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Holy Moly March Madness: Faith-Based Stress Tips from a Florida Counselor

March 4th, 2024

March Madness is here, and I'm not talking about basketball! This month, my blog will be dedicated to the essential theme of stress management, focusing on the different communities I have the honor of serving. Get ready for a slam dunk of insights while I help cheer you on! (Being the nork that I am, I couldn't help myself from saying that!) In this exciting season of March Madness, we're diving into a different kind of game plan. While basketball fans may be caught up in the tournament's exhilaration, I will focus on various captivating topics. From exploring stress management techniques tailored to the BIPOC, diving into women's unique stressors, and providing valuable guidance for Registered Mental Health Counselor Interns, I aim to inspire, educate, and uplift you throughout the month.

 

So, What is Stress?

 

Stress is your body's innate reaction to demands or threats. When confronted with a stressor, whether a challenging work project, relationship issues, or significant life changes, your body initiates the "fight or flight" response. This response involves the adrenal glands releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, priming you for action. Your heart rate quickens, muscles tense, and your senses sharpen, preparing you to confront or flee the threat.

 

It's crucial to note that the "fight or flight" response isn't the sole reaction to stress. There are other responses like "freeze" (a feeling of immobilization) and "fawn" (an inclination to appease or please others), which are also part of the body's stress reaction. These responses can vary from person to person and from situation to situation. Understanding your unique composition holistically, including mind, body, and spirit, is vital. Becoming attuned to the Creator of the Universe by embracing stillness in His presence (Psalm 46:10), taking personal responsibility (Psalm 139:23-24), and recognizing your unique biological and psychological makeup are all part of this process.

 

The Profound Impact of Stress on Mental Health

 

Stress is not a fleeting feeling of being overwhelmed; it can profoundly affect your mental well-being. The Bible's timeless story of Job can inspire us to be resilient despite overwhelming stress and adversity.

 

Think about the year 2020, a time when the world grappled with a pandemic, remote work, and countless uncertainties. Job's historical trials mirror this chaos in many ways. He endured immense loss, battled health issues, and faced overwhelming stress. Perhaps you can relate to these challenges. What's genuinely awe-inspiring is how Job maintained unwavering faith and resilience amidst such adversity.

 

As a therapist, I empathize deeply with the anguish and pain Job experienced. In my journey in 2020, I not only managed the stresses of a new therapy practice in the evenings and working for an alternative high school during the day but also grappled with the pandemic's challenges, hidden health issues like CIRS, and my personal life struggles. It felt like everything was converging at once, leading to a diagnosis of clinical depression, which I now see as being burnt out. I encountered well-meaning individuals in the church, but their attempts to help sometimes took unhelpful forms, such as spiritual bypassing or offering unsolicited advice.

 

In those moments, I found my ultimate source of strength in God and His Word. Embracing holistic well-being became crucial. Prioritizing self-care, establishing rituals, and relying on God's intended healing methods were vital aspects of my journey. I share these insights with my clients as they navigate their stress, merging their faith with healing from complex PTSD.

 

Stress isn't just about feeling overwhelmed; it can lead to conditions like anxiety and depression, affecting the mind, body, and spirit. Prolonged stress weakens the immune system, disrupts sleep, contributes to diseases, and erodes overall quality of life.

 

But there's hope for recovery and renewal, even in the face of overwhelming stress. Seeking professional help, practicing self-care, and trusting your faith can help weather the storm.

 

Ignored Stress Leads to Burnout

 

Burnout represents an advanced stage of stress characterized by physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It often progresses through stages:

 

1. Honeymoon Phase: Initially, enthusiasm and motivation are high, but stress levels gradually rise.

 

2. Onset of Stress: As stress accumulates, you may experience physical and emotional symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and decreased concentration.

 

3. Chronic Burnout: If stress remains unmanaged, it can lead to chronic burnout, characterized by feelings of hopelessness and detachment.

 

Taking Action

 

In today's world, experiencing stress is inevitable, and not all stress is detrimental. At times, it serves as a catalyst for decision-making. However, when chronic stress is neglected, it can manifest negatively, as previously mentioned. As you navigate your journey through anxiety, consider these steps:

 

1. Seek Support: Contact a Christian integrative therapist and a functional integrative doctor who can offer tailored guidance and support.

 

2. Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to reduce stress and enhance resilience. Create a morning ritual and meditate on God's word instead of emptying your mind. Find verses that resonate with you.

 

3. Stay Connected: Cultivate meaningful relationships and seek support from your faith community. Consider joining a club or volunteering in something you're passionate about.

 

4. Movement: Acknowledge the somatic experience of stress in your body. Understand the science of your body's response. Consider Traditional Chinese Medicine's perspective and explore acupuncture as a natural stress-relief option.

 

5. Food as Medicine: Remember the adage, "You are what you eat, so don't be cheap, easy, or fake." Understand the connection between food and mood, recognizing that what you put into your system can either heal or harm you.

 

Drawing Strength and Comfort from the Bible

 

The Bible emerges as a wellspring of guidance and solace in moments of stress and turmoil. Rather than emptying the mind, as many mindful techniques encourage, why not fill it with the Living Word? As a Christian Counselor, I've found that my unwavering faith has been an anchor during life's most challenging moments. It serves as a source of balance, focus, hope, and encouragement.

 


Hebrews 4:12 beautifully illustrates the power of God's word: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

 

Please take a moment to discover the verses that resonate with you and commit them to memory. When stress surges, or those automatic negative thoughts threaten to overwhelm you, turn your focus to the Bible verses etched within your heart. I've been in situations where I felt utterly overwhelmed and paralyzed by stress, gripped by fear while battling anxiety and depression. Psalm 23, prayer, and mindful breathwork became my guiding lights in those moments.

 

Let's put it this way: It's important to remember that being a therapist doesn't imply having everything in perfect order. We're all part of this collective journey, navigating life's ups and downs and discovering strength and solace through faith and community.

 

One more thing. In my church, I've led a Mental Wellness Ministry to break the mental health stigma in the Christian community. We believe that we can have Jesus and therapy, too. Our first event focused on stress management. Feel free to listen and overlook the humorous mix-up of my name. Click on the picture to go to the YouTube unlisted video. It's a reminder that this ministry isn't about me but about helping others and teaching mental wellness tools to those who are open to it.

 

A Prayer for Us*

 

Oh, Wonderful Counselor! As Your Word warns us, we are destined to face troubles in this world. Please grant us the peace that only You can provide. Guide us and give us discernment when we are overwhelmed by stress. For anyone currently feeling burnt out, grant them the courage to seek help during their time of need. We thank You for all You've done for us and through us. Please protect us during these uncertain times. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


In Service, Faith, Hope, and Love,

Diana

PS I just launched a new podcast called The Holistic Counselor Podcast . You can find it wherever you like to listen to podcasts.


March's book of the month is Jon Gordon's book, "The One Truth: Elevate Your Mind, Unlock Your Power, Heal Your Soul." I first encountered Jon when he was a guest on Dr. Josh Axe's podcast, "The Growth Lab," in December 2023. It was an eye-opener, and about a month later, I had the chance to attend Dr. Josh Axe's Leaders Mastermind workshop in West Palm Beach, where Jon was one of the speakers. I hadn't heard of him before, probably because I'm not really into sports, but what he had to say about mental health really grabbed my attention. So, that's why I've chosen to dive into his book this month. Interested in reading it together? Let me know in the comments below.



And now for the disclaimer to make sure you understand that YOU are responsible for YOU:

Disclaimer: The content on "Liberation Lunes" is for entertainment and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. The views expressed on this blog are my personal opinions and do not represent the views of any professional organizations with which I am affiliated. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, 911, or 988 immediately. "Liberation Lunes" does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the blog. Reliance on any information provided by "Liberation Lunes," others appearing on the blog at the invitation of "Liberation Lunes," or other visitors to the blog is solely at your own risk.

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