Pastor Brad Hoefs

Pastor | Author | Speaker | Hope Coach | Mental Health Advocate

Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

 

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Dealing with fear and anxiety can be very difficult. As a result, using the help of God can be very effective in managing your fears. With this in mind, here are some suggestions on how a person can use the help of God in his or her own struggles.

The first step a person should do is to start talking and praying to God. A person can go to church or to a quiet place during the day to tell God that they are having a problem. They should tell God how they feel and ask God for some of his help. A person could also review the Bible and read some articles on trusting in God and then apply these concepts in their life. Each and every day, a person should make it up a habit to talk to God and ask for His help.

Remember that the one source that a person should use as a basis in managing their fears and anxieties is using God as a basis in dealing with their fears. Why? The power of God is the one power that is stronger than your fears and anxieties. Also, God loves each one of us and he is the one person who has the power to solve all of our problems. He will help you if you ask him to.

When using the help of God to manage your fears, a person needs to be aware of how God is working in their life. Most of the time God works in mysterious ways and the answers he provides might not be that obvious. A person must be aware of God being in their life even when they are dealing with their fears and anxieties.

A person must also be sensitive to the answers God gives them. Some people think that the answers that God provides must be religious in nature. That is not always the case. God may provide the answers in a way that might not be religious in nature. These answers could involve basic psychology and cognitive techniques that deals with how to manage fear and anxiety. The point to remember is that although a person may use these psychology methods, its important to use God as the center of everything in your life and in your struggle.

If you have trouble, talk to a member of the clergy or a professional counselor to help deal with your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.

Finally, the most important thing is to continue praying and talking to God. Talk to God as if you were talking to a friend. Read the Bible and pray hard. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask Him.

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Bipolar and Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

Bipolar and Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

To change our default setting it must be done one mini habit at a time.

If you are like me, there have been numerous times you were highly motivated to make BIG changes in your mental health journey. One of those times for me was deciding that I needed to exercise at least three times a week. That was a big change to make since I wasn’t even exercising once a week. So I exercised three times that first week, but by the next week I had given it up. I just couldn’t do it. It was too big of a change.

I’ve done this over and over throughout the years since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. I would be highly motivated to make a healthy change regarding my sleep, eating, exercising, thinking, or working. It seemed that the motivation to make the change would last a short time before I would revert to my “default settings.” And each time I would feel like a bigger failure. I began to believe that my inability to stay motivated to make a healthy change had to be connected in some way to having bipolar disorder. After all, I could easily become “laser-beamed-focused” on something I wanted or liked to do, so I became convinced that my repeated failures had to have something to do with having bipolar.

It was as though any unhealthy “default settings” I had or any changes that I wasn’t allyousef-al-nasser-261164 that interested in – even though they would be good for me – could only be made little by little because I just didn’t have enough self-motivation to do them all at once. I figured I just didn’t have the self-discipline necessary, or somehow there was a flaw in my character. Those beliefs changed recently when someone introduced me to a book that they had found very helpful in making changes in their life. The title of the book is Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. I discovered that if I began making small changes for extended periods of time, the changes would stick.

In the book, Guise clarifies the difference between motivation and self-will. He says that motivation is short-lived, and to make real change you have to begin doing small things that can be done via pure self-will, and not depend on motivation to do it.

He started to change his health by doing one push-up daily. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But think about it. Had he decided to do 50 per day, that would have required ongoing motivation, and he would have given up when the motivation to do the 50 push-ups had passed. (Which would have been on the first day for me! lol) So his first mini habit was to do a single push-up. Doing just the one push-up, he could make himself do it via self-will power. What he found was that once he would do one push-up, he always did a few more, but no matter what, he always did at least one. He changed his brain’s default setting slowly, over time, and it stuck.

I’ve got to tell you that this little book on mini habits is changing my life!

I’ve stopped beating up on myself for not being able to make sweeping changes in my life. It makes total sense to me. There are small things I can choose to do whether I feel motivated to do them or not. For example, I know I need to drink more water, especially with the meds that I take. But, the thought of drinking eight full glasses of water overwhelms me, and I end up drinking nothing. So, I started with the mini habit of drinking one large full glass of water with my meds first thing in the morning, and I’ve found myself drinking more water throughout the day and enjoying it! I know, it’s not an earth-shattering change, but earth-shattering changes won’t work. Most of us do not have that kind of motivation with or without bipolar disorder.

It only makes sense that our brains have default settings. Those are the settings that our brains default to when we are stressed or things we can do with little to no thought. For example, my default setting for when to eat is when I’m sad, happy, tired, stressed, or when I’m awake! This eating default setting has been a well-worn patterned default in my brain for many years. Unfortunately, unlike being able to go into your computer default settings, make a change and click “save,” we cannot do that with our brains. Instead, if we want to make changes to our default settings, we must make them bit by bit, by starting a mini habit that we can do without one ounce of motivation on our part; a simple thing that can be done by sheer self-willpower.

Discovering these things have become the single greatest key to making change happen in my life.

Your inability to not make sweeping health changes in your life is not a character flaw. It’s called being human!

So, what mini habit can you do by sheer self-willpower that will bring about a simple, healthy change in your life?

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Get Your Thoughts Under Control

Get Your Thoughts Under Control

This is a strange time that we are living in our world right now.  Strange times can bring on strange and unhelpful thought patterns. It’s easy to focus and dwell on these thoughts until they turn obsessive.  There are things we can do to escape from these thought patterns and ease our minds. Consider trying some of the following:

  1. Name the beast.  Describe your fear in one sentence.  This takes away a little of its power.
  2. Find the distortion.  Apply a Cost-Benefit Analysis.  How is believing this costing you, and how is it benefitting you?  If it’s costing you, decide a course of action.
  3. Schedule a time.  Give yourself 15 minutes a day to ruminate and journal all your feelings.  If the thought comes up at another time, say “Sorry, it’s not time for that.”.
  4. Snap out of It.  Wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap yourself when the thoughts turn obsessive to remind yourself to let go.  Or, write your obsession on a piece of paper and throw it away.  
  5. Learn the lesson.  If you are obsessing over a behavior, consider the lesson you’ve learned. Forgive yourself, if necessary.  Move on.
  6. Imagine the worst.  Once you’ve dealt with the worst-case scenario, it’s not worth worrying about.
  7. Dig for the cause.  Often, the obsessions aren’t the real issue.  Maybe there’s something deeper you need to discover.
  8. Tell someone.  They can help you find a solution or tell you it’s ridiculous.  Often, obsessions are based on partial truths.
  9. Interrupt yourself.  If you’re obsessing over something, start thinking about 10 reasons it won’t happen. 
  10. Stay in the present.  Ruminating takes places in the past and future.

 

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

 Philippians 4:8

We pray these tips help you.  Remember, we are all in this together and God is with us!  

© Fresh Hope for Mental Health

 

A Review Of Techniques In Managing Your Depression

A Review Of Techniques In Managing Your Depression

By: Stanley Popovich

Some people have a difficult time in managing their depression. Sometimes, their depression and fears can get the best of them. When your in this situation, it is important to know what to do so that your depression doesn’t overwhelm you.

Here is a short list of techniques that a person can use to help manage their depression.

  1. Challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make you fearful or anxious, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense.  Changing your thinking can help you manage your fears.

 

  1. Take a break. Some people get depressed and have a difficult time getting out of bed in the mornings. When this happens, a person should take a deep breath and try to find something to do to get their mind off of the problem. A person could take a walk, listen to some music, read the newspaper, or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things. Doing something will get your mind off of the problem and give you confidence to do other things.

 

  1. Use Self-Visualization. Sometimes, we can get depressed over a task that we will have to perform in the near future. When this happens, visualize yourself doing the task in your mind. For instance, you and your team have to play in the championship volleyball game in front of a large group of people in the next few days. Before the big day comes, imagine yourself playing the game in your mind.  By playing the game in your mind, you will be better prepared to perform for real when the time comes. Self-Visualization is a great way to reduce the fear and stress of a coming situation.

 

  1. Carry a  small notebook of positive statements with you. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down in a small notebook that you can carry around with you in your pocket. Whenever you feel depressed, open up your small notebook and read those statements.

 

  1. Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem.

 

  1. Learn to take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems.

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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8 Simple Ideas for a Healthier Marriage with SMI By: Katie Dale

8 Simple Ideas for a Healthier Marriage with SMI By: Katie Dale

In any marriage, one plus one equals friction. Make one of those “ones” a ticking time-bomb or a lit bottle rocket, and if you haven’t had one yet, you have a problem coming to you. With a spouse who has a Severe Mental Illness diagnosis, an untreated or unrecognized episode can not only leave you in a state of chaos, but can lead to crisis and a multitude of other issues if not addressed and treated.

As someone with an SMI, I’ve been on the giving end of that relationship – in terms of giving my husband a huge shock when I went off my bipolar medications three years into our marriage. I unwittingly and somewhat due to Anosognosia (lack of insight) and also pride, decided to forego taking my medication. 

I denied I had the illness and requested my therapist redact my diagnosis. Thus the spiral, or rather escalation, up into manic psychosis blindsided my husband who had never seen me in an episode before.

For a while, he didn’t presume it was my mental illness but rather an emotionally unsettled wife who was (over)reacting to his absence for a month-long trip to Mongolia. Being a military family, my husband was not sure how to handle my mood swings. 

Long story short, it would have helped tremendously if we could first identify the problem. I had a clue, and asked him to take me to the psych hospital. After about a month of hysterics and outbursts at home and on vacation for our anniversary, he finally drove me to the psych hospital for treatment.

I would recommend the following to any couple who is experiencing the severity of a mental illness episode. By then it’s when you need the most help and direction. If you can have them agree to treatment, this is the best way they will be able to get well. And the sooner, the better. 

Things to keep in mind with Severe Mental Illness: In Severe Mental Illlnesses like bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder, and schizophrenia, there is a strong chance that Anosognosia can cloud your loved one’s judgment.

In these cases, it’s best to involve the help of a mental health professional like a licensed therapist and psychiatrist (doctor who prescribes psych medications) from the onset.

If they aren’t seeing a professional yet, it would behoove them and you to access one as soon as possible. If their symptoms are self-medicated and treated with little or no medication, it is always best to consult with a professional to help them and you identify their illness and recognize its facets. 

The practical, simplest (not easiest, but simplest) keys to having a successful marriage with someone with Severe Mental Illness are what I recommend that work in my marriage:

  1. Encourage your spouse with SMI to take their medications as prescribed. If they are at a point where they cannot manage this responsibility, you may very well need to step in a serve as a caregiver to help them help themselves with this task at this time. Simple, but as I said, not easy. They may resist. If so, try brainstorming ways with their mental health providers that you can work together to make sure this routine is established.
  2. Encourage them by pointing out the positives. This may seem like watered down positivity, but it’s not. When we’re in an episode, we need direction and guidance, and consistent building up. The negative depressed thinking can easily sway us, and we need you to help us see the brighter side of life, appreciate the little things, and notice when that silver lining is peeking out over the clouds.
  3. Take time and take care of yourself. This is again, simple, but not easy. The emotional tolls caring for a loved one with an SMI are exceedingly difficult to handle. That makes it harder to take care of yourself, but you must. Have a good support network of other close family and friends, and your own therapist if possible. Talk regularly with those support people to ensure your sanity and your loved one’s safety. Don’t forget your physical needs too – eat well and exercise as best you can. 
  4. In remission, draw up a GAMEPLAN. It is imperative that while they are in the good times and can reason and think clearly that you have a “game plan” to prepare for the worst. To find a template and receive a free copy of one I use that you can print out and fill in, go to bipolarbrave.com/resources. Have it handy in a folder or binder, just in case.
  5. Get on the same page. As best as possible, communicate with your spouse that you want to be able to have access to their health and medical records. HIPAA is a tricky thing and the nature of it can be detrimental in the case of mental illness. If you don’t have a POA (Power of Attorney), or Conservator, discuss this possible aspect of your relationship. It’s a serious thing, but so are Severe Mental Illnesses. I personally do not have one, but have been able to be of the mind in episodes to keep the communication and PHI (Personal Health Information) open and accessible to my family. 
  6. Take a break from caring and just be. In an episode this can be challenging. In a state of recovery and maintenance, you must be able to enjoy and relax with each other. Resist the temptation to control and just rest in the fact that God is. And if you’re not there yet, find resources to help you. You need to lighten up and let loose every now and then. Laughter is the best medicine by far, and if you’re at a pause or break in between episodes, savor the time and show you appreciate the person you married.
  7. Be each other’s safe place. Honor each other’s wishes for keeping things that are personal, private. You should want to have their trust, and so try to keep things between the two of you that aren’t unhealthy. If you’re dealing with a SMI spouse in paranoia, that will be a different story. But overall, as long as they are safe and not in danger or a threat to themselves or others, you can let them confide in you. You may have to get help if they are planning to do something dangerous or have already acted out physically. In that case, the safest thing to do is get help. 
  8. Pray together. If they are in hyper-religious state (mania or psychosis) this may be a trigger and irritate them or encourage more hyper-religious behaviors, but if they are not and are more grounded, offer to pray with them. Praying separately can be good too.

Aside from these 8 suggestions, you can see there are probably numerous other ideas for helping your marriage with your spouse with SMI, but these are a start and basic suggestions. For more info on helping you or your loved one in a marriage with SMI, visit my resources page on bipolarbrave.com/resources. 

 

Katie Dale is the author of But Deliver Me from Crazy: A Memoir and the mind behind the blog BipolarBrave.com. She is wife to an Air Force officer and a mom to Jaxon and cat Anna. They live in rural Missouri and wherever the US Air Force takes them. She enjoys long walks, runs and naps to help keep her bipolar in remission.

 

How to Support Our Children with Depression

How to Support Our Children with Depression

Every child experiences “the blues” every once in a while, but when the sadness becomes relentless, it could manifest into depression. Depression can affect a child’s personal life, school work, and social or family life. Children, versus adults, can develop depression based on additional factors like peer pressure and changing hormone levels. It’s important to be alert and supportive of our children in order to help them.

Symptoms

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recognizes the following symptoms as warning signs of depression in children:

  • Feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • A decrease in interest in activities once found enjoyable
  • Decrease in energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Talk of suicide
  • Poor school performance

 If you recognize any of these symptoms in your child there are ways you can help:

 Support

After an initial diagnosis of depression, the best thing you can do is become informed, for you and your child. Jumo Health, a digital health resource for families, offers a depression discussion guide which provides questions to help foster conversation with a doctor after a diagnosis.

Moreover, there are productive ways to create a dialogue between you and your child. Start by letting your child know why you care about how they are feeling. Ask your child about their feelings, but don’t expect them to completely understand or have all the answers. Follow up with connections and examples of some of your own feelings so that they feel relatable. It’s important for children to know that they are not alone.

 If you want to help your child even further, we previously suggested the “Three L’s”:

  • Logging thoughts in a journal
  • Laughter
  • Long walks

Have your child interpret thoughts through writing. They can use a journal to keep track of moods, visualize patterns, and even write down inspirational thoughts. Journaling is a great way for your child to get their thoughts down on paper to clarify and reflect on their feelings.

Better yet, help your child combat sadness with its opposite: laughter. Activities such as watching a funny movie or show can use humor to play an important role in depression management.

Lastly, utilize the curative effects of exercise. Physical activity has healing benefits that release endorphins in order to relieve stress.

Connect with God

It’s important to remind your child that if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Staying Stable While Grieving

Staying Stable While Grieving

By: Brad Hoefs

This post is dedicated to my Dad, David J. Hoefs

My dad passed away on May 12th of 2017. He was the first person I knew who had bipolar disorder. While we knew his health was declining and he had some major health issues, we didn’t know that death was imminent. He had a heart attack and was gone immediately. So, when my sister called me that he had passed, it was shocking news. At that point, I knew I needed to do the work of grieving. After all, as a pastor, I have encouraged people to do the work of grieving, and now it was my turn to grieve.

My wife and I had just gotten to our son’s house for a visit the day before this all happened. So I had to return home right away. Flying back home gave me time to think and ponder. One of the first things on my mind was that I needed to pay close attention to any signs of depression, as I was grieving. I knew that the grief process could develop into or trigger depression, or destabilize my mood. I wanted to avoid becoming depressed if at all possible. I wasn’t sure I would know the difference between feelings of grief and depression. My experience up to this point had been dealing with the severe depression and grief from being forced to resign from the church that I was serving at the time. That was pure hell. And if I could avoid that, I wanted to do so at all costs. But I also knew that if you don’t do the work of grieving, the grief will deal with you at some point.

So on the two different plane flights home, I found myself emotional and sad, but also cognizant of the fact that because of having bipolar disorder, along with the process of grieving, that avoiding the destabilization of my mood might be a bit tricky. I promised myself that I would pay attention to the process and attempt to maneuver through the emotional sadness of losing Dad without stumbling into a depressive episode. And I was concerned that I would know the difference. I felt a little as though someone had put me on a rollercoaster ride that I didn’t choose, and I wasn’t sure how wild the ride might be.

 

So, I promised myself to do several things:

  1. I promised myself to feel what I was feeling; to go through it, but “pay attention” to all of it by purposefully taking the time to be self-aware. I was not going to attempt to avoid the grief, the sad feelings, and tears. To do this, if I was feeling sad or down, I decided I would ask myself, “Is this grief? Or is this depression?”
  2. I promised myself that if I was either confused by the feelings of grief and potentially feeling depressed, that I would not wait too long to talk to my Doctor, a therapist, or a friend. Too often I think we believe that we can handle it on our own and wait to be proactive.
  3. I promised myself that I would attempt to keep some balance between the work of grief and continuing to live. I’ve seen people just keep themselves too busy with life to avoid the pain. But, I’ve also seen people, who following the loss of a loved one, just sit down and stop living. Neither is good. I knew I needed to keep it as balanced as possible.

 

It’s been approximately ten weeks since the death of my father. So far, so good. As I experience the various aspects of grieving, they seem to come in waves. I can’t explain it any other way but as waves of emotions, not always sad emotions, but a range of emotions. Some of the waves are enormous and last a while, and others are small little waves. And it is impossible to know when the waves will hit. I also find myself thinking about my dad so much more than when he was living. Also, I find myself continually thinking about the fact that he is gone. There was no time to say good bye or prepare for it — which was good for him, but I would have loved to have the time to say goodbye.

One of the things my extended family decided to do when we were picking my Dad’s burial plot at the cemetery was to go ahead and buy ten plots that would all be in the same row. To know where my burial plot would be brought about more emotions to deal with; but many others have processed these things, and I saw it as simply my turn to do so.

Up to this point, I don’t think I’m experiencing any depression. Of course, you and I both know that could change. So I’m still paying close attention to what is going on with my feelings and emotions. There have been a few times through all this that I’ve had to set aside my emotions and carry on with my job. For example, my Dad’s funeral was on a Tuesday and on the Friday of that same week I had a wedding. I had to continue with daily living (my work as a pastor). Part of the work of grieving is balancing the emotions and feelings, and at the same time continuing with life. It’s a delicate balance.

Grief is a journey. And just like the journey of mental health wellness, the journey of grief looks different for each of us.

One thing I know is that my faith as a Christian has been critical for me as I’ve gone through the loss of my father. Because I believe I will see him again, it brings comfort and hope. For me, it would be challenging without this sure comfort and hope. So, I find myself leaning on the Lord a bit more than usual.

My hope is that my transparency about this might be helpful to some of you who might be going through the same thing. It doesn’t have to be the loss of a loved one; it could be the loss of a relationship or the loss of a job. It could be grief that is following your initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder. You might love someone who is struggling with bipolar disorder, and you’re grieving.

Grief is a journey. And just like the journey of mental health wellness, the journey of grief looks different for each of us. If you are going through a season of grieving, how are you doing? What has worked for you? Are you mindful of the difference between the sadness and emotions of grief vs. depression?

If you are grieving a loss in your life, please know you are not alone. I’m right there with you.

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Choosing to Live “As If” By: Jamie Meyer

Choosing to Live “As If” By: Jamie Meyer

By: Jamie Meyer

Who could have imagined that a tiny virus could bring the world to its knees?  Every day brought more shocking news as the coronavirus spread like wildfire.  When we didn’t think it could get any worse, it did.  Like so many of us, my anxiety level ramped up.  Daily routines that help me manage my mental health were suddenly interrupted.  Having to socially distance from friends and family has been painful. Honestly, I can’t wait until life gets back to normal.

 

But what if it doesn’t?  I don’t want to think about that.  What if mask-wearing becomes the norm?  What if kids can’t go back to school in the fall?  What if, what if.  I want to get back to my normal, everyday life.  It feels like I’m living in a state of pause, like pausing a movie I’m watching to grab a snack from the kitchen.  Hit Play on the remote and pick up where the movie left off. But wait. What if a different movie came on?  I’m sure I’d be terribly confused.  Me and technology don’t get along very well, so I know I’d be frustrated and pushing all the buttons on the remote.  At this point I’m angry because I can’t see the rest of my movie. 

 

Right now, we’re all cast members in an unfamiliar movie.  Try as we might to bow out, there’s no escaping the story we’re living in at present.  This begs the question:  Am I going to be angry and frustrated until things get back to normal or will I accept life as it is right now?  Can I learn to live as if things may never go back to the normal I once knew?

 

I believe there are a few things all of us can do to stay fully engaged in the here and now, rather than putting our lives on hold until sometime in the future. As I see it, an important key is trusting in God’s unwavering faithfulness.  Looking back on my own life I can see that He’s brought me through many painful situations where the future was uncertain.  Whatever challenges lie ahead in your own life, God’s got you.  In fact, his Word tells us we have “hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb.6:19).  I definitely need an anchor right now.

 

My mind believes this is true, but to be honest, sometimes my heart is slow to feel it’s true.  I have difficulty sitting still with my feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones like fear, anxiety and helplessness.  I tend to look for distractions and a big one right now is food.  When the overwhelming craving for junk food hits, I can’t say no even though I’m not physically hungry.  The reality is that it’s a numbing escape from the uncertainties and losses I’d rather not think about.

 

Another way we can anchor ourselves to the present is to consciously look for what’s beautiful and good around us.  When you find it in people, express your gratitude to them.  Be intentional in looking for the beauty around you, whether in nature or in the kindness of others.  Take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for.  Jot those thoughts down in a journal or share them with the people you love.  Bring hope and kindness to others by finding little ways to help.  

 

The real danger of putting our lives on hold until the old and familiar returns is that it may never happen.  Today is here and gone.  There are no do-overs.  That reminder humbles me and brings to mind a book written by Pastor Joel Osteen.  It’s entitled “Your Best Life Now.”  There’s a lot of wisdom in those words, encouraging us to live our best every day in this age of coronavirus.   

 

We of course continue will continue to offer our online Fresh Hope support groups and most of our local groups that used to meet in person are now meeting online also.  People can register for our regular weekly online group meeting by going to www.FreshHopeMeeting.com
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Depressed? How to Avoid Fueling Hopelessness

Depressed? How to Avoid Fueling Hopelessness

Hopelessness can’t flourish if we work alongside our medication to redirect our thinking towards hope instead. 

By Brad Hoefs

For the last year or so, I’ve been going through what I would say has been the second-most challenging situation in my work life that I’ve ever been through in the church that I pastor. As some of you might know, conflict in a church is really messy and can be extremely painful.  

I’ve come to the conclusion that why it is so messy and painful is because the wounding is coming from people that you love and care about and have been in relationship with and in my case some cases for many years.

Without going into the details, I’ve gone through an extremely challenging, hellish last year or so. I don’t tell you this so I can complain some more about it but so that you know that the insights I’m about to share with have been genuine insights that have come from what I’ve been through these past months. See, I’ve been living teetering on the edge of hopelessness. I have had to struggle and hold onto hope through all of it while hopelessness and giving up kept knocking at the door.

Early on as the hopelessness began to creep into my thinking and my feelings I knew I had to fight against it. So, I actually sat down and made a list of ways that I was feeding the hopelessness or that I needed to stay away from doing lest I feed the hopelessness.  

I truly believe from my experiences of managing bipolar disorder that more times than not, I have not worked with my medicine. In other words, while taking the antidepressant I many times have not changed my thinking (feeding my hopelessness) and just waited for the medication to be some sort of magic bullet in getting better.   

I knew from having fed my hopelessness in the past, that I better be proactive in working alongside my medicine or I would simply end up in a deep dark hole of depression and despair. 

Hopelessness can’t flourish if we work alongside our medicine and don’t feed it and feed hope instead. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the feelings and work through the pain, but don’t feed it.  What we don’t “feed” can’t flourish. 

So, here are a few of the items I listed that I needed to stay away from as to not feed the hopelessness and instead actively process the pain and feelings and to instead feed hope:

#1) Isolating & wanting to be alone

So, I committed myself to be around people no matter how much I wanted to be alone!

Nothing feeds hopelessness more calories than isolating yourself.  After all, usually when I’m going through something emotionally hurtful, I want to be alone.  And in the aloneness, I begin to ruminate about the situation, and the hopelessness starts to grow.  Isolating along with the ruminating are like yeast to bread dough. 

We were not created to do life alone. Brene Brown says, “Connection is why we are here.  We are hardwired to connect with others, it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” 

When you are feeling hopeless, one of the most important things you can do is get around people that you love, trust and care about you.  Process your hurt and pain with them. Don’t isolate.  Doing life with others is what we were created for!

By the way, for me, lots of sleeping can quickly provide a way to isolate.  So, I knew that I had to be careful to not escape the emotional pain by sleeping a lot. 

#2) Shame

So, I committed to not shaming myself even as I had made mistakes in the situation of conflict that I was going through. 

Shame makes you feel like you have to cover up what is “wrong” with you, you can’t have this problem.  Shame makes you feel like you should not make mistakes and should handle yourself correctly at all times.  Shame doesn’t allow you to have personal grace.  Shame demands perfection.  

Shedding one’s shame is a must! And keeping shame at bay is a constant commitment I have to make to myself.  

#3) Ruminating

Thinking the same negative thoughts over and over merely burn into our brains a deepening “groove” that makes getting ourselves unstuck or out of that groove nearly impossible.

#4) Shutting down emotionally

In other words, zoning out emotionally would do nothing but feed my hopelessness.  So, I committed to keep moving, to keep my schedule, not to merely zone-out, shutting down emotionally.  I was not about to let what I was going through become such a crisis that I couldn’t function with everyday tasks and the rest of my job. 

#5) Bad Habits 

Bad habits like eating to cover up the painful emotional feelings.  So, I knew I had to process my feelings and not stuff them, or eat them.

Bad habits like not going to bed at a decent time, job or not!  Not being in sync with your routine like the rest of the world is going to cause you to feel even more alone and feed hopelessness. 

Bad habits like not having a schedule, eating lots of sugar would only going to stir up my mood challenges even more. 

#6) Believing lies

You know, the lies that make you feel as though the tough time you’re going through will go on forever.  Or lies that tell you “you can’t endure this, so give up” just cause hopelessness to flourish.  So, I committed myself to believe the truth, speaking out the truth and holding to the truth.

#7) Not processing and working through your emotions and feelings in healthy ways 

So, I committed myself to process and work through my feelings and emotions.  I knew that I had to be in charge of them versus them having charge over me. 


Well, these are the main things I knew would allow hopelessness to grow in my situation these past months.   No doubt committing myself to hold the hopelessness at bay helped me go through the last year.  However, it does not mean that I didn’t feel sad and alone at times.  It doesn’t mean that there weren’t some sleepless nights.  It hurt emotionally.  I had to “go through it.”  As they say, when you are going through hell, keep going!  And that is what I’ve been doing. 

I’m hopeful that I’m on the other side of things now.  But, there are still some tougher days.  Every now and then I have some enormous waves of grief.  But, I refuse to yield to hopelessness.  I’m fighting back. And I won’t let up.  And I’m not doing it alone.  It is what it is.  It’s lasting longer than I want it to, but it will pass sooner or later.  And I’ve committed myself to learn from it and grow because of it.  

Recently my wife and I had lunch with a very dear friend.  As we talked, we talked about the sadness and heaviness we are still feeling at times.  We talked about what we can do to process it, to help it “move along.”  And as we got in the car to go back to the office, I said, “You know, I think I’ve gone through all of this rather well.  After all,  I’ve gone through in spite of having bipolar disorder.  In other words, the bipolar disorder has stayed in check throughout this.  Yes, the struggle with hopelessness continually knocking on the door may indeed be due to the bipolar disorder, I haven’t caved into it.  After all any time you have bipolar disorder, and you go through a significantly painful situation, and you are still managing it, that’s a good thing!  Years ago, this situation would have wiped me out.  It would have ended with a hospital stay and not working nor functioning with the daily routines of life for months. 

Did I handle everything correctly?  Of course I didn’t.  You can’t get perfection from an imperfect person, whether they have bipolar or not! But, by the grace of God and a whole lot of work, hopelessness has not won. Hope is prevailing. And I’m getting through it one piece with peace of mind in spite of having bipolar disorder.  

How about you?  Are you like me and too easily go to the door when hopelessness is knocking?  Do you feed hopelessness?  If so, how?  And if you do, how might you better starve hopelessness and instead feed hope?

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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6 Tips On Discussing Your Mental Health Issues With Your Friends By: Stan Popovich

6 Tips On Discussing Your Mental Health Issues With Your Friends By: Stan Popovich

6 Tips On Discussing Your Mental Health Issues With Your Friends

By: Stan Popovich

Do you have a difficult time explaining your mental health issues to your family and friends?

If so, here are six suggestions on how to discuss your mental health issues with your friends and relatives.

  1. Talk to a counselor: The most important thing that you need to do is to talk to a counselor about your mental health problems. Seeking professional will go a long way in overcoming your current issues. In addition, a counselor will be able to give you additional advice on how to deal with your friends and peers.
  2. Don’t argue with others: It is important that you do not get into arguments with those who are giving you a hard time. Your number one priority is getting your life back on track. Your health is more important than what other people may think.
  3. Watch who you hang out with: It is important to surround yourself with positive people. Try to keep your distance from those people who are giving you a difficult time. Remember that your goal is to remain positive and hopeful. Do not let the negative people in your life bring you down.
  4. You are not alone: It can be very frustrating to deal with your mental health issues when your friends and relatives are on your case. Remember, you are not alone. There are millions of people around the world who struggle with their fears, anxieties, and depression. The key is to find those people who can relate to you.
  5. Stand your ground: It is important to stand your ground when dealing with family members and friends who are giving you a hard time. Explain your situation and your feelings to the people in your life, however don’t let them hassle you. Your number one priority is to get better and not to please everyone that you know.
  6. Join a support group: There are many mental health support groups in your area that can help you. Many hospitals, churches, and counselors in your area will be able to provide you with a list of groups. These support groups will be supportive of your situation and can give you additional advice regarding your problems.

BIOGRAPHY

Stan Popovich is the author of the popular managing fear book, “A Layman’s Guide To Managing Fear”. For more information about Stan’s book and to get some free mental health advice, please visit Stan’s website at http://www.managingfear.com

 

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