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Articles2020-06-11T22:30:58+00:00

8 Truths About Anger Problems

The following words from the Bible show how important it is for us to get mastery over our anger problems:

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.Proverbs 16:32

Someone who is not easily provoked to anger is even better than ‘the mighty’; with their visible display of self-control in this matter likened to a victorious battle.

8 Truths about Anger Problems

Indeed, anger is not an easy issue to deal with, especially as a Christian, but here are eight truths about anger problems to reflect on, if you are struggling with this emotion:

1. Anger is not a problem in and of itself.

Anger is not necessarily a negative emotion; it can signal injustice. Indeed, God, Himself shows anger in the face of things that are wrong in the world. This is called “righteous anger,” and we too should become angry when we see things happening that go against the perfect order which God has created.

Abuse, child neglect, poverty, adultery, and other violations of God’s laws should anger us; and so should relational insensitivities. It can be right to be angry when we have been betrayed in a friendship or when someone has overstepped our boundaries.

2. Anger problems are complex.

Anger problems are, however, complex, and anger is often just a secondary emotion that conceals a deeper emotion. In the example above, being angry at a friend who has betrayed you probably conceals hurt. These softer feelings can make a person feel vulnerable and so anger becomes an easier (though less helpful) channel for expression.

While anger is normal from time to time, when it gets out of control or becomes habitual it can cause much damage to those exposed to it. Anger is complex, and no two individuals express it in quite the same way; it differs according to temperament, circumstances, and what has been experienced in one’s family of upbringing.

However, there are five options to dealing with anger when it bubbles to the surface: The first is suppression, where people feel too bad or guilty to feel their anger. The second is aggressive anger, which is expressed in abrasive, hostile outbursts.

The third is passive aggression, which is usually caused by a need to control others without being held accountable (silent treatment, being deliberatively evasive, etc.). The fourth is assertiveness and honest communication (a healthy choice). The fifth is letting it go (also a positive route, provided the angered person has been able to forgive completely).

3. It’s how it’s expressed that counts.

In Ephesians 4:26, Paul says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” This teaches us that while we may get angry, the problem lies in how we act when triggered; we may be angry, but we are to express this in a way that does not involve sinning.

We will likely find that these two elements can be difficult to separate, which is why anger problems are a cause for concern. Addressing the issue with the fourth choice above, “assertiveness,” is ideal, and would include being able to separate oneself from feeling heated and out of control and being able to express one’s emotions of anger openly and clearly, to bring about reconciliation.

If the person who has caused the anger in the first place does not respond in the desired manner this will require further self-control. The verse also commands us to deal with our anger problems before the day is done so that resentment does not set in. Not reconciling our anger, either with the person who has provoked it or just within ourselves, will give the devil a foothold, causing further division and strife.

4.“My will be done” is at the heart of anger problems.

While “righteous” anger is the kind of holy anger which God expresses, all too often our anger is caused by perceived “wrongdoing” that is not really wrong at all but is simply our perception that we have been wronged. It is also often about things that don’t matter to anyone except us; for example, when the server gets our order wrong at a restaurant.

Our anger arises in these situations because of the “desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). We want and believe we have a right to something going our way, and when an obstacle gets in the way of what we feel we deserve, we get angry.

Underneath most of our anger is something we wanted but didn’t get, whether it be the right meal in a restaurant, respect, power, money, pleasure, and the list goes on as long as our flesh desires. This also hints at idolatry, in that we want this thing (even if it is a good thing, such as a happy marriage) more than God.

In James 4:12, it says: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” Our anger problems essentially show that our hearts long for “our will to be done” rather than God’s purposes in His sovereignty.

5. God is the judge.

It is helpful when dealing with anger problems to remember that God is the ultimate judge, and when Christ returns, every person will be held to account for their actions. When someone has sinned against us and we have gotten angry, it can be difficult to move past that anger even when we have dealt with it assertively or tried to let it go. This is especially true when the offender is unrepentant. Knowing that God will bring every act into judgment frees us up to move forwards towards forgiveness.

6. God is merciful.

Anger makes us want to be merciless. It makes us want to punish and get rid of all offenders. But our anger problems will only start to take on a new shape when we acknowledge how much mercy God has shown to us, who hung Him on the cross.

Once we fully realize that, we’ll genuinely want to confess our struggle to God and receive His mercy – mercy which we’ll be able to show to those who have angered us. This is sincere heart change, and miraculous in every way.

7. God requires forgiveness.

We cannot hold on to our anger. Not only will it lead to bitterness which will hurt us in the end, but it is disobedient in that God calls us to forgive others, just as in Christ He has forgiven us. When we struggle with anger problems, forgiveness can seem like an insurmountable task. But as nothing is impossible with God, if we go to Him with humble hearts and ask for the Holy Spirit to help us forgive, He will give us what we need to forgive wholeheartedly.

8. Anger problems also need practical solutions.

While heart change is what is needed for anger problems to be rooted out, popular psychology has many helpful ways to manage anger, which is essentially a way of preventing or minimizing a sinful reaction. A time-out, for example, is a useful way to create separation between whatever created the angry feelings and your response.

It provides the opportunity to take a breath and think through the situation to gain some clarity. Exercise is also an excellent anger buster. Even a small amount of exercise can prevent angry feelings. Deep breathing can also be an important way to deal with anger because it helps our brains to function more correctly.

God has made us spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental beings and so it is no surprise that a physical intervention can have an impact on our psyche. We need to do whatever it takes to make sure that anger problems do not consume our lives, and this may include seeking biblical counseling if we feel that support will be of value in this critical journey.

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Building Emotional Intelligence in Your Children

According to the dictionary, emotional intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Many adults do not have a healthy level of emotional intelligence because they have never been taught. It may come more naturally to some than others, but what seems to be overwhelmingly true is that it is a skill that needs to be taught and developed over time.

In this article, helping build emotional intelligence in children is being discussed, but to do that, parents must be willing to grow in this skill, as well. Emotional intelligence can even matter more than one’s IQ, according to Daniel Goleman. One can be as smart as they come, but unless one can understand, manage, and express emotions effectively and know how to interact with others in healthy ways, that intelligence is nearly meaningless.

Parents often push their children to succeed academically, athletically, creatively, or even spiritually, but neglect to help them succeed emotionally, which could be the most important skill of all. If they don’t build emotional intelligence as children, they could have a long history of poor, toxic relationships, jumping from job to job because they are unable to handle themselves appropriately in the workplace, or battle depression and anxiety, and other mental illness.

How parents can help build emotional intelligence in their children

Model it for them

This is the most effective way to teach them – show them. If a parent struggles to understand and effectively manage his or her emotions, then he or she needs to work on this for themselves first, and then model it for their children. This is not something one can grow on his own. Seek the help of trusted friends and a counselor to help grow in emotional awareness and management, and then pass on what you know to your children.

If you are angry, show your kids how you calm down by doing it in front of them. If you are sad, show your kids how you express sadness by crying in front of them sometimes. Don’t do this to get comfort from them because it is not their job to help you feel better. However, showing them what you do when you feel a certain way can help them know what to do when they feel that way, too.

Practice empathy statements

Empathy is the ability to show that you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, feel what they feel, or express that you want to understand how they are feeling. Your children feel emotions just like you do, and their emotions are just as valid. Parents sometimes will say, “You have a great life! What do you have to be depressed about?” or “You have no idea what it’s like to be stressed.”

These are not empathy statements and they can lead a child to believe that his or her emotions do not matter. Though children may not feel stress about the same types of things that you do, they do feel it. They feel anger, sadness, and fear and hurt.

They don’t always know what it means, but a way to begin the conversation is to sit with them, make eye contact, and say something like, “It seems to me that you may be feeling ______ (name of emotion) by what you are saying right now. Is that right?” This statement invites them to share more vulnerably with their parents and safely express their emotions.

Teach them proper ways to express their emotions

When you notice your child acting out in anger or expressing themselves inappropriately (yelling, throwing things or being physically aggressive, name-calling, withdrawing, etc.), help them calm down first by practicing relaxation skills with them – taking deep breaths, walking away from the situation to calm down for a moment, or by simply hugging them as they calm down.

Then talk about what they can do with their frustration or fear or sadness. They can talk about it with you or a safe person, use an “I” statement to be assertive with the person they are upset with, use art to express it safely, yell into a pillow, cry, etc.

Help them label their emotions

You can do this with an empathy statement or by simply teaching them the names of emotions. Feeling wheels (which you can find easily online) are a great place to start. You can also find some feeling faces online to show them to help them name each one.

Another terrific way to help them learn the names of various emotions (the feeling words – anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, happiness) is to ask them in books or movies how a character appears to feel based on their body language and facial expression. This teaches them not only to accurately recognize their own emotions but also to recognize the emotions of others.

Welcome their emotions

Never treat children like their emotions are too much or not valid or unwelcome. Instead of learning to manage them effectively, these behaviors will only lead them to push them aside, stop thinking they matter, suppress them, and avoid them. Parents will often say, “You are OK” or “No don’t feel like that” to help a child feel better, but it is an example of downplaying their feelings.

They will also stop feeling like you are emotionally safe. When people suppress and avoid their emotions, they eventually erupt to the surface in unhealthy ways. No problems are ever solved by neglecting emotions, and by dismissing your child’s emotions, you teach them that they should dismiss them, too.

Allow their emotions to be present, but don’t allow them to express them in inappropriate ways. A straightforward way to do this could be to say (for example), “I understand that you are mad at your sister for taking your toy. It’s OK to be upset with her, but it is not OK to hit her when you are mad. Can you tell her why you are mad at her?” An example of downplaying this anger would be, “Stop it now! Stop hitting! I don’t care how you feel! You are acting terrible right now!”

Help them learn how to manage interpersonal conflict

When you see (or hear about) your kids and their siblings or their peers getting into arguments or there are hurt feelings, spend some time first listening to your child share the story and how it makes him feel. Then work together to problem-solve an effective way to handle the conflict.

For example, your child comes home and tells you a kid is being mean to her at school. You can begin by asking her to tell you exactly what is going on, how she feels about it, and how she has tried to handle it on her own already.

Then brainstorm more ideas together about what else could work in that scenario, like being assertive with the mean kid, talking to a safe adult at school about the situation, staying away from that kid, etc. A side note – if parents do not manage their own interpersonal conflict well, kids won’t either.

Do kind things for others with your children

This builds empathy in children, which is not a natural skill (especially for young children and teenagers). These ages are traditionally more egocentric and self-centered, so empathy is not easy for them. One way to help is to do kind things for others with and in front of your kids. Bake cookies for the sick neighbor or donate old clothes to people in need. Have your kids purge their old toys to give away or volunteer time at church. Show them how to serve others, how to consider others’ needs. This will take them far in life and helps gets their eyes off themselves for a time.

Establish consequences

When kids do not handle their emotions appropriately after you have been working to teach them, then allow consequences to come into play. For example, if your child still yells at his sister when he is mad, his consequence could be that he loses his TV privilege for the day.

Only offer consequences for misuse of anger or hurt feelings, but if a child is sad or scared, allow them to experience the natural consequences of mishandling those emotions. For example, if your child is scared to try out for a team, their consequence is that they must miss out on the wonderful experience of being a part of the team.

The goal is not perfection. Just like you do not handle emotions well all the time, your kids won’t either. Show them grace and patience as they learn, but always be there for them. Be consistent and kind. They will catch on in time.

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8 Biblical Counseling Solutions for Emotional Eating

Tea and sympathy? Perhaps a few cookies to go with? The Bible is clear that God gave us food to nourish us both physically and emotionally – the two are linked and food is not just given for strength alone but also to give us pleasure: “…moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor – it is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20). But what about emotional eating?

The problem with food giving us pleasure or filling an emotional need rather than just purely a physical one is that, like any other idol, we can look to it to give us something that we should be seeking from God instead. Our emotional eating habits can appear to be under our control, but unfortunately, when idolatry is at play, we end up being enslaved by the very things we are trying to manipulate for our benefit.

Emotional eating falls into this category and ranges widely in severity and motivation. What is common to all emotional eaters is the fact that it has a stronghold over their relationship with food and impacts on their day-to-day life. More than that, it is a symptom of a heart problem that needs to be addressed in order to grow in their Christian’s walk.

Issues Addressed in Counseling for Emotional Eating

If you are struggling with uncontrolled emotional eating, a trained, certified Biblical counselor can provide valuable input in guiding you through the process. These are some of the issues they will typically look to address and work on:

1. Move from a victim to an “I’m responsible” mindset

Even if your emotional eating has moved into the realm of a recognized disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, it’s important to move from a victim mentality to a mindset that understands that the way you eat is something you can control.

Saying “I have anorexia” in the same way one would label a medical condition (for example, “I have diabetes”) is less accurate than saying “I practice anorexic behaviors.” The Bible indicates that our eating practices are a matter of choice and habit, sin, and righteousness: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:14)

While it may be hard to grasp the fact that this is something which is under our control, this truth actually brings hope. If it is within our realm of control, by God’s grace it is something we can change.

2. See that this behavior is sin in God’s eyes

Again, it may be difficult to acknowledge that eating to fulfill an emotional need is sinful in God’s eyes. It can be easy to dismiss the sin, especially if it is seemingly harmless. “So what if I ate a slab of chocolate after a hard day? It’s not hurting anyone.”

If we take our relationship with God seriously, however, and want to be released from the tyranny of emotional eating, it’s important to see that our actions are directly related to our fallen human nature.

As we ask ourselves again and again why we chose to binge, even when we know the disappointment and discouragement which follows, we need to come back to our starting point in the garden of Eden. We must recognize that humanity decided to turn to things other than God to fill the void inside.

Turning to God in repentance and confessing our sins enables us to receive the grace of full forgiveness available through Christ, no matter how harmful our eating practices have been.

3. Understand Christ’s Lordship over your body

An eating disorder that is characterized by eating to suppress, soothe, or emotionally gratify oneself in some way is enslavement – we become dominated by thoughts and actions that torment and overpower. Idolatry can only ever be rooted out by replacing the worship of the created thing for the Creator.

A Biblical counselor will work with a Christian who is struggling with an eating disorder to exchange the lordship of food for the lordship of Christ, as we should serve one Master, not two. As 1 Corinthians 6:12 states, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

The grounds for us submitting our bodies and how we treat them to God lies in the fact that He created our physical bodies and gave them to us, and so we need to be good stewards over this responsibility. Furthermore, He has redeemed us through Christ’s death on the cross and joined us to Him, and we are to honor Him in our bodies (“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” – 1 Corinthians 6:15a).

4. Eat for God’s glory

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). One of the main problems with habitual overeating is that is self-focused, rather than being focused on God’s glory and being more like Christ.

When we run to food instead of God, we are showing that we do not love or trust Him as fully as we should; and that we believe that we have a quicker or better solution to the unrest in our soul. As we grow in spiritual maturity, we trust God more, and that affects our motivations and desires.

We will be able to see that simply changing our habits may not be glorifying to God; if we go on a fad diet and no longer turn to food for emotional comfort, we just may be turning our preoccupation into an equally self-focused preoccupation with appearance. Truly eating for God’s glory will enable us to have freedom and self-control, and a healthy relationship with food.

5. Understand the lies you’ve believed

What are the lies you’ve believed that lead to an eating disorder such as uncontrolled emotional eating? Is it that we believe that consuming an excessive amount of food will make us happy and bring us the satisfaction we’re looking for?

Perhaps initially, but most emotional eaters will testify to this lie being short-lived and quickly revealed for its deception. What is the lie behind the lie? A Biblical counselor will be able to help to expose these – which might be anything from not understanding God as our source of comfort to a belief that throwing away all restraint in the face of a small failure is an acceptable response.

6. Expose and correct motives

Linked to understanding the lies we believe that are linked to emotional eating comes an honest review of our motives. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, a counselor will help to uncover what you are trying to obtain through these destructive habits.

Are they being used as a weapon to punish oneself or others (“I deserve to be overweight and a failure in my attempts to exhibit self-control”)? Are they an act of worship – bowing down to the idol of pleasure, comfort, attention, or approval? Is it about greed – worshipping the pleasurable sensations of eating and trying to recreate this experience through repeated consumption?

We are complex beings, and our motives can be varied. The important part is understanding and acknowledging what is going on at the heart level so that we can move away from sinful attitudes towards growth and contentment in Christ.

7. Learn to eat with thankfulness

Food is a gift from God given for nourishment and pleasure and therefore the correct posture for how we receive this gift is in thankfulness. It’s difficult to truly eat with thankfulness when we are devouring food without even tasting it to stuff an emotional hole.

It’s also hard to be thankful when we are feeling guilty about our eating habits, and so Biblical counseling will work through these attitudes with a counselee to move them to the point of replacing attitudes and in turn transforming actions.

8. Learn biblical self-control

Self-control is listed in the Bible as one of the fruits of the Spirit – a sign that Christ is in us. As we grow in Christ, we can ask Him to help us to have the discipline to choose to die to the cravings of our flesh and to live in Him, even though letting our desires lead our decisions may feel good at the time.

Christians have access to incredible power through the Holy Spirit; a power that can deliver true freedom from emotional eating and towards being able to honor healthy boundaries. This is an amazing witness to unbelievers who may be struggling with similar issues, and an encouragement to us in Christ to keep persevering through our battles.

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What to Do When You’re in a Toxic Marriage

In Christian circles, toxic marriage is not often discussed. They are taught how to have healthy relationships (to an extent) based on what the Bible tells them to do. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church.” “Wives submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ.” They are told that infidelity is wrong, and that divorce is a sin.

What they are not taught is what to do when a marriage becomes toxic – like poison – slowly destroying one or both people until nothing is left. Christian culture has begun talking about what it looks like to deal with other types of toxic relationships.

However, when Christian couples are in toxic marriages, they frequently get advice from pastors or leaders within the church telling them to keep their struggles quiet, keep leading in the church despite their marriage problems, and that divorce is never an option for them.

Wives leave feeling like they should always submit even if their husbands are abusive, manipulative, and controlling. Husbands leave feeling like they should love their wives even after their wives have cheated on them. Nothing gets resolved. People remain stuck in lifeless, life-draining marriages with no real help.

All marriages go through hard moments and seasons, and no marriage is perfect. When a marriage becomes toxic, it is important to take it seriously and know the best next steps. Here are some of the signs of a toxic marriage:

Signs of a Toxic Marriage

Secrets/ Deceit

From one or both partners, keeping secrets or repeatedly deceiving one another is a sign that the marriage has gotten very unhealthy. Trust is foundational to a long-lasting, life-giving marriage. The Relational Attachment Model says that good relationships are founded on intimate knowledge, the ability to rely on each other, full trust, commitment, and touch. If partners can’t trust one another, then what is the point of being in a committed marriage?

Withdrawal

Sometimes couples can find themselves like two ships passing in the night. Their lives become so busy with kids and work and extracurricular activities that they realize they barely speak to or spend time with one another. Withdrawal is different. It is more intentional. People withdraw when they are hurt or struggling with something.

When one or both partners intentionally withdraw from each other, not talking or spending time together or even discussing the problems in their relationship, their marriage is on the brink of divorce, according to John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Manipulation/ Controlling Behavior

Though many assume this behavior comes from a narcissistic husband, wives can be this way, too. This type of behavior can get so bad that it becomes emotionally abusive. Some examples of manipulative or controlling behavior include:

  • Gaslighting
  • Lying to get what they want
  • Threats
  • Giving unnecessary ultimatums
  • Not allowing one’s partner to go anywhere or do anything
  • Being the “boss” in the family
  • It’s your way or the highway
  • Placing unrealistic and unhealthy expectations on the partner
  • Controlling the family schedule

Kids are the center

In modern culture, kids are too often the center of the family. Life revolves around them completely – around their schedules and activities. Unfortunately, marriages fall apart when this is the case. A couple that does not prioritize their marriage will find themselves lost when their kids leave the house.

They no longer know one another because they have not been on a date in eighteen years. They do not like being around each other alone because they have forgotten how. Likewise, the couple should not be the center of the relationship either, because they begin to worship one another. God should be the center, nothing else.

Addiction

Sexual addiction (e.g. – excessive use of pornography) can be a huge downfall in a marriage. Substance abuse can also be detrimental. When addiction comes into play, people are unable to think clearly and make wise decisions. People can even become abusive.

Abuse

Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is unacceptable behavior in a marriage. Pushing, hitting, kicking, or any physical aggression is dangerous and should never be present in a relationship. Partners can also force sex or sexual activities on the unwilling partner.

Emotional abuse can look like the manipulative, controlling behaviors mentioned earlier. Other things could be constant name-calling and degrading language. Abuse can quickly destroy a marriage, and it is never OK. Partners need to feel safe with each other.

Infidelity

This probably seems self-explanatory, but if infidelity is present, a marriage is well past the unhealthy stage. Again, commitment and trust are foundational to a healthy, thriving marriage. Infidelity ruins this. Repeated infidelity can do even worse damage.

Increased selfishness

When one or both partners mainly think of self and self only, marriages can become unhealthy. Marriage is meant to help people learn what it means to love and serve one another, help to meet some of their needs, and let go of selfishness as much as possible. It is good for one person to consider his or her own needs and take care of himself, but when the self becomes the center, this is not good.

What to Do When Your Marriage Becomes Toxic

Seek godly counsel

If you are a member of a Bible-believing church, godly counsel can come in the form of your pastor. If a pastor is not a viable option for you, seek professional counseling from a Christian counselor who can be unbiased and help you see what is going on. Do not wait. Seek counseling now.

Have intentional conversations

Sit down and give one another undivided attention. Allow each person to have the floor while speaking and work hard to avoid interruptions. Discuss the main toxic behaviors that you see in the marriage. Give examples of each thing.

Talk about what needs to happen for the marriage to continue. Some examples of what this could look like include: telling your partner to get professional treatment if they are battling an addiction or telling a person that the secrets cannot continue.

Stop enabling

Many times, when one person exhibits toxic behaviors in a marriage, the partner is also enabling and acting codependent. The partner does not speak up for himself and stays even through abuse. Because the partner “needs” the other so much, he downplays the toxic behaviors and even may hide those behaviors from others to protect the person.

Speaking about these issues openly and honestly with a trusted person or counselor can be the first important step toward healing. Establish some boundaries and be willing to maintain them.

Prioritize one another

Though God needs to be the center always, the marriage needs to come in a close second. Prioritize spending time with God and staying as active as possible in church. Stay in a good community. Many marriages that crumble are not involved in a good Christian community.

Prioritize each other. Go on dates and take trips just the two of you. Spend time everyday reconnecting with undivided attention. Take the time to know one another and keep knowing one another. Your marriage will last long after your kids leave home if you make each other a priority.

Walk away if it is dangerous

If there is any kind of abuse, repeated infidelity, or serious addiction issues, it may be time to walk away. Though divorce breaks the heart of God, it seems highly unlikely that God would want a person to stay in an unsafe situation.

If the person struggling with addiction or abusive behavior is unwilling to get professional help or do anything to change, the situation is no longer safe. However, many people will say that they will change, even promise that, but they keep doing the same things over and over again. In these cases, it may be best to walk away.

No one needs to endure a toxic marriage. Get professional help and if both parties are willing to work toward change, a toxic marriage can become a healthier one overtime. If both parties are not willing to work toward change, it may be time to step away. Toxic marriages can be incredibly painful if nothing is done about them.

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11 Strategies to Manage Stress

One of the most common struggles in the modern world is stress. The world moves faster than it used to. Several hundred years ago, we had fewer options. You would be born into a town, only know the people in your village, take up your family profession, and marry someone who lived nearby.

While that sort of life may sound boring, it was simpler. There were fewer choices, and with fewer choices, comes less stress. In the world today you have limitless choices of where to live, where to eat, where to go to school, where to work, and whom to date. You can jump on a plane and be on the other side of the world. You can log onto an app and meet limitless people to date. You can go online and order anything you want.

All of these choices can make your life busy. You have responsibilities at work, at home, and with friends. If you add in hobbies, vacations, and the seasonal holidays, you can easily begin to feel overwhelmed. Tack on church and volunteering to the mix, and it’s easy for the stress of your life to swallow you whole. That’s why we need strategies to manage stress.

11 Strategies to Manage Stress

1. Make a Daily and Weekly Routine

This is the first strategy because it will shape all of your other strategies. Building structure into your days and weeks is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to deal with stress. You can tailor it personally to yourself. Maybe you’re an early bird and like to sit down to journal and write out your to-do list for the day. Or maybe you’re a night owl and like to reflect on your day in the evening while laying out your plan for tomorrow. Either way, you will seriously benefit from setting up a routine for your day.

2. Rely on God

In the routine, you will want to create space to connect with God. This will look different for different people. Some will connect with Him through reading scripture. Others will find him through prayer and quiet. While others will connect more deeply through worship. Each of these practices is a way to connect with God and is beneficial. Acknowledging your need for God’s help is the first step toward releasing and managing your stress.

3. Clear Your Head

Part of this routine needs to be clearing your head. Whether it is journaling, listening to music, or taking a walk, find something that helps you clear your head so you can think clearly. Creating some uncluttered headspace will give you time to think about what you need to do for the day and what is most important. If you never create time to clear your head, it’s easy to live from a place of reaction, rather than proactively planning what you want to do.

4. Create a Plan

Another piece of your routine needs to be creating a plan. Don’t just try to work harder. Instead, to help deal with stress, isolate what’s causing it. Is it a big project at work? Or that hard conversation you know you need to have with your brother?

Once you clear your head, plan to tackle the thing that’s really bothering you. If you can’t take care of it immediately, then plan to take care of something else for the day. Accomplishing a goal will help you resolve some tension.

5. Prepare for a Crisis

Some days are harder than others. So sometimes you may need more than your routine. You need to be prepared with a plan for the days your boss assigns you a last-minute project or a loved one gets a bad diagnosis. Without a plan, you can only react and hope for the best, but with a specific crisis plan, you can face even the worst stress storm.

Some things you will want to include in this plan are simple breathing exercises. These are a way to quickly manage your stress anywhere and anytime. Even stepping back and taking three deep breaths is a powerful way to take control of your feelings. Your crisis plan might also include a song you listen to, breaking away to take a quick walk, or even meditating.

6. Figure Out What Works for You

There are limitless articles, self-help books, and coaches who want to tell you how to manage your stress. Many of these can be tremendously helpful but remember that this is about you. If one strategy isn’t working, then try another. If one piece of advice is getting in your way, ignore it. This isn’t about trying to fit into the box of someone else’s success, it’s about finding what works for you. So, don’t be afraid to try different ideas, even if they sound foreign to you.

7. Get Moving

Build exercise into your routine. This may sound cliché, but it works. Exercise helps you to physically resolve some of your stress, keeps you healthy, and can improve your mood.

This doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon. Even 30 minutes a day of walking can help affect your mood and health. Also, if you live disciplined in one area of your life, it is easier to be disciplined in other areas.

8. Avoid scrolling

Social media is a great invention, but it can have some rough side effects. First, the light from the screen is hard on your eyes which can lead to headaches and affect your sleep. Second, social media can harm your mental state. It is the breeding ground for comparison which often leads to depression and anxiety. Instead of aimlessly scrolling, set times to check your social media and respond to friends and family, then stay away from the screen.

9. Open Up

Stress is exceptionally hard to manage on your own. And when you feel overwhelmed by stress, it can feel hard to articulate what is causing it. Once you take time in your routine and can identify the source of your stress, reach out to a friend or family member. Sometimes just talking to another person can help alleviate the stress. Make sure this is someone you can trust and who won’t add to your stress. Having someone to talk to will remind you that you aren’t alone.

10. Find Something You Love

One of the best ways to resolve stress is to replace it with something you love. If you are feeling the weight of an upcoming family gathering or discussion with your boss, sometimes it best to do something to get your mind off it. Maybe for you hiking in the woods relaxes you or maybe it’s getting coffee with a friend. Find something you enjoy to help combat the stress.

11. Eat Better

What we eat might not seem connected to stress, but it is. If you eat poorly, it can make you feel worse and contribute to your feelings of stress. Eating can also be a method to try to resolve your stress. You may be tempted to overeat in the face of stress. Or maybe you will lose your appetite completely. However you respond, having a healthy diet will help you feel good and keep you away from stress eating

Conclusion

Stress doesn’t need to control your life, but it easily can if you don’t have a plan. The choices and responsibilities can easily begin to feel like too much. However, if you create healthy routines and strategies to manage stress that clear your head, keep you focused, and keep you in shape, then you can easily overcome the stress in your life. Like anything good in life, it will require hard work and perseverance, but it is possible.

If you need help implementing strategies to manage stress, feel free to schedule an appointment with one of the counselors at Westlake Christian Counseling. We would be happy to help!

Photos:
“Mountain Road”, Courtesy of Grant Porter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Beach Overlook”, Courtesy of Sapan Patel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunrise Clouds”, Courtesy of Nong Vang, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coastline”, Courtesy of Guillaume Merle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem

I think we often overlook our biggest critic and dream-crusher – ourselves. It is commonly known that tongues are sharp, but our thoughts also have the power of life and death over our dreams, faith, relationships, and view of self.

Satan wants us to use our tongues to speak negatively about ourselves and others, but God wants us to use our tongues to proclaim His greatness. He created us for something greater than ourselves. He created us to be confident in who we are. He created us to love others rather than spend our lives trying to compare and compete with those around us.

Low self-esteem says:

  • You will never be pretty or skinny enough.
  • You will never be able to pursue your dreams.
  • No one will ever love you like that.
  • You will never be that smart.
  • Why can’t you be more like her?
  • Nobody likes you.
  • You should be quiet. Your voice does not matter.
  • No one respects you or your opinion.
  • You cannot make a difference, no matter how hard you try.

How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem

To overcome low self-esteem and negative self-talk, it is important to learn to flip the switch when negative thoughts begin to overtake your mind. You must cut off the negative pattern before it escalates. When you begin to say, “It is not worth trying, I cannot make a difference” – switch gears by saying, “With God, anything is possible. He has given me a voice and a strong worth ethic to keep going.”

Negative self-talk is the steppingstone to a life filled with poor self-esteem. You must begin to speak life over yourself and about other people. Life is not meant to be a game of comparison but appreciating how God created us all so different and unique.

We all have different talents to offer. We all have different perspectives, which is how we evolve and grow as individuals and in our faith. Instead of saying, “I will never be pretty like her,” remember that she can be pretty and so can you! You were made by God and hand-crafted into the beautiful person that you are.

If you feel embarrassed by a birthmark – embrace it; it is a symbol of the life that God has blessed you with. It means you have breath in your lungs to stand up for what you believe in and follow your God-given dreams.
Begin practicing self-compassion.
One of the first steps to overcoming negative self-talk is practicing compassion – for yourself and other people. Be honest, be real, be vulnerable. Cry out to God when things are overwhelming.

Allow yourself to feel, but do not allow negative thoughts to continue to swirl around in your brain like a washing machine that is stuck on a spin cycle. We are all imperfect people – even the girls on magazine covers who appear flawless often mask the ailing parts of their self-image and shortcomings.

It is okay to feel.

An empath is someone who feels deeply and is extremely sensitive to the needs and feelings of other people. This is often seen as a weakness but is an overlooked character trait and can be honed to love more like Jesus.

Having a heart of compassion can be a key trait for ridding negative self-talk because you allow yourself to see through the lens of other people. You allow yourself to see others the way God does. He does not compare our bank accounts and physical traits; He looks at our hearts.

He looks at the way we treat people. He looks at the way we reach out to someone in their darkest hour. He looks at the way we choose to respond to negative comments on social media. Are we clinging to Him when our thoughts get the best of us? Are we reciting Scripture and breathing in the realization that we were made for much more than likes on social media?

You were created in God’s image.

Psalm 139:13–14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

It does not matter if you wear brand name clothes or thrift store clothes.

It does not matter if you drive a brand-new car or a car that is on its last leg.

It does not matter if you live in a beautiful five-bedroom house or a small three-bedroom house.

It does not matter if you are married and have two kids by twenty-five, or if you are still dating and trying to find the person God handpicked for you.

It does not matter if you went to college or straight into the workforce.

It does not matter if you work out at an expensive gym or in the comfort of your living room.

It does not matter if you read your Bible at 5:00 AM or 10:00 PM.

You do not need to prove your worth to the world.

It matters how you treat people. It matters how you view yourself. It matters how you talk to and about other people. It matters if you compare yourself to someone else.

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.” – Anthon St. Maarten

Be confident and own your differences.

Re-direct your thoughts of comparing yourself to other people.

Re-direct your thoughts if you think that God cannot use you for a greater purpose.

If comparing yourself on social media is an issue, then limit your usage. Fill your heart and mind with things of God and with constant reminders that you are made in His image and can accomplish great things through Him.

  • Write positive affirmations all around your home. Post them by your bed, on the bathroom mirror, and at the coffee machine. Say it aloud! Let your heart absorb it to the greatest extent.
  • Begin journaling your prayers and affirmations that you are beautifully made and can accomplish your dreams. Look back at how God answers your prayers and helps you follow your dreams.
  • Prioritize integrity. Refrain from gossip and guard your tongue against speaking negatively to and about other people. Refrain from speaking negatively to and about yourself.
  • Fill your mind with God’s Word. It is important to fill your heart and mind with what God says about you rather than looking for other people to fill that void.
  • Look underneath the surface. It is important to realize that beauty is about so much more than what you see in the mirror. Remember to get to know other people based on their heart and not their jean size. Remember to listen to the callings God has placed in your heart more than what your inner critic wants to find in the mirror.
  • Try not to live comparing your life to others. Do not worry about what size jeans you wear compared to the beautiful slim girl you see at the grocery store. If you are always looking over your shoulder and comparing your life to someone else, it will be difficult to look at the opportunities to love others and chase your dreams as God places it right in front of you. Do not look over your shoulder, look up to God.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude. If you struggle with self-esteem and comparing your life to others, begin taking small strides to develop an attitude of gratitude. Look for the little things in the day-to-day. Start a gratitude journal. Start building authentic relationships with others who can encourage you and hold you accountable. Find joy in jumping in a pile of leaves, painting a picture, or running different scenic trails.
  • Serve others. When we become too woe-is-me, serving others can be a great way to re-focus our perspective lens and focus more on the calling to live out our faith and love others. Serving others is a great reminder that life is about so much more than our physique or financial accomplishments.
  • Do not stop dreaming! God is the author of hope. We should never give up on our dreams. God wants us to live each day to the fullest and not to miss an opportunity to love and serve others, to see ourselves in His image, and to continue chasing our dreams.

Maybe today you need to begin dreaming again. Make a dream board – fill it with places you would like to visit, names of people you are praying for and would like to invite to church, and with things you would like to do – like writing a song, start a Bible study, sing a solo in church, or send cards to the children who are stuck in the hospital at Christmas. Think beyond the every-day.

Bible Verses on Confidence and Self-Esteem

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.Jeremiah 17:7

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.Joshua 1:9

. . . but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.Isaiah 40:3

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10

Schedule a Christian counseling session today

If you are struggling with feelings of negative self-worth or living a life of comparison, it can make it difficult to find joy and live your life to the fullest. Schedule your counseling session today and breathe in the fresh air as we help you overcome low self-esteem, soar to new heights, and chase your dreams.

Photos:
“Woman Reading Map”, Courtesy of Nick Seagrave, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Person Reading Map”, Courtesy of Taras Zaluzhnyi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Reading Map”, Courtesy of Daniel Gonzalez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Reading a Map”, Courtesy of Oxana V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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