Mental Health, Wellness, and My Faith Journey
As a holistic wellness specialist, mental health and faith have always been a major part of my life. In being asked the question, “What role does mental health and wellness play on your faith journey,” I thought of the relationship between the two. While many may see them as opposing, for me they have always been in a reciprocal relationship, working together and informing one another, in order for me to have the abundant life Jesus came for.
I define my faith journey as one of knowing God and connecting with God. I attend to my mental health and wellness by making sure I feel healthy and balanced by going to therapy, getting proper rest, exercising my physical body, reading to exercise my mind, and allowing myself to be loved and cared for by others. Attending to my mental health and wellness impacts my faith journey by allowing me to connect deeper with God. I have had some of the most powerful experiences with God while standing in tree pose on my yoga mat. I have felt a depth of the presence of God during my own past mental health challenges.
“God is my refuge and God is my strength,” (Psalm 46) is a passage I would repeat over and over while recovering from an assault that left me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The impact of trauma on my brain and my body made it difficult for me to actively practice my faith. However, I knew that God was with me and had not left me. During my recovery journey, my faith in God grew deeper, knowing that while others may not understand what I was facing, God understood and was there with me as it is written in the Psalm 34, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” My faith strengthened my capacity and commitment to participating in my healing by receiving professional care and in the ways that I care for myself in challenging circumstances.
Engaging my mental health and wellness also allows me to see other layers of God, to know God more intimately as healer, sustainer, and friend. To experience the holy breath of God as I explore my wellness in a yoga class and inhale deeply. I have shared many times with people that I once was able to write a sermon after doing my yoga practice because yoga opened me up to experiencing and hearing God more. Focusing on my wellness allows me to embody commandments like Sabbath and prioritize my joy and my rest. To be intentional in experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding by supporting God in how I set boundaries with others as well as with the food I am eating so that I am as healthy as possible. Taking care of my mental health and wellness is a spiritual practice in themselves.
As I previously mentioned, many people often look at mental health and faith as two opposing categories. They see mental health issues as the lack of faith, which is not true. I believe that others can center mental health and wellness in their faith journey by no longer seeing them as opposing, but by committing to strengthening the relationship between mental health and faith. This can be done by intentionally assessing their mental health and wellness on a regular basis in tandem with how their spiritual life looks, then engaging in spiritual practices and wellness coping skills that enhance their mental health and their faith. Many of those spiritual practices and mental health and wellness coping skills overlap and work well together. This includes centering prayer and meditation, yoga, reading, listening to uplifting music with affirmations, getting rest, allowing yourself to grieve losses, spending time in nature, and spending time with people who love and support you.
I am even more committed to helping others understand ways to care for their mental health and wellness because of my journey of caring for my own. This is one of the ways that we can grow closer to God and serve God well, as the Bible tells us we are the temple of God and created in God’s image. I pray that my sharing encourages you in your faith journey and caring for your mental health and wellness. Grace and peace be with you.
To learn more about NBA’s Mental Health and Wellness Initiative, visit https://www.nbacares.org/programs/mental-health-wellness/.