Forgiveness and Reconciliation

By Pam Nettles, LPC

Forgiveness and Reconciliation are two commonly misunderstood concepts. Forgiveness is actually a command given to every believer. However, reconciliation is a bit messier because it is not mandated, depending on the circumstances.  Sometimes reconciliation is healthy for you and/or a relationship; but in other instances reconciliation can be unhealthy, and even dangerous. Both Forgiveness and Reconciliation can be a one time decision, or it may be a process.  Prayer is a vital element in asking for wisdom and discernment, as well as preparing your heart.  Let’s consider each concept and hear what the Bible has to say.

Forgiveness of Others and Ourselves

Forgiveness literally means ‘to let go’ as when a person does not demand for payment for a debt.  Forgiveness does not mean you are condoning the action of another, pretending the offense didn’t happen or allowing another to take advantage of you.  Forgiveness does not mean you forget the offensive, but that you turn the offender over to Jesus and allow Him to work on the offender’s heart.  Forgiveness does not require the other party to participate, however, forgiveness sets you free of the bondage of bitterness and resentment.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” (Colossians 3:13, New International Version)

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Sometimes it is harder to forgive ourselves of our offenses.   The Bible tells us to confess our sins and repent.  When we confess our sins God forgives us, never to remember the offense, however, we often continue to punish ourselves and not truly receive Christ’s forgiveness.  Jesus died on the cross for each and every sin you and I commit.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” ( 1 John 1: 8 &9)

Reconciliation

Forgiveness may only require one party, if the other is not willing to repent. Reconciliation requires two parties.  If the person that offended you accepts personal responsibility for their actions, and repents (changes their actions), then it may be possible for reconciliation.  Depending on the nature of the offense it may be possible to establish guidelines for reconciliation and rebuilding trust.  Some guidelines may include accountability, counseling or the offender seeking help from a mentor, additionally time/space may be needed in the relationship.  Other times, if the offense was horrendous or abusive, reconciliation may not be possible.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  (Romans 12: 18 – 19)

Therefore , if anyone is in Christ,  the new creation has come:  the old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5: 17-20)

Pam Nettles, LPC

Fashion-ed

by Kevin Wimbish, LMFT

He walks down the street wearing earbuds that are good for listening to music, but maybe even better as a fashion statement. She buys an SUV that is good for transporting people, but maybe even better for showing belonging to a certain social class. He expresses a certain opinion of matters with which he kind of agrees, but he knows it’s in fashion, so he proceeds.


I wonder if we believed that we are really fashioned in the image of God would we need to present all these other images?


I wonder if we really believed that we have inherent value as Image-Bearers of The King of the universe would we need to find our value in how valuable are our things.


I wonder if we ultimately rested in the approval of God would we need the approval of the masses by agreeing with whatever is in fashion in the culture.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”‭‭ (Psalm‬ ‭139: 13-14,‬ ‭English Standard Version)


“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image..”‭‭ (Genesis‬ ‭1:26‬)

In 20 years that SUV may have a bit of rust. In 20 years kids may laugh at how archaic those earbuds were. In 20 years our “enlightened” way of thinking may reveal itself to have been an unwise social experiment.


“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”– C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

May we start believing that we don’t need so many things to make us feel valuable to ourselves and others. May we regularly reflect on God’s love for us more than the crowd’s “love” for us. May we realize that we don’t need certain material fashions nor to go along with current thought fashions to be valuable.


Fashions come and go. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”‭‭ (Isaiah‬ ‭40: 8)‬ ‭

Kevin Wimbish, LMFT

Teenagers and Depression

by Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

The topic of depression is on the rise especially in teenagers today. In fact, one in five will suffer from depression in their teenage years. Teenagers face so much in their day to day life, including a wide range of pressures from the changes brought on by puberty to questions about who they are and where they belong. With all of this uncertainty, it can be difficult to tell if teens are going through depression or normal teenage growing pains. Teenage depression goes beyond normal teenage moodiness.

Some possible indications of depression are:

1) Problems at school. Depression causes low energy and concentration at school which could affect a drop in grades, low attendance, and frustration with schoolwork.

2) Wanting to run away. Often teens threaten to run away and this can be a cry for help.

3) Drug and alcohol abuse​. Teens utilize alcohol and drugs to self-medicate.

4) Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.

5) Smart phone addiction. Utilizing phones to escape their problems also increases teenage isolation.

6) Changes in eating habits. This could be binging or restricting and has potential to lead to eating disorders.

7) Self-harm. This might include cutting, burning or excessive piercing or tattooing which can be a way to cope with their emotional pain. 

8) Thoughts of death and suicide.

Depression looks different in teens than in adults. In adults the prominent mood in depression is sadness; however, with teens it is usually irritability. Depression in teens can cause unexplained aches and pains in which teens might complain of headaches and stomach aches. Teens are extremely sensitive to criticism and are plagued by feelings of worthlessness. While adults might completely isolate from others, teens usually will withdraw from some but not all friends. Usually teens will socialize less, will pull away from parents, and will begin hanging out with a different crowd. 

Although not all teens that have some of these symptoms will have depression, it is important to know how to handle them if they do. As parents it is important to bring up your concerns in a loving way creating open dialogue. 

Here are some tips that may help: 

1) Acknowledge their feelings. It is important not to try and talk them out of their irritability and sadness but instead to just acknowledge it. It is also important to focus on listening, not lecturing. 

2) Trust your gut. As a parent you know your child better than anyone else, so if you think it’s just hormones and stress go with it, but if you think it could be depression seek professional help.

3) Help your teen reconnect. Creating more face time as parents could be helpful,but also do what you can to encourage them to combat social isolation. Get your teen involved in activities (while teens might lack interest at first, they might take time to feel better and regain enthusiasm). Activities could include clubs and sports or it could be volunteering. Sometimes doing something for others is the medicine they need. 

4) Promote exercise. It has been proven that exercise decreases symptoms of depression. It is ideal for your teen to get an hour a day, but encourage them to do something they enjoy. They could be walking a dog, dancing, going for a hike, riding bikes, or anything that gets them moving.

5) Decrease unhealthy teen habits. Teens are known for their unhealthy habits including staying up late, eating junk food, and spending hours on phones so it is important to limit screen time, provide balanced meals, and encourage sleep (9-10 hours).

6) Seek professional help. If you are unsure if you should seek professional help,consider how long the symptoms have been going on and how severe they are. Hormones and stress do have an effect on the angst of teens but if it is continuous unhappiness, lethargy, or irritability it might be time to seek help. 

Helping a depressed teen is not easy, and you may be (and probably will be) met with resistance.  Dealing with the resistant teen is difficult and draining and can actually be exhausting. So, while you are working hard to help your teen, don’t forget to look after your own health as well. 

Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

Celiac, Auto-immune disease, & Mental Health: Managing Challenges

by Donna Gibbs, LPCS

(Reposting in honor of Celiac Awareness Month)

October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. I have numerous friends who wrestle with the symptoms and limitations of celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder. In those with Celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune response that attacks the small intestine. If you have celiac, then gluten robs you of life satisfaction. Gluten creates risky health complications. Gluten is downright dangerous. 

I too have an autoimmune disease that requires my omitting gluten. It’s not fun. It’s not my choice. I’d much rather enjoy homemade biscuits, a hot loaf of bread from Carrabba’s, or a fresh-made doughnut from my favorite local bakery. But I can’t. I haven’t had that pleasure in years. For me, ingesting gluten would be irresponsible. It would rob me of remission, and I have learned to live with that fact. (I’m hoping for a large dose of homemade biscuits in heaven!!)

Some of you can relate. Maybe it’s not Celiac, or even an auto-immune disease, but you may endure the hardship of a challenging physical battle each day of your life. It’s tough living with the daily trials and restrictions of a chronic condition. As you probably know quite well, that day after day battle requires large doses of support and self-discipline. 

But some of you reading this blog wrestle with a more hidden condition. You don’t have Celiac disease, or any other serious auto-immune disease. (I hope you don’t.) You wrestle with a more silent, but equally as powerful struggle: mental illness. While you may have no negative consequences from a slice of bread, there are other things that will certainly trigger you. Those triggers bring unwelcomed symptoms. Sometimes those symptoms can become very serious. Much like someone with Celiac, you must take very seriously your “ingestion” of triggers. You too must omit some things from your life in order to ensure that you remain stable. For instance, if you wrestle with anxiety, then you must abstain from caffeine. If you wrestle with depression, you must abstain from alcohol. If you wrestle with fear, you must abstain from dark horror or sci-fi movies or books. If you wrestle with anger, you must abstain from long viewings of the news. If you struggle with any chronic mental illness, you must be mindful of anything that enters your brain, which is your most important bodily organ. You must be mindful of who you spend your time with. Like foods, people can be either toxic or medicinal. You must be aware of your triggers, and sometimes those triggers are unique to you alone (you must become your own expert). In a nutshell, your triggers can be as toxic for your mental health as a bread bar would be for someone with Celiac. That sounds harsh. But it’s true.

Whether we wrestle with a mental, spiritual, or physical health concern, our ownership of our health is key! That ownership takes a grown-up perspective! It requires relinquishing and grieving what we SO want to put into our bodies or minds, but can’t afford. And then owning our own health, because we have the exclusive responsibility for ourselves. That ownership may sometimes require radical steps to ensure that we are our best version of ourselves. Not perfect. But as stable as we can be this side of eternity. Perfectly imperfect!


Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Donna Gibbs, LPCS

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Steps for Resolving Relationship Conflict

by Pam Nettles, LPC

Studies on relationships have shown that it is not the number of arguments (fights, miscommunications) that a couple has or does not have that is a predictor of the success or failure of the relationship, but what they do with those times of conflict.  Times of conflict, if handled properly, can be a time of growth for a couple and deeper understanding of your partner.  Conversely, not “fighting” is often a sign of avoiding issues that should be discussed and resolved.  Over time resentment can grow or partners can withdraw from each other.

When resolving conflict first remember you are both on the same team.  A team mentality avoids competition and unhelpful attacking of your partner.  The goal is to attack the problem, not the person.  Take time to pray that God will soften your hearts and direct your discussion.

During times of conflict make sure that all physical needs are taken care of before embarking on conversation.  If you are tired, hungry, not feeling well, or stressed about something else, delay discussion until you take care of these needs.  Communicate these needs clearly to your partner and reassure them that you want to resume conversation once these needs are met.

Define the problem.  What is the issue at hand?  Be specific and present.  During times of conflict it is very easy to become “historical” and throw out a litany of past offenses.  Ask yourselves how you each contribute to the problem without becoming defensive (remember the team mentality).  When discussing, it is helpful to let your partner know your feelings and any background information that would help them learn more about why you feel this way.

Define a solution.  Once the problem has been clearly identified discuss ways to solve the issue.  What has worked in the past? What has not worked?  What part will you each contribute to the solution?

Provide accountability that the problem is being resolved.  Set up another time to meet to discuss progress.  Make any necessary adjustments to ensure problems aren’t being “swept under the rug”.  

If necessary during any part of the discussion, take a time-out. Discuss before times of conflict what this will look like in your relationship.  Establish a phrase that signifies you need a break (take 10, time-out, etc).  A time-out is not to be used to avoid an issue.  Identify the time you need to de-escalate, take care of your needs, reassure your partner, and when you can, resume the conversation.  When taking a time-out don’t use this time to ruminate on your anger.  Ask yourself, Why is the issue bothering me?, Where is my partner coming from?, What is the best solution for our relationship?

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. “(Proverbs 15:18, New International Version)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ”  (Romans 12:17-18) 

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  (Colossians 3:13-14)


Pam Nettles, LPC

Between Two Norms

by Kevin Wimbish, LMFT

I just turned 40 years old this year.  I seem to be caught on the tail end of being in Gen X and a little before being a Millennial.  My hair (or lack thereof) reflects the former and my discipline in the gym is a blessing close to the latter.  I have lived all of my childhood in small, rural towns, and all of my adult life in the South. I’ve spent all of my professional life engaged with helping people grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and/ or professionally.  

I’ve noticed something over my adult life as an American male.  It seems as though those who are my age were raised in a culture that told us to only be strong, aggressive, unfeeling, dominant.  And yet, those who are somewhat younger than me seem to be growing up in a culture that denigrates these qualities and elevates the heart, feelings, and emotions above all else.  So which is it? Could it be both? Could both extremes be wrong, and really right when held together? Could it be that it is the tension between the two that is really the answer?

I think our culture needs more from us than either of these extremes.  More than the bravado that presents a tough exterior that can hide a deep insecurity.  More than a subdued and muted version of ourselves so as to not ruffle any feathers. I think our culture, our churches, our wives, our children, need both.  The Warrior and the Poet.  

Consider two men from the Bible.  David and Jesus.

Consider David as the Warrior:

“I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (I Samuel 17: 35 & 36, English Standard Version)

“So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him.” (I Sam. 17:50)

Not only was he a great warrior, but he was also aware of and connected with his heart:

“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.” (Psalm 31:9)

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

Consider Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb:

“And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” (Revelation 5:2)

“And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev. 5:5)

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Rev. 5:6)

He handled business when needed:

“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (John 2:13-16)

He also cared deeply about others:

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35)

Men, or if you are raising men, may we consider today, how to navigate our cultural confusion with more clarity.  May we look to the One who provides direction through these tumultuous waters. May we ask Him to guide us as we follow Christ and allow Him to make us more like Him, a “…stunning mingling of magesty and meekness.” – John Piper

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-lion-and-the-lamb


Kevin Wimbish, LMFT

Essentials for Marriage Resilience

by Donna Gibbs, LPCS

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It’s unbelievable how quickly time flies! Seriously! I was just a teenager yesterday, right?


A monumental anniversary is a great time to reflect on the highs and lows of life. It’s also a time to reflect on marriage survival skills, because marriage is tough, and often may feel like it is really just survival of the fittest!


You’ve heard me say before that I have learned my most valuable skills from my clients. (Over two decades of working as a professional counselor teaches remarkable lessons!) I think God knew I’d need to see the harsh realities of marriage gone bad in order to really have a serious drive to protect and nurture my own. I am going to share with you just a handful of the primary tools that I’ve learned from countless remarkable people on the couch in my office – people in the midst of terrible crisis, who were trusting enough to welcome me into their journey. Sure, these are basic essentials, and there is certainly a lot more to marriage survival than what fits within the confines of a blog. But as long as Mark and I live, we’ll be seeking to continue to put these essential skills into place. I’ll welcome you to do the same.


*Warning – these marital suggestions are considered radical! But they are honest, with no sugar-coating whatsoever. Why? Because, “An honest answer is a like a kiss on the lips.” (Proverbs 24:26, New International Version)

1) Commit to First Things First. Two individuals who each have a genuine relationship with God is crucial! I’m not talking about religion, routine, or tradition. I’m talking about a sincere, life-altering relationship with Jesus. If you have that authentic relationship, as does your spouse, you will be able to maneuver the most challenging trials of marriage. Together, you will find refuge in the One who unifies you. It won’t be easy. But it will be doable. Seek Him. Seek Him desperately! Connect with God, and then seek to connect with your spouse.

2) Maintain Appropriate Boundaries. Nothing threatens a marriage more than poor boundaries, and nothing secures a marriage like healthy boundaries. Boundaries are just a proactive fence of protection. Vigilance in protecting yourself from pornography or an inappropriate relationship is crucial. Don’t be naïve. I’ve seen some remarkable people fall. Anyone is vulnerable. If you find yourself tempted to have private, non-business conversations or contacts with someone of the opposite sex, then you are already vulnerable. If you are having to erase your search history on your devices, you are already in trouble. The necessity of healthy boundaries applies in other various areas as well (protection against the threat of addictions like drugs, gaming, or gambling, protecting marriage from controlling in-laws, maintaining healthy balance of work and church commitments, etc…)

3) Live Under Your Means. Because finances are the most common argument among couples, it’s worth a radical approach. If you routinely live underneath your means, then stress is reduced, you have an emergency plan in place for the unexpected and un-welcomed events of life, and you have wiggle room for giving and dating. Your marriage will thank you for this radical, low-stress approach!

4) Radical Honesty. Deception kills a marriage because it creates doubt. Honesty provides a foundation of safety and trust. Trust that has been compromised, to any degree, regarding any topic, leaves a wound. Assure the safety of your marriage by committing to radical honesty. No white lies. No omissions of truth. Even if you have to err on the side of over-communicating, maintain the health of the relationship through transparency.

5) Learn to Regroup, and Keep Pressing on!
As hard as you may try, your marriage will not be perfect. You will not be perfect, and your spouse will not be perfect. You will disagree. You will say and do things that you regret. You will wound, and you will be wounded. Learning how to regroup (unless you are in an abusive situation) is essential. This regrouping requires crucial conversations, taking the risk of speaking your heart (without attacking), and listening (without interruption or judgement). Before you regroup, I’ll encourage you to ask yourself this powerful question: “What am I doing to contribute to our problem?” If you ask yourself that question with a humble heart, God will likely reveal some truth (that may or may not be difficult to accept!) Forgive, seek forgiveness, and don’t give up! Too many couples give up on a marriage when they could be regrouping.  Instead of having the “Can we talk?” conversation, they are throwing around threats of divorce. In fact, what we used to refer to as the “seven-year itch” could now be better identified as the “three -year itch”. Too many couples give up after three years, because things start to get real! Regrouping allows you to bounce back, prevents you from being stuck, and is a necessary ingredient to marital resilience! Marriage is hard, and requires hard work! Unfortunately, we live in a quick-fix world, and we like doing things the easy way. There is no easy way with marriage. Unless you are in an abusive or unfaithful marriage, I encourage you to keep pressing in and pressing on! The grass probably isn’t greener anywhere else!

After 25 years of marriage, Mark and I have had lots of practice in regrouping! Why? Because just like everyone else, we are sinful, selfish people! We’ve said unkind words, and we’ve done incredibly inconsiderate and disrespectful things to one another. But I also look back on 25 years with gratitude. I have a spouse that will regroup with me, and will take the radical steps necessary to preserve and protect our marriage.  And above all, he sincerely wants to honor God. We join in that goal, as imperfect as we may be.


If you are also an imperfect married couple (that includes all married couples!), I urge you to join with us in the journey of marriage, seeking to honor God as we honor our marriages. It will be messy at times. It will be rewarding at other times. A resilient marriage is one that avoids the unnecessary and catastrophic hurts and betrayals, and can remain stable in the inevitable highs and lows of life. Be as radical as the calling to marriage requires (which is incredibly radical relative to our world’s current standards), and don’t ever give up.


Many of you reading this are deep in a marital pit, and you don’t know how to get out. If you know these basic essentials don’t skim the surface of the issues in your marriage, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Confide in a trusted pastor or friend. If you realize your situation requires a higher level of care, our team of professionals is here to help, with years of experience in the trenches.  We’d be honored to join you in your journey as you learn to regroup, survive, and thrive!


Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Donna Gibbs, LPCS

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

10 Tips for Caregiver Self-Care

By Lori Heagney, LPC

“…Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 31 English Standard Version)

Trials in life often come without warning, and one of the most stressful has proven to be caring for a loved one or family member who becomes ill or afflicted by an accident. Often these situations come on suddenly and without a training course in how to take care of that person. Although showing selfless acts of kindness comes with its own rewards, it can be exhausting and take a toll on one’s own physical and mental health. 

All too often we are programmed to believe that selflessness means not focusing on our own needs. This belief can lead to unhealthiness in spirit, mind, and body. The impact of not caring for yourself can result in physical symptoms of headaches, body aches, lowered immune system, frequent colds, fatigue, sleep problems, unwanted weight gain or weight loss, or abuse of substances. It can also impact one’s mood with bouts of irritability, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and can even impact the brain with lack of focus and memory loss (CaringBridge.org).  There is also a spiritual impact that can lead to questioning one’s faith, becoming angry with God or distancing oneself from Him when the questions of “Why?” seem to go unanswered. 

If you have ever been on an airplane, you have heard the familiar pre-flight instruction that tells you, “In the event of a loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling compartment located above you. Please secure your own mask before assisting others around you.” Similarly, taking care of yourself while you care for someone else puts you in a position to offer them your best help. 

Here are 10 TIPS to help you stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit

  1. Get Enough Sleep. We all become grumpy and don’t function well when we don’t get enough sleep. We all need time to restore and re-energize and  a consistent bedtime with 7-9 hours of rest will help you stay well. 
  2. Maintain a healthy diet. Being on the go, running to and from doctor appointments and having a disrupted schedule can throw off even the most health-conscious; however maintaining nutrition is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Food is fuel and you cannot survive and thrive on a diet of junk and fast-food. Strive for consistent breaks throughout the day to take in a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. Accept help from friends that offer to cook you a meal. Prep food over the weekend and freeze it, making dinner less time-consuming after an exhausting day.
  3. Remain active. Take time out to exercise. Even a ten-minute walk can clear your mind, relieve stress, and restore energy levels. 
  4. Breath. We tend to hold our breath when we are stressed, depriving our body of oxygen and setting off the “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” alarm. This leads to anxiety and sometimes panic attacks. Focus on learning this breathing technique even before you feel stressed in order to develop this amazingly effective skill. Try this: Take a deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 2, then exhale through your mouth to the count of 6. Now repeat 3-5 times. You should feel the relaxing effects immediately!
  5. Pray. Prayer may not instantly change your circumstances, but God certainly uses your prayer as an instrument to obtain peace and growth in the midst of them. Maintaining communication with the One who is sovereign and in control, when we feel no control, can bring a “…peace that surpasses all understanding…” (Philippians 4:7) in the midst of the storm.
  6. Connect. It may seem difficult to stay connected with the outside world while caregiving, but it is super important to do so. Even when you can’t leave the house for extended periods of time, online users can find community through social media and caregiver support groups. Stay connected with friends and other family members by phone, or take someone up on their offer to watch your loved one while you attend your weekly connect/support group. Don’t refuse that invitation to go out for coffee to meet with a friend. Remember to laugh. Your mental health will welcome these nurturing opportunities.
  7. Write out your thoughts/feelings. There is something quite amazing about getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Journaling can be an excellent companion during trying times. Do so without worrying about grammar or sentence structure, and see how God can use this tool to bring clarity to your mind and peace to your spirit. 
  8. Set boundaries and ask for help. It’s OK to say “No” sometimes. It doesn’t make you unloving or uncaring. It’s important to know your limits and ask for help when you need it. No one person can do it all and asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Reach out to friends or organizations that can assist with things that become overwhelming. 
  9. Tend to your own health. Often caregivers will neglect their own health while trying to keep someone else healthy. It’s important to stay up to date with your own doctor appointments and medical needs. Seeing a counselor can also help you talk out thoughts and feelings you may tend to keep inside or believe you cannot burden your loved one with.
  10. Remember who you are. A caregiving role can sometimes uproot you from your job and the purpose you’ve gained from it. It can sometimes come with a reversal of roles when an adult child has to take care of their aging parents. This can be confusing and leave you feeling overwhelmed and displaced. It’s important to remember who you are and what you enjoy doing. Take breaks to read a book, listen to music, go outside and enjoy nature. Remember who you are in Christ as well. Through Him we are “…more than a conquerors…” (Romans 8:37)

In Jeremiah 29:11 God reminds us that “…I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (New International Version) Regardless of your circumstances, He cares for you and your loved one, and will provide for your every need in Him.

Sources: https://www.caringbridge.org/resources/techniques-to-relieve-caregiver-stress

Lori Heagney, LPC

Feeling Overwhelmed?

by Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

Feeling overwhelmed can be an understatement this time of year. Coming off of a restful summer laying out by the pool, knocking out to do lists, spending some quality time with family, or perhaps just going from place to place visiting friends and vacationing.

Now summer is over and the school year has begun. This might bring a sense of relief because kids are now in school and you can get back into a routine. But perhaps the return to school comes with more busyness leaving you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. 

Perhaps you feel overwhelmed because you got some difficult news about your health, perhaps you’re overwhelmed because you just got laid off, perhaps you’re overwhelmed because there are difficult things piling up on you and you cannot seem to get a break. Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed because you have too many emotions to deal with and you don’t know what to do with those emotions.

Feeling overwhelmed can feel much like anxiety which often can leave you paralyzed and not knowing what to do next. It can feel like a weight on your shoulders that you just can’t seem to shake.

When feeling overwhelmed take a deep breath. That may sound simplistic, but it’s the best place to begin. Take a deep breath, pray, and reset.

In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat has a great army coming to overwhelm him. His immediate response is fear but then he prays. He acknowledges to God that “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us.” (2 Chron. 20:12, English Standard Version) Then at the end of his prayer he says,

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” ( 2 Chron. 20:12)

Many times when we are overwhelmed we have the potential to get stuck-we let that burden keep weighing us down, we numb ourselves with distractions and staying busy, or we pretend it’s just the way things are and it will all go away soon.

But what if instead we acknowledge our powerlessness against these overwhelming situations. We might not know what to do next or what is coming around the corner, but keeping our eyes on our powerful God is the only thing we can do and the only thing that keeps us moving forward.

Jehoshaphat reminds his people that “…the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Chron. 20:15) and this makes all the difference. Sometimes all we have to do is keep our eyes on Him and be reminded that there is nothing we can do because this is not our battle to fight but the Lord is fighting it for us.

Then before Jehoshaphat and his people knew what was going to happen with the army coming against them, “…he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him…”  (2 Chron. 20: 21) Sometimes the only remedy to that overwhelming feeling is to battle back with gratitude and praise—even when it is difficult to find things to be thankful for. Gratitude is a survival mechanism. This is what destroys the enemy.

God might not change this overwhelming circumstance but He is going to change you through thanksgiving.

So when we are feeling overwhelmed, remember to breathe, reset, and keep your eyes on Him, the provider of all things who fights our battles for us. Then sing praise and give thanks with expectation knowing that God is working it for our good and His glory.  

All the hard things are not going to overwhelm you if you let the goodness of God, through thanksgiving, overtake you.

Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

Mental Illness: Can We Change the Terminology?

by Donna Gibbs

Following the recent discussions in media regarding the state of mental health in America, I’ve had the privilege of having some private discussions with clients about their thoughts. An over-riding theme among them is their difficulty with the phrase “mental illness”. The terminology carries a stigma that was likely never intended, and causes many to fear the word, or anything/anyone associated with the word. 

Mental illness is considered a health condition impacting thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors. Unfortunately, the terminology covers a vast amount of territory, leaving it rather confusing to understand. ADHD, Adjustment Disorders, Trauma-related Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Sexual Dysfunction, Addictions. These are just some examples of the everyday struggles of many. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. The kids in your classroom. Perhaps yourself. However, the same term, “mental illness”, also includes Personality Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, and Conduct/Anti-social Disorders. These are less common, and also more serious. These less common disorders also require a higher level of specialized care. 

I can assure you, someone who shoots up a classroom of innocent children is not someone who struggles with the everyday forms of “mental illness”. These violent offenders are not people who simply struggle with bouts of anxiety, or moderate episodes of depression (considered the most common forms of mental illness). You can imagine the additional shame brought upon someone who struggles with a common condition like depression or anxiety, who feels that they are placed in the same category as someone who would massacre groups of indefensible young people. My fear is that in our effort to address the obvious brokenness of mental health care, we would drive away hurting people who don’t want others to ever think they would be capable of the unthinkable. Because the average person truly isn’t capable of the unthinkable! 

Let’s shift our terminology. First of all, let’s think more in terms of wellness vs illness (because a person who struggles with the everyday issues just wants to be well). Let’s think of the everyday mental health struggles as just that – everyday mental health or brain health struggles. These are the people we see in counseling every day. Yes, their symptoms impact their functioning. Yes, they need some assistance in facilitating wellness. But, in general, they are not a danger to society. 

Likewise, let’s separate out the more serious, potentially threatening, types of mental illnesses as mental illness disorders. And let’s strategize our efforts according to this distinction, clearly communicating to our churches, our schools, our workplaces, and society in general, that not all mental illness is equal. Mental health professionals clearly know the distinction between these groups of patients. But we have done a poor job educating the general public in this distinction, and this failure, I fear, has fueled a very challenging stigma. 

Partner with me, my friends. Let’s change the culture, break the stigmas, provide thorough and accessible opportunities for wellness for those who hurt, and a higher level of care and intensive prevention efforts for those whose mental illness disorders are left untreated and unaddressed. Without change… we’ll see no change. 

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.