All posts filed under: Emotional health

Coniston, England Credit: Rich Bambford/Flickr/Creative Commons

The ‘new’ normal

The stun gun effect that I have been feeling these past few months had a lot  to do with the lack of sunshine this winter and not being able to get outside as much.  I miss my flowers and sun! Feeling uncomfortable in my body, sluggish and unmotivated forced me to stretch myself outside my comfort zone physically. I signed up for a couple of exercise classes and started walking in the malls with my husband because walking outside in the cold, snow and ice wasn’t an option. Movement became key and the more I stretched and moved my body beyond its limitations the better I felt. It has also felt like an incubation time where thoughts and feelings, unpleasant and pleasant, have rolled around inside me allowing the real root of the emotions and thoughts to surface. Even Jesus learned through times of struggle. “Although He was a Son, He learned (active, special) obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) I exercised my mind and dove deep into my thoughts and emotions. They were …

What voices are you hearing? Credit: Robert Gourley/Flickr/Creative Commons

Whose voice are you listening to?

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT) These wonderful words speak of God’s very personal and deep love for each one of us. As I read them, I realize how often I have not translated these verses and made them personal in my everyday experience. There are times I find myself stepping on the slippery slope of chastisement when I make a simple mistake such as drop an egg on the floor or spill water all over the counter. Statements like I am never going to get it right. I’m so stupid. What’s wrong with me? Such remarks are way over the top for such minor things. Most importantly, this is not how our heavenly Father speaks to us. He would not chastise us for such simple, common errors. But, we do! Hammering ourselves with harsh words breaks the heart …

Every morning you must decide how you will walk your road that day. Credit: Julie Falk/Flickr/Creative Commons

Out of sorts?

My husband had just taken three days off work so we could paint our family room.  We accomplished a lot the first two days and by the third day had the job done. So I thought, now let’s go out for coffee and do a little Christmas shopping. I knew that in the long-term we would  both be better off by letting him have some time to himself.  So, I caught myself before I put on a little performance and a few sighs, to let him know  I  really wanted him to go out with me. I released him from the expectation of joining me that afternoon.  I knew he needed a break. Lately, I have been  purposely releasing myself, family  and friends from  unnecessary and sometimes unrealistic expectations.  It has, in the long run, created better communication and released tension in my relationships. But, recently,  I started feeling out of sorts.   I was  angry most of the time.  It didn’t seem to matter what anyone said or did, it still elicited an angry response …

Credit: Shutter Runner/Flickr/Creative Commons

Has your church offended you?

As I look back over the past 30 years of our Church life, I realize how much happier my husband and I could have been, if we had only known then what we know now. But like many, we learned the hard way. One of the keys is learning not to be offended by your church. So, how does one protect and guard themselves from getting hurt in church? Reflecting on our spiritual journey this one truth comes back to me over and over again.  Avoid developing unreasonable expectations of the church and its leaders. I am reminded of a time years ago when my husband struggled with personal identity issues in his life.  So much of it was wrapped up in how well he performed at work and he became a workaholic of sorts. I was not perfect during this period and kept heaping unrealistic expectations on him — what he should be doing around the house and even at church. He just couldn’t handle it! These unreasonable expectations were putting distance between him …

Do you love yourself? Credit: chandrika221/Flickr/Creative Commons

Do we need to love ourselves?

“The second is: ‘You must love others as much as yourself.’ No other commandments are greater than these.” (Mark 12:3) According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, loving yourself from a biblical perspective refers to loving the image of God in you and the way He created you. This is not referring to a conceited, prideful, self-worship type of love. Loving yourself and embracing your significance as a Christian is vital. We need to love and value ourselves in the same way God does. Low self-esteem, beating ourselves up emotionally and physically (body image), defining ourselves through past mistakes and failures are all signs that we are not loving ourselves in the same way God loves us. We can be bitter and unforgiving towards others. But we can also be bitter and unforgiving towards ourselves and God because of the way we perceive ourselves  through our body image or  the way things turned out for us in life. I am learning that it  is just as important to forgive myself  as it is to forgive others. Understanding …

Who do you blame for the storms in your life? Photo: 5oulscape/Flickr/Creative Commons

So what’s really bothering you?

I often deal with my frustration by blaming my husband. He is an easy target. And because he is often conveniently close by, I can throw my personal frustrations at him. Yes, he knows something is wrong but has no idea what.  He is not a mind reader as much as I would like him to be. I have begun to look at my frustrations, anger and resentments as signals that the problem is not with the person I am blaming. Often, we blame our partner for the way we feel about our day or even the past. We cast ourselves as the victim and our partner as the villain. Relationship experts Katie and Gay Hendricks describe it this way: “If you feel you are being wronged  and want things to change in your relationship, BEING THE VICTIM NEVER WORKS!” Denying my emotions and the real reason for my frustration (anger, resentment) by blaming an unsuspecting family member creates a vicious cycle that keeps building up inside until it explodes. Though I feel better blaming …

Alone. Photo: Stefano Bertolotti/Flickr/Creative Commons

Praying for connection

I am sitting in my living room in my new home. I am grateful for my life at this moment and for moving and setting up a new residence outside a small city where we have lived for almost two years. This place and space my husband and I have created is pretty good. Although, this phase of retirement living in a new place is very quiet these days. There are days and weeks where life and people I knew are just a blurred  memory.  Other days the memories are more vivid. These past two years have been a time of rest for me.  The Lord  has led me beside still waters, refreshed my soul and breathed new life and hope into me. Creating a new circle of friends is difficult. Yet, I know that God created us with a need for relationship.  From past experience, I know that it takes time and often years to find friends that you have a connection with. Stepping out of my comfort zone and extending myself to others …

Photo: other think/Flickr/Creative Commons

Grief and time

I stood at the counter and watched as the cashier carefully wrapped my Willow Tree ornaments. I had purchased four of these ornaments for each of my immediate family. The statue is called “brothers.” The younger  brother is on the ground looking up at the standing older brother who is looking down. It was the first Christmas in my grief. Losing my oldest boy a year earlier made the holiday painful. The clerk looked at me as she wrapped the ornaments.  She asked me if these were for someone who lost a loved one. I said, yes, I lost my son. “Well,” she stated, “if this is your first year, the second year is just as painful.” “However, the third year is a little better.” she added, “and then by five years you will find it so much better.” Wow! A complete stranger had just made my world open to a possible future I could hope for. What a gift! In grief sharing with others who have lost a loved one, I have mentioned this …

God want to heal our brokeness. Photo: Howard Hall/Flickr/Creative Commons

Circle of Love

It had been a year since I lost my son to suicide and I was invited to join a new women’s group at church. I wanted to stay home and not risk baring my heart to anyone. God knew I needed this group of women and gently pushed me out the door of my comfort zone. To be honest, I was angry with my son for choosing to leave us the way he did. I am a resilient person and found myself able to move forward in my life despite our loss.  My resiliency, though, left me unable to express myself and release my grief. There were five women in this group and each of us had our own pain and grief to deal with. Some of us were angry with God for the circumstances we were facing.  Others, like myself, were angry at our loved one for the choice they had made. We were all here to release the pain and guilt of poor choices made and we began to realize that we needed …

What we think of ourselves, affects who we are.

Be nice to yourself

My mind can be my best friend or worst enemy depending on what I choose to believe about myself. In other words, my body responds to messages I send it via my thoughts. Many times, while trying on clothes in a store, I have stood in front of the mirror and criticized myself for being fat. There is, undeniably, a mind-body connection and statements like “I am fat” affect our mental, emotional and physical well-being. I have shut myself down many times because of my negative thinking and the demeaning language that followed. Waking up and feeling gloomy because the sun isn’t shining often sets the mood and tone of my day and this in turn determines how productive it will be as well. The Bible tells us that our thoughts dictate who we become. The mind of a man reflects who he really is, not just his actions or words . “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Guarding the heart really means the inner core of …

Jesus wants to bring emotional healing. Photo: Olaf Meyer/Flickr/Creative Commons

Jesus came to heal the ‘shivering’ heart

According to researchers from Denmark’s Aarhus University, human grief can literally cause heart problems. The research team looked at the medical data for about one million Danes and discovered that people who experience the loss of a partner had a 41% increased chance of an irregular heartbeat. Called atrial fibrillation or arrhythmia, it takes place when there is a breakdown in the heart’s electrical system causing the heart’s chambers to flutter or beat very fast. It can result in increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and even death. The risk was even higher when the death was unexpected resulting in a 57% increased risk of atrial fibrillation. They also discovered this was happening to people who up to this point had never experienced an irregular heart beat. In the study, the researchers found that of the 88,612 who were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation for the first time, 17,478 had experienced the loss of a loved one within the previous year. In a Los Angeles Times article, Simon Graff, one of the study leaders, said: “Stress …

Photo: Justin K./Flickr/Creative Commons

It doesn’t have to be a life sentence

I lost my eldest son Graham in 2004 to suicide. Six years later my grief took me to a five-day seminar to help deal with the emotional upheaval in my life due to his death. I had filled out their forms, answered questions, shared my story and the reasons why I wanted to attend the seminar. On the first day, we all received a name tag. One facilitator came up to me and gave me mine. I glanced at it as I took it from her hand. The words “life sentence” we’re neatly printed on it.  It caught me completely off guard.  It took a few days into the seminar to face the cold hard facts. As  judge, juror and prosecutor, I had sentenced myself to a life-time of guilt and shame  for the death of my son. Death from suicide carries a stigma with it and the grieving is more complex. I could not understand why my son took this drastic measure. He willingly left us. I did something wrong. My husband and I …

Photo of the Heart shaped leaf that fell at Laura's feet as she meditated on God's love for her.

Struggling to believe God’s love?

[by Laura Fauchon] For many years I struggled to understand God’s love. The unsettling events of my life (sexual and physical abuse ) often kept me awake at night. I would cry myself to sleep asking God to help me and take the pain away. How could a loving God be so absent and seemingly distant during these times? Although I grew up being taught that God loved me and died on the cross for my sins and that He heard my prayers, I felt He did not care. I would struggle with being told God is a very present help in times of trouble. If this was true, then where was He? A wise and godly woman years ago helped me on my journey to healing.  It was through her mentoring and fellowship that I began to heal from the hurt and pain I endured. Coming to the realization that this abuse was not my fault was a stepping stone to my healing.  Then, by the grace of God, I was able to forgive …

A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:4

A safe place to grieve

My first-born son, Graham, died when he was eighteen years old. He took his life while stranded on a country road in his vehicle. A few months after he passed away my grief counselor advised me to find a place where I could go and “let it all out and cry hard to release my painful emotions.” At that time I was not able to speak about my son’s tragic death to anyone.  My heart felt like it was frozen. Even when I was alone the tears would not come. I didn’t trust myself or anyone else enough to talk about it and expose my raw emotions. I was too hurt to do that. I have always found great comfort in writing.  It was easy for me to pour out my thoughts and feelings on paper. I missed my son terribly so I wrote him a letter to tell him things about myself and how his family was coping. I wanted to share it with him! “And God will wipe away every tear from their …

Dealing with the pain of grief.

How grief tilted my world

My first-born son, Graham, died on January 15, 2004. He was 18 years old.  He took his own life while stranded on a country road in his own vehicle. My world took a serious tilt. My perspective on life shifted to the dark side. Everything and everyone changed as I viewed them through the eyes of grief. I didn’t know what to do with the people who surrounded me and engaged in life with me. I was terrified to talk about the loss of my son. Not feeling free to share feelings and thoughts hindered my grieving process.  I read the Bible and books on grief and suicide hoping this would help me deal with people’s questions and comments. Nothing could prepare me though. I had to face it alone and walk through the unknown waters of grief and let the waves splash over me. People meant well and out of the uncertainty of what to say their comments sometimes came across the wrong way — like my son’s suicide was probably for the best …

Are you playing the blame game?

A woman’s perspective: Are you playing the blame game?

Too often, many of us are tempted to blame others for our feelings of insignificance.  For a Christian, it is not uncommon to blame the church for one’s unhappiness. We may feel ignored because our gifts or contributions have not been recognized. In our minds, we feel invisible and unable to gain the attention we so desperately need. In other words, we are looking to the church to fulfill our purpose and calling thus taking the responsibility off our shoulders and placing it on theirs. It is a temporary comfort though. When things don’t work out as we hoped, it ends up being the church’s fault and not ours. Often, we blame God as well because we perceive the church as the only means by which God can fulfill our purpose. For many years, I blamed the church for my unhappiness and for not meeting my personal needs. I believed it was their responsibility and not mine. I ashamedly admit it was an attempt to make myself feel better. Deep down I was angry for …

Navigating life with a one track mind. Photo: Blind corner Skagway line in Alaska Ted McGrath/Flickr.Creative Commons

A woman’s perspective: Keep on track with a one-track mind

We have all heard the expression, “you have a one-track mind.” It is usually spoken with a negative connotation. Well, I am beginning to think a one-track mind would be great! And, to be honest, I have been working very hard to stay on only one track at a time. I believe this is the way to the “peace that passes all understanding” that Paul talks about in the book of Philippians. The Apostle Paul is the perfect example of a one track mind.  He knew his purpose was to preach salvation to the Gentiles and when he stepped into his mission, things became clearer as he kept his focus on that one thing. Nothing was going to deter Paul from his call to the Gentiles.  It was his purpose. I am beginning to understand when we have a single focus in our daily lives there is no room for other thoughts. When we keep that focus, anxiety ceases because there are no other thoughts roaming around in our heads distracting us from our purpose. …

Are you being sucked into another time dimension because of worry?

Are you a time traveller?

Recently, I came to the realization that I was a bonafide time traveller and spent most of my time in the future. Rarely did I live in the present. I was worrying about  the next day or the day after or even the following week.  Sometimes it was just a barrage of small things that caught me. I would worry about what to wear when I was going to church in a couple of days or to an event in a few weeks. I spent most of my day in another dimension of time — the future. Travelling to the future and then back to the present, over and over again, sent my thoughts spinning out of control.  I was always anticipating the worst.  My “fight or flight” response was  triggering all the time. Worry was creating fear. Fear propelled me into the future. Time travel was ruining my life. Jesus warned us about living in another time dimension. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough …

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France Photo: David McSpadden/Foter/CC BY

A woman’s perspective: Mirror, mirror….

Recently, I over poured the milk in my coffee, making a mess on the counter. “That was  . . . ” and just before I blurted out “dumb” something unusual happened.  The words “I love me” with a little giggle came out instead. I was not only amazed but proud of myself.  Over the past six months I have been intentionally working on this.  Catching myself when negative words were about to my take over my speech and attack me. Changing our attitude and the words we say to ourselves is hard work. Why? Because we love beating ourselves up.  It feels good at first — the self-pity and blame.  Long term,  this unhealthy practice is very damaging. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,  who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; You were bought with a price, therefore honor God with your bodies.  1 Corinthians 6:19 -20 (NIV) Learning to honor ourselves and our bodies through our speech and actions …

A woman’s perspective: Why do I feel guilty every time I say ‘No?’

[by Barb Smith] About a year ago, I came to a new understanding of the biblical term “dying to yourself.”  It seemed every time I said “no” to a request for help or an outing, I felt guilty if I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my time and deny myself for the sake of someone else. Often, I over commit and say “yes” even when my body is screaming “don’t do it!”  The reason I say “yes” is because I feel so guilty when I say “no.”  This is an ongoing struggle and I am in a constant process of finding a balance that is right, not out of selfishness, but out of the need to function as an emotionally healthy woman. I realized my sense of worth was determined by what I did for others. The verse “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,” as I understood it, meant I must die to everything, all the time, as a spiritual sacrifice to God.