The last 2 weeks, I talked about Christian singles and finances. I hinted that sometimes we single believers don’t have the best coping skills for dealing with life’s stressors. Sometimes we choose cost prohibitive, unhealthy, and ineffective coping skills to manage our anxiety, stress, disappointment, anger, depression, boredom, and other negative emotions.
It’s easy to do. I get it. Food has always been one of my unhealthy go-tos; sometimes the greasier, the better. My worst best friends are fried zucchini, french fries, and chips & salsa. They stick to me through thick and there is no thin. This is one reason why I am constantly working out. A recent illness helped me scale back just a little on the eating. Now trying to maintain healthier, lighter eating is a major challenge.
Occasionally, I run into single Christians who are frantically serving in various ministries, or spending major amounts of time in one ministry. They figure that this season of singleness is mostly for them to serve and serve and serve. They are tired, frazzled, isolated, have trouble saying “No” to others’ demands, and perturbed about their place in the kingdom of God, as though ministry was the golden ticket to God’s heart.
Yes, sacrifice is part of ministry, and we are part of the offering. However, making yourself a martyr in ministry is probably not glorifying the Lord. He doesn’t love you more because you serve, my friend.
Sometimes as single parents, we’ll wear ourselves out for our children, especially if the other parent is MIA, not a practicing Christian, or ineffective as a parent. Perhaps because of guilt from the divorce or death, single parents don’t think they deserve self-care. That’s a big mistake. If you’re the stronger parent, but you wear yourself out, how can you stay the stronger parent? How then can you minister to your children?
I have said for years: “Prepare and prevent or repair and repent.” I have used this phrase in my other blog articles because it’s so true. Let’s apply that phrase to having coping skills.
Everyone has a certain range of emotions which includes positive and negative emotions. Negative emotions must either be expressed at the time they develop, be expressed later, or repressed. Coping skills, whether for better or for worse, help us manage negative emotions.
Coping skills that are positive and healthy tend to be immediately accessible and applicable, legitimate, effective, does not diminish one’s physical, emotional, or mental health, can redirect or calm the negative emotions, and preserves positive relationships whenever possible. The best ones are cost effective.
Healthy, positive coping skills must be included in the entire scope of healthy, positive self-care.
What exactly is self-care? What’s the difference between self-care and coping skills?
Coping skills are what we do to manage negative emotions, usually in a crisis.
In my profession, self-care is usually limited to one’s ability to maintain ADLs, or the routine activities of daily living. These would include showering, brushing our teeth, wearing clean clothes, feeding ourselves, sleep, physical activity, etc.
Self-care, for the believer, is also an attitude, a stance, a sense of responsibility one takes toward temple upkeep. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Self-care includes more than simply using coping skills during a crisis. It takes into consideration one’s entire being as a trust and a stewardship from the Lord. It has built-in preventive qualities that will ultimately improve one’s quality of life and mitigate against burnout, faith reduction, and addictions. It will improve one’s ability to complete what the Lord has commanded or commended.
Let’s analyze one of my favorite unhealthy coping skills, which I mentioned earlier: food.
Eating when I experience negative emotions instead of dealing with them, processing them, and expressing them appropriately or taking them to the Lord, may be temporarily effective, but it’s expensive, depending on what I’m craving. Eating does not deal with the root of why I had that reaction. I can’t usually eat at the moment the negative emotions arise. I will erode any progress I make in the development of the fruit of the spirit of self-control. I’m in danger of comforting myself when I should be processing and dealing with my negative emotion and the cause of them. I’m also in danger of making food an idol that the Lord did not design it to be. And it adds dangerous weight to my waistline that I cannot afford, even though I work out several days a week.
I had to learn all this about myself, my friends.
I had to figure out that eating had become an idol, a substitute god, that could temporarily comfort me and help me avoid repentance and obedience around negative emotions. As my metabolism slowed down, the fruit of years of lack of self-control became apparent, and I had to make some hard decisions about my eating habits in relation to my negative emotions.
Now, actually, I tend to eat less at one sitting, whether I’m dining out with friends, at work, or at home.
I manage stress and anxiety by working out, engaging in spiritual warfare by praying on the spot, reading or meditating on scripture, reminding myself of who I am and Whose I am, projecting hope for myself that “this, too, shall pass,” and asking others to pray for me about particular situations.
If the Spirit of God has put His finger on an unhealthy coping skill or lack of self-care, listen to Him. See them from His perspective. And ask for His help in getting rid of the negative ones and replacing them with some positive, healthy ones.
You know what happens if you don’t get your car’s oil changes done in a timely manner, right? Or you don’t replace worn-out tires or broken headlights. Or you ignore the check engine light or the needle approaching E on your gas gauge.
Something important is going to stop working. Our cars must be maintained.
And so must we, so we don’t stop working.
There are so many healthy coping skills available, and many ways to maintain healthy self-care, that I did not want to take the time and space here to list them. There are already many articles online that share these, and I have included some links to them in today’s references section.
I pray that you will rediscover positive, healthy coping skills you used to use, and explore some new ones you have not considered before.
Next Week First Guest Blog!
I am excited to introduce TreYa Cook to my readers next Sunday in my very first guest blog. She is the administrator of the popular international Christian singles Face Book page, “Christian Singles Waiting on God,” and co-author of a new book for Christian singles to be released later this year. I rejoiced to read her gut-honest words of testimony which she wanted to share with you, my reading audience. Please come back next Sunday to read about God’s faithfulness to His single children.
Berger, Kay. Coping skills for the overwhelmed Christian. Blog article for Christian love lessons. 02/26/2010. http://christianlovelessons.blogspot.com/2010/02/coping-skills-for-overwhelmed-christian.html accessed 3/18/17
Jones, Scarlett. Self-care and the Christian. Article for Christian Today Australian website. 3/19/2017. http://christiantoday.com.au/news/self-care-and-the-christian.html accessed 3/18/17
Kast, Jes. Self-care as a spiritual discipline. Article for Think Christian website. 02/21/2017. https://thinkchristian.reframemedia.com/self-care-as-a-spiritual-discipline accessed 3/18/17
Moitinho, Elias. Self-Care: Key Stress Management Strategies for Christian Counselors. Article for American Association of Christian Counselors website. 4/2/2013. http://www.aacc.net/2013/04/02/self-care-key-stress-management-strategies-for-christian-counselors/ accessed 3/18/17
Rowett, Amanda. Preventing burnout with holistic self-care, Part 1 of 2. Article on Bellevue Christian Counseling website. 7/8/2013. http://bellevuechristiancounseling.com/2013/07/08/preventing-burnout-with-holistic-self-care-part-1/ accessed 3/18/17
Articles on self-care from Today’s Christian Woman. http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/topics/faith/self-care/ accessed 3/18/17
LISTS OF COPING SKILLS FROM SECULAR SOURCES. All accessed 3/18/17.
Please prayerfully consider if a particular attitude, skill, or skill set is something you can or should do as a believer. I couldn’t find extensive lists for Christians to utilize, so I found these. Maybe I will make one up for us believers!
Boys Town. 99 Coping Skills pdf. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJqbW4p-HSAhWCKGMKHcGUC38QFggaMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yourlifeyourvoice.org%2FStyle%2520Library%2F99%2520Coping%2520Skills%2520Poster.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHbTWdPpoRO2Rhs3IxSeawTeJ4j0g
Daya, Indigo. Coping Skills Explanation and Personal page. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=10&ved=0ahUKEwiJqbW4p-HSAhWCKGMKHcGUC38QFghOMAk&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.indigodaya.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F02%2FCoping-skills-flyer.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFkJE7SYhaWI0r4H_D19MOzIUPW2w&cad=rja
Reach Out website. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJqbW4p-HSAhWCKGMKHcGUC38QFggrMAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fau.reachout.com%2F-%2Fmedia%2Fpdf%2Fmental-fitness%2Freachout_a4factsheet_developingpositivecopingstrategies.pdf&usg=AFQjCNEMn1BOQ359DgLxoZFrHXOTwpORmw
NYU. SOS for Emotions book in pdf format. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJqbW4p-HSAhWCKGMKHcGUC38QFghCMAc&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nyu.edu%2Fcontent%2Fdam%2Fnyu%2FstudentHealthServices%2Fdocuments%2FPDFs%2Fmental-health%2FCWS_SOS_for_Emotions_Booklet.pdf&usg=AFQjCNG_OuMhnLDpdVH-8KwdkXpDplHLTA&cad=rja