Questions for Building Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy can provide some of the most enriching and gratifying aspects of your life. When a relationship includes emotional intimacy, it can provide joy, comfort, and support. It is through emotional intimacy that you are able to strengthen the bond of the relationship and marriage even further,deepening your connection and allowing you to better understand what each other wants, needs, and desires.
In order to help you build emotional intimacy, we have compiled a list of questions you can ask each other. You can ask these questions in turn and at a time when you are both relaxed. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Questions to ask and how to ask them.

Keep in mind that you are merely asking questions, not interrogating your spouse. You can ask a question by leaning forward and making eye contact while waiting for the response. Like you would with your best friend, pay attention to the response and respond with as little judgement as possible. The goal is to make a safe space for the two of you to connect. When your spouse gives a nod or a smile, mirror his or her facial expressions and verbal cues.

Asking thought-provoking questions to build emotional intimacy.

When you begin a new relationship, or seek to grow a lasting marriage, you want to learn as much as you can about the other person. But sometimes you don’t know how to move from the lighter stories to the more serious topics. It can be difficult to get personal if you’ve never done so or are out of practice.
This list was created to help you get started and stress less about the “what” in talking. It’s okay to acknowledge the awkward feeling, and then remind yourself of the end goal—to get to know the other person (again).

With which member of your family do you feel closest?

This query can reveal a lot about a person’s family dynamics and the people he or she feels the safest around. This question doesn’t feel as probing or complicated as inquiries like “Tell me about your family” or “Did you have a happy childhood,” even if he or she had a complicated family or childhood.
You might also discover what makes someone feel loved or accepted. Is it because an aunt always listens? Is it because a sister or brother makes him or her laugh? Does he or she feel closest to mother because she never discounted his or her feelings?
Knowing how he or she experiences love will help you build a stronger foundation for your relationship. Additionally, it will take a lot of the guesswork out of what he or she needs from you.
Your relationship will struggle to advance if he or she doesn’t value it (or are even suspicious of it) in the way you may think you’re showing him or her your love.
On the other hand, you can make him or her feel safe and respected once you start expressing your love in the ways that he or she needs it.

What qualities do you think characterize a wholesome union?

Learn about his or her expectations for the relationship and what he or she considers to be healthy by exploring why your significant other admires those things about a relationship. You can also find out who has served as a good example of a relationship he or she aspires to emulate and if he or she sees that happening for the two of you.

What are you currently passionate about?

Learn what is important to your loved one and how he or she spends free time. Express interest in sharing his or her passion once you have learned about it. Don’t forget to acknowledge his or her enthusiasm!. You have the chance to be the one to support and encourage your significant other. This is something you don’t want to miss out on. We all appreciate support and encouragement, so being that for your spouse/significant other is important.
This doesn’t mean you have to change everything about yourself and spend all your time doing what the other enjoys. Instead, it means opening up to new things, within reason, and making a measurable effort to listen to, engage with, or physically show up and support the other person in these areas. If it is something you are not comfortable with, this is an important topic to explore further with your significant other.

Who in your life can you always rely on?

This person holds a significant place in his or her life. It may be a best friend from elementary school or a fun aunt or uncle. You can learn about your loved one’s struggles, successes, and even regrets by asking him or her to share some of the times the significant person came through for him or her.

What is something about you that most people don’t know?

To encourage your loved one to share something personal about himself or herself, ask a fun question. This question can help you both become more intimate by encouraging self-disclosure from the other person, whether they give you a humorous or serious response. Remember, judgement doesn’t have a place here when you are working to understand and listen to your significant other.

What is a flaw in another person that annoys you?

A person will be judgmental and critical of what he or she perceives to be a weakness. This is an intriguing question because it reveals things that person finds frustrating in other people (and in himself or herself). With this response, you’ll learn a little bit about what he or she values most.

What do you like to do best after work?

After work, does he or she always hang out with friends? Does he or she prefer returning home to unwind on the couch? Does he or she go to the gym or walk the dog every evening?
Learn what he or she does to unwind. This may reveal whether a person is more introverted or an extrovert who gets energized by being around other people. You might also gain some insight into his or her approach to dealing with stress, which can serve as a clue to their stress level in the future. Take this question as an opportunity to encourage your loved one by helping them engage in this activity at least once a week.
If it seems to be out of balance, happening most days of the week at the cost of other obligations or your own desires, you can follow up this question with: “How can I help you de-stress and enjoy coming home from work and still be a part of the family/still have some ‘us’ time now and then?”

What causes you stress?

Encourage your loved one to talk about stress while listening sympathetically. Ask, “What stresses you most about that,” if you don’t know why something is causing him or her stress. You’ll gain more insight into his or her reactions to his or her environment, both at work and at home, as a result. If he or she seems discouraged, think of ways to cheer him or her up.
It’s important to remember that just because someone has an unprocessed wound from the past, doesn’t mean that they are excused from growing and treating you well. But be aware that it might affect how he or she treats you, particularly if it isn’t a problem he or she is currently trying to solve.

What would be your ideal day?

Why not structure the ideal date around your loved one’s response to this question? You’ll demonstrate to him or her that you paid attention to what he or she had to say and that you don’t depend on him or her to always be catering to your desires.

How do you see our relationship honoring God?

This question allows your significant other to explore the triad that is evident between a husband, wife, and God. It gives a beat to redefine what is most important in the relationship. It also grants you the opportunity to hear what has been on your significant other’s mind spiritually.
What have you learned about relationships from your parents?
Answering this question sheds light on each other’s upbringing and lessons learned along the way. There’s a chance you may come across a nugget you’ve never heard before and add it to your annex of wisdom regarding your loved one.

When was the last time you cried?

This is an exercise in vulnerability. Sharing the moments that made you cry requires openness and trust. Take note of any emotional triggers or sensitive subjects.

Have your friendships taught you anything about romantic relationships?

Your friends are often the main constant in your life, especially childhood friends. Not only are they there for you when you are in relationships, they also count on you when they are in one themselves. There are many lessons to learn from these past friendships, and this question allows you to hear what has impacted your significant other’s perception of romance the most.

What does work-life balance mean to you?

The answer to this question speaks to the priorities your partner holds. Is money more or less important than spending quality time? Is he or she skewed more toward working hard or living life to the fullest?

What was the most surprising thing you learned about me?

People begin relationships by putting their best foot forward and presenting the best version of themselves. Over time, the façade evaporates, exposing some surprising aspects of their character, for better or worse.

When was the last time you laughed so much you cried?

This is a chance to explore each other’s sense of humor and share a laugh in the process.

In what ways do you think were similar?

Find out what your significant other believes the two of you share in common. You don’t have to be twins, but it’s always endearing to discover how much the other person perceives you are alike.

In what ways do you think were different?

Celebrate your individuality while you revel in your relationship. Healthy relationships are characterized by interdependence, not co-dependency.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

There’s a part of your childhood self that stays with you for life. Sharing your childhood dreams may seem irrelevant now, but it will bring you closer together.

Christian counseling for emotional intimacy.

It is our sincere hope that these questions help you build emotional intimacy with your romantic partner. If you still struggle with emotional intimacy in your relationship, you can contact us and schedule to speak with a Christian counselor. Your counselor can equip you with tools to strengthen your relationship and build the lasting intimacy you are seeking.

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Christian Divorce: Four Considerations

Even though divorce is a common occurrence in our society, many Christians who are in unhappy marriages find it to be morally troubling. Do they continue to have an unhappily married couple for the sake of a vow or covenant? Or do they take a contrary course of action and file for divorce? Christians may feel stuck between no longer feeling committed to an unsalvageable marriage and being unable to move forward with a new life due to the stark choices. Scripture makes it clear time and time again that marriage is a lifetime commitment. Jesus said of the marriage between a man and a woman, “They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, let nothing be divided that God has joined together” (Matthew 19:6, NIV).


Concerning divorce, Christians have the following questions:

  • Do Christians who divorce sin?
  • Do they send themselves to hell by doing this?
  • Do they have to endure an unloving, unhealthy union?
  • Do Christians have any exceptions to the prohibition against divorce?

Some of these challenging questions do not have clear solutions; there is still tension. Only the most extreme circumstances allow for the end of a marriage.

Sometimes the best a Christian can do when faced with a marriage that may be beyond saving is to look for God’s direction in the Bible, consult with reliable friends who are familiar with the circumstances and pray together for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Divorce: What the Bible says

First, let’s think about what the Bible says. The only divorce-related law in the Old Testament is found in Deuteronomy. Here, a law allowing divorce is given to the Israelites. If a man feels that his wife “does not please him” and “she is free to marry another man,” he may write her a “document of divorce.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-2, NIV).

Many theologians agree that this law was given as a means of protection to people who are in a situation that deals with divorce and/or remarriage. Opinions vary about whether this law was intended to justify divorce and/or remarriage.

In the New Testament, Jesus first presents a more complex answer to this query. “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” the Pharisees inquire to Jesus in Matthew 19:3. This verse is preceded by the phrase, “The Pharisees came and tried to trap [Jesus] him,” by asking Jesus to give a clear-cut response that would reveal His position on the divorce law that Moses provided in Deuteronomy. But Jesus is aware of their intentions and hardened hearts.

Jesus quotes Genesis rather than responding to their query and adds, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Jesus uses this as an opportunity to elaborate on the law of Moses and explain why divorce is not what God intended as the Pharisees’ questions continued.

Jesus says, “Divorce was not what God had originally intended; Moses only permitted it as a concession to your hard hearts. Anyone who gets a divorce and gets remarried is an adulterer. Jesus said that God’s standard is higher than the law and that God intends that there should never be a divorce.

The situation here is comparable to Peter’s inquiry about forgiveness to Jesus in Matthew 18. “How many times should I forgive,” wondered Peter, “seven?” However, Peter wasn’t seeking an answer like the Pharisees. Jesus recognized his attempt to elevate himself and saw right through it. In response, Jesus said that God’s standard would be to pardon someone seventy-seven times.

This is a real-life illustration of what Jesus demands of us. He doesn’t want a resentful heart. He opposes our checking the box. He wants us to exert every effort to find Him. We are to pursue Him with a sincere heart that is a sacrifice to Him.

Four things to consider about Christian divorce

We shouldn’t file for divorce just because our marriages aren’t giving us everything we want. No one can meet our lofty expectations because they are so high. You can become disappointed in your partner because they’re not as romantic, ambitious, spiritual, or handy as you would like them to be, and you become disappointed because you see someone else who is.

It is easy to become contemptuous or critical or disappointed rather than being grateful and appreciative of what you already have, but a disappointing or challenging marriage is no grounds for divorce, but rather for faithfulness.

Christian divorce is neither encouraged nor promoted by the Christian faith. It does not lightly or casually accept divorce, but in some cases, it does permit it. A hint of why this is can be found in the creation metaphor of “becoming one flesh.” God wants a married couple to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically close to the point where they are “one flesh.”

The four “A’s” – Adultery, Addiction, Abuse, and Abandonment – are the most frequent causes of broken marriages, though only two of them are biblical grounds for Christian divorce.


1. Adultery

One breakdown that Jesus specifically mentions is adultery. Marriages have been destroyed by infidelity throughout history. Adultery strikes right at the heart of the marriage covenant and so, while it does not require divorce, it at least grounds for it.

2. Addiction

Addiction will engulf everything in its path if treatment is not received. The drug or alcohol addict puts their addiction before their marriage, kids, and job. While this may be a cause for temporary separation to protect themselves and their children, addiction is not a biblical reason to end the marriage permanently.

3. Abuse

Most frequently, we think of physical abuse. However, it can also be verbal and emotional. Does your partner treat you differently when you’re alone than when they’re around other people? Does your partner insult, denigrate, or bully you? These are merely a handful of instances of non-physical abuse.

Sincere couples will work to address these issues because ongoing abuse can destabilize and harm a marriage. The “oneness” that God intends for marriage is violated when a spouse is repeatedly and unrepentantly harmed – physically or emotionally – and if left unattended, can result in brokenness.

Like with addiction, it may be a cause for temporary separation to protect themselves and their children. However, although abuse is a tragic and even dangerous sin, it is not clear from the Bible that it is a legitimate ground for divorce.

4. Abandonment

And finally, abandonment may result in brokenness. According to the Apostle Paul, in the case of a Christian who is abandoned by an unbelieving spouse, the Christian is not obligated to try to preserve the marriage at all costs and is free to remarry if deserted.

Regardless of the reason for divorce, a marriage can feel like an empty shell that no longer upholds God’s ideal of “oneness.” Marriage is, after all, about coming together rather than breaking apart, and was intended to be a blessing by God, but human sin frequently turns marriage into an intolerable burden. Though sin always works against God’s design for marriage, there are only two situations in which the Bible permits divorce.

Consider speaking with a Christian counselor if you are a Christian in an unsatisfactory or dangerous marriage. A Christian counselor can help you explore your options.

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28 Verses to Help Make Sense of Anger in the Bible

The relationships you have with yourself, others, and events that take place all impact your emotions. Human beings are designed with the capacity to feel, and you are often led by your emotions. This can be relatively harmless, but depending on the emotion and its intensity, your life can be derailed by emotive decision-making. That’s not a strike against emotions – they are a vital part of who you are as a being made in the image of God.

However, emotions, just like reason, should not be given free rein but must be brought under the authority of God’s Word. For example, the Bible warns of the dangers of holding onto emotions such as anger because they can negatively affect your heart and your relationships with people around you.

If someone breaks into your car, or a colleague takes credit for your idea, or your child defies you, or you find out that your spouse has been unfaithful, it can provoke anger. Even if your anger is appropriate, what you do with it matters. You need to be able to feel what you feel while not being controlled by it, letting it get out of hand, or leading you into bad decisions – in short, without letting it become anger that leads you to sin.

The Bible has many stories, aphorisms, and warnings about sinning in anger and what can happen if you give in to it. While giving full vent to your anger might feel empowering in the moment, in its wake you may regret the broken relationships or even violence (which has legal and other consequences).

And while many things ought to stir our anger and move you toward appropriate action, chances are your anger is far too often directed toward things that are best categorized as inconveniences, such as bad traffic or long lines at the grocery store, eye rolls and an upset tone. In such situations, it is appropriate to ask yourself whether your angry reaction is helpful and appropriate, or whether it is sin.

Anger in the Bible.

Below are some verses about anger in the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments to help you reflect on your anger and learn a few ways to bring that anger under control. One important point to make beforehand is that there are many instances in which people struggle with anger to the point where they have anger issues.

There are many causes of anger issues, and while all are within the control of the person, not all of them are equally easy to deal with. While this calls for a bit of sensitivity when responding to other people’s anger issues, the Bible makes clear that being controlled by anger is always a sin. “The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23).

God’s anger vs. our own.

God is a righteous judge, a God who is angry at evil every single day. – Psalm 7:11

Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So, he did, and his hand was made healthy.Mark 3:5

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15

The Lord responded, ‘Is your anger a good thing?’Jonah 4:4

These verses make it plain that God does get angry, but what angers God is evil. The last verse is found in the book of Jonah. The prophet was angry with God because was gracious to the Ninevites when they turned from their evil ways and repented.

Jonah had hoped God would destroy the Ninevites and became angry because of God’s graciousness. God asks Jonah if his anger towards the people of Nineveh was justified. Be careful to allow the Lord to tell you if your anger is justified or not.

Anger has consequences.

People with a hot temper do foolish things; wiser people remain calm. – Proverbs 14:17

But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell.Matthew 5:22

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and a man given to anger causes much transgressionProverbs 29:22

Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble. – Psalm 37:8

Keep your temper under control; it is foolish to harbor a grudge. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

Because churning milk makes curds, squeezing the nose brings blood, and stirring up anger produces strife.Proverbs 30:33

Violent people entice their neighbors and walk them down a path that isn’t good.Proverbs 16:29

Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that murderers don’t have eternal life residing in them.1 John 3:15

As with all other emotions, what you do when under the influence of anger matters. Not only does giving in to anger likely lead to more anger and strife, but it can lead you toward a poor standing before the Lord. This is a sober warning for  God’s people to not let your anger devolve into a deep grudge or hatred.

Be careful who you associate with.

Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes. – Proverbs 14:29

Insightful people restrain their anger; their glory is to ignore an offense.Proverbs 19:11

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it backProverbs 29:11

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered. – Proverbs 22:24

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. – James 4:1-2

Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife.Proverbs 15:18

The Bible calls those who give full vent to their anger “fools.” When you read the word “fool,” it would be a mistake to think of someone who merely makes bad decisions. Rather, the book of Proverbs takes great pains to show the fool to be the one who refuses to live their life according to God’s commandments. The fool, in other words, is a sinner.

Who you hang out with matters. Your friends have an influence over you, and you can easily absorb and replicate unhealthy behaviors such as giving full vent to your anger. If you want to learn wisdom, hang out with wise people. Don’t hang out with fools who let their anger get the better of them. This is especially true if you think you’ll be their friend so that they will be won over to Christ by the light you share-it doesn’t work like that.

Instead of anger, cultivate positive emotions and actions.

If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. – Ephesians 4:26

Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. – Ephesians 4:29

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:19-20

Therefore, I want men to pray everywhere by lifting up hands that are holy, without anger or argument.1 Timothy 2:8

Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. – Ephesians 4:31

But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. – Colossians 3:8

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.Proverbs 22:24

As for parents, don’t provoke your children to anger, but raise them with discipline and instruction about the Lord.Ephesians 6:4

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:19-26

Anger is such a powerful emotion that it’s not enough to simply refrain from unleashing it. God doesn’t ask you not to be angry. Instead, you  can cultivate other actions and attitudes to help yourself react in more productive ways. As the last verse indicates, this isn’t something you do by yourself, but you are to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual formation is a lifelong pursuit that takes place in community with others.


If you’re looking for additional support beyond these verses about anger in the Bible, Christian counseling can help. If you struggle with anger and your life and relationships have been negatively affected by anger, seek help from a mental health professional such as an anger management therapist. They will help you understand not only the roots of your anger but give you guidance in developing tools to curb your anger and keep it in check.

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3 Stories of Worry in the Bible to Remind You that You Are Not Alone

Depending on your season of life, worry may come and go. If you are facing a life-altering decision, you may worry that you’ll make the wrong choice. When parents have children, they might worry about their children’s lives and how they will turn out. No matter where you are today, it can be encouraging to know that we have somewhere to look when we are struggling with worry. There are many stories of worry in the Bible, and in this article, we will examine three of them: Naomi, Martha, and Jonah.

Stories of Worry in the Bible

The stories of Naomi and Jonah are from the Old Testament, while Martha’s story is in the New Testament. We see that worry isn’t escapable across the breadth of the Bible except by turning to God.

In all three stories of worry, the answer didn’t necessarily lie in the problem being solved, the day going just as planned, or the way ahead being easy. The answer was found in the promise of a God who loves and provides for His people.

What does worry in the Bible mean?

The word worry in the New Testament is a Greek word, “merimnao,” which translates to anxiety. It is a combination of two words, merizo, which means “to divide” and nous, which means “the mind.” So when we think of worry or anxiety, we know it divides our minds.

It keeps us from being present, it can steal our joy, and it can rob us of peace. But the good news is that God has prepared a script for us – a story in each of these people’s life that shows us a way to find Him in the midst of our anxious thoughts.

Naomi’s story

Naomi expressed the pain she was feeling because of life’s hardships. She had lost both of her sons, and she was in a position where she had nothing except the two daughters-in-law who were left. She assured them they needed to return to where they were from so that they could be with their families of origin after both of their husbands died.

She said she wanted her name to be changed to Mara due to feeling embittered in her relationship with God. She knew that He had dealt her hand, so to speak, and it was less than desirable; it was marked with pain, sadness, and grief.

In addition to the loss of her sons, Naomi had no grandchildren – which could have signified a curse or, at the very least, lack of God’s blessing – and there was a widespread famine. If she wanted to blame God for her worries and woes, she certainly had reason.

Don’t we all feel that way sometimes? We think, “If only God would change this, my worries would clear up. Maybe if God takes this circumstance and makes it lighter, I will feel better about my life.”

So what happened to Naomi? What got her through the worry with which she struggled? Her daughter-in-law Ruth had faith and loyalty that spurred Naomi on toward a new place to live and the belief that something or someone could redeem the hardships she’d endured.

The end of Naomi’s story is that she did end up having a grandchild, and her daughter-in-law married a man who they discovered was actually a distant relative. They had food to eat and newfound security. Naomi’s grandson would become the father of Jesse, the father of David, who was in the family lineage of the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus.

What can we learn from Naomi’s struggle? We can learn to lean on others’ faith when we are struggling with our own.

There will be times in life when your friends and family members, a church service, or a pastor may need to call you from your worry and show you what God can do. Let them. When we try to hide our fears or worries from others, it doesn’t help us, and it does not allow the love of God to flow through them to our hearts.

To read more about Naomi’s story of worry in the Bible, and the redemptive ending, go to the book of Ruth.

Jonah’s story

The book of Jonah comes as the fifth book in a group of twelve that bear the names of minor prophets. Unlike the other minor prophets’ stories, which told about their oracles, the one about Jonah talks about his life as a man.

We can take great comfort from his struggle to decide: follow what God was leading him to do or take a more predictable and perhaps more peaceful route. Jonah’s worry could be summed up in a two-word question: What if?

  • What if I obey and something bad happens to me?
  • What if I do this thing God is asking and it angers a group of people?
  • What if I fail or chicken out at the last minute?
  • What if the place where I am going is hostile to me and rejects me?

It’s easy to let these two little words spin our minds into worry. Let’s look at Jonah’s story of worry in the Bible and how he overcame it.

In Jonah 1, when God proclaimed His love and mercy for a people that Jonah hates, the Ninevites, we can imagine how Jonah felt: betrayed, unworthy of God’s favor, and abandoned by God. Have you ever felt unworthy of God’s favor? Abandoned by God?

It’s not surprising that Jonah surrendered to his fear and hatred of the Ninevite people and ran in the opposite direction after God told him to specifically share about His love and mercy in Nineveh. Jonah boarded a ship to Tarshish, far from Nineveh, where he met some pagan sailors.

His worry was taking him away from the Lord and away from the calling God has placed on his life. As we see in this part of Jonah’s story, his worry forced him to confront his own pride.

While on the ship a great storm brewed, and the sailors recognized it as a spiritual storm. They called on Jonah, their new shipmate who happened to be sleeping at the time, and they asked him what he thought they should do. What seems like a noble instruction on Jonah’s part, to throw him overboard, was actually Jonah’s attempt of getting out of God’s call on his life for good.

But even in the act of throwing him off the boat, the sailors turned away from their own sin and placed their belief in God.

Jonah was “saved” by a whale, and this is where he should have accepted that his pride had endeared him to worry. Still, Jonah didn’t come to full repentance, he simply recognized that God had been faithful. He thanked God for sticking with him and promised he would go to Nineveh to share about God’s mercy.

Once Jonah was vomited out by the whale back onto dry land, God reminded Jonah of his promise to obey. He instructed him (again) in Jonah 3:2, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”

Jonah started out on the long journey and gave a version of God’s message. However, in his version, the message missed some key points: He doesn’t mention the sinful activities for which Nineveh had come to be known, nor the way for the Ninevites to respond to God. He simply said that they will be “overturned.”

But God.

Whether it was worry or fear that caused Jonah to give halfway obedience to the prophetic call on his life, we see that God still used him. The king of Nineveh and all the people turned from their wickedness and worshiped the Lord.

What’s ironic is that Jonah’s prophetic message for this city did actually come true. They were not overturned in the sense of being destroyed (God forgave them and promised not to destroy the city when they turned to Him). No, the city was “overturned,” meaning that their hearts were transformed.

How does this relate to stories of worry in the Bible?

The book of Jonah isn’t really a story about Jonah and his worry; it’s about the source of his concern. He didn’t want to live in a world where a compassionate God would care as much about his enemies as for him. If you continue in the book of Jonah, you will find that we don’t get to see a clear resolution to his story.

The point of the story is to hold up a mirror to our worry. It can be rooted in selfishness or pride, and God in His great mercy calls us to be willing to examine the source of our worries.

Martha’s story

Martha often gets a bad rap. We remember her simply for one story when actually, she would become a dear friend to Jesus during His time on earth. But just like the other stories of worry in the Bible, we see Martha primarily as a tale of anxiety mixed with maybe a little jealousy.

When Jesus came to dine at her house with a gathering of others, Martha became frustrated with her sister, Mary, because she wasn’t helping around the house. In Luke 10:38-39, we read that Jesus was on his way somewhere when he stopped at Mary and Martha’s house, and Mary chose to sit at His feet and listen to everything He said instead of helping Martha.

On the other hand, Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:40a, ESV) Martha is remembered primarily because she was distracted by and probably worried about how everything would get done. Have you ever been worried that not everything would get done in time?

What we learn in Martha’s story, however, is that even our to-do lists come under submission to the Lord. In His response, Jesus showed His compassion and His authority to Martha.

He first addressed Martha with what she was facing – worry. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” (Luke 10:41, ESV) Here we see that Jesus’ compassion on Martha required that He help her see that her real issue wasn’t a clean house or a full table; it was worry. He invites her to recognize the destructive thought patterns to which she had succumbed.

Second, He reminded Martha of His authority. He instructed her to remember what the most important priority in life is: a relationship with God. In Luke 10:42, Jesus continued, “but few things are needed – or indeed only one.”

If you read to the end of the story, you see that Jesus addresses Martha about Mary’s inaction. But the takeaway from this story isn’t about Mary. It is that Martha recognized her worry and saw it next to the light of Christ.

What we learn from these Bible stories

As these stories may remind you, God cares about your worries. He would not have included so many stories of worry in the Bible if He were not a compassionate, loving Father. His call to you might indeed be to “cast your cares on the Lord.” (Psalm 55:22, ESV)

One excellent way to cast your cares is to take the first step toward counseling. Call our offices, so we can match you with a counselor who will listen and help you take the next step to overcome worry. The Lord has more in mind for you, and we’re here to help.

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Premarital Counseling: How It Can Help

So, you’ve recently gotten engaged, congratulations! Marriage is a wonderful stepping stone in your life. Premarital counseling is a great decision to make to help your marriage start off well, as guidance from a counselor can help you and your fiancé work to create a firm foundation. Premarital counseling can help you and your fiancé cover issues that may or may not be on your radar yet.

As you work through premarital counseling, you will boost your ability to address normal challenges in the first few years of your marriage. Couples who do not receive counseling have a greater chance of failing to get through these big challenges with success. All of the time that you invest in premarital counseling is designed to help you and your fiancé become more loving and intentional via your thoughts, words, and actions toward one another.

You, together with your Christian counselor, will strengthen your relationship in many ways in premarital counseling. In the counselor’s office, you will have help identifying your strengths, weaknesses, and any blind spots you may have. This will better prepare you for the long-term commitment of marriage.

You will also get a preview of common challenges married couples tend to face over time and make a plan for how to work through those problems as a team of husband and wife. By doing this, you and your fiancé can start developing positive habits of communication for your marriage.

The Uniqueness of Your Relationship

At the beginning of your relationship together, it’s likely you can list many things that you find attractive about your future spouse. However, the storms of life will inevitably affect your relationship. That’s when it’s easy to lose sight of how unique your relationship is and how much it is worth preserving. The time you invest now in becoming clear about the unique ways your future spouse blesses you will pay off when those storms of life hit your marriage.

During premarital counseling, your counselor will help you look at every aspect of the unique dynamics of your relationship. You will get to see how each of you contributes to the relationship as individuals as well as learn how you can work better together as a team. Your counselor can help you see how both your strengths and weaknesses can affect future decisions and conflicts.

You have probably heard it said that love is blind. Romantic love is wonderful, but it does tend to focus only on the good aspects of our partner. By working with a counselor before you get married, you can have a clearer picture of what to expect in your marriage through the eyes of an objective third party who can see any potential warning flags.

Romance doesn’t last, but instead ebbs and flows across the years of any relationship. With premarital counseling, you can gain tools to strengthen your marriage for times when the blind romance is non-existent to help you through the trials.

In a perfect world, both partners enter a marriage with full emotional health. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Premarital counseling gives you the opportunity to build up emotional health in some weak areas so you can head off future problems. You will do both yourself and your spouse a favor by healing any hurt areas before you get married.

How Premarital Counseling Can Help

A common trial for couples is communicating and processing pain or conflict with one another. Often times your fiancé’s upbringing and life experiences will dictate a very different approach to difficult situations.

This difference, whether it be a huge disparity in emotional health or simply a very different way of coping causes a divide in couples that can become very difficult to navigate. By laying a foundation of skills as well as talking through these topics prior to marriage, couples can gain a sense of how to navigate this without furthering the divide.

Your counselor may employ personality tests or other tools to help you both discover unique aspects of your relationship. The tools are designed to show you in which areas you are most compatible and which areas could use greater improvement or understanding.

You and your fiancé will work to gain greater self-awareness and awareness of one another’s needs. This increased awareness can help you love one another with more sensitivity and an eye toward eliminating unnecessary conflicts.

Handling Conflict

Most adults did not grow up learning how to handle conflict in healthy ways. Many families never operated with a healthy anger management style. But conflict is certain between two imperfect people in a lifetime commitment such as marriage.

You could have many difficult fights with your future spouse if you do not know how to handle conflict in a productive and respectful way. But you can learn how to address your unique dynamics early in your relationship with a qualified counselor’s help.

Premarital counseling is an excellent tool for helping you and your future spouse learn how to handle conflict in a healthy way. Whether you bottle your feelings inside or tend to vent your feelings in anger, your counselor can help you handle your feelings in a more productive manner. The skills you will gain in counseling sessions will help not only in your marriage but all other relationships.

Though conflict in marriage is certain, it isn’t always bad. If you handle conflict the right way, it can help you understand one another more, learn more about one another, and gain mutual respect.

In premarital counseling sessions, your counselor can role-play situations with you so you learn how to assertively handle conflict without disrespecting your spouse. Since over half of marriage issues don’t have a right or wrong solution, you can learn to disagree and still respect one another.

Conflicts often arise simply due to personality clashes. By studying your personality differences in counseling sessions, you can avoid painful clashes at a later date. You will have your eyes wide open to one another’s differences and will be much better equipped to handle them throughout your marriage.

Preserving Your Commitment

No newly engaged couple thinks their commitment is in danger. However, with a world that supports divorce as a viable choice while hiding any to all disadvantages/consequences of it, even a Christian marriage can fall into danger of divorce. But when you attend premarital counseling, you can reduce that risk by developing skills to use in the decades ahead.

Working together as a team is essential for preserving your commitment. You become advocates for each other when you get married. You need to feel that your partner has your back when the tough times arrive, so being advocates for each other is essential. Your counselor can help you see the areas where you may need to serve as advocates for one another.

It’s common for couples to slowly drift apart as the years pass. Other priorities can often get in the way of nurturing the marriage, and this will slowly erode your commitment to one another. But in premarital counseling, you can form plans to strengthen your commitment to one another daily, so your marriage retains the right priority status in your lives.

Satan will also try to destroy the commitment you have to one another. In counseling sessions, you will learn about common traps he lays so you can sidestep them in the future. Your counselor can also teach you how to use God’s Word to shield you from spiritual attacks and equip you to fight back as you work to preserve your commitment.

Goal Setting

You may think that you are on the same page with your future spouse on most things before the wedding. However, the chance of disappointment increases if you don’t discuss your goals ahead of time. A Christian counselor will assist you in discussing both individual and team goals and the ways that you can work toward these goals as a couple.

Unrealistic expectations are common with new love. It can be hard to see how you could possibly disagree with your future spouse on the goals you seem to share. You can gain clarity and wisdom in meetings with your counselor, where you will discuss goals for careers, children, finances, family life, and other important areas.

Building Intimacy

Sex is a very important part of marriage, but it is not the only way to cultivate intimacy in your relationship. You also need to make non-sexual intimacy a priority so you can keep the good feelings in play between you and your spouse.

In counseling sessions, your counselor will talk about what you both expect regarding sexual intimacy and non-sexual intimacy. If there are past hurts in these areas, the counselor can help you heal before your marriage.

Sex isn’t always an easy topic to discuss, but your counselor will make future discussions between you and your spouse easier by getting things out in the open. You will gain practical help for resisting temptation and honoring your spouse as you build intimacy.

In-Law Relationships

In-law relationships can often create problems for newly married couples. You may have already noticed drama in either of your families before the wedding ever occurs. But the Bible clearly teaches married couples to leave their families and cleave to one another (Genesis 2:24), and your premarital counseling sessions will cover how you can do this well—regardless of the zip code you use.

Your counselor will role-play scenarios with you so you can learn to set healthy boundaries in your marriage. You will gain practical help, whether your in-laws are distant or overbearing. It’s helpful to speak about in-law issues with your counselor before the wedding so you can protect your marriage from problems in the future.

Premarital Counseling for You

If you’re ready to start premarital counseling, we would love to help you get started. Set up your first appointment with a Christian counselor today. We look forward to helping you prepare for many blessings to come.

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15 Traits of a Toxic Friendship

We all want to have that friendship that brings fullness to our lives. A friendship that encourages us to be better and live joyfully. Friendships are people who help us to navigate the difficulties of life. But there are times in this world when we find ourselves entangled in a toxic friendship.

The world is full of deceit and self-centeredness so we don’t always see the signs of toxicity until we are heart-deep in a friendship. It is harder to leave toxic friendships than it is to acquire them. Learning to see the traits lessen your chances of finding yourself engaged in a toxic friendship.

15 traits of a toxic friendship

Here are fifteen traits of a toxic friendship.

1. Their behavior toward you is abusive and belittling.

Toxic friendships often display abusive behavior. They may continuously put you down and speak critically of everything you do. They choose to use mean words and angry outbursts if they feel they cannot control your decisions. Rather than being a friend that builds you up, a toxic friend will belittle you because they are envious of what you do or have. They are a bully.

2. They are jealous of other friends and significant others.

When your friend becomes jealous of any new friends you make may be exhibiting signs of a toxic friendship. They may even try to put a wedge between you and your other friends, including any of your romantic relationships. They do not want to share you with anyone even if it keeps you from dating your future spouse. They are covetous.

3. They want you to be like them.

It’s great to have some of the same interests as your friends, but when your friend is trying to change you into what they want you to be it becomes toxic and stressful. A toxic friend doesn’t know how to embrace the things that make you who you are but instead wants to see more of themselves in you. They are controlling.

4. They want you always to be the giver.

Having good friends means that you are there for each other no matter what comes in life. The friendship is mutual in giving and taking. But with toxic friendships, you will end up giving more. They just can’t find time to help you out of a tight spot or let you borrow the car, even though you lent them yours last month. A toxic friend will take advantage of you before helping you. They are freeloaders.

5. They always cause drama.

No matter what a toxic friend will always find a way to incite drama. Whether it’s an argument with a co-worker or a lady in the grocery store who cut in line, something always keeps happening to them. They live an exaggerated life.

6. Friendships are transactional and conditional.

When your friend becomes angry or distant because you didn’t agree with them or give them something they needed that is transactional. They only want to be your friend if you give them something. When you don’t, they may give you the silent treatment and even say you are no longer their friend. They are inconsistent.

7. They continually gossip about others.

One big red flag about toxic friendships is gossip. Most of the time they will gossip and say that they only want to help them. They tend to share secrets about others and even you. They are gossipy.

8. You no longer trust them.

Having a good friend means you can trust them with your hurt. We want a friend who will maintain confidentiality with our problems. When your friend doesn’t have your best interest at heart then it can become a trust issue. You may feel that you cannot trust them to follow through with helping you. There are times when plans fail, but when it is constant it changes their reliability. They are untrustworthy.

9. It feels like you are competing with them.

There is a healthy level of competition between friends. Working out together can be a healthy competition when done in a way that is encouraging to one another. Toxic friendships bring a sense of fighting to be the best every time simply because they have put you down. They are unconfident.

10. You find yourself making excuses for their behavior.

If your friend is known for bad behavior, it could place you in a position to defend them to others. It can cause you to defend their behavior even if you know it is not proper. They are unsettling.

11. You find that you cannot be honest with them.

It is important to feel safe with our friends. When we feel like we need to hide our truths so that we do not cause our friend to be angry then we may need to evaluate the friendship. We should always be able to be comfortable around our friends. When we find that we have to keep some things hidden it could be a sign that we are in a toxic friendship. They are harsh.

12. You no longer enjoy spending time with them.

When you are relieved that plans were canceled you may want to be concerned about the friendship. Toxic friendships eventually bring a dread about spending time together. You may find yourself making an excuse to break plans. They are unhappy.

13. They pressure you into activities that you do not like.

Sadly, being pressured by friends isn’t just a thing that happens in our teen years. We can find ourselves pressured by adult friends. The difference with toxic friendships is that they want you to engage in behavior simply because they don’t want to look bad alone. They want you to be like them in all aspects of life even if it means partaking in behavior that is not appropriate. They are judgmental.

14. They do not understand boundaries.

Toxic friendships do not embrace boundaries. These friends believe they do not have to respect your boundaries because they are your “best” friend. They think there is no way that you would not include them in every aspect of your life, even if you are married. They are big-headed.

15. They are unable to apologize.

We all make mistakes. A good friend will acknowledge the mistake and apologize. A toxic friend will find a way to make you feel as though you are overreacting and that they are the true victim. They hardly see when they do anything to hurt others. Sometimes they may apologize with the addition of a “but” statement. For instance, “I apologize for making you feel dumb, but I was just kidding.” They are self-centered.

How can you fix a toxic friendship?

There are steps that you can take to change the dynamics of the friendship. Try having a conversation about the situation in hopes that your friend may want to save the relationship as well. You may have to distance yourself from your friend to determine the best course of action. Speaking with other friends can help you gain insight that you might not usually see because you are in the middle of the conversation.

There is always the possibility that you will have to walk away from the friendship. It is never easy to walk away from someone who has been in your life for any length of time. Especially if you feel that you have created a bond with that person. But when it comes to toxic friendships sometimes it is the only option. We aren’t designed to be isolated, and neither are we designed to be mistreated.

Healing from toxic relationships

Once you have decided that the only option for the friendship is to walk away you will find yourself needing time to heal emotionally and mentally. You have been in a friendship that has made you feel isolated, inadequate, and worthless.

The stress of this friendship has left you feeling like you are unable to trust other people. Take time to grieve. Learn to be okay with getting to know yourself again. Start doing the things you like without feeling guilty.

God’s word encourages us to be healthy in our friendships. He created us to be social people, but we are to be people that edify others rather than tear them down. We are to be quick to listen and slow to judge. Spend time in God’s word and begin to understand what friendship should look like.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:31, NIV

Be kind and compassionate. Show patience with each other and learn to forgive.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:12-14, NIV

Do not be centered on yourself but always value others first.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4, NIV

Be quick to build up one another and encourage each other in the calling of God.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV

If you feel that you need help navigating the grieving process of a friendship reach out to a Christian counselor. Many will be able to help you process this grief and heal from the emotional damage of a toxic friendship.

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Breaking Free from the Perfectionism and Anxiety Cycle

It is one thing to strive for excellence in our lives. But when the exertion turns into the quest for perfectionism, it becomes a beast that can drive our motivations and cause difficulties in our work-life relationships. Anxiety can rise and cause a vicious cycle. But you can break free from the perfectionism and anxiety cycle with a Christian counselor’s help.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a person’s concern with flawlessness accompanied by critical self-evaluation and hyper-concern over others’ evaluation. It can lead us to be overly critical and judgmental of ourselves and others. Alternately, perfectionism can push us to do our best as we strive for maximum performance.

The trick is to be aware of when we tilt too far and begin to demand expectations from ourselves and others that are impossible to meet. No one is perfect and no one can be perfect. Mistakes help us learn and grow. Failure opens doors to new opportunities.

Some of the behaviors associated with perfectionism are an excessive concern for mistakes and errors, critical self-evaluations, and unrealistic expectations. Perfectionism concerns itself with the discrepancy between one’s expectations and performance. If we struggle with this, sometimes we project an image of flawlessness, which compounds the problem because we know deep down we are not flawless. This internal battle can create anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, a sense of uneasiness, dread, or distress. Normal levels of anxiety help us notice danger to keep us safe.

We will ask someone to hold a ladder while we climb it. We recognize that it’s good to teach our kids basic safety skills in the kitchen. These are good expressions of a healthy level of anxiety. Disorders occur when distress impedes our ability to function at work or in our relationships.

Anxiety will often reveal itself in through physical symptoms such as gasps for air, a rapid heartbeat, or insomnia. Sometimes what we refuse to think about in the daytime keeps us up at night through worry loops. In these loops, we repeat the same what-if questions like a broken record playing the same part of a song. Too much anxiety raises our cortisol levels and blood pressure, which affects our physical health.

We can become anxious when we dwell on the uncertainties of the future. We don’t know what the future will hold and anxieties about it can overwhelm us. Real events can trigger an anxious response too. Some doctor’s visits don’t carry good news. Inflation is a real problem. Family conflicts can break our hearts and contribute to anxiety. Our desire for a conflict-free life can drive our levels of anxiety up.

The perfectionism and anxiety cycle.

Perfectionism and anxiety work together to create unhealthy patterns in our lives. They have a cause-and-effect relationship. Perfectionism drives us to chase unreachable goals which lead to anxiety. An uptick in anxiety can drive us to extreme self-criticism, a sign of perfectionism, which leads us to more anxiety. Self-criticism with perceived failure heightens anxiety.

Fears of criticism from others increase anxiety in work performance or hold us back in social situations. We might stifle our opinions because we’re afraid of potential criticism. This builds anxiety within us and drives us further to perfectionism. This perfectionism and anxiety cycle plays on our fear of failure.

Anxiety and perfectionism can lead to low self-esteem where our desire for flawlessness can cause us to believe that we don’t have good to offer others. These thoughts can cripple us and set up unrealistic expectations for ourselves, which can lead to an overly defensive reaction when someone offers us feedback on our work performance or in our personal relationships.

What does the Bible say about perfectionism and anxiety?

When we consider what the Bible says about perfection and anxiety, we can be left confused and riddled with guilt. We know we’re not to be anxious, yet we struggle with it. Then we wonder how to not be riddled with anxiety. Later, we read that we are to be made perfect in Jesus, but we know we’re not because each day leaves evidence of our imperfection. How do we make sense of these words?

Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:38, ESV

This statement from Jesus came at the end of a section from The Sermon on the Mount. He opened that sermon series with a list of Beatitudes, followed by how the law was fulfilled, and how to deal with anger, divorce, oaths, and retaliation.

Jesus’ sermon turned their beliefs about these issues upside down. He did not command them or us to be perfectionists. Instead, He tells us that one day we will be complete, but in the meantime to grow and mature in His ways.

For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:14, ESV

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, believers are considered perfect in God’s eyes. At the same time, we experience sanctification—cleaned up, made new, set apart as holy—while we walk with Him through our days.

Perfectionism isn’t the goal, obedience to God and focus on the day when He makes us wholly perfect in our eternal home is. In the meantime, the work of Jesus in each of us has the full power to bring about life transformation.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7, ESV

Peace sounds far off when we’re in anxiety’s grip. But the command to not be anxious about anything can feel impossible when our heart races and stomach flip-flops. It’s in these moments when the rest of the passage lays out a plan for us to consider.

Supplication means to humbly petition. It’s difficult for a perfectionist who struggles with anxiety to admit flaws, but there is great peace and power when we recognize that we are not and cannot be perfect. We can bring our requests before the Lord in prayer and receive the peace He gives.

How to cope with perfectionism and anxiety.

When you explore your personality, you will begin to understand your God-given nature. When we understand it and how to use it in an appropriate manner, we grow. We can identify our tendencies and then take a moment to reset our expectations for ourselves. This helps release the anxiousness that arises when we don’t meet them.

We can learn to be flexible and less perfectionistic when we realize that God made us different from each other because He has an individual purpose for us in the body of Christ. When we lay down our unrealistic expectations of what that looks like and seek Him with our whole heart instead of perfect outcomes, we experience release from the persistent cycle of perfectionism and anxiety.

When we have a heart that is right before God, the perfectionism and anxiety cycle begins to break. It’s possible to portray perfection in what we do or how we look, but that distracts us from what God wants to accomplish in our hearts.

Perfect in heart means that we grow ever closer to the Lord as we put into practice the Biblical knowledge we already have. He covers our mistakes with His forgiveness and is interested more in our obedience than our contribution to perfect outcomes.

The desire to want to do everything well honors the Lord, but when we find our worth in what we do rather than in who we are in Christ, we experience perfectionism and anxiety. God calls us to find our worth in Him and allow Him to mold and shape us to reflect His glory in our lives. He provides a way for us to let go of the anxiousness that comes because of our misplaced understanding of perfectionism. We can rely on Him to help us overcome.

If you need additional support for perfectionism and anxiety beyond the contents of this article, please contact our reception to set up an appointment. It would be an honor to meet with you.

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What to Do About Caregiver Stress

Many people never reach their sixties, seventies, eighties, and beyond. Others develop chronic or terminal illnesses. Some people are born with disabilities or become disabled due to an accident. In all of these cases, a caregiver is often needed. In families, one person typically fills this role, usually, a woman, who balances career and family responsibilities.The responsibility for caring for an aging or ill family member can take its toll on the health of a caregiver – physically, mentally, and emotionally. In addition, caregiver stress can lead to burnout and physical illness. Learn ways that you can ease caregiver stress.

Caregiver stress is real.

Caring for another person brings its own pressures and stress. For example, when someone else’s health is your responsibility, it can feel like a huge burden. Add other factors like financial instability, your health issues, family responsibilities, another job or career, and being the only person available to care for a loved one, and the higher your risk of caregiver stress and burnout.

The symptoms of caregiver stress include:

  • Feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
  • Feeling sad or depressed.
  • Isolating from others.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Rapid weight gain or loss.
  • Irritability or anger.
  • Headaches and unexplained body aches.
  • Getting sick more often.

These symptoms can lead to issues at work and home, as you may have little patience with people. The worse you feel, the more you will let your health slide, and the lower your self-esteem and confidence will drop. Now is the time to get a handle on caregiver stress.

Tips for easing it.

Caregiver stress can lead to several problems. Before your stress level gets out of hand, prepare ahead of time if you can. First, read through the tips below if your emotions are headed in that direction. Then, see what strategies you can start today to feel better. For example, can you take a fifteen-minute walk to unwind and move your muscles? Is there someone you can call and ask for help?

Ask for help from friends and family.

Your time is limited if you are the only one providing full-time care for a family member. Create a list of tasks that other people can do. You or your family members probably have friends that would love to help but are unsure what they can do. With a prepared list, you can allow them to choose how to help.

For example, these tasks could include picking up groceries and medications, doing light housecleaning, or transporting your loved one to an appointment. In addition, there may be someone who loves your family member as much as you do who would be willing to visit for a few hours while you run personal errands.

Work on your health.

When we devote our time and attention to caregiving and doctor appointments, we often miss our own screenings. We cut out exercise and grab quick meals on the go when our time is tight, But when we take these shortcuts for too long, eventually, they catch up with us.

Your health is as essential as the health of your family member. You are the person that keeps the balls in the air. Take the time to exercise and plan healthy meals. Ask a nutritionist about quick ways to prep meals for the week. This is something you may be able to do once a week while your family member naps or while someone is visiting the home.

Schedule your annual screenings during your birth month to make them easier to remember, then ask others to fill your role as a caregiver on those days. As long as you give plenty of notice, you will be surprised at how many people will be willing to lend a hand.

Establish a routine.

Establish daily and weekly routines for yourself and your loved one to ease caregiver stress. For example, your weekly routine could include grocery and medication pickup or delivery on Mondays, errands on Tuesdays, and deeper housecleaning tasks on Wednesdays. Having a weekly routine of when you do things will enable you to schedule help when needed. It also gives you a sense of relief knowing that a task will get done on a specific day.

You can split daily routines into morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime. Every family’s routine will be different depending on your needs and situation. For example, you might spend a few minutes in the morning making breakfast and unloading the dishwasher to fill it with dirty dishes throughout the day. Your afternoon routine may be to clean your family member’s bedroom before they watch a favorite movie or television show. Get creative about what needs to get done and when.

Find a support group.

You can find support groups for just about any illness or disability. A support group is an excellent resource for learning more about a specific condition and how to manage its symptoms. In addition, you can meet other caregivers in the same situation. For example, if your loved one has dementia, you can find a local support group whose members have loved ones with the disease. These people can offer guidance on what to expect and how to handle scary situations and provide names and numbers of organizations you can turn to for memory care services.

If you are looking for a broader group, research caregiver support groups in your area or online. You can find caregiver groups that closely match your situation, such as groups for female caregivers who work outside the home or for male caregivers of ill or disabled spouses.

Use caregiver resources.

Caregiver resources are available, although you may need to look online or check with your local Area Agency on Aging office. Your loved one’s doctor may also know of organizations that can help you.

Respite care is valuable when you need a break to take care of personal errands or a day off. Respite care is available at home or a facility if your loved one is currently staying elsewhere. Adult daycare centers are open during the day and offer adult programs to keep them entertained, socializing with others, and mentally stimulated.

If you are taking some time off of caregiving for a much-needed vacation, you may be able to locate a nursing home or assisted living facility that provides short-term care. These facilities will house and care for your loved one for a few days to a month or so, depending on how long you plan to be gone. They are a more expensive option; however, your loved one is cared for in all areas, including having a medically-trained staff present.

Take leave if you need it.

If you work for a company full-time and fulfill the role of caregiver for a loved one, you may be eligible for a short-term paid or unpaid leave. Each company is different, and you must check with the Human Resources Department for qualified programs. If you are experiencing caregiver stress and concerned about its effects on your health, ask about leave.

Many companies offer FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). FMLA allows you to take up to twelve weeks off from work without losing your position. It is an unpaid leave, so you will want to have another option for income during this time.

In addition, some people pay into a separate account for emergencies like illness, maternity leave, and caregiving. If you know ahead of time about your loved one’s condition, you may be able to open one of these savings accounts and ask about FMLA at your company.

Are you experiencing caregiver stress?

Being a caregiver to a family member is one of the most demanding jobs. If you work a job (either outside the home or from home), care for a family, and have other responsibilities, it may feel like you are slowly losing your mind.

You may be experiencing caregiver stress symptoms. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Your therapist will specialize in caregiver support and aging and geriatric issues. Call us today.

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What Depression Feels Like: Triggers and Treatment

If you have a loved one that struggles with depression, it’s important to offer the empathy and support that they need. Knowing what depression feels like can help you build that empathy and help you understand why they need ongoing support.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a mood disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Most people label this disorder as “depression.” However, MDD is more than a depressed mood and can often be made up of multiple episodes of depression. For the sake of this article, we will refer to depressive episodes as depression.

Having a depressive episode is like a persistent and deep form of sadness that won’t lift even if circumstances change. Depression often affects how a person sees themselves and the world around them. Some of these effects can severely undermine their working and personal relationships.

What Are the Causes and Triggers of Depression?

Briefly, we need to consider what can trigger and cause depression. Grasping this is important to help you understand that depression isn’t a choice that anyone makes, nor is it something that they can simply stop feeling.

Depression symptoms can return or appear when they are triggered by psychological, physical, or emotional events. Some of the more common triggers of depression include experiencing a medical crisis, stressors such as the loss of a loved one or family conflict, and interrupted depression treatment that causes a recurrence of depression symptoms. Many of these triggers are unavoidable and difficult to anticipate.

Doctors don’t fully understand what causes depression, but there are several possible causes that have been suggested, and these include biological, hereditary, and environmental causes. Some of the common causes of depression are:

Your genetic inheritance and family history. If you have family members with a history of depression, there’s a likelihood of developing depression or another type of mood disorder.

Brain structure and chemistry. A frontal lobe that’s less active than normal may result in a greater risk of depression. It’s not entirely certain if this change occurs prior to the onset of depression or as a result of it. A chemical imbalance in the parts of the brain that affect one’s thoughts, mood, and behavior may increase the risk of depression.

Life experiences. These include childhood trauma, chronic illness, and substance abuse. These experiences can increase your risk of developing depression.

What Depression Feels Like

There are some symptoms and experiences of depression that are typical for most people, such as feelings of sadness and loss of interest in and enjoyment of tasks that were previously enjoyable. To diagnose someone with MDD, a mental health professional will look to see if certain symptoms are present for at least two weeks.

Some of these symptoms include the following:

  • Poor concentration
  • Feelings of excessive guilt or low self-worth
  • Significant changes in appetite
  • Fatigue or low levels of energy
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Having thoughts about death or suicide

When a person is having a depressive episode, they will experience significant challenges in important areas of their daily functioning such as at school, work, and in their relationships.

What Depression Feels Like in Men

For different groups of people, there are some typical experiences of depression and ways it will manifest. Men, for instance, may feel overwhelmed by depression. This will often result in a greater likelihood of drinking alcohol in excess, engaging in risk-taking behavior, and/or displays of anger.

Males will also find themselves isolating themselves by avoiding family and social situations and burying themselves in their work. This may cause strain in relationships. With fraying tempers, males may begin to display controlling and abusive behaviors that weren’t present in the relationship before the depression.

Additionally, men will often find themselves feeling angrier, more aggressive, irritable, anxious, and more restless than usual. They will find themselves unable to concentrate or make decisions and complete tasks. This may look like failing to meet work deadlines or remembering to pay bills.

A man with depression may feel tired easily and find himself having headaches, digestive problems, and other unexplained pains. At night, he may find himself not sleeping well throughout the night or sleeping excessively. Poor sleep may make him more irritable and less able to regulate his emotional responses to the people around him.

Men with depression may find themselves losing interest and having little enjoyment of things they used to consider pleasurable activities, and that may include having a reduced sexual desire or experiencing a decline in sexual performance. They may find themselves feeling empty, hopeless, or sad, and having thoughts of suicide.

These experiences may be frustrating to the people in the life of a man who is struggling with a depressive episode, as he may not have the energy to play with his kids or enjoy time with them. The negative effects of depressive episodes on his cognitive abilities, such as delayed responses during conversations, may make talking to him a more involved process than usual.

What Depression Feels Like in Women

Females struggling with depression may find their moods affected. They may have increased irritability and feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, and hopelessness. Their sleep will also be affected and deviate widely from what is considered normal, and they may find themselves losing interest in activities and withdrawing from social engagements.

Physically, females with depression may have decreased energy, increased fatigue, significant changes in appetite, changes in weight, pain, headaches, or increased cramping.

Mentally, women in the midst of a depressive episode can have decreased cognitive abilities. Their thinking will be affected so they process and talk slower than usual. Women with depression may also have suicidal ideation or thoughts and possibly take action against them.

Depression in Children, Teens, and Young Adults

Children with depression may cry more than usual and experience low levels of energy. This will often result in challenges in doing their school work and a decrease in enjoyment of social activities. They may become clingy and refuse to go to school or get into trouble at school.

Because younger children don’t typically have the vocabulary and emotional intelligence to name their feelings and express them in words, they may express their frustration in their behaviors such as vocal outbursts, anger outbursts, and defiant behavior.

Children enduring a depressive episode may also have times where their energy seems to fluctuate significantly and inability to attend to things typical for their age. Sometimes they may have thoughts of self-harm or death.

Teens and young adults who have depression may struggle to maintain social activities and/or lose interest in activities. This can lead to withdrawing from their friends and family.

Some teens and young adults continue to keep up an appearance of happiness during a depressive episode but are quick to withdraw and avoid deep/meaningful conversations. Cognitive difficulties may cause them to struggle to concentrate on their schoolwork, and they may find themselves feeling guilty, helpless, and/or worthless.

All these physical, emotional, and mental changes that occur during a depressive episode affect how he or she relates to others. People experiencing depression are not their typical selves. They can’t simply snap out of it and make things go back to normal during a depressive episode. Depression will often feel like a dark, weighted blanket that descends on a person, numbing his or her experience of the world and dulling their response to and enjoyment of it.

Treating Depression

The good news about depression is that it is treatable. It may take several months for an individual to respond to treatment, and at times the treatments may need to be combined to be effective. But various treatments have proven to be effective in relieving the symptoms of depression for most people.

Those experiencing a depressive episode can practice self-care to alleviate some feelings of depression. Work toward improving one’s overall health by going to bed and waking up at the same time, using a comfortable sleeping environment, and stopping the use of electronic devices 1-2 hours prior to sleep is helpful in winding down and allowing the brain to settle. Eating a healthy diet as well as regular exercise will also elevate one’s mood and boost one’s well-being.

Community is an important aspect of support for those going through depression. Friends and family can walk alongside those going through to help alleviate symptoms of depression as well as simply walk alongside the individual while they journey toward healing and wholeness.

Face-to-face interactions with people, with the ability to discuss practical solutions, enjoy a listening ear, and/or participate in activities that allow the individual to actively engage in loving on or having fun with others are the most helpful.

These measures are just a few helpful ways to manage the symptoms of mild depression. However, they ought to be used in conjunction with checking in with a health professional like a primary care physician or a mental health counselor.

For mild and severe forms of depression, the use of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, to address the possible triggers and causes of depression has been found to be helpful for many. It provides a neutral and supportive space for the individual to work on their healing journey. It is designed to help individuals cope with depression so that it doesn’t dictate day-to-day functioning. Some options for talk therapy include one-to-one or group counseling.

Therapists use a range of techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and other evidence-based treatments. In conjunction with psychotherapy, someone experiencing MDD may need to consider medication to support their success in managing depressive episodes.

A doctor may prescribe medications such as antidepressants that can help treat moderate to severe depression. These antidepressants are in several classes, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclic antidepressants, atypical antidepressants, and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, it is likely affecting your life in significant ways. If you are a Christian struggling with symptoms of depression, this includes impacting your faith. The impact of depression on the Christian can overwhelm the ability to live by faith and feel like a stumbling block. You don’t have to walk alone, because you can lean on the expertise of a Christian counselor.

There is hope for depression. Reach out today to make an appointment with a mental health professional to start your healing journey.

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Self-Improvement as a Lifestyle, Not a Resolution

When New Year’s Day rolls around, people all over the country set resolutions for self-improvement. But unfortunately, by the end of February, many of these resolutions are thrown by the wayside, and people return to the same habits they have always had.

But self-improvement is not an event. It does not happen a few months into the year. Instead, improving yourself is a lifelong journey to be better, do better, and attract better. Making self-improvement habits stick must become a lifestyle, not an end goal.

Lasting tips for self-improvement

You have probably heard that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit; however, some research suggests that habit-forming takes longer to become a lifestyle. Read through the list of self-improvement tips and choose a few you would like to implement this year. Give yourself at least a month or two to apply a suggestion before adding a new one. Then, make embedding these habits part of your overall lifestyle for lasting change.

Create a bedtime routine.

Never underestimate the power of routines. You can have a smoother morning by using your evening as a preparation period. You may want to start your routine as soon as you come in from work. Depending on your home and family, you could quickly do your evening chores, pick your outfit for the next day, and prepare breakfast and lunch. Then, do something relaxing to help you unwind before bed that does not include digital devices.

Transition into a morning person.

Once you have laid the foundation with your bedtime routine, consider getting up a little earlier each morning. You can accomplish more in the long term if you work on your goals for a short amount of time each morning. For example, if your new self-improvement habit is to exercise more, carve out 15-30 minutes three to five mornings a week to fit it in. You can achieve anything if you buckle down and focus for this short time before everyone else wakes up.

Journal your thoughts.

Journaling and reflecting on your day serve two purposes. First, it allows you to “dump” the day’s stresses onto the page. Journaling gives you an outlet to let things go so that you can start the day (or the next day) with a clearer head. Second, journaling gives you a moment to reflect on what you have learned, who you are grateful for, and what you need to forget. It is a moment of appreciation for the life God has given you.

Listen to a podcast or audiobook.

Never before have we had access to experts at our fingertips. You do not need to rub shoulders with the greats in a particular industry to learn from them. With easy access to audiobooks and podcasts on thousands of subjects, you can learn from the best and on the go. Make it a goal to listen to at least one podcast and audiobook over thirty days. The more you listen, the more you will challenge your memory to recall details later.

Kick procrastination to the curb.

Procrastination is a time waster and is often rooted in fear, the fear of man. We are fearful of rejection and disappointment. When we cannot complete a task on time or do not know enough about a subject, we procrastinate to avoid experiencing pain or discomfort. But procrastination and fear of man will stop you from making lasting changes. When you are procrastinating on a task, give yourself a pep talk and make yourself do it. Even if it is for only five minutes, you will have rallied against the resistance. Next time, go a little longer.

Learn something new.

Is there a subject about which you have always wondered? Maybe it was a topic you did not necessarily want to study for a career, but it was an interest. Now is the time to take steps to learn about it. For example, learning a foreign language, how to play a musical instrument, or martial arts.

You are not after mastering this interest, but allow yourself to be a novice. When you lead with grace and embrace your mistakes, then you will experience freedom in doing something you love.

Acquire new skills for your career.

Acquiring new skills can make you valuable in the marketplace. The career you have chosen needs people with high-quality skills to run smoothly. What skills do you need to acquire? Do you need certifications in software programming? How are your communication skills?

Figure out what you need to learn to make you a valuable team member and an essential employee. You can find courses and certifications online in thousands of subjects. Then, use your new skills to ask for a promotion, raise, or find a new job.

Make your goal your lifestyle.

Often, we set goals, but we fail to walk the talk. We want to lose weight but stop daily at a drive-thru. We want to save money but spend every dollar. We want to earn a certification to help us attain a better job, but we spend our evenings binge-watching a series. It happens to everyone. However, you must make your goal your lifestyle. You have to make conscious decisions for your future self to do better.

Challenge yourself.

If you worry that making lifestyle changes for self-improvement are too daunting and overwhelming, use the baby-step approach. Challenge yourself to make one change for 30 days. Issue yourself a thirty-day challenge to etch a new habit into your mind. For example, if laying out your clothes the night before will save you thirty minutes in the morning, try it for thirty days. Once a new habit forms, move on to another challenge.

Declutter your environment.

Physical clutter also clutters the mind. When you surround yourself with chaos and piles of unwanted things, it becomes difficult to think clearly. A cluttered environment brings out stress and anxiety. Your sleep is disrupted, and you maydevelop insomnia. In addition, you are less likely to invite anyone to your home. Try decluttering in short periods of 10-15 minutes, so you do not become overwhelmed.

Make short to-do lists.

You can control your day, or it can control you. Decide that you will focus on what you can manage and leave the rest to God to handle. Create a short to-do list each morning (or the night before) to give you a roadmap to follow.

Prioritize the items that must get done and keep it short. Long, detailed to-do lists can lead to frustration and burnout. Next, choose the toughest task on your list to accomplish first to get it out of the way. Is it making a phone call or completing forms online? Tackle that first.

Move outside your comfort zone.

To stretch and grow, you must operate outside of your comfort zone. This is a scary place to be, and you may want a counselor to help guide you. But the best opportunities are often on the other side of that fear, way outside your comfort zone. Ask yourself what tasks make you nervous.

What action could you take, if you were not afraid, that would significantly impact your life? Pretending not to be scared may work, but enlisting the help of a licensed mental health counselor could make the process easier. Plus, it would provide needed support and encouragement.

Get help when you need it.

A part of self-improvement is recognizing and seeking help when you need it. Making choices and following through can be difficult at first, but the more you fight against the resistance to return to your old habits, the better off you will be. Reach out to our office today to schedule an appointment with a personal development counselor to make a plan to accomplish your goals and grow your skills.

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