Mental Health and the Holidays
1). Tell us a little about yourself Becky?
- My name is Becky Schrock. I’ve been married to my husband, Larry, for 18
years; we have 3 boys ages 13, 10, and 8. We’ve been members of Restoration Church for a little over 1 year. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and work with Family Legacy Counseling in Waukee. I have been practicing in the mental health field for about 14 years.
2). It’s the holidays, for many this time of year brings a lot of emotions. What would you say to someone who might be struggling with anxiety and/or depression this Christmas season?
- I would tell them that it’s normal and that they are not alone in these feelings. We are all humans with a whole range of emotions. Lots of people feel this way from time to time and it’s normal to feel down or blue, regardless of the season.
3). What would you say to someone who is struggling to accept the fact that they are struggling mentally?
- With my clients, I talk a lot about acceptance. The idea is to accept where you are, even if it’s not where you want to be, so you can begin to move forward. Sometimes the most difficult (but beneficial) part of healing is accepting what is even when we wish it were different.
- I like to help people look at their emotions not as “good” or “bad,” but as signals. For example, if you find that you are often anxious about your job performance, it could be an indicator that doing a good job is important to you. If you notice that you are often feeling sadness about some family or friend relationships, this could point to the fact that these people are very important to you. Sometimes it can help if we get curious about our emotions and explore what some of these emotions might be signaling.
- Life can be especially difficult during the holidays for a lot of people, because some of the difficulties we are facing don’t just stop because it’s Christmas time. Maybe you have lost someone important and precious to you. Maybe you are not getting along in your relationships with family, friends, or at work. Maybe you are going through a difficult season. These situations can obviously make the holidays harder.
4). Where do you point people to in the Bible when it comes to mental health struggles and difficult seasons of life?
- I often tell my clients to go to the Psalms. So many of the Psalms are songs of lament. Pray through the songs of lament. Look to the Psalms to know that you are not alone in your trials and circumstances. Acknowledge your struggles to yourself, to God, and to your people. I know it can be scary, but being vulnerable and authentic with your struggles can lead to connection and support from others who care about you.
5). What would you say to someone who is really lonely or who doesn’t feel like they have any safe people that they can be vulnerable with regarding their struggles?
- Reach out. Ask for support. Many people can benefit by having someone with whom they can regularly check in. If there is someone in your life already who can do that for you, great! If not, reach out to mental health professionals. Also, you don’t have to be struggling to the point that you can’t function in daily life before you get help. You can get help any time!
- Sometimes, in the Christian world, we are told to “just be grateful” or “think positive.” While these ideas are obviously a good idea, what I often notice is that we don’t allow ourselves to acknowledge the tough stuff too. I encourage my clients to honor their whole emotional life, even the parts that are uncomfortable.
- Something I hear often is that people don’t want to be a burden to others by sharing their struggles. More often than not, people are very willing to help and support you if you let them know what you’re going through.
6). How do you suggest that someone begins to look for a mental health counselor?
- If you have the option and availability, try to see a counselor with a Christian worldview. This is something you can inquire about when meeting with a counselor or checking out a therapy clinic. However, you can still be helped even if you can’t find Christian care. Licensed mental health practitioners have ethics training that is applicable to all clients regardless of race, gender, religious beliefs etc. Look for a therapist that you can trust and get along with. Research shows that how a client feels about the relationship with their therapist is one of the most important factors in treatment success. It may take you a few tries to find the right “fit.” As a therapist, I am aware of this and let my clients know that my hope for them is to find healing, and if I don’t happen to be the best fit, I want them to find the person who is. Try out different therapists, let them know when you get there for your first sessions that you want to make sure it’s a good fit between the two of you.
7 ). What would you say to someone who feels like they are at a breaking point? Or someone who might feel suicidal?
- If you are thinking about suicide, please don’t be alone. Call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
- Your Life Iowa offers 24/7 crisis support in the state of Iowa via phone (855-581-8111), text (855-895-8398), or chat (yourlifeiowa.org)
- There is a Mobile Crisis Response Team that covers Dallas County. They can be reached by calling 911 or your local non-emergency police number. Let them know you are struggling with a mental health emergency, and that you would like to talk with someone.
- You can also go to Clive Behavioral Health Hospital (1450 NW 114 th St., Clive, IA 50325). The staff at this clinic are trained specifically to deal with mental health issues/crises. This is a great additional resource in our area for mental health support. You can call them at (844)680-0504 to schedule an assessment or for more information.
- Contact your Pastor or another spiritual leader in the community. They can pray with you and may also have some supportive resources/suggestions.
- Medication can also be helpful. You can talk with your primary care physician about your situation and how you have been feeling. Medication can help to bring your emotions back to an equilibrium. Medication paired with therapy can support you in practicing coping skills so that you can manage your situation more effectively.
8). What would you say to someone whose Christmas celebrations include stressful family situations.
- Be realistic about your expectations. If gatherings with certain family members or friends are usually difficult, try not to be surprised if that happens again this year. Assess whether there is anything that you can control or change to make the situation less difficult. Also, figure out what you can handle and limit your time there if necessary (this could include abstaining from that event). Prep yourself before you will be with difficult people. If you have an event that you know will be particularly draining, it might be helpful to give yourself some time to rest the next day in order to reset. If the goal is to be present with your family/friends, then take care of yourself so you can be there. Know yourself, assess what you will need, and do something to boost your mental health before, during, or after a particularly draining social event or family obligation.
- Accept people for who they are and expect them to behave in similar ways that they have consistently behaved in the past. If the behavior of someone else is destructive to you, you may need to set a boundary. A boundary is not necessarily just telling someone that they can’t do something anymore. A boundary is a statement of how you will respond to a situation or a person. There are three steps to a boundary. The first step is telling the other person how you feel about a specific behavior. “When you were late for Thanksgiving dinner, I was upset, and we got very hungry waiting to eat until you arrived.” The second step is to make your request. “For our Christmas gathering, would you please be here by 5:00pm?” The third step is letting them know what your response will be if they cross the boundary. “We will serve dinner at 5:00pm whether you are here or not. You are welcome to join us when you get here, but we will not wait for you to begin eating.” Ideally, you would have this sort of boundary conversation before you implement your boundary, but you don’t always have to speak boundaries aloud. You could just as well set the boundary and implement your new response the next time your boundary is crossed. You’ll be sure to get the other person’s attention that way. Sometimes people hear and respond to your changed behaviors more quickly than your words.
9). Any final thoughts?
- It’s ok to say “things aren’t going well.” It’s all a part of life. Look at the Bible. In the Psalms, David was so free to acknowledge all the tough stuff too. He didn’t just praise God. Sometimes I read Psalm 18 over my clients. This Psalm is such a good picture of the Lord listening to you. It may not always be evident that the Lord hears you right away. Imagine how it must feel to experience all that is happening as you wait for the Lord (v.7-15). Spend some time pondering the way it might feel to have the Lord here to draw you out (v.16-50). Meditate on these words. Call upon the Lord. Trust that your cry reaches his ears. He is in charge of your life. Do not despair!
In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, [b]
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
20 The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his rules [c] were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect; [d]
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me, [e]
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
46 The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from the man of violence.
49 For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.