Feeling Traumatized by the News? The Bible Offers These Essential Mental Health Tips
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As headlines of the terror attacks on October 7th in Israel continue to flood the news, these and other reports of innocent people suffering can evoke feelings of emotional anguish that can be difficult to process. Mental health experts say while it's not unusual to feel traumatized while learning about the events unfolding in the Middle East and elsewhere, it doesn't have to stay that way.
Christian counselor Dr. Jennifer Londgren, author of A Guide to Mental & Emotional Wellness: Biblical Wisdom, Practical Principles, Clinical Insight told CBN News it's important to stay informed about important events happening around the world while maintaining good mental health.
1. Stay Informed, but Stay in Scripture Too
"We're the light of the world," she said, "And this world needs some light right now."
She said Christians in particular can demonstrate resilience while hearing or learning about tragedy.
"It's ok to experience hard feelings, and to struggle, and to suffer. Those are human experiences. But you don't have to stay there," she said, adding people of faith can benefit greatly by meditating on the Word of God and by taking their trauma to the Lord.
"To really use it as an opportunity to come closer to Him, and to reconnect, and to search the scripture and see what He really does say," she said. "And to see the promises that are laid out for us. We'll have this abundance and this joy and this peace, but at the same time we'll have struggle. So it's seeing them operating in harmony."
2. Don't Bury Yourself in Bad News
Dr. Londgren offers Bible-based directives that can prevent or minimize anxiety or depression associated with learning about tragedy.
For example, the Bible references guarding our minds in Proverbs 4:23, "More than anything you guard, protect your mind," it says. And 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "Take captive every thought." Dr. Londgren says these and similar scriptures suggest if we notice overwhelming thoughts of current events are harming our mental well-being, we should avoid taking-in too much bad news.
"It's not to pretend like it's not existing, but it's to be very intentional about how it affects our health, and how we put limits on it," she said.
3. Start and End Your Day with God, Not the News
Dr. Londgren says limits could include staying away from news broadcasts or scrolling just before bed as well as other critical times during the day.
"Don't look at your phone first thing in the morning," she said. "I would say have some kind of prayer or ritual in how your start your day."
4. Practice Gratitude
Dr. Londgren says developing a grateful heart can greatly improve mental health, pointing to a number of Bible verses about gratitude, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:16 which says, "Give thanks in all circumstances." This could involve keeping a "Gratitude Journal" in which one writes a daily list of all things for which they're grateful.
"An interesting thing about gratitude," said Dr. Londgren, "is that it's neurobiologically impossible to feel gratitude and anxiety at the same time."
5. Stay Connected with People
Matthew 22:37 and elsewhere, the Bible says to "love your neighbor." Dr. Londgren says following that command is not only good for our spiritual health, but also for our mental health. She recommends looking for ways to lend a helping hand.
"Service, and it's such a beautiful thing that's talked about in the Bible," she said, "And in psychology, they're saying, 'Wow, this is really good for our brain.'"
Loving our neighbor can also just mean hanging out with other people.
"Having game night, and having fun together with a community," she said, "connecting with others is such a strong determinant of health.
6. Practice Forgiveness
Ephesians 4:31 is one place in God's Word that talks about "forgiving one another." Dr. Londgren says forgiving others can go a long way towards getting rid of anxiety and depression.
"Kind of in reflection of how God shows us His grace and His mercy," she said. "We'll have better health outcomes and mental health outcomes as a result."
Dr. Londgren even recommends forgiving ourselves.
"A lot of people, Christians included, have a lot of critical self-talk. And we have this idea that the harder we are on ourselves, the better we'll become. And we're actually seeing it's the opposite," she said.
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