No need to belabor this point…a whole lot of us are struggling with our thoughts and emotions. Raising my hand along with you.
Our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being is in a tough spot. It might be depression. It might be anxiety. It might be spiritual deconstruction. It might be anger. It might be stress. It might be the feeling of being unmoored (anomie). It might be all the above.
Regardless of your emotional anguish of choice many, many of us are not well.
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
- Anxiety disorders are affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population, every year.
- Major depressive disorder affects approximately 17.3 million American adults, or about 7.1% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year.
- Religious “nones” are the fastest growing religious “group” in America. They comprise atheists and agnostics as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” They now make up roughly 23% of the U.S. adult population.
(Note: those stats reflect the people who are actually diagnosed or identify with those issues. Imagine the numbers of those who quietly struggle. You, maybe?)
This is week two of a series of posts in which I will try to help you do a well-being assessment and form a strategy to address your needs and desires. I feel pretty strongly that each of us should pause and take stock of our lives on a regular basis. Am I happy? Am I content? How do I feel about myself? Those three diagnostic questions are a way of asking yourself, “How am I?”
I believe well-being can be measured more precisely by examining six key life factors that inform our state of existence. They are physical health, internal health, focus and order, relationships, finances and purpose/calling.
Last week we examined our relational lives as I asked “How Lonely Are You”? Today I want to focus our attention on our inner world…the mental, emotional and spiritual space within us.
We’ll follow the same pattern of reflection every week in this series. We’ll first do an honest (painful?) assessment followed by a chance to dream of what could be. Armed with hope, we’ll then set some simple goals and finish by identifying a handful of habits that can actually start moving the needle toward happiness.
But first, a strong recommendation. As you know, depression, anxiety and lostness can be dangerous and severely debilitating. Please consider seeking the help of a professional who is skilled and knowledgeable enough to help you get unstuck and over the formidable hurdles you face. Do not hesitate to reach out and employ them in your well-being journey. Physicians, therapists, ministers, and life coaches do what they do just for times like this.
Let’s begin with a mindful, honest assessment of the state of your inner world. (Now would be a good time to grab a notebook, pad of paper or a journal and a pen.)
Assessing of the State of Your Inner World
Do you often feel sad?
Do you have little interest or pleasure in doing things?
Are you feeling hopeless?
Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
Do you regularly feel tired or have little energy?
Do you feel like you’re a failure?
Are you feeling nervous, anxious or on edge?
Are you not able to stop or control your worrying?
Are you so restless that it’s hard to sit still?
Are you easily annoyed or irritable?
Do you always feel like something awful might happen?
Are you actively engaged in a faith community?
Do you have a system of beliefs that help define your life?
Are you questioning your spiritual beliefs?
Do you find yourself feeling lost or struggling with meaning?
Now that you’ve honestly clarified the state of your inner world, how do you wish your mind and heart would feel? Think best case scenario. What do you want? Imagine yourself happy and content. Now, write out a dream…a small paragraph that captures your greatest longings for your mind, heart and spirit. Don’t over think this; just emote.
Set a Few Goals
Now, armed with your dream, create a few (no more than three) specific, measurable goals that, if pursued, could very well help your dream become reality. Here are a few examples:
Meet with a friend who is a safe, loving, caring mentor.
Disconnect from social media.
Meet with a therapist I trust.
Improve my sleep.
Practice New Habits
With your dream firmly in your mind and your goals in front of you, identify some regular, very practical practices you can commit to over the next three months that will help you achieve your goals. Here are a few examples:
Journal my feelings every day.
Begin a list of things I am thankful for.
Spend time outdoors.
Remember, this is not meant to be an intense personal strategic plan. It is meant to be doable.
Dreams + Goals + Habits
Then you’ll re-set them each season – a simple seasonal well-being plan. Think it might work for you? Next week we’ll add another life factor to analyze and dream about.
But for now… go for a walk, take 5 minutes to pray, treat yourself to a cup of tea or just take a quick nap. Begin your journey to peace.