Being emotionally healthy is essential to becoming a self-aware person. We cannot truly mature spiritually or fully honor God physically until we develop emotionally. People often interchange mental and emotional health, however these two are actually quite different.
Emotional health refers to developing the emotional skills to navigate life’s ups and downs with authenticity and vulnerability.
Mental health focuses more on the relationship between one’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
We began to evaluate three things:
- Which parts of students’ emotional health would be most greatly affected by quarantine?
- What tools could students use on their own to remain or even become healthy?
- What spiritual discipline could they practice alongside these tools?
We landed on three general ideas with practices and spiritual disciplines to grow as well as challenge our students.
Create ways to practice emotional regulation.
Emotional regulation is the ability to respond to experiences with a range of emotions in a socially appropriate and mature way. Three good practices to work on emotional regulation include seeing a counselor, picking up journaling, and pursuing awareness of how you react to emotional situations.
These practices create opportunities to find roots of emotional response. They also allow a student to process through emotions post-response, and become more aware of tendencies in the midst of emotional response.
Pausing to evaluate is really important to the life of a believer.
The spiritual discipline that we challenged students to practice alongside emotional regulation is fasting.
Fasting is less about depriving ourselves of something and more about learning to hunger and be satisfied in God. Emotional regulation can be a great indicator of where we are finding our satisfaction. We asked the question of students: What might be taking away from your hunger for God right now? Could that be a result of emotional dysregulation?
Create a daily routine
Quarantine and stay-at-home orders, while necessary, have stripped away our normal routines. The temptation to work from bed, in our pajamas, is incredibly high. This lack of routine and order can cause our brains and our emotions to go all over the place. So taking the steps to make a “new normal” can really benefit our minds and our hearts.
Doing simple things such as
- Creating a real-time schedule and sticking to it
- Focusing on one task at a time
- Creating very clear distinctions between work and play (in schedules, in tasks, in clothing)
If a student does these things, they can really change the way they interact with quarantine. This will also help them emotionally transition into the “normal world” once again.
The spiritual discipline that we challenged students with in partnership with creating a daily routine was the discipline of silence. Creating a specific space to intentionally focus on the character of God and rest in His presence is an essential part of the Christian walk.
We want our students to challenge themselves in the new routines they are creating, to schedule a time of silence and ask themselves: What is “louder” than God for you right now?
Create opportunities for social interaction.
One of the greatest challenges of this season is the lack of face-to-face interaction we now have with each other. This applies even more greatly to our students. Social interaction with friends is a huge benefit for emotional health. Social interaction gives a place for vulnerability, feedback, accountability, joy, and more. Without the ability to meet with others outside of your home, there is a huge tendency to withdraw and isolate, or to simply fill this void with the faux-interaction of social media.
This final tool for emotional health is to do the opposite: create opportunities for real social interaction. This includes using real-time apps like FaceTime, Voxer, and MarcoPolo. Even though this medium of communication may not be ideal for students it’s important to stay connected. We challenge students to choose to continue to practice vulnerability and accountability even in strange contexts, and really engaging the people under the same roof with you in humility and Christ-likeness.
The spiritual discipline that we challenged students to practice in response to creating opportunities for social interaction was repentance. The act of repentance is not merely confessing our sins to God and one another.
Repenting is confessing then rejecting our sin and joyfully remembering God’s kindness toward us in Christ.
We challenged students to continue to confess their sin to those they are accountable to and take active steps towards Jesus. We ask them, “What about the gospel makes your sin look gross and Jesus look like treasure to you?
Do you value emotional health? What steps are you actively taking to pursue it and teach your students to do this as well?
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