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Mental Health and the Church

 

We are not mental health professionals, always consult mental health and medical doctors before taking anyone's medical and mental health advice.

 

Rev. Alesha Ferguson, MES

 

I am a pastor’s wife, a mother, and a schoolteacher.  I am not a mental health professional.   However, our daily mental health is something that needs to be addressed in the church world. If you or a family member have significant mental health concerns, please reach out for professional help from a trained counselor or doctor.

 

Anxiety is something that plagues many people in the United States. Anxiety ranges from mild to severe.   The anxiety recovery center reports that generalized anxiety disorder which ranges from mild to moderate in severity has been identified to typical be caused by one or more of four main factors:

  • Personality – research suggests that people who were inhibited or reserved as children may be more likely to develop GAD as adults. Personality traits such as emotional sensitivity and shyness also make worrying more likely.

  • Learned behavior – our habitual ways of thinking are learned over many years and are influenced by a range of environmental, social, and family influences. A tendency to be preoccupied with imaginary worries can train our mind, over time, to habitually worry.

  • Family – anxiety (as a trait) may be inherited and the family environment (including the role models provided by parents) may influence the development of GAD.

  • Brain chemistry – some research indicates that anxiety is associated with altered brain chemistry. However, it is unclear whether anxiety causes the physical changes or whether the physical changes cause the anxiety.

Anxiety in its more severe forms requires medical intervention if you or a family member are dealing with constant overwhelming anxiety that interferes with your ability to function in daily life seek out medical help. However, if you are dealing with mild to moderate anxiety there are things you can do at home to address your concerns.   The first thing to do is sit down and talk with God about the things that are impacting your life. Share your worries with him in prayer, give control to him over the things you are anxious about that are out of your control.  After doing this develop a plan to do something about those things that you do have control over.

 

If your anxiety is about your finances, then sit down and develop a budget so that you know where your money goes and build a plan to save for things that you want or need so that you do not have to panic when bills are due.  Dave Ramsey offers a large amount of financial planning information on his website even for those who do not take his class on financial peace but if your finances are way out of control taking his or another financial advisors’ program can help you bring that stress under control.

 

If your anxiety is about your health, then develop a personal health plan in consultation with your medical provider.  If you do not know how to do that purchase a guide, such as for example the Journal A life worth Living: A 3-month whole life Journal, by N. B. Jackson which is available on Amazon.  To help you get started on your road to personal health.

 

The anxiety research center also states that Exercise is proving to be an effective strategy to help people manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. There are various theories to explain how exercise can lift a person's mood. These include:

  • Altered brain chemicals –researchers have found that regular exercise, and the subsequent increase in physical fitness, alters levels of a brain chemical called serotonin, which leads to improved mood and feelings of well being.

  • Reduced adrenaline – physical activity burns up stress chemicals like adrenaline, which promotes a more relaxed body and mind.

  • Distraction – an enjoyable bout of exercise may be distracting enough to break the vicious cycle of worrying.

When I am dealing with a stressful situation the first thing I do is go to my place of private prayer and usually spend the first few minutes explaining to God that “He has a problem”.  I know that sounds a little strange but the way I view things is I gave my life to The Lord, and I am doing my best to live my life in a manner that glorifies God.  So if I have a problem, then he does as well, because we are partners working together toward his purpose. Then after that I ask him to guide and direct and point me in the right direction to resolve the situation.  Knowing that God is working with me to resolve the situation is a major stress reducer for me because I am not in this by myself.

For more information on the research by the anxiety research center including the signs and symptoms that warn of anxiety that needs medical intervention see their webpage at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Generalised-anxiety-disorder which is the source of the quotes included in this article.  And remember please if you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety at a level that it impacts your ability to function in life or will to live please seek medical help.

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