The in-between: 10 tips for emotional and mental health in a confusing world

The majority of the country is on some sort of coronavirus quarantine right now. Everything that used to be in our normal day-to-day is either closed or finding some way to open back up. As time passes there are so many question marks on how to get back to normal.

Most of America has been sitting at home for the past 11 weeks, just waiting until we know more or have a clearer idea of what the next steps will look like.

For many people, this whole experience has triggered a plethora of feelings. Just the other day, I joined Craig and Josh on a First15 podcast episode where we talked about dealing with these uncertain times, because I know that all of the unknowns have the potential to cause so much anxiety. Go check that out if you need a little encouragement and some practical suggestions.

There is an emotional component to this difficult time in history. Just as much as we have to be prepared physically, we need to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves emotionally and mentally.

Corona Quarantine Self-Care For Emotional and Mental Health

The body-mind connection cannot be ignored. When we’re stressed emotionally, it actually decreases our immunity physically. So, a huge part of taking care of ourselves in this situation means we also take care of our mental and emotional health.

As a licensed professional counselor, I want to make sure to give you some suggestions of things you can do to keep yourself emotionally and mentally healthy just as much as you’re keeping track of your physical health.

1. Start Your Day with Truth:

It seems like our level of worry these days is directly correlated with how much time we are spending in the word versus how much time we’re spending watching the new. Personally, I want my faith to always displace my fears. I want God’s truth to have victory over the template of my experiences. I want the supernatural to replace the natural. And that can only happen when I’m filling my mind with truth.

2. Keep Track of Your Emotions and then Express Them to Others:

Studies have shown that there is a huge emotional and physical difference between people who keep their emotions in vs. people who talk through their emotions. Talking through your emotions actually decreases the physical symptoms that those emotions might bring (heart rate, blood pressure, etc).

But in order to talk through your emotions, you have to recognize them. Are you aware of what you are feeling during this time? Take some time to journal about your thoughts and feelings, and then take the next step by inviting someone in. Share how you are feeling with a loved one or a friend, and stay in tune to those important emotions.

3. Sleep Well

Psalm 127:2 was always one of my favorite verses to meditate on when I was struggling with sleep. Maybe you find yourself unable to sleep well because of the anxiety looming overhead, or the thoughts swirling in your mind.

Practice sleep hygiene strategies, and then pray this verse over yourself every night. “He grants sleep to those he loves…” He wants to give you sleep. If you’ve never tried meditation before bed, the Abide App is an incredible way to listen to soothing music paired with Scripture. I highly recommend it as you’re trying to fall asleep and clear your mind at night.

4. Don’t Isolate Yourself

In this time of social distancing, it’s easy to feel isolated — because in a way, you are. But in another way, the gift of technology has allowed us to connect with people all over the world.

Are you connecting with people on a regular basis? Maybe you don’t want to feel needy – but consider this: We are all needy in some way because we were created for relationships. Build in a time for phone calls, texting, and Facetime into your daily routine and be deliberate about checking on people as well as connecting with people on a daily basis. This point is especially true for those of you who live alone. Don’t let one day go by without connecting with at least one person.

5. Get Your Physical Activity In

The body mind connection shows us that our dopamine and serotonin (the feel-good chemicals in your body) levels increase when we’re active! Make time for daily walks, runs, or a YouTube video workout. Keep your body active because it impacts your mental and emotional health.

6. Make Time For Fun

I was watching a WWII movie a couple nights ago, and one thing that stood out to me in this movie is that while the Jews were in hiding: the BEST day they had was the day they took the time to paint! They painted the walls…because it was the only thing they had to paint. And one girl exclaimed “this makes it almost bearable!”.

I’m grateful that our situation is nothing like WWII, but it reminds me of the importance of finding fun during hard times. In order to endure the heavy things, we need to take advantage of the lighter things. Make time for fun in your daily routine. Do something you LOVE to do, whether it’s painting, reading, cooking, taking a nap, or playing a game. Bring fun into the stressful moments, because your body and your mind need an opportunity to rest from the heavy things. Consider coming up with a Quarantine Bucket List of things you enjoy and checking them off one by one as you accomplish them this week.

7. Invest in Learning

One of the best ways to take care of yourself during this time is to use your time for growth. Download podcasts, read books, and find ways to expand your mind during this time.

Take the time to “look inward” and do some inventory of your personal health and set some goals for how you want to take next steps in becoming healthy from the inside out. Ask God to help you search your heart, and use this time for self-reflection and self-awareness… and come out of this quarantine a better person than when you started it.

8. Consider Counseling

It would be a counselor’s dream if everyone could use this time in their life to work on their emotional and mental health.

Is there any past trauma in your life? Relationship baggage? Anxiety or depression? Are there family relationships that are strained and in need of tending to? Are there unhealthy patterns, or habits, or behaviors, or addictions in your life that are keeping you back?

Even though you can’t leave the house right now, you can still work on yourself! It might even be the best investment you make during this time when everything else is stripped away.

Sometimes, it takes the external things to be out of the picture for us to have the courage to focus on the internal things that matter the most.

You’re always welcome to book a session with me, but there are also incredible online counseling agencies like Faithful Counseling that I really believe in. Consider a time of counseling as part of your quarantine self-care plan. It’s affordable, but more importantly, it’s effective! Learn more about online counseling by clicking here.

9. Think of Others

Having empathy for others is actually one of the best ways you can get through a difficult time for yourself. When you allow your eyes to drift to the hardships of others, it makes your own hardships seem more manageable.

What are some ways you can bless others during this difficult time? Can you leave a care package at your neighbors door? Can you send a card to someone in need? Can you make a call to someone who could use the companionship? What can you do to take the focus off of yourself, and allow it to drift onto others for a little while? Thinking of others is one of the best ways to improve your mental and emotional health.

10. Find What Works For You:

I’m leaving #10 a little open-ended. Here’s why: I’ve seen posts on social media telling people to MAKE A DAILY SCHEDULE, or GET OUT OF YOUR PAJAMAS EVERY MORNING AND GET READY FOR THE DAY or DON’T WATCH NETFLIX AND DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE or READ ONE BOOK A DAY….but here’s the thing, those “rules” don’t work for everyone.

For some people, making the most of this time and taking care of themselves is going to mean pajamas all day….and that’s OKAY!

For others, having a strict schedule brings them more anxiety then peace.

For others still, they need permission to NOT be productive and just enjoy BEING instead of DOING during this season of life (I fall into this category!! I’m productive on a regular basis, so I could simply enjoy a nice break!!)

The key here is this: You need to find what works FOR YOU. Not what is working for everyone else, because that might not work for you and in fact, it might be harmful for you to put all of these strict expectations on yourself. This is the important part of knowing yourself and knowing what you need. Find what works for you, and then DO IT WELL.

I’m praying for each and every one of you during this time, that God would protect you physically, but that He would also give you the wisdom to protect yourself emotionally and mentally as well.

“May the peace of God, that passes all understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” Amen. (Philippians 4:7)

Comment below: How are you taking care of your mental and emotional health during this time?

The God over Viruses

Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

Speaking of storms, picking up from last time, in the fall of 2012 Hurricane Sandy churned in the Atlantic Ocean and rolled over Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and the Bahamas before turning northeast, out into the ocean, and then curving west for a direct hit of New Jersey. The storm surge and high tide occurred at the same time, leading to massive flooding. Before it was over, 233 lives would be lost, with damages tallying nearly $70 billion, and $32.8 billion of damages in New York state alone. Just a few days later, on November 3, 2012, John Piper took to the pulpit to talk about God’s sovereignty over the natural world — over hurricanes, tornadoes, even over “murderous viruses.” After a spring like the one we’ve experienced, it’s a good time to rehearse the sovereignty of God over the natural world. For this reminder, here’s Pastor John from November of 2012.

Sovereignty over nature: God is sovereign over the most random things you can imagine. Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Now, well, how would we say that today? We would say, “The dice is rolled in Vegas, and every stopping of the dice with those numbers up is from God — all of them.” Or if you’re playing Scrabble at home and stick your hand into the bag and pull out your letters, God decides what letters you get. If you play UNO, God decides.

Master of Every Molecule

And lest you think that’s trifling, try this. This is Jesus talking. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” In other words, they are utterly insignificant. “And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29–30). The role of the dice in Vegas — every one of them — or in your board game at home, and the tiny birds dying in a thousand forests, are governed by God. That’s Jesus’s way and Proverbs’s way of saying there aren’t any details too small for his control. That’s his way of saying it. If he were here today, he’d talk in terms of molecules. He’d say with R.C. Sproul, “There’s not one maverick molecule in the universe.” From worms in the ground to stars in the galaxy, God governs.

“Anytime, anywhere on the planet, any wind can be stopped with two words from heaven.”

Take the book of Jonah. You’ve got a very big fish, and the Bible says that he commanded this fish to swallow Jonah, and the fish obeyed (Jonah 1:17). So, fish do God’s bidding. If he tells them to do this, they do it. And he commanded a plant to grow up to give Jonah some shade (Jonah 4:6). “Plant, grow up.” It obeyed. Plants do the bidding of God. Then he commanded a worm to kill the plant, to make Jonah hot, and to scold him for his bad attitude about Nineveh (Jonah 4:7). So, the worm obeyed.

I take this totally seriously. Bacteria, tsetse flies, murderous viruses do God’s bidding. They’re not free, any more than the worm or the whale or the plant just happened to grow up. God sees everything, and if anything is about to happen that he doesn’t want to happen, he just says, “Stop,” and it obeys. And if it didn’t stop, he didn’t tell it to stop, which means he’s got a plan for it. Or the stars:

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)

Why are stars where they are, doing what they do? He is mighty in power. That’s why. I’m totally not a naturalist. I see fingers of God in the atom and in the galaxies, all the time, every millisecond of history — controlling everything.

Behold Your God

I don’t know what kind of God that you have, who may be folding his arms, sitting back, doing nothing, letting the world run rampant. That’s just not the biblical God, and therefore not our God. If the stars, how much more the weather, disasters, disease, disability, death? Psalm 147:15–18: “He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool.” That forty inches last week in the Smoky Mountains? God did that. “He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?” I love living in Minnesota. That cold? That’s God. You haven’t felt cold yet, all you Californians. “He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.” Here’s Job 37:11–13:

He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world.
Whether for correction or for his land
or for love, he causes it to happen.

I love how clear the Bible is about the sovereignty of God over the natural world. Snow, rain, cold, heat, wind are the work of God, and when Jesus finds himself in the middle of a life-threatening, raging storm, he stands up and speaks two words: “Be still.” And the wind stops, and the waves go flat (Mark 4:39). And he could have done it last Monday in New York. And if you say he couldn’t have, I don’t know what kind of Jesus you have. Is he alive? Is he reigning? Is he the same Jesus today? Of course he is, which means anytime, anywhere on the planet, any wind can be stopped with two words from heaven. God could say, “Stop,” and it would obey. And if he doesn’t say it, he has purposes.

Hope in an All-Powerful God

There is no wind, there is no storm, there is no hurricane, there is no cyclone, there is no typhoon, there is no monsoon, there is no tornado over which Jesus cannot say, “Be still,” without getting off his throne, and it will obey him. And if it blows, he intends it to blow, and he has purposes for it that are better than avoiding it.

“There is no typhoon, there is no monsoon, there is no tornado over which Jesus cannot say, ‘Be still.’”

That’s what I’d preach if I were in the middle of New York right now, with the long, six-hour lines at the gas stations and 98-plus people dead and new bodies being found everywhere. I wouldn’t preach, “My God is helpless.” I would not. I would not take away the hope of these people by saying, “You don’t have a God who can help you, because he’s just too weak to stop a storm.” How could he control the storms of your life? How could he help you at all if he can’t speak what Jesus spoke? I wouldn’t preach that way. I don’t preach that way.

Amen. That was taken from John Piper’s sermon “The Sovereignty of God,” preached on November 3, 2012. You can find the entire thing online at

It Is Well with My Soul


by Jennifer Rothschild

I began my sophomore year of high school experiencing all the usual teenage changes.

But there had also been one very unusual one.

Near the end of junior high, I began to realize that my eyesight was deteriorating.

As I picked my way carefully through the packed hallways of Glades Junior High, I was amazed at how my classmates streamed through the crowd with such ease—even in dark stairwells. How could they do that without bumping into schoolmates or lockers? When we played softball in P.E., I couldn’t understand how my teammates could catch the ball so easily. I would stand out in right field, glove in hand, and stare intently at the ground, trying to see the shadow of the approaching ball. Then I’d listen to where it landed and hope I could find it.

Difficult as it was to admit…I began to realize that it wasn’t normal for me not to be able to see a softball in the air or the stairs in a stairwell. As a result, I began to feel more awkward and self-conscious. At last I became so concerned that I told my mother, who (as you might imagine) immediately took me to an ophthalmologist.

The eye doctor tried to remedy my failing sight with prescriptions for stronger glasses, but they didn’t help. Eventually, he referred me to an eye hospital. After several days of testing, the doctors met with my folks and me. They told us that I had retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that slowly eats away the retina of the eye.

There was no cure and no way to correct damage already done.

The doctors said I had lost so much vision that, at fifteen, I was already legally blind. And they told us that my retinas would continue to deteriorate until I was totally blind.

Blind…totally blind.

The words sounded so final. So certain. So cold. I felt a chill inside that I’d never felt before.

Nothing else was said. Silence fell upon us like shadows fall just before night, and it shrouded us as we left the hospital, walked across the parking lot, got in the car, and journeyed home.

I have often thought that it was probably much harder for my parents that day than it was for me. Yes, my eyes were being robbed of sight, but their hearts were being crushed. Can you imagine their heartache? Can you hear the sound of that door slamming in their souls? Surely one of life’s greatest sorrows must be to watch your child suffer…and to feel helpless to prevent it.

My dad gripped the steering wheel tightly as he piloted us home through the spidery Miami streets. I could only imagine the prayers he must have been praying. He had always been my source of wisdom, my counselor, my comforter, my rescuer, and the one man I trusted completely. I wonder if he was thinking, Dear Lord, how can I fix this?

Yet on the ride home he was silent.

My mother sat next to him in the front seat. I could feel her broken heart. A mother’s heart is so tender. I wonder what her prayers were like on that day. My mom was my standard, my cheerleader, my encourager, my mentor, and my friend. I think she must have been wondering, Will she be safe?

Yet on the ride home, she too, was silent.

I had always been strong-willed, trusting, sensitive, and talkative. Yet, sitting in the backseat, I also kept silent. I remember the reasons for my silence as if it were yesterday. My heart was swelling with emotion, and my mind was racing with questions and thoughts. How will I finish high school? Will I ever go away to college? How will I know what I look like? Will I ever get a date or a boyfriend? Will I ever get married? I remember feeling my fingertips and wondering how in the world people read Braille.

And then it hit me.

I would never be able to drive a car.

Like most teenagers, I thought that having wheels was just like having wings. I couldn’t wait to drive! That was a step toward independence to which nothing else compared. But now it was a rite of passage I would never experience, and I was crushed.

After forty-five long minutes, we arrived home. Once inside, I went immediately to the living room and sat down at our piano. It was old and stately and had a warm, comforting sound. For me it was a place of refuge.

By then I had played the piano for several years. In fact, I’d had almost five years of lessons. The funny thing about my lessons, though, was that I’d managed to stretch them out over an eight-year period. I was one of those kids who would beg my mother to let me take piano lessons—and then after about six months beg her to let me quit! Three or four months later we’d start the whole routine over again.

I barely muddled through my lessons, and I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant for the listener to hear me practice. Let’s just say that I was a little short on natural talent! I did, however, practice diligently every night after dinner. That’s because if I did, I was excused from clearing the table and washing the dishes.

But this time was different.

I wasn’t seeking refuge from chores, and I didn’t play the few songs I’d memorized. Instead, I began to play by ear, and the melody that filled the living room that afternoon belonged to a song I’d never played before. My fingers followed a pattern along the keyboard that was new to me, yet…somehow familiar.

The song I played was “It Is Well with My Soul.”

I think God guided my heart and hands to play that hymn. Some people have told me it was a miracle that I could sit down at the piano that day and begin to play by ear for the first time. Perhaps it was. Who knows? But to me, there was a bigger miracle that dark day.

The miracle was not that I played “It Is Well with My Soul,” but that it actually was well with my soul.

Now, more than twenty years later, I look back and wonder at all that has happened. I still can’t see, of course, and I know well the hardships that blindness brings. Yet I have been blessed with a wonderful husband and two sons, as well as a meaningful speaking ministry. God has been good to me.

On that day so long ago—in the hospital, on the ride home, and at the piano—even as I mourned my loss, I looked into the heart of my Teacher. I knew His Word and His character, and they were what allowed me to say then—and still say today—“Whatever my lot…it is well with my soul.”

Looking ahead…

There are times when we as parents are not able to shield the children we love from troubles, disappointment, and heartache. Rejection by friends, failure, injuries, and illness are, for the most part, matters over which we have little control. When these trials occur, we end up feeling as helpless as Jennifer Rothschild’s parents on the day they learned that their daughter was going blind.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus warned us that life on earth would not be easy: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Yet we know that one reason the Lord allows trials in our lives is to create opportunities to draw near to Him. He understands how easy it is for us to fall away from daily prayer, worship, and study of His Word when times are good. It is why the apostle Peter said, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12–13).

It can be terribly difficult to rejoice in the midst of hardship or crisis, especially when our own children are involved. Yet these are the times, more than ever, that your family needs to know that God remains in control and is still the source of all love, comfort, and strength. We’ll talk more about this important truth in the days ahead: Even when it is not well with our circumstances, it can be well with our souls.

– James C Dobson

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

“It Is Well with My Soul” by Jennifer Rothschild. From Lessons I Learned in the Dark (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2002). Used by permission.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

by Philip Gulley

M y wife and I waited eight years to have children. I was in college, then graduate school, and I thought I was too busy. My mother had five children in seven years, was principal of a school, and attended college all at the same time. And she did a good job, which I point out to her every Saturday when I visit her at the Home for the Mentally Distraught. Despite our childless state, my wife and I were willing, indeed eager, to share our perspective on child‐rearing with anyone who would listen. Now that we have children, we seldom offer advice. The moment you tell other parents how to raise their kid, the odds increase that your own child will turn up on America’s Most Wanted.

So we don’t give advice anymore, because we’ve realized we don’t know anything about children. Before we had children, we knew everything. Now we have children, and the only parent we feel superior to is Ma Barker.

It’s been hard to admit my ignorance about child‐rearing. It’s easy to be smug when you’re driving home from someone else’s house saying, “When I have children, they will never act like that.” Now when our childless friends visit, I tell them when they leave, “Don’t talk about us on your way home.” They know what I mean.

Most experiences don’t turn out the way we’d planned. Parenting is one of them.

Take Spencer’s second Christmas. Someone in the church gave him a nativity set as a gift. He was particularly taken with the wise men, one of whom he used as tableware. He dipped Balthasar up to his ears in ketchup and licked him clean. My wife said, “Honey, don’t dip the wise man in the ketchup.”

There are many things we anticipated telling our children—things like, “Because I said so, that’s why!” and “Not in this house you won’t!” and even “Don’t put that in the toilet!” But we never imagined ourselves saying, “Don’t dip the wise man in the ketchup.”

That’s the kick about life. We think we have it figured out, but then we wade in and discover otherwise. Kind of like Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

All in all, this is a good thing. For when our future is sure and certain, when all the corners are tucked in nice and neat, there is no need for faith.

Consider King David. He grew up a shepherd, which was nothing to write home about. If a dog can do your job, it’s time to worry. So David grew up a shepherd, but he died a king. Goes to show we never know what direction life will take.

This is especially true of being a parent. We never know everything there is to know. The only solution is to do your best and trust God for the rest. At least that’s what my sainted mother used to tell me, back in my younger days when I knew it all.

Looking ahead…

Is there any endeavor that husbands and wives are less adequately prepared for than parenting? The task of raising a child is daunting, exhausting, frustrating, discouraging, humbling—and just to keep it interesting, it comes with an unexpected twist around every corner. Yet when guided by dedication and prayer, parenting is also the most fulfilling and wonderful experience in living. And it doesn’t have to be as chaotic as Phil Gulley’s tongue‐in‐cheek description makes it out to be.

Those of you who are parents already realize that you will make mistakes and that you’ll never know it all. But nothing worth accomplishing comes easy anyway, and it’s the very challenge of child rearing that makes success so satisfying. This week we’re going to talk about how to make the most of the experience.

– James C Dobson

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!” by Philip Gulley. Taken from Front Porch Tales by Philip Gulley. © 1997. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.