Hello, my name is Elizabeth and I’m a control freak.

With winter break behind us, I’ve had some time, weeks even, to ponder things… events, ideas, prayers. So far my year of no resolutions is going great thankyouforasking… and I have to tell you that my one resolution was to make the bed every day. And as of Day 22 of 2014, I’ve succeeded. 😉 It really makes me feel like I have control over the day so early on…

I’ve really been pondering and mulling over this idea of self-control. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, but it never really stood out to me before. I always thought that maybe things like love and patience and goodness were more important or something. But lately I’m beginning to think that self-control is the key to all of them, and it’s the key to a full life that can manifest Jesus’ love on earth.

And really, it’s not self-control. Lord knows I cannot, I repeat can NOT control myself at Orange Leaf with all those delicious flavors of fro-yo, let alone the toppings. It’s a crap shoot, guys. He also knows that sometimes I just can NOT control my tongue on Interstate 10. I mean, seriously. It’s just offensive. So in all truth in a slow process I’ve been letting my self-control become God-control.

Self-control is a good thing to learn how to cultivate, but if you’re anything like me, you learn things the hard way.

Story of my freaking LIFE.

I have spent most of my 27.75 (as of today actually…) years on this earth being anxious, controlling, worried, planning anything and everything, and that’s my own personal version of lack of self-control.

I have spent a good portion of that 27.75 years letting my emotions get the best of me only to feel regret or embarrassment later. I’m like Kristen Bell; “If I’m not between a 3 and 7 on the emotional scale, I’m crying.” Can I get a witness?

I spent a few years of my 27.75 overweight because of my lack of self-control with eating and concurrent lack of exercise.

I’ve spent a different good portion of my 27.75 years saying things that just seemed to roll off my tongue only to be begging for forgiveness later.

There’s no doubt that running has helped considerably with my self-control. It takes patience and determination to train for a race, to get up when that alarm rings so so soooo early, to reject that second (or third) cupcake in favor of being fueled properly.

The Army has also been a fantastic teacher of patience and self-control… and just life and marriage in general. Early on I’d let myself get all worked up about where we would move… looking up maps and races and interstates and houses to rent and jobs.. I bet you’re exhausted just reading that. I was exhausted, wrought with anxiety over many things I had no control of. I couldn’t even control my own actions or emotions and that quickly leads to a downward spiral which for me ends in depression. And that’s a dirty slimy pit. So dirty. And slimy. *gag*

The thing is, I asked to learn this particular fruit of the Spirit (ughhh silly me!), and I learned a few more fruits of the Spirit in tandem with self-control. And boy was I brought through situations where I was taught how to let go. I think for a Christ-follower to have self-control really speaks volumes of his or her sincerity of faith and growth in relationship with Jesus. With self-control you learn to control the following but Lord have mercy not limited to:

your reactions to things (ahem, crazy drivers on I-10 or Army ridiculousness),

your reactions to people (you know, that one person that just reallllllly gets under your skin),

your eating,

your working out,

your interactions with people at work,

your emotions when in a precarious situation (this I’m still working on),

your parenting (I have yet to encounter this),

your Internet usage (heh),

your Bible-reading,

your praying,

your relationship with your spouse (also working on this, I’m sure my husband is thankful).

If I let Jesus deal with these things and guide me throughout my days, that means that I trust Him 100%. When we start taking back control, we stop trusting. I want to trust 100%. Who wants to take their burdens back? I sure don’t. I wouldn’t wish my past anxiety or worry on anyone. ANYONE. I guess what I’m getting at is that all of this is connected as deep heart issues generally are.

Something I’ve been mulling over is that self-control leads to obedience. To be obedient means that you sometimes have to lay aside your plans, your worries, your anxieties, your wants, your desires, in order to pick up your cross and follow down the straight and narrow. It’s hard because we as humans think we gain something by staying in control. My friends, it’s quite the opposite. Believe me. Congratulations, you gain something alright; you gain back your burdens.

But I want to be obedient. I know God knows when I wake and when I lie down.. He knows my past, present, and future.. He knows what lies deep in the abyss of my soul and longs to take those burdens and control freak tendencies. I could easily be tempted to start controlling the next several months (despite the fact that we are in Army limbo [or purgatory??] right now) and apply to jobs, take teacher tests, and generally freak out. *Gulp*

(Aside: My ten-year PCHS Class of ’04 reunion is this year and everyone’s all “Do you want July 19 or August 2?” and I’m all “Hell *ahem* heck if I know what state I’ll even be in then! Must be freaking nice to know where your LIFE is headed in six months!” See?? Prime example.)

But when I am free from my control-freakness (hey, I’m a budding linguist so I can do fun morphological things like that ;)) and cultivate God-control, I can be freed up to be obedient… and that is the life in Christ I long to live. With the beginning of my 29th year of life and 7th year of marriage quickly (oh so quickly) approaching, I knew something needed to change. I should be better by now, less reactive, more proactive. Less anxious, more sure. God-control is the only way.

Fighting fire with fire.

How do you overcome depression and anxiety, let alone when your husband is deployed? It’s not easy, and if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, so much that it’s starting to affect your every day life, you need to take it seriously. Maybe you’re like me and have dealt with mild or situational depression or anxiety in your life, and it comes and goes depending on your health and stressors at that particular time.

For me, it most recently hit me during my trip home. I have been treated in the past for depression/anxiety, both with therapy and meds. Both were needed at the time and both helped me a lot. Let me say this: there is absolutely no shame in finding help. This is the first time I have considered going back to the doctor since I stopped meds and therapy in 2008. I have a lot of situational stressors going on, so as of right now I’m going to do what I can to control it with lifestyle changes and reevaluate after my husband returns (soon!!!!). By that time, many of the stressors will be gone so I will probably not have to seek professional help. I have dealt with this since I was in junior high, so I know myself and my body very well.

The point of this post is to give some tips to help you if you’re dealing with mild depression or anxiety. I am not a mental health professional by any means; I’m a woman who has a lot of experience with these illnesses and have found little things to do in my life that help me cope without continued therapy and meds.

How do you know if you’re dealing with these illnesses? There are many online resources such as questionnaires that can informally assess your current mental state. If you choose to see a doctor or therapist, they’ll go over your personal and family medical history during your first visit. Be honest; no one is there to judge you. I have mental illness on both sides of my family, so that tipped my doctor off that I might need more than just cognitive behavioral therapy. Biology is hereditary.

1. Take a deep breath and don’t take yourself so seriously. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want to cry because it seems that everything is going wrong all at once. Remember that you’re not the only one going through this and that you won’t feel like this forever. Mentally step away from the situation.

2. Make your home your sanctuary. It’s really important that when you come home from work or a night out that your home is comfortable and somewhere you can relax. One way I do this is to make sure the house is cleaned on a regular basis. Ask my husband; I can’t relax unless things are picked up and dishes are done. Buy some candles and light them when you get home. Buy pretty towels for the bathroom. It may sound silly, but little things help.

3. Give yourself “me” time. The amount of “me” time depends on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, but since I’m the former, I need “me” time to recharge and feel refreshed. I know this all too well, so I try not to plan too many things with friends on a weekly basis. At the most, I’ll reply with a “maybe” if I’m just not sure about doing a particular activity. And it’s okay to say “no”! The night my husband deployed, I had just started final exams; I left my final early to see him off. That night I relaxed with a hot bath and a glass of wine. I made that time for myself and it made the first night alone that much easier.

4. Get a pet. My pit bull mix Missy is my companion when my husband’s not home. She offers protection and companionship, and she’s not too shabby of a running partner either! Of course, pets come with vet and boarding bills, but this time apart from my husband has showed me that it’s worth it!

5. Visit friends and family, or have them visit you. I have been blessed to have both my sisters visit at different times (and one with her new baby!), and my aunt came right after finals were over and we flew back to Illinois together. I just got back from a two-week visit with family. Visits, whether here or there, help you reconnect with family and friends from “back home” and give you something to break up the duration of the time apart.

6. Develop a few close friendships. We’re not meant to go through life alone. Being far away from family can be difficult, but it is possible to find amazing people to go through life with you wherever you’re stationed. Put yourself out there and meet people. Don’t write people off because you might be stationed somewhere new soon. We need each other. And when you get to know people in your community, you’re not just “passing through” anymore; you’re now a part of that community.

7. Set short and long term goals. This could be goals with a hobby, or goals for school. If you have kids, it could be places to see or things to do with your kids. For me, it’s running. While my husband is away, I train for races. Running keeps me sane, fit, gives me an endorphin rush and time to process things.

8. Lower your expectations. Part of my anxiety stems from things related to time. I’m always 5-10 minutes early, to EVERYTHING. It’s just the way I grew up. But in my 27 years I’ve learned that not everyone is like that. My anxiety also is tipped off when I expect to get somewhere in a certain amount of time, and unexpected traffic or a forgotten errand gets in the way of that. Another thing that gets me is when I expect to chat or Skype with my husband and he’s not available. Just take a breath and stay calm.

There are a million more tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years, but these are the ones that have come to mind recently. Every day down is another day closer to homecoming! You’re going to be stronger than the day you started.