May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while we at WinShape Homes place high value on the mental health of children in care through a trauma-informed lens, we also place high value on the mental health of our parents and staff. If you are a parent or professional in foster care, I would encourage you to do the work that leads to good self-care and, ultimately, what Scripture calls the “prosperous soul” in 3 John 1:2.
The importance of self-care lies in the safety for both the caregiver and the children in care. Creating safety for yourself as the caregiver means taking care of yourself. We know that working with kids from hard places leads to vicarious trauma in the caregivers, which is why self-care is paramount.
As the caregiver, you are important and so is your wellbeing. I would also argue that your ability to thrive and overcome is important to God. I would suggest that Biblical self-care as a practice needs to be centered squarely on remaining inspired as an overcomer in Christ.
Our leadership team has recently been learning to “pay attention to the tension,” meaning that if something does not feel right, then it is on us to intentionally address it.
What areas of your life need attention due to tension?
Physical health, mental health, soul health, spiritual health?
An issue in any one area can and will impact the others, because we are a whole person and God did not create us as compartmentalized beings. What is the work that you need to do to take better care of yourself?
We have a few suggestions and resources, but remember that you are also unique and will likely need to put your own intentional thought and desires into what you need to do.
All it takes is a physical injury or struggling physical health to create stress that can affect the other areas of health. Physical problems can lead to depression or leave us negatively coping in our thoughts with beliefs like, “God is punishing me”. Suggestions for dealing with physical health self-care include working out and exercising, walking regularly, eating healthy foods, drinking water, and having a regular sleep routine.
When our mental health is suffering, it can certainly impact the other areas. Research has linked childhood trauma to physical problems in adulthood, such as addiction, gastrointestinal issues, and more. It can also distort how we perceive God and cause us to struggle to view Him as good.
If you have experienced childhood trauma or even recent trauma, it is important to know yourself when you have healed from it.
There’s an old cliché, “time heals all wounds,” that is simply untrue when it comes to trauma. Most of our traumas happen in the context of relationships, and therefore forgiveness is an important step, yet forgiveness does not heal the wound.
This adverse childhood experiences (ACE) assessment can give you a head start in knowing and remembering what might need to be dealt with. You can also find several mental health and counseling resources based on where you live in the U.S.
When I think of soul health, it makes me think about what I am perpetually believing about myself.
Am I believing lies about myself?
The antidote to lies is always truth, which is only found in Christ. If our identity is in Him, it will never change regardless of earthly circumstances. Life can be overwhelming; 2020 was a perfect example of that reality. But as a fellow Christian blogger put it, our confidence is not in our performance, but rather in the person of Jesus and what He accomplished for us.
Take this quiz to see how your soul is doing these days.
When our spiritual health suffers, the rest of ourself certainly suffers. Whether we are dealing with intentional sin, listening to lies, or struggling with what we believe, what we really need is spiritual wholeness.
This idea of spiritual wholeness is similar to 3 John’s “prosperous soul,” and the Hebrew language has a word for it as well: “Shalom.” Shalom is a word that encompasses a lot and covers things like divine order, health, and prosperity.
But it’s not talking about these things financially. It means every part of one’s life – body, soul, spirit, relationships, dreams, and work — is all being nourished and thriving. If you’re in need of care in this area, I would say this: Think about three aspects of your faith in Christ, which all have to do with believing — credence, confidence and continuance.
I recently learned that in both the Old and New Testaments, the words ‘faith’ and ‘faithfulness’ are the same word. So our faith simply comes down to what we believe.
Earlier I asked where you feel a need to do work on your health. In an interesting conversation where the Jews asked Jesus what work they should be doing that God required of them, He answered and said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
So let’s go back to those three aspects or believing — credence, confidence, and continuance.
To believe something is true; believing that Jesus died for us; believing that Jesus was resurrected. Even believing in historical facts. It is accepting the credibility of the gospel and accepting the truth.
To believe in someone. It is one thing to believe that He exists, but to believe IN Him is different. To believe IN Jesus means doing something to show you really do trust Him. Doing it (believing) by trusting and obeying means you have confidence in Him. It might mean trusting Him through some major crisis or obeying His word, especially when it goes against culture.
To go on believing (continually). It means you HOLD to the truth at all costs. The New Testament has an ancient Greek verb tense that we do not use. They still had past, present, and future (as we do), but they also had what is called present tense continuous, meaning the action word goes on. One might think this is splitting hairs, but it makes a difference because of what is lost in almost every translation. For example, John 3:16 actually reads something like, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever GOES ON believing in him shall not perish but will GO ON having eternal life.” It means we do not just believe once, but we go on doing it and hold to it no matter the cost.
What and how we believe can make all of the difference if we need care in our spiritual health, because we can count on and trust in the Holy Spirit to meet us where we are and lead us into truth.
I hope you find yourself thriving in all areas, and if you are not, that you think about being willing to do the work needed to care for yourself so that you can fully show up for the children in your care.