The Barnabas Encouragement Connection

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Sis Tonya Smith 
May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Dear Child - When Black Parents Have To Give "The Talk"

May 11, 2020

Anxiety by Sister Tonya Smith

“Excessive worry that is past or future-focused. It centers on thoughts about what already happened or what might happen”.

I thought the topic of anxiety would be appropriate for such a time as this. The impact of COVID-19 brings on a level of stress, fear, and anxiety for all of us. I can’t think of one person that has not been touched by COVID-19. Some have lost loved ones through death, some have lost businesses, some have lost a sense of security and freedom, and the list goes on. We’re definitely in a place and space in time that we’ve never been before. Feelings of uncertainty are present as we continue to follow the headlines. We search for answers that no one seems to be able to answer. “When will it be over”? “When can I safely venture out of my home”? “What will the new normal look like”? The lack of answers makes it all too easy to catastrophize and spiral out into overwhelming dread and panic. 

I want you to know that feeling anxious is a normal emotion and response to uncertainty. Although we often view anxiety as a negative, a little bit of anxiety can actually be helpful. It helps us to be more attentive, more attuned to things around us, and serves a catalyst for positive change. Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. But, for some people it can become an ongoing problem. Anxiety can become a problem when it becomes all-encompassing, invading our thoughts and emotions, and determining our behavior. Anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes life-limiting, preventing you from living a life that reflects your goals, desires, and values.

Anxiety is treatable. But, some people never get help. Reasons vary from being unaware that anxiety is treatable, they may perceive getting help as a weakness, they may see it as a sign of spiritual failure, or they fear the stigma associated with mental illness. Because of these reasons and others, those with anxiety may not get the help that’s available. Please know that Christians are not immune to anxiety. Even those who have faith and trust in God.

If you or the people you care about are experiencing anxiety, I encourage you to reach out for help. 

I have included a list of 10 tips to cope with anxious feelings during COVID-19: (Not a substitute for professional help) 

  1. Pray and meditate on the Word of God (Study verses about fear and anxiety)
  2. Practice gratitude and respond with compassion to ourselves and others
  3. Focus on things you can control
  4. Stay connected with family and friends to minimize isolation and loneliness
  5. Step away from media (TV and social media) – Be mindful about how social media is making you feel (anxious?)
  6. Stay active. Find creative ways to exercise indoors (if going outside is not an option)
  7. Challenge your negative thoughts
  8. Practice sleep hygiene (combination of behaviors and environment surrounding sleep)
  9. Stay hydrated and eat healthy foods
  10. Know when to reach out to a professional counselor for help

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

Worries and anxiety about COVID-19 and its impact can be overwhelming. Social distancing makes it even more challenging. Learn ways to cope during this pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely brought many changes to how you live your life, and with it uncertainty, altered daily routines, financial pressures and social isolation. You may worry about getting sick, how long the pandemic will last and what the future will bring. Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make your life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.

Learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to help you cope.

Self-care strategies
Self-care strategies are good for your mental and physical health and can help you take charge of your life. Take care of your body and your mind and connect with others to benefit your mental health.

Take care of your body

Be mindful about your physical health:

  • Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Stick close to your typical schedule, even if you're staying at home.
  • Participate in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside in an area that makes it easy to maintain distance from people — as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) or your government — such as a nature trail or your own backyard.
  • Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress and anxiety.
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs. If you smoke tobacco or if you vape, you're already at higher risk of lung disease. Because COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Avoid taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you.
  • Limit screen time. Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 minutes before bedtime. Make a conscious effort to spend less time in front of a screen — television, tablet, computer and phone.
  • Relax and recharge. Set aside time for yourself. Even a few minutes of quiet time can be refreshing and help to quiet your mind and reduce anxiety. Many people benefit from practices such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga or meditation. Soak in a bubble bath, listen to music, or read or listen to a book — whatever helps you relax. Select a technique that works for you and practice it regularly.

Take care of your mind

Reduce stress triggers:

  • Keep your regular routine. Maintaining a regular schedule is important to your mental health. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise. Also set aside time for activities you enjoy. This predictability can make you feel more in control.
  • Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources such as the CDC and WHO.
  • Stay busy. A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, identify a new project or clean out that closet you promised you'd get to. Doing something positive to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.
  • Focus on positive thoughts. Choose to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel. Consider starting each day by listing things you are thankful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective.
  • Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during difficult times.
  • Set priorities. Don't become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while you're home. Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. And recognize that some days will be better than others.

Connect with others

Build support and strengthen relationships:

  • Make connections. If you need to stay at home and distance yourself from others, avoid social isolation. Find time each day to make virtual connections by email, texts, phone, or FaceTime or similar apps. If you're working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they're doing and share coping tips. Enjoy virtual socializing and talking to those in your home.
  • Do something for others. Find purpose in helping the people around you. For example, email, text or call to check on your friends, family members and neighbors — especially those who are elderly. If you know someone who can't get out, ask if there's something needed, such as groceries or a prescription picked up, for instance. But be sure to follow CDC, WHO and your government recommendations on social distancing and group meetings.
  • Support a family member or friend. If a family member or friend needs to be isolated for safety reasons or gets sick and needs to be quarantined at home or in the hospital, come up with ways to stay in contact. This could be through electronic devices or the telephone or by sending a note to brighten the day, for example.

Recognizing what's typical and what's not

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it's normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.

Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.

When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it's time to ask for help.

Get help when you need it

Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you're doing. To get help you may want to:

  • Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
  • Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
  • Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.
  • Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.

If you're feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at

Continue your self-care strategies

You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won't disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life's ongoing challenges.

May 18, 2020


Research shows that when a stressful situation such as COVID-19 arises, people often experience significant changes in their eating behaviors. During stressful times, it is common to start to eat (or not eat) in a conscious or unconscious effort to soothe negative emotions.If we combine the stress and uncertainty due to COVID-19 with social distancing and long stretches of time at home, we have a recipe for emotional eating. WHAT IS EMOTIONAL EATING? We don’t always eat just to satisfy physical hunger. Many of us also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to reward ourselves. And when we do, we tend to reach for junk food, sweets, and other comforting but unhealthy foods. You might reach for a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, order a pizza if you’re bored or lonely, or swing by the drive-through after a stressful day at work. Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better — to fill emotional needs, rather than your stomach. Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. In fact, it usually makes you feel worse. Afterward, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty for overeating. When your first impulse is to open the refrigerator or visit your pantry whenever you’re stressed, upset, angry, lonely, exhausted, or bored — you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.


Before you can break free from the cycle of emotional eating, you first need to learn how to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. This can be trickier than it sounds, especially if you regularly use food to deal with your feelings.

Emotional hunger can be powerful, so it’s easy to mistake it for physical hunger. But there are clues you can look for to help you tell physical and emotional hunger apart.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction (unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time).

Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves junk food or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.

Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.

Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.

Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.

Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.


Become aware of your triggers. Recording what, when and how you feel in a food diary can help you identify your triggers. By understanding what prompts the eating, you can learn to anticipate challenging moments and plan to cope differently.

Do a hunger reality check. When you find yourself reaching for food, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Signs of hunger include a growling stomach, headache and low energy. If your last meal was more than four hours ago, you might be hungry. If it was within the last two hours, chances are it’s not hunger. 

Do an emotion reality check. After determining if you are truly hungry, ask yourself, “Why am I reaching for food?” and “How do I feel right now?” This can help you figure out if emotions are triggering your eating, what they are and get you started dealing with them.

Find other ways to manage stress and negative emotions. Try journaling, meditation, stretching, calling a friend, exercise, deep breathing or any other non-food related way to cope.

May 25, 2020

Sleep Hygiene

“…for He grants sleep to those He loves” (Psalm 127:2 , NIV)


(The term used to describe good sleep habits)

Focusing on sleep is a natural fit for working on self-care. Getting enough sleep can benefit our immune system, which reduces the risk of infection and can improve outcomes for people fighting a virus. Lack of sleep actually weakens the body’s defense system making people more vulnerable to contracting a virus.

Getting enough sleep helps regulate mood, improve brain function, and increase energy and overall productivity during the day.

Elevated stress and an overload of information (news updates, social media) can keep the mind racing and elevate the body’s arousal system response, triggering insomnia.

10 Sleep Hygiene Tips

1. Train your body to sleep well. Go to bed and get up close to the same time every day. This regular rhythm will make you feel better and will give your body something to work from.


2. Get up and try again. If you haven’t been able to get to sleep after about 20 minutes or more, get up and do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again. Avoid doing anything too stimulating or interesting, as this will wake you up even more. 

3. Bed is for sleeping. If you use your bed as a place to watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, pay bills, and other things, your body will not learn this connection. 

4. No naps. It is best to avoid taking naps during the day to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is for less than an hour and before 3pm. 

5. Sleep rituals. You can develop your own rituals of things to remind your body that it is time to sleep - relaxing stretches or breathing exercises for 15 minutes before bed each night or sit calmly with a cup of caffeine-free tea. 

6. Bath time. Having a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime can be useful, as it will raise your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again. Research shows that sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature. 

7. No clock-watching. Many people who struggle with sleep tend to watch the clock too much. Frequently checking the clock during the night can wake you up (especially if you turn on the light to read the time) and reinforces negative thoughts such as “Oh no, look how late it is, I’ll never get to sleep” or “it’s so early, I have only slept for 5 hours, this is terrible.” 

8. Exercise. Regular exercise is a good idea to help with good sleep, but try not to do strenuous exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime. Morning walks are a great way to start the day feeling refreshed! 

9. Eat right. A healthy, balanced diet will help you to sleep well, but timing is important. Some people find that a very empty stomach at bedtime is distracting, so it can be useful to have a light snack, but a heavy meal soon before bed can also interrupt sleep. 

10. The right space. It is very important that your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable for sleeping. A cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm is best, and make sure you have curtains or an eye mask to block out early morning light and earplugs if there is noise outside your room.

June 1, 2020

Coping with Grief and Loss

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 143:3).
Grief is a natural response to loss. We often associate grief with the death of a loved one which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief. Coping with the loss of someone or something you love is one of life’s biggest challenges and can feel overwhelming. 

COVID-19 has created a new reality marked by grief and loss. It has forced us to process both individual and collective grief in the face of an uncertain future which we may feel powerless to control. Not only are we mourning the loss of thousands of lives, but we are also mourning the loss of normalcy.

We may also experience grief during other types of loss. Examples:

·        Loss of relationships (divorce, separation, strained family relationship)

·        Loss of Health (self or others)

·        Loss of independence (due to a disability, illness, or aging)

·        Loss of a job/financial instability

·        Loss of a dream/expectation for your future or that of your children

Common and unexpected emotional and physical reactions from grief may include numbness, shock and disbelief, sadness, anger, guilt, regret, fear, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, or social withdrawal. These are normal reactions to loss—and the more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person will grieve in their own way. It often depends on factors such as your personality, your coping skills, your life experiences, your faith, how significant the loss was to you, and the level of support from others.
There is no “normal” timeline for grieving. Healing happens gradually and can’t be forced or rushed. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, not for years. It’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves.

Some Ways to Cope With Grief and Loss

Don’t grieve alone. Get support from family, friends, neighbors, members of your church, coworkers, or a support group.

Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain.

Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal. Or, write a letter saying the things you never got to say.

Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” There is no “getting over it”. You learn to adapt to the loss. Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment.

Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional surge and know that it’s completely normal.

Try to maintain your hobbies and interests. There’s comfort in routine and getting back to the activities that bring you joy and allow you to connect to others.

Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel healthy physically, you’ll be better able to cope emotionally.

Pray and meditate on the Word of God for comfort: Psalm 34:18; 147:3; Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:1; 16:22; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

*About 1 in 10 people experience what is called complicated grief. Signs include intense longing for, intrusive thoughts, denial of the loss, difficulty moving on with life, and the inability to carry out normal daily functions. Those experiencing complicated should seek professional help. 

June 8, 2020


Why is high blood pressure dangerous?
If blood pressure rises and stays high over time, it is called hypertension ("Hi-per-ten-shun"). If it is not controlled, high blood pressure can cause:

·        Stroke
·        Kidney problems
·        Heart failure
·        Heart attack
·        Eye problems

Most people with high blood pressure feel healthy and do not have symptoms. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.

What do your blood pressure numbers mean?
Blood pressure is measured by two numbers. The first (or top) number—"systolic"—is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second (or bottom) number—"diastolic"—is the pressure in your blood vessels between heartbeats.
If your blood pressure is normal, that’s’ great! You should have it rechecked every year or so to be sure it stays within the normal range.

If your blood pressure is pre-high or high, it should be rechecked to determine whether you have hypertension. Ask your provider the following questions:

·        When should I have my blood pressure checked again?
·        Do I need treatment for high blood pressure?

What can you do to prevent or control high blood pressure?
1.   Quit smoking and/or chewing tobacco. Ask your provider for help with quitting.

2.   Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, ask your provider for help with a plan to lose weight.

3.   Be physically active.
·      "Physical activity" includes any activity that raises your heart rate, such as brisk walking, working in the house or yard, or playing sports.
·      Do activity for 10 minutes or more at a time. Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of activity each week. 

4.   Reduce salt (sodium) in your diet.
·       Read food labels. Choose and prepare foods that are low in sodium or are sodium-free. 
·       Ask to see a registered dietitian if you need help with a plan. 

5.   Limit alcohol.
·       Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day. 
·       Women should have no more than 1 drink per day.

What else can you do?
Always ask your provider what your blood pressure is and write it down. Keep track of your blood pressure numbers.
Here are some questions to ask your provider:

·        Is my blood pressure under good control?
·        How often should I have my blood pressure checked?
·        What is a healthy weight for me?
·        Is it safe for me to start doing regular physical activity?

June 15, 2020

Acid Reflux

What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is the backward flow of the stomach acids into the throat. When this happens, you may get a sour taste in your mouth or regurgitate food. In some cases, you may also feel a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn).

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you experience acid reflux more than twice a week, you may have Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). In this case, heartburn is just one of many symptoms, along with coughing and chest pain.
While conventional medicine is the most common form of GERD treatment, there are some home remedies you can try to reduce instances of acid reflux. Talk to your gastroenterologist about the following options.

1. Eat Foods That Fight Acid Reflux
One teaspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with half a glass of water.
Have coconut water throughout the day.
Incorporate coconut oil into your food.
Integrate lemon into your diet.
Drink chamomile tea.
Eat raw almonds.
Drink aloe vera juice.
A healthy diet containing fruits like applesbananaspineapple, and papaya, along with vegetables like carrotcabbage, and others are also helpful in keeping acid reflux at bay!

2. Don’t Lie Down After Eating
Wait at least 3 hours after eating before you lie down. This will help your stomach to better digest the food and avoid the unwanted reflux.

3. Aim For A Healthy Weight
While heartburn can happen to anyone, GERD seems to be most prevalent in adults who are overweight or obese.
Excess weight — especially in the abdominal area — puts more pressure on the stomach. As a result, you’re at an increased risk of stomach acids working back into the esophagus and causing heartburn.
If you’re overweight, the Mayo Clinic suggests a steady weight loss plan of 1 or 2 pounds per week. On the flip side, if you’re already considered to be at a healthy weight, then make sure you maintain it with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

4. Stop Smoking
Cut back smoking as much as you can; or better, quit smoking because it interferes with digestion and damages the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is responsible for preventing stomach acids from backing up.
Secondhand smoke can also be problematic if you’re fighting acid reflux or GERD.

5. Maintain An Inclined Position When Sleeping
Incline your bed with the head higher (10-15 cm) than the foot, so that when you sleep, the acid can’t back up. During the entire night, your esophagus will always be in a position that won’t allow it to activate the reflux.
It is better to place some blocks under you mattress, or under your bed’s legs to create the inclined surface, rather than using pillows right under your head.

6. Know YOUR Triggers
Different individuals have different food triggers.
Start writing down or taking photos of the foods or drinks that seem to instigate your reflux symptoms. In some cases, you may be able to cut a few prime offenders without making large dietary sacrifices.

7. Chew Gum
It may sound strange, but gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. Plus, chewing gum makes you swallow more often, which pushes those nasty acids back out of your esophagus.

June 22, 2020


The recent and repeated incidents of police brutality in this country is a major public health problem and is taking a psychological toll on African American citizens everywhere.
The mental health consequences that form from these incidents are staggering; one namely being racial trauma.

What is Racial Trauma?

Physical and psychological symptoms that people of color often experience after being exposed - directly or indirectly - to particularly stressful experiences of racism.

Fear, depression, anxiety, angry outbursts, hypervigilance, headaches, insomnia, body aches, memory difficulty, self-blame, confusion, shame, and guilt.

Contributing Factors
Historical race-related events, inter-generational exchanges, cumulative personal/vicarious encounters.

May Result From
Racial harassment, discrimination, witnessing racial violence, or experiencing institutional racism.

Although all negative racial events do not result in trauma, it is important that we are increasingly aware of this topic.

What is Racial Trauma?

Actively reflect in order to identify your range of emotions. Accept those feelings and thoughts. Do not discount them. Individuals respond to experiences of trauma differently.

Utilize sources of support- friends, family, confidants, colleagues- in order to minimize the tendency to internalize racial experiences.

Seek Support
Seek personal support and self-explore through a counseling professional. Seek collective support and guidance from trusted mentors.

Balance mental/physical rest and activity/social interaction to offset the effects of race-based stressors.

Empowerment through Resistance
Engage in activities that make you feel empowered. Seek to promote change through community outreach and activism.
Jernigan,M.M.,Green,C.E.,Perez‐Gualdron,Liu,M.M,Henze,K.T.,Chen,C....Helms, J.E.(2015).#racialtraumaisreal.InstitutefortheStudyandPromotionofRaceandCulture,ChestnutHill,MA

June 29, 2020

How Extreme Heat Affects Your Brain And Body

The heat is more than just uncomfortable. Heat causes heat exhaustion, which can be dangerous. It could also prove to be deadly. The longer you spend in the heat, the more serious the effects on your body can be.

If you ever felt like the heat puts your brain into a fog — like the sensation of being in a steam room, where it is hard to breathe, much less think clearly — you are not alone.

Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures -- usually in combination with dehydration -- which leads to failure of the body's temperature control system. The medical definition of heat stroke is a core body temperature greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, with complications involving the central nervous system that occur after exposure to high temperatures. Other common symptoms include nauseaseizures, confusion, disorientation, and sometimes loss of consciousness or coma.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke
The hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. But fainting may be the first sign.
Other symptoms may include:

Do not give them anything to drink.
Move them to a cool place.
Put cool cloths on them or put them in a cool bath.
Call 911.

July 2020

“Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Others”

“When you are a caregiver, you know that every day you will touch a life, or a life will touch yours.” — Unknown

Caregiving can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.  However, it can also be challenging. When someone you love becomes unable to care for themselves, it can be a heartbreaking experience for the whole family. As a caregiver, you see their struggles up-close and personal in a way others don’t.

You may be caring for an elderly parent or grandparent, or maybe a family member struggling with a physical or intellectual disability, or perhaps you’re caring for a family member with a mental illness. Caregiving can also be triggered by a major health event, such as a stroke, heart attack, cancer or accident.

As rewarding as caregiving can be, the stress and strain can take a toll on your health. It’s important to implement self-care strategies to take care of your own health while caring for others. Depending on your circumstances, some self-care strategies may be more difficult to carry out than others. Choose ones that work for you:

· Ask for help. Make a list of ways others can help. Admit when you are experiencing burnout and get help.
· Set realistic expectations—for yourself and your loved one.
· Get organized. Make to-do lists and set a daily routine.
· Try to take breaks each day. Finding respite care can help you create time for yourself or to spend with friends.
· Keep up with your hobbies and interests when you can.
· Join a caregiver’s support group. Meeting other caregivers may give you a chance to exchange stories and ideas.
· Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep, and exercise as often as you can.
· Learn the skills you need to care for your loved one and which ones you are not able to perform.
· Learn to set boundaries with others. Say “no” to things you cannot do.
· Most importantly, remember that taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of someone else.  (Practice the airplane rule of putting your face mask on first). 

August 2020

The Stress and Anxiety of Digital Learning During a Pandemic

Written by Armoni Overton
10th Grade
Highland High School SAISD
July 20th, 2020

  The digital world has come into play a lot more than before. One example of this would be digital learning. 
   Covid-19 has caused stress to students, teachers, and parents alike. Not only does everyone have to worry about staying safe, but students have to worry about how they're going to do this upcoming school year. 
    Digital learning is our way of life as students, and it's difficult. For students like me whose parents hold us to higher standards, and students who need extra help, it can get stressful. 
      Trying to get all your assignments from all your classes turned in on time is hard to do in person, so imagine how difficult it is digitally. There is an array of technical problems that could delay your assignment from getting turned in. Late and missing assignments cost points off your grade and affects your GPA, which is important to high school students. With all this extra stress it makes it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, bringing anxiety.  
     For students who seek extra help and one on one sessions, the stress is there as well. Since Zoom is how we get most of our learning done, it’s always in use. The constant use of the app makes it lag and skip. That causes people to miss out on important and valuable information. On top of that, those students are already stressed and anxious about passing. 
     Being a digital teacher is stressful as well. Since the grade book locks at a certain time, they must rush through the many emails and classroom messages they get to get all the grades in on time. If grades are not put in on time, that affects the student. Putting aside all that work, teachers are people too and they have families to feed and keep safe. 
  This digital learning stress affects everyone and is something we're going to have to learn to cope with. My condolences to everyone during this global crisis.

September 2020

Christian Time Management

Time management experts and philosophers are fond of reminding us that our time is our life. Whatever controls our time, controls our life.

Most of us deal with some of these feelings at times:

  • “I can’t get everything done!”
  • “I am a slave to the clock—I can’t even take a breather!”
  • “I am busy all the time, but I never feel like I’m getting the important things done!”
  • “With so many pressing priorities, it can be hard to know what to do next.”
  • “When I take a day off, time just seems to slip away and I feel like it was a wasted day.”

We face different time challenges, but generally we have the same desire: To make the best use of our time to accomplish the things we feel are truly important.

The thing that makes Christian time management different is the source of what we consider important. That source is God. So, a good starting place is to consider how God looks at time and what He wants us to learn from time management.

How God views time

God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). Since He created time, the mind-boggling truth is that He was around forever before time even existed!

To try to help us get a little of God’s perspective, the Bible says, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). God is unrestricted by time.

But though God is not controlled by time the way we humans are, He still puts great emphasis on it. He is always punctual—He always acts at the right time (even though to us humans it may seem like we have to wait a long time). He also has set aside certain times that He has blessed—for our benefit. These are designed to teach us important lessons and to reveal His plan to us.

God created time as a tool. We were put in this universe of time to learn many lessons and to develop the character of God. Christian time management means learning to use time as God wants us to use it.

What God wants us to learn from time management

To become more like God, we need to learn to have His priorities. We need to learn to use those priorities to produce a plan for improving our lives and aligning them to God’s plan. And we need to put those plans into action. God’s priorities and plans always produce results, and so can ours.


God reveals to us what is truly most important in life. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

The end of Matthew 6:33 reveals an amazing thing about God’s priorities. If we put what God says is important first, the other things we need and want will be added to us as well!

We can’t take charge of our time without clearly defining our priorities. We must schedule what matters most first, or it will be pushed out by the hundreds of urgent and persistent things that come at us each week.

“To master time management is to set priorities among your goals. There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do what is important,”

Our priorities become more real when we write them down as goals and rank them in order of importance. But goals can be just so much “someday I’ll” thinking unless we take the next step. We need a plan to get from “Someday Isle” to success.


The Bible reveals a God who is a Planner. And He wants us to be planners too. We need long-range plans, annual plans and daily plans—and probably several plans in between.

Let’s look at planning at its most immediate level. Based on God’s priorities, what does He want us to put into our schedule for each day?

  • Plan time for God. This includes time for praying to God (study Psalm 55:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17. He also wants us to study His Bible daily, as the Bereans did (see Acts 17:11).
  • Plan time for family and friends. Relationships take a commitment of time together. For example, God commands parents to spend time teaching their children (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:7).
  • Plan time for work. The Fourth Commandment tells us that work should take place during the first six days of the week so that we will be ready to obey the command to not work on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11).
  • Plan time for health: eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep and exercise.
  • Plan time for household chores and maintenance. (Don’t be like the guy in Proverbs 24:30-34!)
  • Plan time for learning. The Bible extols the importance of continued lifelong learning: “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5).
  • Plan time for rest and recreation. Jesus took His disciples away from the crowds at times to try to reduce the stress and be rejuvenated (Mark 6:31).

Performance with urgency and diligence

To implement our planned schedule requires constant motivation, focus and persistence. To choose the truly important, we must wisely act, not just react to the urgent things that come at us.

God gives us a number of reminders and prods to help us see the urgency of practicing our priorities and plans.

He tells us to count our days—to recognize how short life is and how precious every day is. That should lead us to make full use of our time. The apostle Paul encouraged us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

God wants us to recognize that every minute counts and should be used in a godly way. God is diligent, and He wants us to learn diligence and avoid laziness (Proverbs 12:24, 27; 13:4).


October 2020


Blood cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by your liver. Blood cholesterol is essential for good health. Your body needs it to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and digesting fatty foods.

Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called “lipoproteins.” Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.

  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called “plaque.” As your blood vessels build up plaque over time, the insides of the vessels narrow. This narrowing blocks blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.

Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs, so you do not need to obtain cholesterol through foods. Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.

What you can do:
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat. Saturated fats come from animal products (such as cheese, fatty meats, and dairy desserts) and tropical oils (such as palm oil). Foods that are higher in saturated fat may be high in cholesterol.
  • Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt), and added sugars. These foods include lean meats; seafood; fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt; whole grains; and fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat foods naturally high in fiber, such as oatmeal and beans (black, pinto, kidney, lima, and others) and unsaturated fats, which can be found in avocado, vegetable oils like olive oil, and nuts). These foods may help prevent and manage high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels.

Overweight and obesity raise levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Excess body fat affects how your body uses cholesterol and slows down your body’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood. The combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.

What you can do:
  • To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index(BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure excess body fat.
  • Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Work with your doctor on a food and fitness plan to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

What you can do:
  • Get active as a family. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
  • Make physical activity a part of each day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little farther away, walk to the store, or do jumping jacks during commercials.

Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.

What you can do:
  • Talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit.

Too much alcohol can raise cholesterol levels and the levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.

What you can do:
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one.

November 2020

Thanksgiving During COVID-19 Pandemic.
High, Low, and Moderate Risk Activities

The CDC is serving some guidance on how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials say:

Low-risk activities include:

· A small dinner with people in your home
· Having a virtual dinner with extended family and sharing recipes
· Watching sports, parades, and movies at home

Moderate-risk celebrations are things like:

· Small outdoor dinner with family and friends
· Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards
· Attending small outdoor sporting events


· Shopping in crowded stores and malls before or after Thanksgiving
· Going to crowded races or parades
· Large, indoor gatherings, dinners or parties, especially with people from outside your immediate family, pose the highest risk

The CDC says staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. Continue to practice preventive measures - masks, social distancing, and handwashing.


December 2020

Some Christmas Reminders

May the Christmas GIFTS remind us of God’s greatest gift, His only Son.
May the Christmas CANDLES remind us of Him who is the “Light of the world.”
 May the Christmas TREES remind us of another tree upon which he died.
 May the Christmas CHEER remind us of Him who said, “Be of good cheer.”
 May the Christmas FEAST remind us of Him who is “the Bread of Life.”
 May the Christmas BELLS remind us of the glorious proclamation of His birth.
May the Christmas CAROLS remind us of the song the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest!”
 May the Christmas SEASON remind us in every way of Jesus Christ our King!
(Author: Unknown)

Grief and The Holidays

“Merry Christmas”! “Season’s Greetings”! “Happy Holiday”! “Feliz Navidad”! Many of us have embraced those phrases with great joy and anticipation over the years. We would look forward to the celebrations, sharing a meal with family and friends, exchanging presents, and continuing family traditions. I believe we can all agree that as a result of COVID-19, Christmas will look different this year. I’m sure we can also agree that this has been a particularly painful and difficult year. Many of us have experienced loss; some more losses than others. Some of us may even be asking the question, “how can I embrace or celebrate Christmas while grieving the loss of my mother, my brother, my sister, my grandmother, my job, my business, my______ (fill in the blank)”.  The reality is that we see loss all around us. We’re not only grieving our personal losses, but we’re grieving for our nation as a whole. Our losses can weigh even heavier in our hearts during the holiday season. We may also be having feelings of uncertainty of what’s going to happen in the weeks, months, or years to come. But, one thing we can be certain of is that God is still in control. In the midst of our grief, know that God sees our sorrow and our pain. He has not forgotten us. Remember that God continues to remain faithful in all things.

As we celebrate the holidays, here are 10 practical tips and reminders for coping with loss: 

1.    Remind yourself that God shows up in our grief and in our pain. Meditate on his Word
2.    Give yourself permission to be sad. Acknowledge your pain. If you need to cry, then cry. Crying is a way to release emotional stress
3.    Don’t isolate yourself - social isolation and loneliness can lead to depression
4.    Set healthy boundaries – don’t feel pressure to take on too much – you get to decide if you want to celebrate and/or how you want to celebrate
5.    Start new traditions - light a candle in honor of someone you lost, each person shares a precious memory of your loved one, share what you’re thankful for…
6.    Celebrate Christmas via ZOOM with family and friends across the country - open presents together, share recipes, eat dinner together…
7.    Recognize and accept what’s within your control and what’s outside of your control
8.    Practice self-care - exercise, eat right, practice sleep hygiene, limit social media/TV
9.    Reduce stress by resisting the urge to overspend. Maybe agree on non-tangible gifts
10. It’s OK to reach out for support through counseling or a grief support group

February 2021

“What Is God Calling You To Let Go Of In 2021?”

Spend some time in prayer as you ask God to reveal to you what you need to let go of as you enter into the New Year.

The things we hold onto, bear grudges, or perhaps feel angry and hurt about cloud our minds and prevent us from being the best we can be.

Letting go usually involves some form of forgiveness or acceptance – whether it’s yourself, someone else, a situation, or even an unknown third party. The irony is that whatever you’re holding onto, it’s probably hurting or bothering you much more than it does anyone else.

Letting go doesn't mean we condone a situation or behavior; it’s about lightening OUR load. Because when we let go of whatever is bothering us we set ourselves free and get to reclaim that energy for ourselves.

You don’t need to know HOW to let go, you just need to be WILLING. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it and change how you feel going forwards.

And remember - whatever you find it hardest to let go of is probably what you need to let go of the most…

While you may not wish to do anything about these right now, just listing what you need to let go of will raise your level of awareness and help you to loosen your grip. So, simply list on the attached worksheet what you’re holding on to, what slows you down, what riles you up, and anything that gets in the way of you being the best you can be. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to help you to let go of those things.


March 2021

Palm Sunday
March 28, 2021

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! ” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  - John 12:12-19

Palm Sunday is the Christian holiday that occurs on the Sunday before Easter. This celebration commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, mentioned in each of the four Gospels. Jesus entered the city knowing He would be tried and crucified and welcomed His fate to rise from the grave and save us from sin! Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the remembrance of Jesus' last days to the cross.
In many churches, Palm Sunday is observed by the blessing and sharing of palm branches symbolizing the branches placed in front of Christ as he entered into Jerusalem.
Let us praise God for sending His Son to earth, the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, and our eternal life in Christ through faith.

April 2021

Good Friday
April 2, 2021

On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5). 

Easter Sunday
April 4, 2021

Easter is the day on which Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, agreeing with the angel at the tomb: “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6-7). Jesus had promised before his death: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

June 2021

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the name given to Emancipation Day by African Americans in Texas. On that day in 1865 Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston. It stated: "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.

(Please click here for more information).

July 2021

August 2021

September 2021

Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke

When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered. Here's why.

Whether you're guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that's no joke.

Stress relief from laughter

A good sense of humor can't cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.

Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

· Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
· Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
· Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects

Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up, though. It's also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:

· Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.
To read the entire article:

October 2021

November 2021

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)

10 Tips for Family Caregivers
(It’s important to take care of yourself as you take care of others).

  1. Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
  2. Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
  3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
  4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
  5. Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
  6. Watch out for signs of depression and don't delay getting professional help when you need it.
  7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
  8. Organize medical information so it's up to date and easy to find.
  9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
  10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!



Count your blessings instead of your crosses;

Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes;

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears;

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full years instead of your lean;

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth;

Count on God instead of yourself.

~~Author Unknown.~~

December 2021

Safer Ways to Celebrate Holidays (

Holiday traditions are important for families and children. There are several ways to enjoy holiday traditions and protect your health. Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.

Here are safer ways to celebrate the holidays:

  • Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated.
  • Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.
  • Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.
  • Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Click here to read the entire article

January 2022

Start the New Year with an Annual Wellness Exam

There is no better way to start the new year than with a visit to your primary care provider (PCP). Scheduling your annual wellness exam will give you a snapshot of your health and allow you to catch conditions before they become serious.

An annual wellness exam allows your PCP to get a baseline of your overall health – including weight, diet, and other health indicators. Your doctor will evaluate your health and suggest changes you may need to make to improve your health. Your doctor may also recommend other preventive screenings based on your age and gender or refer you to a specialist if specialized care is needed.

Make your health a priority in the New Year!

February 2022

What Christians Need to Understand About Mental Health
by Jeremy Lallier

It can be hard for Christians to talk about mental health.

That’s a ridiculous sentence to have to write.

The Bible tells us that, as far as the world is concerned, God’s people are the foolish, the weak, the low, and the despised (1 Corinthians 1:27-28, ESV). We’re called to be compassionate, to bear with one another, and to pray for each other (1 Peter 3:8Ephesians 4:2James 5:16). It stands to reason that we of all people should have the easiest time talking about the twin issues of mental health and mental illness.

In my experience, that’s rarely true. There are powerful stigmas attached to those subjects. Discussing them can feel uncomfortable, embarrassing, shameful, or outright taboo—even for Christians.

I have an idea about why.

I think it has to do with some of the Bible’s most beautiful passages—verses like, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3), or, “Be anxious for nothing . . . and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Passages like these, which ought to give us comfort and perspective, can sometimes feel like an indictment. Good Christians trust in God, and He gives them peace, we tell ourselves. If I don’t have peace, I am not a good Christian.

Is that true?

Are we bad Christians if our minds are not constantly in a perfect state of serenity and happiness?

God’s people and mental/emotional stress

Let’s talk about that.

Let’s talk about David, the man after God’s own heart, the man who will once again serve as king over Israel—the man who wrote, “My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me” (Psalm 55:4-5).

Let’s talk about Elijah, who performed incredible miracles as a prophet of God, who served as a stand-in for all the prophets of God during Christ’s transfiguration—who collapsed under a tree, exhausted and overwhelmed, begging, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:4).

Let’s even talk about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the eternal Word made flesh—who told His disciples before His crucifixion, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:34), who, “being in agony,” prayed to the Father while “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Jesus obviously had perfect mental health, but part of His destined human experience was to be “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He knows what it’s like to suffer mental and emotional pressure.

These were all faithful servants of God who shared a close relationship with our Father in heaven, and each of them had days when they endured a lot of mentally and emotionally stressful situations! So let’s cut ourselves some slack:

It doesn’t mean you’re failing as a Christian even when your mental state isn’t where you would like it to be.

You are not failing as a Christian if your mental health is suffering.

You are not failing as a Christian if you are living with a mental illness.

Advice for readers with mental illnesses

If you are struggling with mental illness as a Christian, here are three important things to keep in mind:

1. You are not your condition

Sometimes you might feel like you are. Sometimes other people might make you feel like you are. But you’re so much more than that. You are, first and foremost, a child of God—personally called by your Father in heaven, who wants to see you become just like Him (1 John 3:1-2).

That’s your identity. That’s who you are, that’s why you exist, that’s what you’re working toward. A mental illness is a thing you have; it’s not who you are. Don’t let anyone—including yourself—tell you any differently.

2. Mental illness is not a moral failing

An incomplete reading of the Bible might convince us that things like sickness and poverty are direct punishments from God and that He supplies His righteous saints with limitless health and riches (see Psalm 112, among other passages).
But practically all of God’s faithful servants have experienced their share of sickness and poverty—and not always because of sin, but because those tragedies and trials had an important role to play in the plan of God. Consider the stories of Job, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, and the untold “others” of Hebrews 11—“of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).

A mental illness does not inherently mean that God is punishing you because of something you did. More often than not, it’s part of a bigger picture that you can’t quite see yet. Trust God, but don’t default to blaming yourself.

3. Seeking professional help is not a lack of faith

God is the ultimate source of all healing, and while our approach to solving any problem should begin with prayer, there’s nothing wrong with getting help from qualified professionals. (King Asa was faulted for seeking the physicians instead of God in 2 Chronicles 16:12, not in addition to.)

Sometimes, as a Christian, you might face pressure (from yourself or from other Christians) to deal with these things on your own—to simply pray harder and study more until God intervenes and heals you. But that’s not how we tend to handle other kinds of medical issues.

If you would go to the emergency room for a broken bone, or the dentist for an aching tooth, or a surgeon for a ruptured appendix, or ask a family doctor to diagnose and treat various aches and pains, what makes getting help for your mind any less important?

Mental illness can take a variety of forms with a variety of causes. A trained professional can help you understand what’s happening in your brain, why it’s happening, and what you can do about it. There’s nothing shameful about getting help from a doctor or a psychiatrist as you seek to make sense of the most complicated organ God designed for the human body.

Advice for readers without mental illnesses

If you’ve never experienced mental illness, here are three things professionals say to keep in mind during your interactions with those who have:

1. Understand that you don’t understand

This is huge. Clinical depression is not the same as experiencing sadness. An anxiety disorder is not the same as experiencing worry. In short, unless you’ve experienced a mental illness, you don’t know what it’s like to experience a mental illness. That might feel a tad obvious, but that principle should impact both how we all think about mental illnesses—and how we talk to people who have them.
Speaking of which . . .

2. Offer support, not solutions

It can be tempting to offer advice (“Have you tried focusing on happier things?”), empathy (“I know how you feel”) or perspective (“It could be worse!”), but these approaches are usually less helpful than they might sound.

How unhelpful, exactly? Imagine a man saying those things to a pregnant woman who was actively giving birth. “I know how you feel” isn’t even true, and the other two statements could easily come across as insulting and ignorant.

Instead, show support. If others open up to you about their struggles, ask how you can help. Tell them you can’t imagine what they’re dealing with. Thank them for sharing. Check-in with them periodically.

Let them know, either through your words or your actions, that they are loved. That can make all the difference in the world.

3. Fight the stigma

For thousands of years, the human race has misunderstood and misrepresented mental illness. That’s not something anyone can fix overnight. But each of us can address the stigma of mental illness when it shows up in our little corner of the world, whether we personally understand it or not.

We can do a better job getting to know our brethren who have mental illnesses. We can do a better job creating an environment where they feel comfortable opening up about the challenges they face and the struggles they have. We can show our support and unconditional love on good days and on bad days.

March 2022

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Do you feel deep down like you agree to do too many things, but you’re not sure how to say no? Maybe you don’t want people to think you’re rude or unkind. You don’t want them to see you as needy, demanding, or “high-maintenance.” You don’t want to let others down.

You’re not alone. Many people fall into this pattern. The good news is that setting boundaries can save you stress and give you a sense of control and freedom over how you live and spend your time.

Benefits of Setting Boundaries

Establishing boundaries is good for you and the people around you. When you’re clear about your boundaries, people will understand your limits and know what you are and aren’t OK with, and they’ll adjust their behavior. The people who don’t respect your boundaries are ones you may not want in your life.

Healthy boundaries can also help you:

  • Build greater self-esteem
  • Get clear on who you are, what you want, and your values and belief systems
  • Bring focus to yourself and your well-being
  • Enhance your mental health and emotional well-being
  • Avoid burnout
  • Develop independence
  • Gain a greater sense of identity
Tips to Use Boundaries to Improve Your Well-Being

The best way to start setting boundaries is to offer direct, open, and honest feedback about your limits. Try these tips:

Communicate your thoughts. Be honest but respectful when sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone else. It’s OK to take some time to gather yourself before and after the conversation. But don’t let that become an excuse to avoid telling them how you feel.

Never assume or guess someone else's feelings. Making assumptions can create a lot of misunderstandings in a relationship. You may feel like you know someone so well that you could guess what they’re thinking, but it’s always best to ask rather than assume.

Follow through on what you say. Setting boundaries but not following through lets the other person think they have an excuse to continue to overstep your boundaries. Don’t make any exceptions to your boundaries without thinking about it carefully. Otherwise, you may find yourself compromising on things that aren't acceptable to you.


April 2022

Can expressing gratitude improve your mental, physical health?

Expressing gratitude is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits. Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood, and immunity. Gratitude can also decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain, and risk of disease.

If there was a pill that could do this, we'd all be taking it. Our brains are designed to problem-solve rather than appreciate. And we often must override this design to reap the benefits of gratitude.

What is the right amount of gratitude?

Simply stated, gratitude should be practiced daily — just as you'd take that magic pill if it existed. Try starting your day by thinking of someone you're grateful for as soon as you wake up. It could be appreciating a friend who sends you funny texts, a teacher who recognizes your child's gifts, or the barista who hands you your coffee and shares friendly conversation. Later, thank that person with a text, note, or kind word when you see the person.

Behavior changes biology

Remember that behavior changes biology. Positive gestures benefit you by releasing oxytocin, a hormone that helps connect people. Some people call it the love hormone. Plus, you'll also benefit the person on the other end of the gesture. After all, who doesn't like to be thanked for their efforts or just for being who they are? Learn how sharing kindness can make you healthier and happier.

Track your gratitude

Another idea is to keep a gratitude journal. Set aside time during your day, perhaps while you are attempting to relax your mind before sleep. Think back on your day and write down the things that went right. Maybe your spouse took care of a household repair, you heard your favorite song on the radio or you saw a double rainbow. You could try writing about the many blessings that you may have started to take for granted, such as having clean water to drink or having certain abilities.

Our lives are full of reasons to feel thankful. Sometimes we just need to remember to notice them.


May 2022

Back To Basics: Practical Mental Health Information

Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. An increasing number of folks are starting to see it for what it is: one important component of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health conditions, resources, and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach.

Are there common warning signs for mental health conditions or crises? Specific factors that can lead to mental health conditions or even crises? What resources are out there – and how do I know if they’re right for me?

Many people are learning about mental health topics for the first time. Having a widespread understanding of the topic can help you be more informed if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health condition or crisis. Around half of people in the U.S. will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, so everyone should know what to look out for.

Everyone should have the support needed to thrive. Communities that have been historically and presently oppressed face a deeper mental health burden because of the added impact of trauma, oppression, and harm.

There’s often no one single cause for a mental health condition. Instead, there are many possible risk factors that can influence how likely a person is to experience a mental health condition or how serious the symptoms may be.

Some risk factors for mental health conditions include: trauma, which can be a one-time event or ongoing; your environment and how it impacts your health and quality of life (also known as social determinants of health like financial stability and health care access); genetics; brain chemistry; and your habits and lifestyle such as a lack of sleep.

Of course, understanding the risk factors for a mental health condition can be more difficult when it’s your own mental health. Take time to ask yourself about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to see if this is part of a pattern that may be caused by a mental health condition. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Have things that used to feel easy started feeling difficult?
  • Does the idea of doing daily tasks like making your bed now feel really, really hard?
  • Have you lost interest in activities and hobbies you used to enjoy?
  • Do you feel irritated, possibly to the point of lashing out at people you care about?

Our society focuses much more on physical health than mental health, but both are equally important. If you are concerned about your mental health, there are several options available. You are not alone – help is out there, and recovery is possible. It may be hard to talk about your concerns, but simply acknowledging to yourself that you’re struggling is a really big step.

Taking a screen at can help you to better understand what you are experiencing and get helpful resources. After that, consider talking to someone you trust about your results, and seek out a professional to find the support you need.

While you may not need this information today, knowing the basics about mental health will mean you’re prepared if you ever need it. Go to to learn more.

(Source: Mental Health America)

June 2022

Tips for a Healthy Summer

Follow these tips to help prevent chronic disease and have a #HealthySummer.

Move More, Sit Less!

Get at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity every week.

Tip: Physical activity has immediate benefits for your health: better sleep and
reduced anxiety are two.

Wear Sunscreen & Insect Repellent

Use shade, wide-brimmed hats, clothing that covers, and broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 for sun protection.

Use insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites and ticks.

Tip: If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply sunscreen first. After you come indoors, check clothing, body, and pets for ticks.

Keep Cool in Extreme Heat

Extreme heat can be dangerous for everyone, but it may be especially dangerous for people with chronic medical conditions.

Stay cool - Stay hydrated - Stay informed.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Delicious fruits and veggies make any summer meal healthier.

Rethink Your Drink!

Drink fluoridated water instead of sugary or alcoholic drinks to reduce calories and stay safe.

Click here for more info


July 2022

Developing Strong "People Skills"

We all have different personalities, different wants and needs, and different ways of showing our emotions. Navigating through this all takes tact and cleverness – especially if we hope to succeed in life. This is where emotional intelligence becomes important.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they're telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this allows you to manage relationships more effectively.

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

In his book titled "Emotional Intelligence - Why It Can Matter More Than IQ" 1995, Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness – People with high emotional intelligence are usually very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and because of this, they don't let their feelings rule them. They're also willing to take an honest look at themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence.

2. Self-Regulation – This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don't allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don't make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, and the ability to say no.

3. Motivation – People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are usually motivated. They're willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They're highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.

4. Empathy – Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious.

5. Social Skills – It's usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills, another sign of high emotional intelligence. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine.

Click on the link below to read the full article as well as strategies for improving your Emotional Intelligence

August 2022

A new school year can be exciting for children, adolescents, and young adults – like a fresh start!!! Many may look forward to reconnecting with friends. Others may be excited about seeing their favorite teacher or perhaps looking forward to meeting a new teacher. Or maybe even starting at a new school!

Even with all that excitement, some may also experience worry, fear, sadness, and a sense of personal risk. We can all agree that the past 2 plus years have been challenging to say the least. Many students may be returning to school with COVID-related uncertainties, grief, and concerns about recent school violence. As parents or caregivers, it’s important to have open and honest communication about these concerns. Although I have provided some suggestions below, remember it’s important to meet each child at their level.

  • Share their enthusiasm – if they express excitement, you express excitement!
  • Normalize conversations about safety
  • Ask about safety procedures and protocols at the school
  • Allow space to share feelings – listen without judgment
  • Remember to talk on their level – keep communication with young children simple
  • Validate their feelings – don’t minimize their concerns
  • Recognize and address changes in Sleep, Appetite, and Mood (SAM) (Yours and theirs)
  • Provide as much structure and routine as possible
  • Set limits on social media/news
  • Normalize conversations about mental health and wellness
  • Be a role model by taking care of your own mental health and wellness
  • Consider seeking professional help for persistent worrying, fear, or sadness

September 2022

Soft Startup – A Communication Skill for Couples

When bringing up a problem to your partner, the first three minutes are crucial. A soft startup sets a positive tone and helps resolve conflict. By starting a conversation calmly and respectfully, you and your partner are more likely to focus on the problem, rather than who’s to blame. Conversations that start with blame or negativity are likely to end poorly.

The soft startup technique was introduced by marriage therapist John Gottman, Ph.D. He recognized that gentle startups reduce defensiveness and contempt, which are detrimental to relationships.

Save the conversation for a calm moment:

Wait for a time when you and your partner are alone, without distractions or interruptions.

Make sure you and your partner are relaxed, and not tired, hungry, or stressed.

Use gentle body language and tone of voice:

Take an attitude of teamwork and problem-solving, rather than arguing or blaming.

Speak calmly, without raising your voice.

Avoid hurtful body language, such as eye rolling, scowling, or mocking.

Use “I” statements to express how you feel:

Focus on how a problem is affecting you, rather than assigning blame.

Say: “I feel [emotion] when [situation].”

Example Without “I” statement: “You’re so closed off. We need to talk more.”

With “I” statement: “I feel lonely when we don’t talk.”

Describe the problem clearly:

Discuss only one problem at a time.

Be specific. Broad complaints like “the house is a mess” may be misunderstood.

Be respectful:

Make a polite request, rather than a demand.

Thank your partner for listening and addressing a problem.

Example “Could you please…” “Thank you for…” “I would appreciate if…”

(Reference: Therapist Aid)

October 2022

What People with Breast Cancer Wish You Knew

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on December 20, 2020

First, Just Listen
It’s a shock to learn that a friend or loved one has breast cancer. It’s natural to want to know all the details. But a lot of questions can be tough for them to face. They may not have all the answers yet. Accept what they're sharing. They understand you don’t know what to say. But instead of, "You're a fighter; you're going to beat this,” try, "I can't imagine how you must feel, I'm here to listen if you want to talk." 

Don’t Say “Call Me If You Need Me”
You’ll probably never get the call. It’s better to be specific about what you can do. Say “I can help you with housework on Tuesday or Thursday,” or, “I'm making some casseroles, is there something you would prefer or any ingredient I should avoid?” If they're recovering from surgery, offer to wash their hair since reaching above their head is nearly impossible.

Kids Need TLC
Kids are kids whether a parent is dealing with cancer or not. Offer to drive your friend’s children to school and shuttle them to soccer practice. Help make things as “normal” as possible. Many teachers and other adults don’t know what to say to kids with a sick parent -- so they say nothing. Be someone they can turn to. Tell them that you’ll listen when they want to talk. 

They Need a “Wingman”
It’s easy for someone with breast cancer to get overwhelmed by the decisions they have to make. They might need your help to understand it all. Offer to go along to important doctor’s appointments to take notes and ask questions. Having another set of ears in the room may ease their mind. You can offer to drive them to chemotherapy or radiation sessions, too.

Men Get It, Too
More than 2,500 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the U.S. If it’s a guy you know, don’t question why they have a “woman’s disease” or insist it must be the wrong diagnosis. Men with breast cancer may need even more support because they feel out of place. Most importantly, encourage the men in your life to get any breast lump checked by a doctor right away.

Reconstruction is NOT a Boob Job
A mastectomy -- the removal of one or both breasts -- is an ordeal. Many women are heartbroken to lose such intimate body parts. Reconstruction can rebuild the shape and look of their chest, but it’s not the same as breast enhancement. It can take many surgeries before it’s all over. Some women decide against doing it at all. Whatever your loved one chooses, accept it. Don’t try to change their mind.

Cancer Doesn’t Ask Your Age
If someone in their 20s or 30s has the disease, they're probably tired of people saying, “You’re so young and active, how can you have cancer?” They may feel isolated because many people in their shoes are much older. When they feel comfortable, urge them to find a group of young people with breast cancer who can understand what they're going through.

Spare Them the Prevention Talk
Keep your opinions about cancer prevention to yourself. It’s not helpful to suggest that yoga, juicing, or anything else could’ve prevented your friend’s breast cancer.

Cancer Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
There are many different kinds of breast cancer. Some grow fast, some grow slow. Some are harder to treat than others. You probably won’t know exactly which type your friend has -- they might not even know right away. So don’t say, “My friend had breast cancer and it was horrible,” or “My aunt’s cancer was no big deal.” Each case is unique, and people respond differently to treatment.

Understand if They Say 'No'
People going through treatment or recovering from surgery have a limited amount of energy and need to spend it wisely. Sometimes, they have to turn down an invitation or cancel plans. They're not trying to ditch you -- their body probably needs a reboot. Take a raincheck for a day when they're feeling more rested.

People Need a Break from Cancer
If your friend is up for getting lunch or meeting for coffee, the last thing they probably want to do is talk about cancer. After all, they're more than their disease. Try to keep the conversation focused on everyday things -- their kids, a recent vacation, or a TV show you both like. If they want to talk about cancer, they’ll bring it up.

Treatment Is a Long Road
Many people with breast cancer need to take meds for 5-10 years to try to keep cancer from coming back. These drugs can have bad side effects like bone and joint pain, mood swings, and fatigue. Often doctors prescribe other pills -- like antidepressants and pain meds -- to fight those side effects. Know that your loved one might not be back to their “old self” for a while.

Moving On' Can Be Hard
Treatment is over, and there are no signs of cancer. That’s great news, but some people still may have some mental healing to do. Your loved one may show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, like not sleeping well or having crying fits. They may constantly check for lumps and bumps. Instead of telling them to “get back to normal,” urge them to talk to their doctor. Medications, therapy, and other treatments can help.

The Little Things Mean a Lot
People with breast cancer really do want your thoughts and prayers -- even if you haven’t been in touch for years. Let your friend know you’re thinking of them by dropping a nice note or beautiful card in the mail. Even just a text message once in a while will brighten their day. They might be too wiped out to respond right away but know that all your good thoughts and best wishes are appreciated.

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November 2022

National Family Caregivers Month

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)

"Caregiving and the Sandwich Generation"
The term sandwich generation refers to young to middle-aged adults who are simultaneously raising children and supporting their aging parents. More than one in 10 parents in the United States also care for an adult, spending about three hours each day on caregiving duties between their children and parents.

Being a sandwich generation caregiver can be exhausting, expensive, and emotional; juggling it all isn’t easy, but there are ways to make it easier.
An estimated 11 million caregivers (28% of all caregivers) provide unpaid care to an adult while also caring for children in the home.

The typical sandwich generation caregiver was born between 1965 and 1980 and is more ethnically diverse, younger, and newer to caregiving than other caregivers.

Roughly a third of sandwich generation caregivers report a high level of emotional stress and a fifth report high levels of financial and physical strain.
Managing Common Stressors:
Little or No Personal Time
  • Prioritize getting (and staying) organized
  • Don’t be afraid or intimidated to ask for help

Family Discord
  • Be honest and direct about your feelings
  • Be realistic

Dealing with Complex Emotions
  • Sharing what you’re going through is often one of the best ways of healing
  • Make sure you’re attending to your own needs

Feeling Like a Failure
  • Try not to be too hard on yourself
  • Pay attention to avoid black-and-white thinking

Navigating Cultural Expectations
  • Different cultures and families have varying norms and expectations when it comes to older adult care
  • Lean on family or other members of your cultural community

Taking Care of Yourself
  • Practice healthy self-care habits

December 2022

Ways to Get Rid of Holiday Stress

It’s proven that people are more stressed out at Christmas than at any other time of the year. But not only is December supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but it can also be your healthiest time of the year if you get rid of the stress that tends to overtake you.

Instead of focusing on your finances, your full schedule, or the expectations of others, try these 6 things to get rid of holiday stress altogether. 

1. Toss the Expectations

Did you know that stress often occurs because we’re trying to do it all at a pace that’s unreasonable? But why do we try to do it all?

Christmas is not about a performance. It is about an observance--remembering and celebrating God’s gift to us of a Savior and commemorating that gift by giving to others. A perfect Christmas is an undistracted time of remembering what matters most.

2. Take a Breather

This is a great time of the year to slow down. It’s also the most difficult time of the year to slow your pace. But rather than thinking of all you have to do this season, rebel against the fast track and determine to do it differently--or minimally--and you just may slow down long enough to remember why (if there is a reason) everything needs to get done.

3. Trust God for Your Emotional Support

It’s natural for us at this time of year to rely on people around us to notice when we're overwhelmed, offer a helping hand, or just lend some encouragement and support. The problem is, at this time of year, everyone else around you is often just as busy as you are.

These are the times to go to God in prayer and pour out your heart before Him.

4. Treat Yourself to Time in God’s Word

2nd Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed..." Reading it is like getting a “breath of fresh air” from the Living God--a “second wind” to get you through your day!

Try it. Start in the Psalms and see if God doesn't breathe His life and rest into your day that calms your heart and soul.

5. Tell Others How Grateful You Are 

Do you realize that our attitude directly affects our altitude? In other words, how grateful you are, how peaceful you are, how much you choose to focus on the positive, determines how high or how low you will feel.

Stress brings us down. But being grateful for what we have and maintaining a healthy heart of thankfulness and cheer will energize us--and others.

6. Turn Your Focus Toward What Matters Most 

When we remember who and what is most important in life it can keep us from stressing out. We were made to love God and enjoy Him forever.

In your busyness this Christmas, don't neglect the One this season is all about. And don't neglect the loved ones He has given you to share your life with. As you prioritize people over productivity, you'll find it's easier to let some other things go.