I have a number of friends and family going through difficult situations right now. The kind of situations that can make us question ourselves and our faith.
A child that received a much-needed heart transplant but his body rejected it. He is now in a coma…and has been for over 4 weeks.
A few months ago, I wrote a rather theological response to trusting God in difficult times , but today I wanted to give some practical tips on how to pull out of a funk and get yourself to a better place mentally and emotionally.
I hope you play along if you’re struggling (or even if you’re not struggling but would like to encourage others that are)…either leave a comment below or e-mail me from the contact page if you’d prefer.
The 3 Keys to Taking Care of Yourself
A couple months ago, I started walking the dog almost every day.
What started out as a 10 or 15 minute walk has developed into a 45-50 minute walk up and down the hills near our home.
Shadow is definitely more excited about the walks every day than I am…every afternoon about 3, he starts hanging around me looking expectantly at me. And when I go to get my coat or the leash, he gets so excited he can barely stand it.
While I don’t get as excited as he does, I do enjoy the time too. I put on my headset and listen to podcasts or audio books. And I enjoy the beautiful views and time in nature.
Now that we’re a couple months in, I can look back and see other benefits…the benefits the professionals say come from daily exercise. Things like a happier disposition…satisfaction that I’ve done something positive for myself…a thinning waistline…
When we’re down on life – or on ourselves – it’s easy to come up with reasons not to exercise. It’s easy for me to talk myself out of it – “I don’t feel like doing anything…let alone something that will make me sweat.”
But let me encourage you to not let your mental anxiety drag your physical condition down. It’s a never ending, self-perpetuating spiral. The less you do physically, the worse you’ll feel mentally…but the opposite is also true.
Accountability Can Be Your (Best) Friend
Man's Best Friend...and nagging accountability partner
On the days I don’t feel like walking because it’s 5 degrees with a 35 mph wind or it’s raining, his sad face makes me feel like I’m letting him down. On the days when I’m out of the house until after dark and we can’t walk, I feel like I missed out on something.
And when I am home and the weather is half-decent, his insistent whining and begging gets me out the door.
So leave a comment with how you’re going to start taking better care of yourself and what accountability measure you’re going to put in place to make sure it happens.
The Mind…Worst Enemy or Best Friend…You Decide
Ever noticed the worse your situation is on the outside, the more time you spend obsessing about it? When life throws me a curve, I naturally withdraw into selfishness. I start asking questions like, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why does this have to be so hard?”
Just like not taking care of yourself physically begins a downward spiral, letting your mind go wherever it wants does too.
And just like taking control of your physical body helps you feel better, so does taking control of your mind. But how do you do it? Try one or both of these activities.
- Make a list of 25 things your grateful or thankful for. Big or little…people or things…situations or conditions…doesn’t matter. There’s nothing magic about the number 25. The idea is to set a small enough number that it seems like a reasonable goal, but a large enough number that you’ll actually have to put conscious thought into it.
- Do something that fully engages your mind that has nothing to do with your problems. Read a good book, go to a concert or movie, play a soccer match or basketball game, or pick up an old hobby.
Take charge of your mind instead of letting it take charge of you. It’s the most powerful tool you have…use it to your advantage instead of your detriment.
And I’ve often found that while my brain is fully engaged in something that has nothing to do with my situation, it often comes up with creative ideas about that very situation.
It’s weird (and I’m pretty sure there’s even scientific studies to back me up on this), but sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to not think about it. Your subconscious is the most powerful part of your brain and by making your conscious brain think about other things, you push your problem into the subconscious.
Ever wonder why you sometimes wake up in the morning with the “obvious” solution to the problem you couldn’t figure out the day before? It’s because your subconscious brain has been chewing on it all night while your conscious brain slept.
Join in by leaving a comment…tell us the 25 things you’re grateful for…or let us know what you’re going to do to fully engage your mind.
Win at Life in the Ways that Matter
As I’ve talked about before, I’m convinced that selfishness is our enemy.
In my experience, there’s no faster way to feel bad about myself and be convinced my situation is completely hopeless than to focus solely on me and my situation.
We have to get out of ourselves and turn the focus on others if we want long-term good mental health. I firmly believe that by serving others, we also serve ourselves.
Maybe you can do something nice and unexpected for the person giving all your headaches. Maybe you can deliver food to the hungry, serve in a soup kitchen, work at a drug or alcohol rehab facility. Could you serve at a hospital or your church.
Find a need in someone else’s life that you can do something about today and do it.
Courtesy of Feed My Starving Children. No alterations made.
Don’t look for a long-term, life fulfilling opportunity right now. Look for a need you have the ability to impact just by showing up. Look for a need that can only be served in person and then do it.
Serving others (especially those less fortunate than ourselves) gives us perspective. It reminds us there are others out there with problems just as big or even bigger than ours.
By serving in person, it also gets out mind of our situation and makes us feel the emotional warmth that only comes from serving others.
Comment below and let us know who you’re going to serve this week.
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