Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from anxiety but it’s not only women who suffer. Depression and stress also impact men and all three impact people of all ages and from different walks of life. In these very uncertain (and some may say) perilous times of pandemic, many are struggling to come to terms with the new reality. Most of us are waiting to get back to normal, whatever the new normal is. Just turn on the news and ¾ of the reporting is about the virus or the impact that it is having worldwide. Then add to that Afghanistan and we can be left feeling that life is quite hopeless.
Thankfully, if you know Jesus as your personal Saviour, there is always hope. Hope that God has got this. Hope in a better tomorrow. Hope that we will be carried and we will be better for that.
Over the next weeks, I will be discussing yours and my mental health on 96threefm radio – I encourage you to listen in or listen to the replays from the sound cloud on 96three FM. I will be talking about two major aspects as remedies for anxiety, depression, stress and many other mental health issues that we face today. The two streams of remedies or as psychology calls them interventions will be firstly the scientific and research interventions that are commonly used for mental health issues and then secondly the faith way to deal with our difficulties.
Let me begin by saying we are not just a single person with a single way of evaluating ourselves but we are in fact viewed through the psychological lens of the biopsychosocial model – with some psychologists now adding spiritual. So we comprise of these four aspects and each aspect influences, impacts and bounces off the others. We can’t really begin to get well in any area without looking at all three areas of the whole person.
I’m going to give you a very brief snapshot of some interventions that are psychologically and/or faith based according to the four aspects of the biopsychosocial spiritual of our makeup.
Firstly, when we are talking about the biological or the physical aspect, our body is governed by the brain which is also a biological unit, impacting the rest of our body. To look after oneself, one needs to remember that what we do physically and how our biological body is running, will impact our emotions, our relationships and everything else in our life. So the bottom line is that self-care needs to happen to support the physical engine room. It should not be optional and includes physical exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, having regular checkups and drinking enough water. In other words, this means being very conscious of what our body requires for optimum health and providing that. This is imperative if you want the other areas to also be optimum. The difference exercise has made in my life is remarkable. You probably know that I swim in a wet suit and in very cold water when we are in lockdown. Do I enjoy this? Not really! Is it worth the pain? Absolutely! Kilos begin to drop and I feel like a million dollars afterwards.
Now let me address the psychological area. This is a big component of our whole makeup and how we feel emotionally, impacts how our body physically functions, how our relationships work and even how we feel about God. Including all parts of the biopsychosocial spiritual model is important as each one greatly influences the others. So I will look at some psychological treatments for mental ill-health.
Today, probably the most empirically researched intervention for anxiety, depression and stress is CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy. Very simply, this is about what you think about and how these thoughts impact how you feel and what you do. Most therapists still use some part or form of CBT with their clients to help them re-formulate their perceptions (thoughts) about life which can become quite powerful. Traditionally we have all been a little bit embarrassed about not seeming to have it all together but in reality, all of us struggle at times and there’s no shame in that in today’s world. It’s better to feel a little bit uncomfortable and get some help to get through than not doing anything and feeling very uncomfortable for an extended time.
So let’s look at the social aspect of the whole person now. Have you ever had an argument with someone and it’s affected your stomach, your sleep and your thoughts? Our social world is very impactful on the other areas of our life. And it's this area that takes most of us off to see a counsellor, psychologist, the pastor or to engage a life coach. It’s an ongoing process to work on ourselves so that we can be better people to live with and to engage with. Of course this also affects us physically, mentally and emotionally.
The remaining area is the spiritual and this area I believe, has the most impact on the other three but of course is also affected by those three aspects. If we don’t feel well physically, emotionally or relationally, we may not want to know about a God who is allowing the pain and suffering in the world. On the other hand, if we believe in an all powerful Saviour, as our Saviour then the other areas seem to make sense. When we seek and find understanding, or find explanations from God’s Word and know His presence in our lives, we can be freed from the constraints in the biopsychosocial areas. It’s not automatic, it may take time and again we may need help. God knew this and that’s why the church exists to bring more people into the heavenly realms and heal them up on the way to our final destination — Heaven!
So now, just a few brief pointers and applications for different interventions that you could try if you are feeling under the weather in any of those areas, remembering that you may need to seek some counselling to assist you. These interventions are useful for many different mental health problems – CBT; MCBT, positive psychology, narrative therapy, mindfulness, journaling – finding meaning and many more.
I’ve added some links at the bottom of this blog for you to do some research and find out if you do need someone to walk alongside of you. Have a look at the DASS questionnaire which will evaluate any depression, anxiety and/or stress. You could also check out the link taking you to the website from the University of Pennsylvania which is the authentic happiness or positive psychology website and there are many questionnaires there to investigate how you do life. Things such as your values and strengths, your ability to forgive or your emotional, romantic attachment style. I’ve included below some helplines and counselling links if you are really struggling.
It’s a new day and age – the pandemic age when it’s okay to not be okay and it’s okay to ask someone if they are okay (or not). If you’re not okay, please get some help so you can be working towards a better tomorrow.
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Some useful links:
1. Age 31/08/21 Exercise article about ‘Secrets of Women’s Healthy: Ageing’ by Professor Cassandra Szoeke., Melbourne University.
2. Positive Psychology Questionnaires to discover things like forgiveness ability, romantic attachment styles, values in action (VIA) strengths.
3. DASS scale and evaluation (depression, anxiety, stress).
4. Counselling Help: