As the echoes of Christmas carols fade in the distance. As the shiny newness of our gifts lose their glow. As we go back to work and to school and into our normal daily routine, how can we continue to find and feel peace in our lives?
We have immensely enjoyed the spirit of Christmas. Now we again face the responsibilities of life. Throughout the world, there are still wars and rumors of war, political strife, community unrest. In some parts of the world, many struggle with weather-related problems, lack of water and power and on and on. Family members and/or friends may be struggling with health issues or nearing the end of their mortal life. Others begin the responsibility of caring for their own newborn babe with all the rest of their children. And there are some who long to have children.
Many of us will contemplate 2022, the experiences we have had, the memories we have made, and how we want to do better and be better. Then we make New Year’s Resolutions, or better yet, we set goals for 2023. President M. Russell Ballard has often taught us the eternal importance of righteous goals. (see https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2004/03/go-for-it?lang=eng,)
One important goal can be improving our mental health. Please consider the following. Four of the most common concerns in life are anxiety, depression, stress, and relationships. As a simple explanation, these struggles often come from a desire to control things that are outside of our control, we often overthink things, we dwell on past mistakes, past hurts, and on things we wish we had done better or made better choices. Or as we look to the future, we want to know exactly how things will turn out, we appreciate our patriarchal blessing but we want to know every step along the way. But if every step was laid out for us, when would we learn to use our agency and how would we progress?
President Thomas S. Monson taught, “Learn from the past, prepare for the future, live in the present.” (General Conference, April 2003).
THE PAST. If there are any unresolved transgressions, please talk to your bishop, your branch president, or your mission president. If past sins have been addressed, trust in the atonement of Jesus Christ, learn from them and move forward in your life. If there were past issues of mental, verbal, physical or sexual abuse, work on becoming a survivor, no longer a victim. Therapy can help. If you dwell on past mistakes, use them as learning steps to do better and be better.
THE FUTURE. President Monson said, “Remember the promise of the Lord: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” Fear is a deadly enemy of progress. It is necessary to prepare and to plan so that we don’t waste away our lives. Without a goal, there can be no real success.” “Our journey into the future will not be a smooth highway which stretches from here to eternity. Rather, there will be forks and turnings in the road, to say nothing of the unanticipated bumps.”
THE PRESENT. To find peace in these challenging times, we can make sure to do the basics: Physically: get enough sleep, have a balanced diet, get some exercise to help the body’s “feel good” chemicals become activated; Spiritually: pray, study the scriptures, keep the commandments; attend church, and go to the temple.
In addition, no matter your circumstances or whatever your challenges, what an incredible story you can record in your journal or add to your personal history about living in the dispensation of the fulness of times! What lessons has the Lord helped you learn? How and who has He allowed you to serve each day, each week, and each month? And how has this given you experience and been for your good? What tender mercies have blessed us and how will they continue to be a blessing for us in the future?
Whenever we have adversity and challenges, we can learn that the Lord watches over us just like He watched over the prophet Joseph when he was in Liberty Jail when the Lord said, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; (D&C 121:7-8). And in D&C 122:5-7: “If thou art called to pass through tribulation…all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
The good news of Christmas continues after Christmas: a child was born for us, even Jesus Christ. We have the blessings of his life, his ministry, his teachings, and his atonement. We have the blessing of continuing counsel, guidance, and instruction from the Lord through living prophets and apostles. May we feel joy, hope, and peace through Him now and always.
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]