May is National Mental Health Awareness month, It couldn't have come at a better time. Because of the covid-19 pandemic, many are dealing with personal or family illness. Others are experiencing heightened anxiety and fear, and many are facing the loss of jobs and income. Still others are overwhelmed by escalating conflicts as families are "sheltering in place" and "getting on each others nerves." Is it any wonder that drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise; incidents of family violence are increasing, and the darkness of depression for many is now worse. This is truly a time when the coping skills of many are stretched to the max. How can we protect our mental health when attacks seem to arise on so many different fronts? I would offer three brief words of advice..
Seek Professional Advice
This is a great time to begin the process of therapy that many have been putting off. Family therapists and Social Workers can help you with the relational struggles you face. Psychologists can help you find a way forward in the midst of traumatic experiences and personality flaws. Psychiatrists can prescribe medicines that will allow your body and mind to "settle down." Though there are changes to the way some are providing services; most mental health offices are open for business and new clients are being received.
Focus Your Heart and Mind on God
In Psalm 119 the Psalmist describes his quest for God...
vs. 2: "Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart."
vs. 58: "I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise."
vs. 114: "You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word."
vs. 147: "I rise before the dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word."
vs. 165: "Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble."
For the Psalmist, one of the key's to coping with the challenges of life was to fully set his heart and mind on the great promises of God.
Stay Connected with Family and Friends
This is a time for "social distancing." It is not a time for social isolation. We need to hear the voices of family and friends and we need conversations with those who can encourage and comfort us. Further, we need to remember that others need to hear our words of comfort and encouragement as well. In short, we need each other.
As I reflect on my own mental health, I can acknowledge that there have been professionals who have helped me through some dark and troubling times and I am forever grateful for their counsel and wisdom. I would also say that I have been incredibly blessed by family and friends who have seen me at my best and loved me through my worst. And I am forever grateful that God has led me and sustained me every inch of the way through my now 68 year journey in life. Our mental health is not something we should take for granted. Rather, we need to be aware of how we are doing and what steps we can take to remain mentally healthy and strong.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.