When we live our lives in unforgiveness and anger, it allows the enemy to stay in our lives and speak lies into our hearts, which only fuels mental illness.
The new year symbolizes hope and new possibilities. It also symbolizes a new start or a reset from the previous year. But with the tumultuous society we live in today, mental health is on the rise. Millions of people are struggling with depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health illnesses. For those struggling with mental illness, the new year means another year of struggle, strife, and seeming hopelessness. If you are struggling with mental illness, there are some steps you can take to make your symptoms less severe and restore within your soul the hope it so desperately needs.
Here are six New Year’s resolutions to prioritize your mental health:
1. Make Room for Prayer
One of the best things you can do to help you grow spiritually and achieve mental well-being is prayer. Prayer is both talking to God and listening to his voice. God wants us to unleash our burdens and place them at his feet. When we are struggling with anxiety, for example, 1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast all your anxiety upon him because he cares for us.” Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
If your anxiety or depression is at its peak, pour your heart out to God. Include all the difficult parts of yourself that no one knows about. Cry out to him and tell him all about your emotional wounds, unforgiveness, and anger, especially towards him. You might be surprised at how much anger you have toward God. Perhaps you may even need to ask him to help you forgive him for the mental health illness you feel he has inflicted upon you. When we live our lives in unforgiveness and anger, it allows the enemy to stay in our lives and speak lies into our hearts, which only fuels mental illness. To keep our mental health at optimal function, we need to fill our minds with the truth of Christ Jesus. When we read the Word of God, we learn about the truth of who God is. When we pray to God, he reveals to us how much he loves us and who we are in him.
2. Slow Down
We live in a world of hurry. In our instantaneous society, we can have everything at our fingertips the instant we want. Therefore, we really don’t practice patience anymore. Commit to slowing down in the new year. Give yourself more time in the morning by getting up a little earlier to read the newspaper or sip your morning coffee rather than pouring it into a to-go cup to guzzle on your way to work. Give yourself time throughout the day merely to stare out the window or be bored. Turn off the television at night and enjoy more time with your loved ones or doing a hobby or craft. Giving yourself more margin in life will help you feel less anxious and overwhelmed about all the daily to-do tasks.
In the book Making Room for Life, author Randy Frazee discusses creating your daily schedule around a twelve-hour day. If you are having trouble getting everything done in your workday, try adopting this method. For example, start your day at 7:00 AM, and complete all your tasks, including work, making dinner, and chores by 7:00 PM. This will leave you room to enjoy more relationships and do more things you love. By setting this time boundary in your life, you will find you have more time than you realize, and you get more done during the day because you have this time limit set. Be firm in your boundary and let all work cease by 7:00 PM (or whenever your twelve-hour work day ends.)
3. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
Reading your Bible and praying are two essential ingredients to any successful spiritual life. In fact, they are required to cultivate a well-balanced life. If you want to reinvigorate your spiritual life and achieve mental well-being, try practicing other spiritual disciplines you have not tried before. Jesus made a habit of getting up early and praying alone. Practice twenty minutes of silence in the morning by setting a timer on your phone and just being still before the Lord. Ask him if there's anything he wants to say to you that day. Don't worry if you feel you don't hear anything. The objective is simply to be with Jesus, not ask him for anything or have him speak to you. If your health permits, practice fasting and commit to praying for a cause near and dear to your heart. You can pray for spiritual revival, the war in Ukraine, or any other cause you feel needs your prayers. Every time you feel a hunger pang, take the time to commit it to the Lord and ask him to turn that hunger for food into a hunger for him. By doing these practices regularly, you may find you reach another level in your spiritual maturity, but you will find your mind is at peace and rest, and you have achieved a peace that passes all understanding.
4. Enjoy a Spiritual/Silent Retreat
Daily practices are necessary for spiritual growth. But take it one step further and go away on a weekend retreat. You can go on a retreat with friends, family, or people from your church. Or you can participate in a silent retreat which allows you to spend a designated amount of time simply focusing on God and listening for his voice. Silent retreats are great for those who are beginners at hearing God's voice, as it sharpens your skills in this area. By asking him to help you be in tune with what he is doing both in your life and the lives of others, you will find you hear him and experience him in more ways than you realize, more than just on a Sunday morning at church.
5. Seek Professional Help
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression and it is affecting your daily life, seek the help of a professional. Just as our bodies break down, so do our brains. Although there is a stigma surrounding Christian counseling, these people are trained professionals who feel called to help people process their pain and break free from their past. No Christian would tell someone who has a heart condition to stop taking their medicine or just have more faith. In the same way, if someone is struggling with mental illness, no Christian should tell them they can't take medication or have more faith. If medication is warranted, allow a professional to determine this and have the humility to take it. Life is hard, and we are fortunate to live in a country that can provide mental health medications as needed.
6. Practice Sabbath
God incorporated Sabbath into our daily work schedules. But it is astounding how few Christians actually practice it. Genesis 2:2 says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”
After six work days, we are to rest completely for a twenty-four-hour period. Jewish people celebrate it from sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday evening. They even light a candle in their windows to let people know they are practicing Sabbath. Although you don't have to do it from Friday to Saturday, pick a twenty-four-hour period that works for you. You can use Sundays as your day of worship and rest, or for those who work on Sundays, find another day (preferably on the weekend) to practice rest. Shut off your phone, turn off the screen, and participate in recreational activities that you enjoy. Give yourself the time to rest your body physically, mentally, and spiritually. When you do this, you will find emotional well-being is at the other end.
Mental health can be a struggle to maintain, but thankfully, we have a God who has given us steps we can incorporate into our daily lives to help us cope with the world we live in. God will honor our endeavors when we do our best to practice Sabbath regularly, slow down, keep a regimented schedule, and seek the help of a professional if needed. There is no better resolution you can make in the new year than to resolve to improve your mental (and, therefore, physical and spiritual) health.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Natali_Mis
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.