Ten Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy in Trying Times
Best practices for emotional and spiritual wellness
I serve on a national committee, appointed by Assemblies of God General Superintendent Doug Clay, with a focus on mental health for ministers.
The committee recently discussed practical ways to maintain sound spiritual and mental health in the midst of the pandemic. I compiled my personal takeaways and thoughts from that meeting, with accompanying Bible verses.
Here are 10 recommendations for staying mentally and spiritually healthy in this time of crisis:
1. Meditate on Scripture
Thinking God’s thoughts is a reliable way to approach life and crises because it reveals the ways God approaches such matters.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:1-3).
Worship is a weapon against worry. When we worship and express thanksgiving to the Lord, we are lifted above the crisis into His presence. This brings a divine perspective and peace this world quite simply cannot provide.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 (Philippians 4:4-7).
3. Guard Your Thoughts
Limit your exposure to newscasts and social media. The world’s approach to a crisis is to fixate on the negative. Regulate your intake of such information, and focus on things that bring peace.
Psychologists call this “reciprocal inhibition.” The idea is that when presented, at the same time, with a stimulus that induces anxiety and one that diminishes anxiety, a person will benefit from reduced overall anxiety. The Bible calls it “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.”
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).
4. Interject Humor
Finding humor and laughter is a healthy distraction that acts like a medicine to the heart, mind and soul.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).
My hope is rooted in the Lord, the One who never changes.
5. Stay Connected
Even when we cannot be together face-to-face or in gatherings, the importance of human connection persists. Connect with others online or by telephone. It is God’s plan for the members of the body of Christ to support one another.
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).
Find someone to serve. The reciprocal benefits of serving others encompasses the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions of our personhood. Serving others is a ministry of grace that mitigates the self-focus that often accompanies crisis.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:10).
7. Go Outdoors
Get outside and exercise. Take a prayer walk. Visit the park. Unless mandated otherwise, we can maintain social distance and still enjoy the benefits of physical activity, a healthy change of scenery, and an opportunity to worship God while enjoying His creation.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1).
8. Trust God
We tend to use the word “hope” as an expression of a desired outcome or personal preference. The biblical definition of hope is “confidence in that which is certain.” The only certainty I know of in life is the One who gives life in the first place.
My hope is rooted in the Lord, the One who never changes — the One who is trustworthy, absolutely. Trusting in ourselves, in government or even in family for our security is an improper placement of hope.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:5-8).
9. Mourn Losses
Loss and its accompanying sorrow are characteristic markers of moments and seasons of crisis. One of the keys to navigating loss is to adequately acknowledge it, and then properly mourn the loss. The Lord’s distinct promise is that He will respond with His closeness and comfort.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
10. Listen to God
In the midst of crisis, the tendency is to turn prayer into a monologue. Our felt needs dominate, and we are compelled to cry out, even plead with God, for relief in a one-sided conversation.
However, prayer is a dialogue, which means taking time to listen. We benefit when we purposefully take time to hear God’s personal responses to our cries for help, and we express love and honor to God as we attentively listen to His voice.
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).