

  • Avoidant (social avoidance, social inadequacy)
  • Dependent (psychologically dependent on others)
  • Obsessive-compulsive (rigid conformity to rules, obsessing over details)

Personality disorders are clustered in these ways because there are common traits that people with personality disorders in the same cluster experience. For example:

  • people with personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder (cluster B) may seem to be highly-emotional and attention-seeking,
  • people with paranoid personality disorder or schizotypal personality disorder (cluster A) can bedescribed as suspicious, withdrawn and irrational.

Causes of Personality Disorders

Research has demonstrated that although there may be some genetic predisposition towards developing a personality disorder, in most cases the biggest cause of personality disorders is severe suffering. This may include traumatic experiences, abuse or neglect and in most cases, this is experienced during childhood, when the personality is still developing.

Does the Bible Talk About Personality Disorders?

Since personality disorders weren’t properly recognized until the twentieth century, it may seem impossible for the Bible to contain references to, or mention characters with them. However, Renewal Christian Treatment & Recovery has actually identified a couple of biblical characters who exhibit symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Specifically, the “stubborn and rebellious son” in Deuteronomy 21:18 shows signs of having ASPD, and Gomer in the book of Hosea exhibits symptoms of BPD.

However, the Association of Biblical Counselors describes personality disorders from a biblical perspective:

The so-called “Personality Disorders” (i.e. paranoid, narcissistic, etc.) are simply descriptions of long-term behavioral, emotional, interpersonal, and thought patterns developed by an individual over a period of time. The Bible clearly articulates the influence of depravity and sin on a person’s behavior, thinking, and feeling. Therefore the influence of the “law of sin” must be a focal point for individuals citing these labels (Eph. 2:3). Following the flesh always leads to further corruption, death, and darkness (Eph. 4:22-24, Rom. 8:5).

Hope for Healing

Dr. David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), points out that while psychiatry often considers severe personality disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) to be virtually untreatable, Christian counselors have a different perspective. Secular therapists may give up on clients with BPD, but Christian counselors can lead people with personality disorders to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

The solution for so-called untreatable personality disorders is to bring Christ to the center, as Powlison explains:

“The people who get this label [Borderline Personality Disorder] are really stuck. These are deep, deep weeds to live your life in. You can also see that the solution, in Christ, (can and does, when genuine) cuts as deep as the problem. Because in BPD you are the center of a world that is wholly misshapen. When Christ becomes the center, the world starts to take on a completely different shape.”

Christian counseling offers a kind of hope for people with personality disorders that secular counseling fails to provide. Where secular counseling regards personality disorders as a fixed problem that can’t be changed, in Christian counseling there’s recognition of the inexplicable power of Christ to completely transform lives.

A Biblical Counseling Approach

Let’s look at a personality disorder from each of the three clusters but from a biblical counseling perspective.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

In psychiatric terms (DSM-5), those suffering from Schizoid Personality Disorder are reclusive, unsociable, loners who find relationships with other people almost impossible. From a biblical perspective, however, at the heart of schizoid personality disorder is self-absorption.

In other words, a person with schizoid personality disorder has made an idol out of themselves and everything in their world centers on themselves. They are cold and unsociable because other people do not matter to them.

This kind of personality disorder can be a challenge even for experienced Christian counselors because there needs to be a radical change in the way that the person thinks and behaves. For a long-lasting change, the sufferer needs to choose to love God more than himself and serve others as Jesus did.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Perhaps one of the most commonly-known personality disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder causes people to feel empty, experience rapid mood swings, and exhibit extremely disordered patterns of attachment. Suicidal threats are frequent, although only 10% of people with BPD will complete suicide.

In biblical terms, a person with BPD has a self-seeking way of life, is prideful, depends on other people instead of on God, and has a sinful view that other people should rearrange their lives to meet the BPD-sufferer’s needs.

In this case, the root issue is that the person with BPD’s identity revolves around their disorder. Therefore, the goal must be to put off this identity and put on their identity in Christ:

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:22-24

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

It’s important to recognize that Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is NOT the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder tend to focus so much on details that they achieve very little, don’t have time for friends, and are very self-critical.

In biblical terms, an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a manifestation of ungodly fear. In Christian counseling, the goal is to change the focus from fear to God, as well as identifying sinful behavior that has resulted from ungodly fear.

Christian Counseling for Personality Disorders

While secular counseling is rarely successful in achieving lasting change, a biblical focus on changing patterns of thinking and behavior so that God is placed at the center of the person’s life is much more effective.

If someone that you care about is struggling with the symptoms of a personality disorder, Christian counseling can be the solution you’ve been searching for. Healing is possible when Jesus truly becomes the center of the world for people with personality disorders. Only He can break the patterns of destructive thoughts and behaviors at the heart of personality disorders.

Sources:

borderlinepersonalitydisorder.org/a-most-misunderstood-illness

David Powlison, “What Hope of Healing Is There for Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder” ccef.org/resources/video/what-hope-healing-there-someone-borderline-personality-disorder renewalchristiancare.com/2013/04/02/does-the-Bible-offer-a-treatment-for-personality-disorders/

Association of Biblical Counselors, “General Personality Disorder Criteria” christiancounseling.com/resources/general-personality-disorder-criteria/

Photos:
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Opening New Doors: Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal communication skills, when strengthened, can help you express your feelings clearly and precisely. You can use these lifelong skills to move further up the career ladder, express yourself to your spouse or children, make new friends, and network with people who can help your cause.

The good news is that most people are not born with good communication skills. It’s a skill you can begin mastering today to effectively and assertively convey what you mean.

The Different Types of Communication

There are several different types of communication, but they all boil down to verbal, nonverbal (actions), written, and visual. These skills also referred to as people skills, can take you far.

Unfortunately, some people find it difficult to communicate with people and allow others to control and manipulate them. By learning it’s okay to speak up (and how to do so constructively), you can develop self-confidence.

The types of communication are:

Verbal – Verbal communication uses spoken language to convey meaning to others.

Nonverbal (actions) – Nonverbal communication includes nodding, shaking your head, and other actions such as crossing your arms over your chest (body language), facial expressions, or slamming doors when angry.

Written – Written communication includes books, letters, emails, newspapers, text messages, and other printed or digital words.

Visual – Visual communication concentrates on the things we can see and understand as an outlet in expressing feelings and thoughts. This includes artwork, graphs, charts, drawings, and pictures.

Some people learn better when several of these types of communication are combined. For example, you might be more comfortable learning new information using written and visual materials. And it might be easier for you to express your thoughts of very detailed, personal matters through written material (a journal) rather than talking (verbal communication) with someone.

Another type of communication frequently forgotten, but possibly the most important skill is active listening. Active listening is trying to not only hear the person but to understand them. This means not losing your focus to distractions or thinking about how you are going to respond to their comments. While active listening, you nod or shake your head, speak when necessary, and show empathy.

Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Perhaps you do well with one or two public communication skills but are sorely lacking in the others. You can learn how to develop good communication skills with a little practice. You can begin by implementing a few of the suggestions listed below.

If you are interested in learning more about how to strengthen your communication skills, you can find printed books and eBooks on the subject as well as courses that cover interpersonal and public communication.

How to Develop Active Listening Skills

Developing the ability to actively listen to someone requires you to focus solely on the person speaking. If the person is sharing an emotional story with you, be sure to respond as necessary with kindness and empathy. This is not the time to judge the person in front of you, but to try to understand what they are going through or the instructions they are giving you.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up on our responses to the other person that we simply stop actively listening. Take your time in your response if you need to. You want the other person to feel important and heard.

How to Develop Verbal Communication Skills

To truly improve your verbal skills, you should expose yourself to a wide range of vocabulary. Read books (both printed and eBooks) in various genres as well as nonfiction. Consider joining a book club to discuss insights on a book to improve critical thinking skills or join a debate team to pick up how to form an argumentative opinion.

Speak precisely and with confidence. It is not necessary to bog down a conversation with five-syllable words as most people will come away from the exchange either intimidated or bored.

If you are nervous about meeting a new acquaintance, approach the person with a kind smile, compliment them, and ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and what is important to them. Start with asking about their family, career, hobbies and interests, and what they want to do with their life. As people confide, they will begin to trust you because you care to know about them.

How to Develop Nonverbal Communication Skills

Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly giving away your thoughts and feelings with body language and facial expressions. For example, crossing your arms over your chest while talking to someone is considered a defensive move for protection. Do you feel threatened by what they are saying? Do you find their comments hurtful?

Strive to be mindful of your facial expressions and posture when you are talking to someone. Smiling and maintaining a relaxed and open posture will translate to others that you are a warm and friendly person with whom they can spend time conversing.

How to Develop Written Communication Skills

The written word surrounds us daily with billboards, newspapers, chat messages, text messages, and emails. How many emails and texts do you send daily? It is important to improve your writing skills, so you convey the correct meaning and induce the appropriate response.

People today have shorter attention spans due to the constant barrage of distractions. Keep your sentences short and cut out any flowery words. Make sure you reread your material for clarity and accuracy. If writing seems awkward to you, try journaling. The act of recording your thoughts and emotions is simply the practice of communicating with yourself.

How to Develop Visual Communication Skills

You can use visual images to communicate with others. Most people remember pictures and videos even if they don’t remember the words they read. You can use visuals to help you remember important things.

For example, a student might draw a diagram, breaking down a difficult topic for a class. Or, a mother might create a chores graph for her children to use to make the daily tasks fun.

If you want to express your beliefs and thoughts to others using social media, you can create videos or pictures. You might find it easier to record and edit a video of you talking than speaking in-person to a group of people.

Social Communication Disorder

A child who cannot seem to express himself with the appropriate verbal and nonverbal cues may be tested by their pediatrician for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If autism is ruled out, the physician may diagnose the child with Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

Children demonstrating signs of SCD may have trouble responding appropriately to others, misjudging when to take their turn speaking, expressing their feelings verbally, and using language to ask questions and hold conversations.

Children with Social Communication Disorder may also have another mental health condition that requires therapy. Speak with your child’s pediatrician about adding the professional services of a speech-language pathologist, either at school or home. Some states provide programs, such as “Birth to 3,” to help babies and toddlers to overcome speech disorders and delays.

There are things you can do to help your child improve his communication skills. Make reading a priority in your home. Not only will your child enlarge his vocabulary, but he will learn to think critically and form opinions.

When possible, combine written and visual materials to teach your child about important topics. Many children are visual learners and can pick up a subject quicker with images.

Arrange for your child to spend time with other children and help him get started with conversations by asking questions. Once he sees that he has common interests as the other children, it may be easier for him to hold the conversation.

One Final Word

Communication skills are vital in every area of life. Whether you speak to a room full of peers, work behind a desk answering phones and sending emails, or need to assert your self-worth, mastering the skills to effectively communicate will serve you for the rest of your life. It’s a skill that no one can take from you.

Photos:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Phone Call”, Courtesy of Kevin Laminto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chatting”, Courtesy of Charles Deluvio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Deal with Rejection

Most of us can agree that rejection is painful. Whether rejected by a potential spouse, a loved one, or a career maker, the ego takes a hit. Sometimes it is difficult to move past the hurt and carry on with life as we know it. But life does go on, and we can learn how to deal with rejection in a healthy manner that will propel us forward into our future.

How to Deal with Rejection

Some people can experience a painful rejection and yet find it in themselves to regroup and try again to reach their goal. However, others have trouble once rejection has taken root, especially if they have heard the word “no” constantly. Why are some people resilient after rejection and others are not?

Resilience after a rejection is not a trait only some people are blessed with. Dealing with rejection is a behavior that you can learn. It is how you identify and analyze your thoughts and emotions after rejection. It is learning how to use that hurt to mold and create your purpose by shifting your perspective.

Learning how to deal with rejection is not easy. Being slighted by someone stings and according to studies using MRI scans, the brain responds similarly to physical pain and the pain from rejection. Unfortunately, with social media only a swipe away, more and more people are experiencing rejection on a frequent basis, but there are things you can do to help build your resiliency and bounce back to reach your goals.

Remember Who You Are

When the world rejects you, it’s easy to forget who you are and whose you are. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19). No one wants to be hated, disliked, snubbed, or rejected. Yet, Jesus prepared us for how the world reacts to people.

Most of the time, it’s not that people are meaning to slight you. It may be that they are in a hurry or have important matters on their mind and simply forgot to speak or acknowledge your presence. They may feel overwhelmed at work and take a quick break to scroll social media and inadvertently skip “liking” your post. Or, perhaps they are trying to manage all the small details for a social gathering and forget to personally invite you.

Of course, there are situations where you are outright rejected – a potential spouse or clique at school or work. This is the time that you need to remember that God created you and loves you just as you are. You don’t have to prove your worth to Him. You are already a part of His eternal kingdom. “And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life.” (1 John 2:25).

In Him, you are whole, eternal, and perfected in every way. It doesn’t really matter what other people think. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).

Give Yourself Grace

Rejection is hard enough without the inner voice chiming in and over-analyzing situations. We can tear apart a conversation or something as simple as a look from across a room. The thoughts that form can take on an ugly personality – attacking with negative self-talk. Some of this inner voice originated when we were children through experiences that left an imprint.

More of the inner voice stems from adult experiences that seem to confirm what the childhood inner voice already demands. Have you heard any of these thoughts from your inner voice?

  • You can’t please them because you will never be good enough.
  • No one will ever love you.
  • You’re not meant to do great things.
  • No matter how hard you try, people will never like you.
  • You’re not smart/pretty/clever/wealthy/talented enough.
  • Why even try? You will only fail.

These are harsh statements living in your head and it’s time to put a stop to them. It’s time to give yourself grace. Why should we listen to that negative inner voice say things to us that we would never say to another human being? Even if these are comments you heard from someone in your past that doesn’t mean you have to talk to yourself that way now. Don’t believe these lies. Be kind to yourself.

It’s Okay to Feel the Pain

Keeping the pain from rejection bottled up inside however is unhealthy and can lead to other long-term problems. You can feel the hurt, just don’t get lost in it. You don’t want the emotions to override your controlled behavior. Under the initial sadness, anger, or resentment of rejection is the hurt that needs to be addressed.

In some people, especially those who have faced rejection multiple times, the pain is too much. These people feel the pain, but they can’t seem to separate themselves from the hurt. This can lead to anxiety and depression.

If you think you are having trouble moving past rejection, consider seeking help from a professional therapist. Using a combination of talk therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist can teach you techniques to move past the pain and shift your perspective.

Feeling the pain can bolster you to higher goals. Celebrities, business executives, CEOs, among others have told stories of being rejected only to reemerge stronger than before. The rejection was actually a blessing and opportunity in disguise. However, these successful people would never have realized that if they hadn’t first embraced the rejection and acknowledged the hurt.

Avoid Dwelling on the Situation

As we recall the painful scenario, we tend to dwell on the pain which gives permission for the inner voice to give its opinion. Slowly we chip away at our own self-confidence. We begin to doubt our ability, talent, skills, worth, appearance, and other things that are important to us. We become our own worst enemy. We manage to twist the truth to fit into new belief molds that are not necessarily true.

Allowing a situation to take the forefront in your mind can also exacerbate the pain and emotions toward the person or people involved. Anger, bitterness, and resentment can grow exponentially. The problem with allowing these emotions to grow is that they end up hurting you.

You are probably not in a place where you can readily forgive the other person just yet for hurting you but holding onto the pain only keeps you from moving forward. “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26). As a child of God, you have more important things to think about.

When Your Hurt Can Help Others

Not all rejection is personal. Yet, rejection can also serve a purpose in God’s plan for your life. Consider the heroes from the Bible. For example, Moses was rejected by his Hebrew brethren which led to his running away until God called him to return to help His people. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife until God moved him into a position that others may not have thought he was worthy to hold.

The rejection you recently faced may have a purpose to it that you aren’t aware of yet. Sometimes in order to get our attention or to steer us back on track, God will use rejection. Ask Him what the purpose of this hurt is and to reveal your purpose.

As seen countless times in the Bible, God doesn’t use someone for something great without first testing them thoroughly. Perhaps what seems like rejection is really part of a test to make you stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for the future.

Your story could one day inspire another person, maybe the entire world. If you need help dealing with the rejection so you can get back to fulfilling your purpose, seek help from a Christian counselor who can point you not only to techniques that work but also to biblical truth about yourself as someone God created in His own image.

Photos:
“No”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Thumb Smiley”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Success Ahead”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Sad Heart”, Courtesy of Conmongt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms and How to Recover

Do you feel like taking a step back when things get tough in your life? If so, you may be using emotional withdrawal as a defense. This is a common situation, but it can lead to other problems if not addressed.

Withdrawal is a coping mechanism for pain. It’s a self-protective measure a person uses to keep from getting hurt again. However, when withdrawal is used over long periods or repeated, it can cause further relational decay.

Reasons for Withdrawal

The reasons for withdrawing can be myriad in number. They can be due to either real or perceived threats to one’s mental, physical, or emotional safety. Here are several common examples of why people may withdraw.

  • A boy is bullied at school and withdraws from all social contact with peers.
  • A young girl is sexually abused by an uncle and withdraws from all males in her family.
  • A wife withdraws from her husband after he has an affair with a coworker.
  • A young woman experiences spiritual abuse at church and refuses to attend organized services again.
  • A man is treated poorly by his boss and withdraws from social contact with other coworkers.
  • A divorced father withdraws from his children.
  • An elderly mother refuses to see her adult children.

Shame is often a root of withdrawal. In each example above, the people may partially blame themselves for the mistreatment they received. They may even feel like they deserve poor treatment, due to a damaged self-image. Shame can hold us down and keep us from living the life God intended for us to live.

Real guilt may also be involved in withdrawal situations. While shame is attached to false guilt, real guilt is attached to something we did to hurt others. The divorced father may feel guilty for turning his children’s lives upside down. The elderly mother may feel guilty for prioritizing her career over her children when they were young.

Anger is often a reason for withdrawal. The bullied boy is understandably angry at the bully. Likewise, it’s reasonable for the wife to be angry about her husband’s affair, and the teen girl to be angry over the breakup. Anger is a normal, even healthy, reaction to unwanted changes. But when it is not handled properly, it can cause a person to withdraw.

Fear can be attached to reasons for withdrawal. Many people who withdraw live in dread of getting hurt so badly again. Though the real threat of danger may have passed, the trauma from the original incident runs deep. The fear of getting hurt again can drive the urge to withdraw.

No matter the reason for your withdrawal, a caring Christian counselor can help you deal with it. In many cases, talk therapy is highly effective for handling withdrawal and moving toward healing. Your counselor will be able to help identify the reason for your withdrawal and get you past it.

Signs of Withdrawal

The signs of withdrawal run parallel to the signs for the underlying feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and fear. Here are some signs you may notice if you are withdrawing from others.

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • One-word answers
  • Silent treatment
  • Leaving the room when someone enters
  • Fear of returning to where the original incidents occurred
  • Spending much more time alone than usual
  • Not responding to texts, emails or calls

Withdrawal can lead to intense loneliness, and untended loneliness can lead to depression, which can have major risks. These are the signs of depression to watch for:

  • Bouts of tearfulness
  • Feelings of inappropriate or excessive guilt
  • Irritation or uncharacteristically short temper
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of energy even with normal daily activities
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Memory problems
  • Negative impact on work
  • No longer attending normal social engagements
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • Sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia
  • Slow movements or slowed, quiet speech
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Recurring thoughts about death, dying, and suicide

If you have at least three of these symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s important to meet with a counselor. In counseling, you’ll receive the help you need to overcome your depression and start connecting with safe people again.

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

Emotional withdrawal symptoms can last for a few weeks after a trigger incident. If not handled right away, these symptoms can persist for months or even years. You need help to deal with these symptoms, so they don’t exact a heavy toll on your physical and mental well-being.

If you’ve had any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s time to get help.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intense loneliness
  • Irrational fears
  • Not leaving your home

No one can successfully navigate these problems on their own. We can help you discover the roots of your withdrawal so you can eliminate these symptoms. If you are not making progress on your own, a consultation with a professional can give you a new perspective plus practical tips for recovering.

Recovering from Emotional Withdrawal

To recover from emotional withdrawal, you not only need to deal with the roots of the problem but find new ways of relating to others. A counselor can help you find the solutions, plus role-play improved relationship dynamics. Let’s look at the examples above to see how these people were able to move past withdrawal.

  • The boy who was bullied gains some boundary-setting skills with his counselor. He learns to view his classmates as not “all bad” any longer. By taking a few calculated risks, practiced with his counselor, he connects with one child in the class and begins building a friendship.
  • As the young girl receives counseling, she learns to grieve her losses and heal from the trauma. Her counselor helps her see that while her uncle made very poor choices that hurt her, other males in her family have been consistently loving and kind. She begins taking baby steps toward a closer relationship with her father.
  • The wife attends her own counseling sessions in addition to marriage counseling sessions with her husband. As they work to repair and restore their marriage, the wife works on her own tendency to use the silent treatment when she’s hurting. By overcoming that relationship problem, she learns to stay connected to her husband even when they experience conflict.
  • The young woman who was spiritually abused walks through the grieving process with her counselor. In her counseling sessions, she learns what personality traits attracted her to the abusive church, and how to overcome those weaknesses. She begins testing out other churches with her friends, not committing to any but keeping her eyes open.
  • Through counseling, the man decides he needs to quit this job, mourn the losses, and build up his emotional strength to start a new job. When he finds a new job, he’s better prepared to build connections with coworkers from the start.
  • The divorced father deals with his guilt and shame in the counselor’s office. There, he discovers that he still has great worth in God’s eyes and finds the courage to rebuild the relationships with his children.
  • The elderly mother talks with a counselor about her past. Though she cannot go back and change anything that happened, she learns that a sincere apology goes a long way toward building bridges. She practices that conversation with her counselor and hopes that her later years will be the best ones yet.

If you are suffering from emotional withdrawal, you can find the same hope and healing as in the examples above. A compassionate Christian counselor is waiting to help. Give us a call today at Seattle Christian Counseling to set up a meeting.

Photos:
“Alone in Church”, Courtesy of Polina Sirotina, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Grief”, Courtesy of Kat Jayne, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Workout Partners”, Courtesy of Luis Quintero, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Cooking Together”, courtesy of August de Richelieu, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Overcoming Passivity: Practical Tips to Become an Assertive Person

Passivity is a common relationship issue that creates many other problems. On the surface, it can seem “safe” compared to acting in bold, aggressive ways. However, in the long run, it is costly to your mental, emotional, social and spiritual health. When you learn the truth about passivity, you can overcome it and begin living the abundant life God intends for you.

Definition of Passivity

The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines passivity as “a form of adaptation, or maladaptation, in which the individual adopts a pattern of submissiveness, dependence, and retreat into inaction.”

A passive life is not pleasing to God. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). In God we have an abundant life, not a life lived on another person’s terms. God wants us to fully depend on him, not on people or their opinions of us. When we actively surrender to God instead of living in passivity, we can experience the freedom and fullness he intends for us.

Examples of Passivity

We are all born as helpless infants, completely dependent on others to fulfill our needs for survival and growth. This infant stage lasts a little over a year. Then a child begins to separate from his or her mother or caretaker to start to become independent. This is a normal developmental stage that God intended for us to go through to become fully functioning adults.

However, many people may be the age of adults, yet still emotionally functioning in overly dependent ways. This dependence stunts their growth and creates many problems in relationships, schools, workplaces, and churches. A passive person cannot contain his or her passivity; its negative effects always spill over onto others.

There are many ways people can act passively in ways that cost them. Here are several examples to consider.

  • A child in elementary school fails to stand up to a bully’s torment, then suffers emotional trauma.
  • A young woman stays in a relationship with an emotionally abusive boyfriend because she is afraid of his angry outbursts and worries that no one else will want to date her. As a result, she suffers from anxiety and depression.
  • A mother and father allow their unemployed, 20-something son to live rent-free in their home and don’t have a plan for encouraging him to get his own place. The situation causes tension and financial stress for the parents.
  • A man is unfairly burdened with work projects by a domineering boss. When he is passed over for promotion, he develops an ulcer.
  • An elderly mother is homebound. Her oldest son is her financial caregiver. She suspects that he may be mishandling her funds but feels helpless to confront the situation.
  • A wife turns a blind eye to her husband’s extramarital affairs. She stays in the marriage for the sake of their kids, but her resentment and heartache silently grow.

When you look at these examples, you can see how each person’s passivity costs them. However, if you are acting passively in a situation, it can be hard to see it yourself. A caring Christian counselor can help you see where you are being passive and how you can overcome your passive tendencies.

Examples from the Bible

We can look to the Bible for examples of how passivity cost people tremendous amounts of heartache and loss. One clear example is Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, as we read in Genesis 25-28. Though his brother Esau was the heir to their father’s inheritance, Jacob passively allowed his mother to manipulate the situation so he would receive the blessing.

Jacob had many chances to stand up for what was right. He could have stopped at cooking the stew of wild game, wearing Esau’s clothing, and tricking his father. As he passively followed his mother’s directions, he received what he wanted in the short term – his father’s blessing.

But for the next several decades, fear and strife haunted him. He could not live in peace due to his passivity, and he eventually put his whole family in danger because of it (see Genesis 32).

Another example of passivity is the man who laid by the pool of Bethesda, as recorded in John 5. He had been physically paralyzed for 38 years and waited every day for someone to carry him into the healing waters. When Jesus saw him, he addressed the man’s emotional and spiritual passivity rather than his physical passivity.

Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). For the man to receive healing, he had to become active by picking up his mat and walking. In his activity, not his passivity, Jesus healed him (John 5:8-15).

We can learn from these two stories that passivity is costly. Both Jacob and the disabled man were emotionally stunted. Their passivity blocked a deeper relationship with others and with God. Only God could deliver them from their passivity, and when he did, newness of life became possible.

The Costs of Passivity

Passivity can cost you on a mental level. When you hand over control to others, they can manipulate you. You may suffer from their attempts to blame, deny, gaslight, and abuse you.

Emotionally, passivity can exact a heavy toll. You may feel weak and insecure, lacking confidence in your ability to take charge of your life. Passivity can cause anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotional disturbances.

A passive life has social costs as well. People tend to take advantage of those who send out passive signals. Your relationships may feel one-sided like they revolve around the other person. You may feel left out, betrayed, and used.

Spiritual passivity is a blockade to a deeper relationship with God. He wants you to live a life of confidence in him, rather than an unhealthy dependence on others. If you are passive in your faith, you are missing out on God’s best for your life.

How to Become a More Assertive Person

Fortunately, there is help for passive individuals. You don’t have to stay stuck in passivity. A compassionate Christian counselor can help you put passivity aside and choose assertiveness instead.

When you are assertive, you act in a way that respects yourself and others. You speak up for the truth because you believe that your self-worth is valuable. Assertiveness is not aggressive; it is firm yet loving.

To become an assertive person, you need direction, practice, and support. Your counselor will first help you deal with the roots of passive behaviors. Next, you will learn techniques for acting assertively by role-playing. With support from your counselor and others, you will be able to successfully and assertively set boundaries.

Let’s look at assertive responses in the six previous examples.

  • After role-playing with his parents and counselor, the child learns to confront the bully and enlist help from peers and teachers.
  • The young woman courageously breaks off the relationship with her boyfriend after several therapy sessions. She also becomes more active in the singles group at her church and decides to take a break from dating while she works on developing healthy boundaries.
  • The parents come up with a 60-day plan for holding their son accountable for finding a job and his own place. They work with a counselor to form talking points for a loving confrontation.
  • The man begins a job search for a position that is more independent. He joins a men’s small group to find accountability and support and attends bi-monthly counseling appointments.
  • The elderly woman shares concerns with her counselor, who points her toward further help from social services and an attorney.
  • After being coached by a counselor, a wife tells her husband to get professional help for his sexual addiction, so their marriage has hope of being salvaged.

Learning assertiveness is not easy after years of taking a passive stance. If you’re ready to overcome passivity to embrace the abundant life God has in store for you, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory.

Photos:
“Lock”, Courtesy of Basil James, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tunnel Vision”, Courtesy of Sharosh Rajesekher, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Fuu J, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Zulmaury Saavedra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Treatment for Depression: Relational Risks and Remedies

When discussing treatment for depression, it’s important to begin by considering the various causes of depression. mentioned in a previous article written by this author on the topic of depression,Causes of Depression – including Relational and Spiritual Perspectives,” there are a variety of reasons why someone succumbs to depression. Often a mixture of genetics, brain chemistry, and family history play a role in the development of depression.

Furthermore, certain individuals may have a biological predisposition or vulnerability to mood issues when faced with overwhelming stressors. When ample distress is added to a pre-existing vulnerability, an individual is likely to become emotionally dysregulated with symptoms ranging from anxiety to depression.

Depression can be situational or characterological, meaning it can be caused by trauma or loss, but it can also be a kind of personality adaptation as well (think Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh).

Underlying medical conditions (such as thyroid or hormonal issues), use or abuse of prescription medication or other substances (alcohol, marijuana, etc.), a lack of adequate nutrition (eating too much sugar or processed foods) or physical activity, and any pre-existing addictions may contribute to the development of depression.

Of course, family history and environment also play a part in developing depression, as does the experience of childhood neglect and abuse. In my practice of psychology, I have discovered that a pattern of dishonesty or living outside the bounds of integrity is an often-overlooked contributor to depression.

While a biological or medical cause of depression may be helped with prescription medications for a time, it is still essential to identify and resolve the underlying behaviors and emotions which support a biologically based depression. Keep in mind that even a biologically based depression (such as post-partum depression) is always also behaviorally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually supported.

Treatment for Depression

While many practitioners readily focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and depend upon medication as treatment for depression, it is rarer that a therapist understands that it is our relationship with our self, others and God which must also be assessed, addressed, and re-calibrated to effectively cure a depression (and possibly protect against it in the future).

Throughout several decades of clinical practice and observation, I have noticed that most mental health issues tend to be tied to a failure to adapt in some way to something for which one is unprepared or inadequately prepared. Stressors have come along for which the person is under-resourced either internally (within themselves) or externally (via necessary support structures, friends, family, community).

Destructive defense mechanisms and misinformed or misaligned coping skills are responsible for much mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual suffering. Whereas wellness or the antidote to mental illness always involves achieving greater alignment among each aspect of our human “being.”

Wellness also involves repair and reparation in relationships with those with whom we have been unloving, insensitive, hurtful, unfair, neglectful, or abusive. Assuming appropriate responsibility in our interactions with others is generally accompanied by a greater sense of confidence and freedom, as well as more mutually satisfying relationships.

Good psychotherapy presents us with an opportunity to identify and correct aspects of misalignment within ourselves and within our relationships with God and others. This kind of relational misalignment is evidence of a lack of integrity in the individual, meaning that the person is fragmented within and incapable of clear and effective self-expression.

A lack of or repression of self-expression predictably leads to depression. Finding one’s voice and beginning to express oneself authentically is another pathway that leads away from depression and toward health and wellness.

We must understand how our everyday choices and patterns of interaction either contribute to or destroy our serenity and capacity for happiness and joy. Furthermore, each decision we make, especially under duress, is a determinant in moving us either closer toward or further away from a state of mental illness or mental misalignment.

As stated in the previously mentioned article by this author (see above), once the root cause(s) of your depression is/are understood the therapeutic remedy follows accordingly. Please be aware that the solutions offered by a practitioner tend to be tied to the medical or mental health professional’s understanding of the nature of depression. One’s professional point of view often tends to determine the type of treatment for depression prescribed.

For example, a psychiatrist is likely to prescribe medications to address and enhance neurotransmitter functioning. Of course, while this type of treatment for depression can bring some eventual relief, it also leads to a kind of subscription service that maintains one’s dependence upon a medical professional as well as the prescribed medication over the long term.

So, while in some cases, medication may be necessary, in my opinion, medication alone merely maintains a level of functioning and helps with the management of mood issues. Meanwhile, the person’s lifestyle and life choices may continue to support a dysfunctional level of inadequacy which can undermine one’s success and satisfaction in meeting the changing demands of daily life.

From another perspective, a fitness and nutrition-oriented mental health professional is likely to focus on your lifestyle habits and nutrition as a possible culprit in ongoing depression. While a psychodynamically oriented therapist will look for the source of depression in your early family life experiences.

In my practice, I work holistically, taking into consideration many possibilities of origin and then matching the focus of treatment for depression to the individual’s current level of resources, needs, and desires.

Some of the areas we will explore together include lifestyle and nutritional profile, extended family and upbringing, cultural influences, unresolved trauma, unprocessed pain, spiritual alienation, interpersonal misalignment, experiences of abuse or neglect, medications and supplements, sleep and exercise, and how well resourced you are internally and externally in terms of self and other support.

Relational Risks and Remedies

Problematic (interpersonal and intrapersonal) styles of relating contribute to the development of depression. While the word “interpersonal” refers to interactions between two or more individuals, the word “intrapersonal” describes our relationship with (and within) ourselves.

Problematic patterns of intrapersonal relating (the way we relate to ourselves generally as well as how we respond when disappointed, hurt, or rejected) tend to be overlooked and/or misunderstood in terms of their contribution to the development of depression and other mood disorders.

Let me assure you that the way you treat yourself matters even more than how you respond to others – especially because you are in a lifelong (even eternal) relationship with your inner being, your soul. Self-betrayal is a frequent and significant contributor to all kinds of mental health problems.

Being kind, compassionate, and understanding with yourself while also being principled and disciplined in matters of importance is the antidote to the deadening pain of ongoing self-criticism, self-rejection, self-betrayal, and a feeling of failure.

One of the most common intrapersonal causes of depression is a practice of saying “yes” when you authentically have an inclination or gut reaction to say “no.” Such behavior is an example of a kind of inner abandonment or self-betrayal which is never something God asks of us. Behaving this way is inauthentic and self-victimizing.

The motive for engaging this undermining pattern usually involves fear and a subsequent felt need to control, manipulate, or manage the impression of another person. A pattern of saying “yes” when you want to say “no” is a kind of dishonesty.

It is also unfair to others and makes you an unsafe person in relationships. You may want to ponder this paragraph for a bit to help this information seep into your soul as a reminder of God’s intention and purpose for us as his “fearfully and wonderfully made” children.

A second quite common intrapersonal risk involves a pattern of overriding your intuitive sense (gut reaction) when it indicates a lack of safety. This undermines one’s sense of self, sense of personal efficacy, and sense of personal dignity. It is essential when seeking to live a life of integrity to conscientiously and prayerfully determine whether something asked of you is in your best interest or whether it undermines and destroys intimacy.

This is because a foundation of trust is necessary to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships. A pattern of ongoing self-betrayal is a recipe for distrust and eventual relational disaster. This is one of the first things I pay attention to when getting to know a new client. I ask each person, with whom in your life do you have difficulty saying “no?” and then we explore the meaning of this and how it came to be.

Another significant relational risk contributing to depression occurs because of an ongoing pattern of spending time with someone you genuinely dislike or distrust. Over-giving and a lack of relational reciprocity also lead to a relationally based depression.

Do you find it difficult to express yourself when something matters to you? Is it difficult for you to expect that your preferences, opinions, and needs will be considered a priority in your close relationships? Are you able to inform others fairly and firmly when you have hit a personal limit?

Are you comfortable establishing and maintaining a self-protective boundary or do you mistakenly believe that boundaries are things we set for other people in an attempt to govern their behavior? Difficulties in any of these areas may be fueling or feeding symptoms of depression. The antidote to depression is to develop a full range of authentic self-expression.

Please come back next week for the next article in this series in which I will be discussing the risks and remedies of a spiritually-based depression.

If you’re ready to begin treatment for depression, I invite you to contact me or one of the other practitioners in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment today.

Photos:
“Feeling sad,” courtesy of Danny G, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stay with me,” courtesy of Christiana Rivers, unsplash.com, CC0 License; Quote images designed by California Management Services, copyright 2020, all rights reserved

9 Steps to Increase Emotional Resilience for Improved Mental Health

All around the country, individuals suffer from mental health issues brought about by various circumstances in their life. This is why many seek professional assistance to help them overcome their situation. Recovery, however, may come in differing ways and in varying speeds, as each circumstance is different. Regardless, what is important is that the client is able to get back on their feet and, hopefully, not regress. For those who were able to make a complete recovery, one factor is quite clear among them – they generally have greater emotional resilience than other sufferers.

About Resiliency

Resiliency is the ability to quickly or easily recover from difficulty or a change. If a person has emotional resilience, though they may still experience and struggle in tough situations (such as a battle with addiction, depression, or severe trauma), they are able to get better a lot faster than others in similar situations.

This is quite different from those with less inner strength as these individuals usually end up returning to their old ways, negating whatever progress was made in their therapy – much to the detriment of family and friends, and their bank account.

Many believe that emotional resilience comes about because of a person’s upbringing. If as a child the person was able to learn from someone resilient (e.g. a parent bravely dealing with their life issues) or if they encountered and solved troubles on their own, then chances are their inner toughness was strengthened. This is why it is easier for them to deal with big issues in their adolescent or adult years compared to their peers.

Others, however, realize that resiliency can be learned, even if one is already an adult. It just takes practice and focus in order to become mentally and emotionally tough.

9 Steps to Increase Emotional Resilience

Just like in other aspects of life, resiliency will not suddenly occur overnight. The person must purposely strive to achieve it. The following are nine important steps to become a more resilient person.

1. Strengthen Your Spirituality

Perhaps the biggest building block of resiliency is to truly have faith in a higher power. This is not just the casual church goer or having one’s named registered at the local church; this means being able to anchor one’s life around a set of beliefs that drives the person forward, regardless of their circumstances.

Many who have overcome difficulties like addiction, assault, depression, or domestic abuse attest that it was their faith that allowed them to believe that positive change was attainable and that God would empower them to achieve it. Such faith, however, did not mean that they could just sit back and watch God work to resolve their issues.

They still had their own part to play to remain sober, improve their attitude, change their environment, or mend their relationships. But it was their spirituality that allowed them to keep pushing forward despite emotional, mental, and even physical setbacks (e.g. withdrawal symptoms).

2. Discover Your Purpose

After strengthening one’s spirituality, it is necessary for the person to discover their purpose in life. Why are they here? How can they contribute to their family? their community? the world? What does God want them to do? What does God want them to do differently?

A person who is still figuring out who they are often has more difficulties recovering from major setbacks in life since they are still clueless as to what direction in which to head. Many times it becomes far easier for them to just give up and return to what they were before, believing they are useless.

But a person who knows their purpose is aware that there is still something more to be done. This makes it easier for them to pick themselves up and do what is necessary to fulfill God’s plan for them, even if they are still hurting inside.

3. Develop Compassion

The third important step to build up resiliency is to develop compassion for others. When a person is too self-absorbed, they often focus on their personal flaws and hurts while missing out on the small, yet good things happening around them. This is why they often wallow in their own sadness or bitterness as they wrongly believe that God’s blessings have been given to others, not to them.

Acts of compassion, however, redirect the person’s focus from themself to others. It is often in these small acts of service that the person begins to notice God moving in the background, touching lives, and making changes. This allows the person to now see the blessings they have in their own life which then builds up their inner strength and their appreciation for what God has given them.

4. Seek Mentorship

The next step towards emotional resilience is to seek mentorship, something that many people lack in today’s time. Nowadays, many believe the lie that they are strong if they can discover and do everything on their own; hence, the generation now proclaims the need for “independent living.” But life was not meant to be that way. This is why so many become frustrated with life because they shoulder their burdens on their own when they are supposed to be loving and helping one another.

A true mentor is someone who takes the individual under their wing to share invaluable insights about life. These insights greatly help the learner as they can avoid many pitfalls in life, as a life of trial-and-error is very difficult indeed. The mentor is also there to help pick the person up should they fall, making challenges easier to overcome. Their care and words of advice do much to build up the resiliency of the person.

While parents are often the first option, sometimes busyness or relationship issues prevent parents from doing a good job. Other than parents, one can also seek mentorship from other older relatives, teachers, bosses, pastors, or church elders.

5. Practice Discipline

The fifth step is to practice discipline. Sadly, with everyday mantras such as “Live for the moment,” “Seek your own happiness,” or “You only live once,” discipline has become something that people wish to ignore unless they are an athlete, musician, or soldier. Such thinking, however, is far from the truth as discipline is necessary for success, especially if one wishes to recover from mental health issues.

If a person has discipline, it becomes easier to follow helpful routines, such as eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest. Discipline also allows a person to better manage their work and leisure schedules to avoid conflict and burnout. Moreover, a disciplined person is able to keep their thoughts and emotions in check, making it easier for them to focus on and solve their problems.

6. Embrace Hard Work

The sixth step is to embrace the need for hard work. Similar to discipline, this is another trait that is missing today. In this world of instant food and instant messaging, many people, particularly the young, expect instant success.

Unfortunately, such thinking leads to much disappointment which is why lots of individuals suffer from mental health issues like anxiety or depression. And when they do try to recover from such issues, they sadly regress since they were expecting instant recovery as well.

But when a person understands that hard work is necessary to accomplish their goals, their heart and mind are better prepared to push forward despite the obstacles. When coupled with strong faith, understanding the importance of hard work also leads one to become more patient in waiting for God’s timing, rather than insisting that they see the fruit of their labor right away.

7. Become More Ambitious

The seventh step is to become more ambitious. In most cultures, people derive meaning from the work they do, so it is important to have ambition. An ambitious person is someone who wishes to accomplish something. Though a person may recognize their purpose in life (Step 2), if they do not have much ambition, they may not have many achievements which may greatly affect their self-esteem.

Such ambition, however, should not be solely focused on one’s career or financial status. It ought to also include other creative passions (e.g. art, gardening, music) and helping others in need (e.g. community work). As mentioned earlier, if a person has compassion for others (Step 3), they are better able to appreciate the small joys in life.

Though it may be possible that those who lack ambition are just lazy, oftentimes the deeper story behind it is that they do not believe in themselves which is why they do not seek newer challenges. So ambition is necessary to build up self-worth, increasing one’s resiliency.

8. Change Your Behavior

Another key step to building resiliency is to change one’s behavior. Those who suffer from mental health issues (or even just low self-esteem) have problems with how they think and behave (speech or actions). Instead of thinking or reacting positively, they do something different which may hurt their self-worth (e.g. blaming themselves for the wrongs) or hurt others (e.g. lashing out instead of keeping calm). While some are unaware of these aspects, others simply believe that that is who they are and that they cannot be changed.

Fortunately, behavioral changes can be made with the right help and if the individual desires to seek such changes. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for example, is one method that seeks to make incremental adjustments in how the person reacts to situations, aiming for more positivity than before.

Though it takes time and much practice, the small adjustments in how they control their fears, words, and actions do make a difference. But again, it all starts with the individual making a conscious choice to change their behavior for the better.

9. Adjust Your Perception

The final step toward increasing emotional resilience is to adjust one’s perception. How a person views their world and their problems impacts their resiliency. If they believe all is hopeless, then the desire and energy to recover will not be there, causing them to regress or even develop more mental health issues e.

But changing one’s perception is easier said than done. It does take much time and requires a shift from how they view life to how God views it, which is why spirituality is so important. Once they are able to understand that the negatives in their life may actually be building blocks of character or possibly consequences of sin, they may have a better understanding about what life is really all about and be able to finally move forward, rather than dwell in the past.

Seek Christian Counseling to Increase Emotional Resilience

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

The previously mentioned steps can really help a person build up resiliency that leads to mental health recovery. Conscious effort and patience are needed to help an individual achieve this, yet it can be done.

However, for those who have difficulty in achieving this as they may lack the willpower or wisdom to do so on their own, it is best to seek Christian counseling to help build up their emotional resilience.

In Christian counseling, the latest therapeutic techniques will be used to help the individual overcome any lingering mental health issues they may still be suffering from. The counselor will then be there, acting as a mentor, to help guide the person to achieve the steps needed for resiliency.

But most importantly, the faith-based counselor will seek to strengthen the person’s faith in God through a strong relationship with Jesus Christ which is very necessary for healing. The counselor will also answer any questions the person may have about their understanding of faith or about their personal walk with God, as many usually have such unanswered concerns. Once their faith has been truly strengthened, then resiliency and true recovery are possible.

If you or a friend is recovering from a mental health issue and stronger inner strength is needed, then seek Christian counseling soon. Full recovery will be possible once God is involved.

Photos:
“Happy”, Courtesy of Matias Saw, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy Couple,” Courtesy of Arentas, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Journaling,” courtesy of Hannah Olinger, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License