One of the biggest mental health issues I see on a regular basis isn’t depression or anxiety. According to Dr Merry Lin, “Its people who are languishing. Languishing is not the presence of mental illness; it’s the absence of mental and emotional vitality.” It’s the “winter of your soul.”
The Winter of Our Souls
The winter of our souls can seem all consuming and never ending.
Dr Lin knows what she’s talking about – she’s been through her own winter.
I had finally had enough.
I woke, and my body refused to get out of bed. After a restless night, I lay there, exhausted and overwhelmed. Head pounding, muscles aching. The sun peered through the blinds heralding the new day, but I wanted to yell at it, Shut up! It was mocking me. That’s when I knew I was losing it.
Dr. Merry Lin is a registered clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience in counseling individuals, couples, and families on a variety of personal issues. She specializes in helping people overcome depression, anxiety and fear, abuse and trauma, stress, grief, marital and relationship struggles, parenting and family issues, and other life stressors.
Dr Lin. is the author of “The Fully Lived Life.” She is married with two children, and she is an active member of Carruthers Creek Community Church.
For 15 years I’d run a busy counselling practice and raised my kids. Every day, I woke to the drumbeat of go, go, go pounding in my head as I drove myself to keep going. No time to pause, no time to relax. You ever feel that way? But I was finally crashing, beaten down by discouragement and a growing depression that squeezed out all rationality. I was an emotional mess; I hated my life and who I’d become. I wasn’t sleeping, I had no energy.
Just getting up each morning was like scaling a mountain, and I was no longer finding any joy in anything I did. Spiritually, I’d become as dry as an abandoned well. I’d lost the will to pray long ago, let alone the desire to read my Bible or attend church.
She shares what she learned about languishing in what follows.
How Winters Settle Into Your Soul
Using focused reflection helped Dr Lin see five things that contributed to the winter of her soul:
- Living a life of ignored introspection.
- Action valued over reflection.
- Rushing through life mindlessly.
- Not growing through her hardships.
- Not knowing that she was stuck or why she was stuck.
10 Statements Of The Languishing
The following ten statements act as a diagnostic to assess your wellness.
1. I am juggling my responsibilities and feel like I can’t keep up with the demands of life.
2. When I stop I feel emotionally or physically exhausted.
3. I wish I could take a significant break to rest and reflect on my life with some soul-searching.
4. My spiritual life feels dry and lifeless.
5. I have a hard time sensing God’s presence in my life or experiencing His love for me.
6. I seem to struggle with the same issues over and over in my life and don’t know why.
7. I don’t like to think about negative or uncomfortable things for too long and I distract myself to feel better.
8. I’m uncomfortable with strong emotions and would rather focus on practical, sensible things.
9. I feel stuck, knowing I need to make some changes but unsure where to start.
10. People rely on me and think of me as competent, but I don’t know how I feel or if I care anymore.
Read Them Again
Use the rankings below to evaluate where you are.
1 = not at all true
2 = sometimes
3 = often
4 = most of the time
5 = completely true
If your total score is 10-20 you appear to have good self-awareness. Use the opportunity to truly live out what you know.
If your total score is 21-30 your life could use some improvement. Take a look at the scores of 3 and higher to identify what you need to focus on.
If you total score is 31-50 take heed. Seize this opportunity to re-calibrate your life.
Re-calibrating Your Life
1. Re-calibration starts by believing God cares about you. He knows where are you and how to move you forward.
2. Ask yourself, “What activities, tasks, or relationships are draining the life away from me?”
Write down everything you’ve done – or tried to do – in the past month – your meetings, tasks, events, responsibilities, connections.
Are these things are sapping your energy or bearing fruit?
3. Address the things that are rooted in fear or insecurity.
4. Work at pruning away one dead branch at a time.
Taking time to re-calibrate in winter can ready you for spring and the new life God is ready to bring.
Dr Merry Lin’s book, “The Fully Lived Life” is a good starting point. Its available on Amazon.
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