By Rev. Lee Anderson, Minister of Care
May is National Mental Health Month. It is important to draw attention to the various mental illnesses that exist and to the treatment of and stigma against mental illnesses in our country. But it is also important to remember that mental health is not just about mental illnesses and disorders. Mental health is in the same category as physical health; we have a body and a brain, a mind and emotions, and how we take care of these parts of our being impacts our overall health. Additionally, physical and mental health is intertwined. For instance, the same stress we experience because of hectic schedules or worrying about the future creates an increase in the levels of cortisol in our bodies. Increased cortisol levels are linked to lower immune function, increased blood pressure and heart disease, and decreased memory function.
Mental health is also connected with spiritual health. Let’s look at stress here as well, something everyone experiences. A spiritually fit person might take time out of her busy schedule each day to be still and just sit in the presence of God. Or, his faith leads him away from dwelling on all the “what ifs” of the future because he knows God is with him no matter what. While stress can’t be avoided, there are ways to release stress and not let it take over. While exercise, diet, and sleep are all important in caring for our mental health, people of faith find that their spiritual practices (or lack thereof) have an impact as well.
Here is a simple exercise to incorporate in your day-to-day activities, based on Philippians 4:6, which reads “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV). This verse is often summarized by the phrase “Don’t worry about anything; pray about everything.” As you feel a worry arise, write it down on a piece of paper, fold it up, and put it in a container designated as your God container. God can contain much more than we can! As you place the worry in the container, close the lid and leave it there. The key is to leave it in God’s hands…and not continue to carry it with you.