Feeling Stressed or Overwhelmed? A Guide to Mental & Emotional Wellness Can Help
Dr. Jennifer Londgren wrote the book she wished she'd had in a tough season of life.
Jennifer Londgren, PhD, recently spoke with The Stream’s Nancy Flory about her new book titled A Guide to Mental & Emotional Wellness: Biblical wisdom, Practical principles and Clinical insight. The book is timely as more people than ever before struggle with mental or emotional challenges in today’s culture. Depression and anxiety are on the rise. But Londgren’s new book can help as it addresses ways to achieve mental and emotional wellness undergirded by the Word of God. Primarily for Christians, Londgren’s book covers topics such as self-care (Hint: it’s not what the world thinks it is!), self-talk, identifying who and Whose we are, the mind, emotions, the role of gratitude, our behavior, perspective, community and more, backing up her counsel with Scripture and biblical strategies. Here’s what Londgren said about her book.
Nancy: Tell me why you wrote the book and why now?
Dr. Londgren: I remember the day. It was in August of 2019, and I think I wrote the book because I needed a resource like this.
I wrote it because it’s a book that I wish that I would’ve had and it could really help me. I just had this season of life where I felt really overwhelmed and really pressured and, I don’t want to say hopeless, but just like kind of not seeing how all of these pieces would connect. And then I started getting into the self-help wellbeing literature. And I’ve always been a Christian — my whole life. I got really well versed in that. And then I took it back and compared it to the Bible. It was amazing to me how many of the things that were coming out in the evidence are already written in God’s Word. I started doing presentations about it. That’s really where I started to just workshops. I do a lot of conferences and just trainings in different businesses. … Then I got asked to come to a youth workshop. That’s really where the biblical truths and the wellness literature were married. I’m like, ‘This is so amazing to me.’ That’s really when I had the idea for the book, because I already had the presentation outlined and it all just made a lot of sense.
Nancy: Is self-care biblical? And how do we know what that looks like for ourselves?
Dr. Londgren: I think it is, it just might not be called that. I’ve talked about this before, but just the idea of self-care is very worn out and it’s very commercialized and consumerized. So I just think a lot of people are turned off from that phrase. It just is like, ‘Oh, this is just a spa package someone’s trying to sell me,’ or ‘it’s just kind of rationalizing being selfish,’ or ‘it’s just some sort of luxury that I’ll have, at some later date when my kids are all in school, when I’m an empty nester, when we’re both working, when we have more money and time and margin of something.’ But I think [we should] reframe it as this responsibility of taking care of [our] physical health. It’s just part of being a healthy human, it’s just a facet of health.
I do think that that is outlined in the resting and in the community and in the solitude that even Jesus himself took. I think he had a lot of practices, even just how he designed his life to be supportive for mental, emotional, spiritual health.
I almost wish we could call self-care something else because it’s just such a loaded phrase. Practicing emotional wellbeing is another way to think about it. And the other thing about it is, I think sometimes we call unhealthy coping strategies self-care. It’s almost like a way to rationalize like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna have a few drinks after work.’ Or ‘I’m gonna binge watch a TV series,’ Or ‘I’m going to overspend or overeat or not get work done because it’s self care.’
That’s not even the self-care that we’re talking about in the book. Those are just coping behaviors. And whether or not that’s right or wrong, it may not be optimal, but that’s not exactly self-care either. So it’s just really to important to have a clear definition of what it actually is, which is proactively using strategies to care for your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Nancy: What would you say to those who are struggling now in today’s culture with what’s going on today, with the war and all of these things that we are worried about? What do you say to someone who’s struggling right now?
Dr. Londgren: Well, I think one of the biggest things is that you’re not alone. Because a lot of people are struggling. I mean, we know that now more than ever post-COVID. Especially young people — like the emerging adults who are really hit hard through COVID, whose social fabric of their lives really became upended. The people who are on technology quite a bit. That’s another big risk factor is just being exposed to a lot of tragedy and bad news and uncertainty and confusion and discord in general. So, what I would say to someone who’s struggling is just, you’re not alone. I think a lot of times when we’re suffering, we feel like we’re the only ones who feel like this and we’re the only ones who are in pain. And just to know you’re not alone and to find ways to serve others and to, to get connected [with others].
And also, however they can to really be intentional about guarding their mind. That’s another important thing. Sometimes when you don’t feel well, you might go on technology even more or just watch TV even more or just start conversations that are like this: ‘Everything stinks. Like what is everyone’s problem? What’s wrong with everyone these days? And what’s wrong with our government and this and that?’ And it’s just becomes very draining.
Be very intentional about boundaries, about where your focus and your thinking and your mind is going. Because especially today we could be in despair very quickly if we just read the news headlines. So it’s a balance of not being living in a bubble and being in denial and pretending like it’s not there. But it’s also having boundaries and just very intentionally doing things that nourish you and doing things that fill your cup and coping even more so to counteract the exposure to tragedy that we’re all experiencing.
Nancy: What do you want people to take away from your book?
Dr. Londgren: I would say one of my biggest things is that I want people to know that they don’t have to get through life in survival mode. They don’t have to be miserable. And I want them to know that it’s important for them to take care of themselves and have this emotional intelligence so they can serve more fully. I want everyone who reads it to be able to have this capacity to optimize their own health so they can serve more fully. I talk a lot about emotions in the book and that’s an important thing for me because sometimes I feel like if Christians don’t do emotional health super well because it’s not about how we feel. It’s about the truths of the Bible and that is true.
But at the same time, there’s so much on emotional health that’s important to know. And I really believe, especially for men, if they can have some of those tools, I believe that they can connect with their spouses and their kids and they can take care of themselves better and help. So I want people to also know that therapy and psychology isn’t wrong and it isn’t pagan and it’s, it isn’t unbiblical either. And I think that’s one of my biggest goals, is marrying modern psychology with the truth of the Bible.
Nancy: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think our readers would like to know?
Dr. Londgren: I want them to have a lot of compassion for themselves too. It’s okay to say that they’re struggling. They don’t need to judge themselves or be hard on themselves or shame themselves. That’s not going to help them. And it’s okay if they can name it, and this is in the book too. If they can name it and say, ‘I’m feeling really down. I’m feeling very depleted, I’m feeling really disappointed and I need support. That’s okay to say out loud. It does not make you weak. It helps the people in your life support you.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity and length.