Giveaway winners! I apologize, I got a little behind with the holidays and a round of birthdays! I’ll be contacting these winners. Thanks for participating!
A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (Pearl Spence Novels) by Susie Finkbeiner- Karen
Sunlight Burning at Midnight by Jessica Ronne – Julie B.
As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love, and Change by Cynthia Ruchti – Lois Jones
*New for February* Join me in reading through the book of Acts! After reading through the life and teachings of Jesus last fall, I’ve been wanting to revisit the early church and review what difference Jesus made in this band of fishermen and early followers. With 28 chapters, it’s easy to remember! Read one a day, starting today! Join me on Instagram and Facebook for posts and conversations about what you’re reading.
As 2017 came to a close, I found myself shrouded by a familiar cloud. Anxiety hung low, obscuring joy.
The year ahead felt dreadful, and it hadn’t even started.
Some mornings, I even woke up with a racing heart. It’s as though my body anticipated the day ahead and reacted before my brain was even coherent.
For those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, the struggle is irrational. And it can be constant.
Over the years, I’ve gained healing and help through medication, counselors, and accountability with friends.
There is no one-size-fits all for good mental health.
However, some practices and habits can point us in the right direction, even in the midst of the anxiety.
For 2018, I’m being intentional with these spiritual practices to take care of my mental health every single day and refocus my mind on Christ.
Maybe one or two will help you too.
1. Morning Gratitude List
Writing a gratitude list isn’t a new concept. Ann Voskamp popularized the practice in her book One Thousand Gifts. I’ve been hit and miss with gratitude lists over the years. This January 1, I started the year with a paper planner. (Panda Planner, go look it up. So fun!) Built into this planner is space to write 3 things you’re grateful for every single day. Our pastor has urged us to pick up this practice and be as specific as possible. Be thankful not just for dinner, but for the chicken tikka masala and warm crusty bread dipped in the sauce. I try to think of 3 things specific to the day before. I write my 3 in my planner before I even get out of bed.
This practice isn’t just about writing things down. It’s also about turning our hearts to God in the process and recognizing these things are good gifts from the Lord.
2. Daily Truth Talk
Each month, I’m choosing a truth theme to focus on. For January, I focused on God’s love and provision for my needs. Each week of the month, I pick a Scripture that goes with the truth. I write that verse down in my planner every single day. The process of writing the verse every morning helps me memorize it, and sink it into my subconscious. So often throughout the day, the verse will come to mind! The verses become like old, trusted friends, reminding you of who and whose you are.
My truth talk verses for January were: Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 34:9, and Isaiah 58:11 (took 2 weeks to sink in!)
3. Prayer Journal
I often find my thoughts too scattered to focus in prayer. But with a pen in hand, it’s as though my hand steadies my thought process. I aim to take a few minutes each morning to write my heart to God. In the process, I will list the concerns of today or the coming week, inviting Him into those meetings and conversations and tasks. I will confess my shortcomings and ask forgiveness, while admitting my need for His help.
A journal also gives me opportunity to look back in the weeks to come and see God’s answers and provision, adding to the gratitude!
4. Evening Review: Today’s Victories
This practice is like a bookend on the morning gratitude. Before retiring for the evening, I write down 1-3 things in my planner that went well today, and offer a silent thanks to God. Whether it was a project or meeting at work that went well, teens who came home from school agreeable, or even just that I held my tongue and controlled my emotions when those things didn’t go well. Finishing the day by looking at the positive victories of the day refocuses my heart on the goodness and strength God gave me to meet the day. Even when the days were rough, hunting for 1-2 good things, no matter how small, is such good practice.
Bonus Practice: Handwritten Notes of Gratitude
This practice has been more of a weekly routine than a daily habit. When I was a high schooler struggling with anxiety and feeling lonely, my wise English teacher prompted me to look outward and take a moment to write a note of appreciation to someone for something they’ve done.
A few times a week, I sit down with my address list and scroll through to see who I haven’t talked to in awhile, or a friend who I know could use a word of encouragement, or simply to let someone know how much they mean to me. This practice has provided an added blessing of texts and email replies to the notes. Quite often the recipient will say, “I was having such a bad day….We’re in the midst of a tough time…God used your note to encourage me.”
The personal touch of a handwritten note, I think, carries even greater value in today’s digital culture.
Yes, you could do each of these practices on your computer or your phone. But if you’re anything like me, those digital devices can be a big distraction.
Not to mention, I find the act of writing things down with my hand, requires more thought, and slows me down, bringing me fully into the practice. I find my fingers can fly faster than my brain when I type.
Slow down. Start the day with intentional practices.
How do you promote your mental health? What habits have helped you focus your heart and mind on Christ each day?
Panda Planner – Best Daily Calendar and Gratitude Journal to Increase Productivity, Time Management & Happiness – I am thoroughly enjoying this planner. Moving back to a paper planner has been so beneficial, and this one includes many great ideas for monthly, weekly, and daily goals and habits, including spaces for daily gratitude and review of the days “wins.”
Loved. Journal – GEMS’ Girls Clubs has designed a new line of Loved. products. This is a perfect way to start the day, remembering you are loved by God, no matter what has gone well the day before or what lies ahead today. Perfect for a prayer journal!
Finding Peace in a Culture of Anxiety – sermon series from Philippians with practical encouragement to point you to Christ in the midst of anxiety.
*Some affiliate links used in the post.
Header photo: by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash
Internal photos: by Simon Maage on Unsplash, Denisse Leon on Unsplash , Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Ingrid Lochamire says
Thank you for this, Amelia. So much to harvest here, to implement and to share. I’ve bought 2 planners for this year and I don’t care for either of them. Checking out your Panda Planner suggestion. I’m also passing this along to a couple of people I know who have similar struggles. I know they will be encouraged and inspired. Bless you!
Thank you, Ingrid! I’ve really enjoyed the Panda Planner. It has a lot of things in it that have helped me stay focused and joyful! Praying your friends will be encouraged as well! Thanks for sharing. <3
Jill Richardson says
These are really good ideas. I am thinking of preaching through Acts soon, so I may join you! I love my gratitude journal. And funny–I was thinking yesterday that I hadn’t seen a post from you in a while, so I said a prayer for you. And look what pops into my box this morning!
Oh, I would love to listen to your Acts series! If it will be online, please let me know. I was thinking how good a sermon series would be from this book. So fascinating! And thank you for praying! I’ve been struggling to get back into writing mode. Yesterday, I just felt to urge, and this post had been on my heart for awhile. Now I think I know why yesterday was the day!!
Myrna Folkert says
Amelia, thanks for obeying and writing and publishing this article. It takes great courage!! As I’ve shared with you, I often struggle(not nearly as much now but it often rears its ugly head!) with anxiety. You gave others many practical things to try. You inspire me by being so vulnerable about anxiety, because I’ve dared to peek my head out and write a little about this at times, but have a long way to go. I know many people have this problem and may not comment or talk to you, but they struggle. I’ve learned that it definitely often is a chemical imbalance in your body, and not from worry or fear, not praying enough or the right way, etc. Anxiety is one of those invisible or misunderstood conditions. Thank you for being brave and writing this important story! The Holy Spirit is always carrying us!
Myrna, I always appreciate your honesty too. Keep being brave! I know your words have given me so much courage on low days. We all take it step by step. God has woven our bodies and minds together so intricately. Things get out of balance physically, or chemically, and the whole body can be affected. So much we don’t know yet! But our Lord knows our bodies inside and out. We just keep trusting Him to carry us and help us understand! Bless you!