Cornerstone Mental Health Advisory
A system of personal mental health care adapted from
The Ecological Model of Bronfenbrenner
Introduction – Personal health (Microsystem)
3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
Personal health: self-care is not selfish. It is a biblical principle to care for oneself. You are God’s creation and therefore you should care for yourself.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Our own personal mental and emotional well-being and self-care as a Christian is vital. Ephesians 4:23 …and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds
How a Christian can nurture good mental and emotional wellbeing.
Prayer and meditation
Christian meditation is based on the worship of God resulting in examining His power and his authority over all. Christian prayer and meditation are also based on an emptying and filling of God’s goodness (Eph. 4:22-32). Christian meditation is the practice of ridding our minds of the “what if” (catastrophic and negative circular thinking) and then inserting biblical truths in place. It is the Christian’s responsibility to compare all our thoughts and emotions against the word of God.
Analyse your thinking
Not all emotions or thoughts are negative, wrong or sinful; for example, the feeling of fear. Fear is grace upon our lives, given to us for vital functions like ‘fight, flight or freeze’. However, fear like all other emotions must find a context to be helpful. For example, in our current climate, we are facing an outbreak of the ‘Corona’ virus. Perhaps your initial reaction is fear. Fear of contracting the virus, suffering and dying. You should analyse your
reaction for warrant: Does your fear have a context? Yes, it does, it is the pandemic phenomenon. But now, how do you process that fear into positive action?
- You can choose to live in a state of anxiety, causing your body to spiral into a stateof-panic but, that would be negative and likely to result in further negative outcomes (both physically and emotionally) resulting in a vicious cycle.
- Or rather, you could take this fear and put in the context of God’s word and live out proactive steps to avoid contracting the disease, being alert but not anxious (Eph. 4:8). This is a positive action in response to the fear state that has engaged.
Limit Media consumption
Our emotional and mental well-being is highly influenced by what we ‘consume’. What we habitually fill our lives with will be the substance of our thought life. According to the bible, media consumption is permissible but not always advantageous.
“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. –but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12).
The key is to not be mastered by anything other than God’s word. Media has an incredible way of influencing our minds and emotions. We all know what it’s like to get lost down ‘the rabbit hole’ of the internet. We can lose hours to it. It is important to establish solid guidelines around the use of media and to be accountable to someone, so that media does not ‘master’ you. Here is some advice:
- The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends limiting your consumption of media and taking breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. (What’s a reasonable amount of time spent on media devices?),
- Be accountable to someone regarding the time limit and the subjects you consume,
- Evaluate how much time you have spent with others and with God in comparison (not to induce guilt, but to see what degree and what subject you are filling your mind/soul with), and remember
- Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Create new positive habits for yourself that lead you closer to God and further from the world and its philosophies.
Stay connected to your people
At home be in the moment with your children and partner. Call extended family and checkin on them (even the ones you don’t want to). Call your friends regularly to pray and chat.
Exercise, sleep and eating well
Exercise releases endorphins and many other neurotransmitters when you exercise. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are brain chemicals that play an important part in regulating your mood. Some studies have been found that the presences of these chemicals are as effective as some antidepressants at treating low mood and anxiety.
Sleep is vital to brain function and emotional regulation. Find the techniques that work for you and your children, such as regular bedtime and a regular bedtime routine. Give yourself as a parent time to unwind before you get to your bed.
Eating well will aide in regulating stress because your brain will get the nutrition it needs to fight stress and fatigue. Get your hands on some vitamin supplements if you can afford it. Look into getting some vitamin C, D and Omega 3s.
- Stream live sermons and listen to Christian podcasts (or any good ones that do not feed into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories – just stay clear of conspiracy theories. As Christians we should only seek out reliable sources),
- Go to online prayer meetings with your friends and church (like Zoom, Skype or Team meetings),
- Go to a virtual worship service (Rend runs one and so do most American churches),
- Continue coming to church on Zoom Sunday Morning.
A good quote to summarise this section about the personal/microsystem:
“Social distancing has been implemented as a way to reduce transmission of the virus, but it has negative side effects on our psyche. Missing out on connecting with others and feelings of loneliness can impact the brain’s limbic system. Excessive activity in this region is tied to feelings of sadness and negativity and is commonly seen in depressive disorder. Find ways to stay virtually connected.” Dr Amen
Immediate Direct Influences (Mesosystem)
This is how we can influence the mental well-being of those around us. As married couples and parents, we must view our immediate family as our first port of call in ministry. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6).
with our family can ease the worries of our families and children, if you want your children to know how to pray and to reap the benefits of prayer they need to be taught specifically by your example. Find the way this works for you and your family and be led by the Holy Spirit.
“Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2). Meditating on God’s word as a family can foster unity and peace in the home. This can be done by reading a psalm or a verse and spending time talking about
it at the dinner table or on walks or in the car.
Media use in the home
Being in control of our childrens media time (not them). The government and medical guidelines recommend a maximum of 3 hours a day for children. However, research has shown that children spend a minimum of 6 hours a day and a maximum of 8 hours.
Is this healthy? Perhaps you’re thinking “were in lockdown, what are we suppose to do?” Our answers to this question will likely vary because of special circumstances; however, we should still take into account the broad health of each member of our families. Create your family guidelines of your own and then stick to them!
How we speak to each other
What we speak about and how much we speak influences the way the home functions and the energy that is created in the home environment.
For example, compulsive and constant talking can build stress and tension. Be very careful about talking freely about certain subjects. Consider what is age-appropriate and whether you might be building stress and fear in their heart and minds. And lastly, the tone that we speak in can create negative and positive emotions in others, for example, fear and anxiety or joy and peace.
Teaching our kids how to be social
Just as we adults need to socialise to keep ourselves healthy and well so do our children (remember what was said previously about that lack of social contact and its effect on the brains limbic system and how it can lead to, sadness, negativity and depression, even in children). Help your kids to engage phone calls and online conversations with friends and family. “Have you called your ‘Nana’ lately?”
Teaching our children to engage in conversations is vital for their brain function and to keep them clear of a state-of-depression as well.
We are living through unprecedented times just now and we need to be more alert to our childrens emotions and looking for ways to keep them from being overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. Be alert to them but do not become overly anxious. The CDC recommends looking out for changes in behaviour. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-lifecoping/managing-stress-anxiety.html#parents
Keep your kids connected to spiritual life
by encouraging them in…
- memorising scripture,
- reading their bible,
- singing worship songs, and
- engaging their Christian community and friends at online youth group.
Your kids need more than you to influence their spiritual journey. They need community as well.
Married couples should practice a spiritual life together
This is not a one size fits all method. It should flow naturally from your own spiritual lives. If you’re finding this difficult it could be due to a lack of filling yourself and the home with Gods presence or maybe you’re in a ‘funk’ personally and need to speak to someone. Call your Pastor or a friend. But, it must be someone who can give you godly counsel on how to
develop these habits in your home.
Go easy and gentle. We are experiencing situations we have not experienced before and it is difficult, boring, repetitive, uncomfortable and much more. Mercy is intrinsic to God’s nature and we receive it daily. Let’s extend this to our family and make room for unexpected and unusual emotions and behaviours. “Be gentle and ready to forgive; never
hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13-15).
When necessary, and as much as you can, make provision of physical space from each other for a brief time to, just to breathe.
The community at large (Exosystem)
We are part of a larger system and staying connected to this system to live for Christ and be a light in this world.
We are created to create
- Seek God for creative ways to reach out to your local community.
Never underestimate the power of kindness and a smile. You can have all the same social conversations from 2 meters.
- Ask yourself and God what are the needs of those in my neighbourhood. How can I or my church meet those needs?
- Reaching out to your Childrens’ School and teachers for ways you can help,
- Asking your pastor if there is a need you can meet,
- Continue tithing because of necessary outreach costs,
- Reach out to your church family outside the regular online ministry times,
- Listen when people speak.
Think about your skills and how they can be a benefit to others.
Is there a new skill God is leading you to learn?
BE BRAVE and DO IT!
- “The Joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10);
- “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you” (Is. 26:3);
- “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).
1. This will pass
2. This will not pass as quickly as you want it too. You will believe this will never end.
3. This will pass (2 Corinthians 1:10)
By Danielle Key
MHA (Mental Health Advisor), Cornerstone