Focus on the Family

Take Care of Your Mind

Your mental health is important to your family's health.

by Jill Savage

Dr. Brenda Hunter, author of Home by Choice and many other wonderful books, received her doctorate at age forty-nine. She says that it is proof that your mind does not rot during your years at home with your children!

At times, though, it's easy to feel that our minds are in a low gear when all we're dealing with is diapers, dishes, laundry and Dr. Seuss books. Just as it is important to take care of our bodies, it is equally as important to take care of our minds.

I love to read the newspaper, but I have little time to do it. Therefore, my goal is to read the paper several days during the week. It keeps me informed about local and national news, and it helps me to stay in touch with the outside world. It fills my mental fuel tank.

What do you love to do that will keep your mind filled up? Read? Make a craft? Do cross-stitch? Surf the net? Talk with friends? Writing in a journal is great therapy for the mind. Find out what works for you and then carve out some time to make it happen. You may have to ask for help in accomplishing it. Be prepared for that. There was a season that I literally could not find time to read the newspaper without the assistance of my husband. From the time I got up in the early morning it was all babies and toddlers until I went to bed too exhausted to read anything other than the inside of my eyelids. The kids couldn't seem to get on the same nap schedule and I was completely depleted when Mark would arrive home. We finally talked about it, and I asked Mark if he could give me thirty minutes after he came home for me to regroup. I'd take the newspaper to the bedroom, close the door and begin filling up my fuel tank. There were some days I would actually emerge a different person than the one who had entered the room thirty minutes earlier!

Maybe you don't have a husband who's willing to help. In that case you may need to swap baby-sitting with a friend. If you have family close by, ask Grandma or a sister or sister-in-law to help. You might want to hire a sitter to help you accomplish your goal. Remember, your mental health is important to your family's health.

There's one more area we have to consider as we care for our minds. We have to learn to limit our activities outside the home in order to keep our minds from being bogged down with things that really aren't important. Because we are at home it is often assumed that we have more free time to do volunteer work than others have. We are often asked to serve more at church, school and so on. As we consider our commitments outside the home, it is important that we understand four concepts: good and best, learning to say no, the urgent and the important and asking for help. If we can grasp these concepts, we can maintain a healthy balance in the responsibilities we carry.

Good and Best

You are a talented, capable and responsible person. Talented, capable, responsible people are asked to do more. You will be in high demand to do lots of good things. But the question to ask is, "What good things do I need to say no to, and what are the best things I can say yes to?" You are not choosing between good and bad; you're choosing between good and best. That's a hard choice.

One way we can determine what is good and what is best is by knowing what our mission is in this season of our lives. Most organizations and businesses have mission statements that help them stay focused on their goals. Mission statements also allow them to know what business ventures to pursue and what needs to be left for another organization or business to develop. They compare a new idea or venture opportunity to their mission statements. They ask, "Does this fit with the mission of our organization?" Then they move forward from there.

Have you ever considered writing a mission statement for yourself? What is your mission in life? A good way to begin to answer that question is to ask yourself, "When I leave this earth, what legacy do I want to leave? Where do I want to have made a difference?" Now go through and list your priorities. Then take your mission statement and your priorities and begin making some goals: lifetime goals, annual goals, monthly goals and daily goals will enable you to fulfill your mission. Your mission, priorities and goals should be related. Now you have a grid to help you make decisions about your "best" activities.

When asked to do something, make prayer the first step toward making a decision. If God hasn't given you a strong sense of direction in prayer, the next step is to compare it to your mission, priorities and goals. If it doesn't fit in with those, then the decision is practically made for you. If it fits in with your goals and mission, though, you will need to further evaluate your time availability.

Another way to approach decisions about activities outside the home is by asking, "What is God asking me to do in this season of my life and does this activity fit with that plan?" When I know I could do a job but I'm trying to determine if I should, I often pose this thought, "I am capable, but am I called?" Is God calling me to do it?

We don't want to overload our minds to the point of losing our focus. We also don't want to carry so many responsibilities that we shirk what God is calling us to do in caring for our families. Having a plan for making those good vs. best decisions is the first step in setting limits on activities outside the home and ultimately in taking care of ourselves.