“Becoming Emotionally Resilient,” Liahona, January 2022
Life was going according to plan.
I was just about to complete my mission. During the previous 18 months, my testimony had been strengthened, and my vision of the plan of salvation had expanded. I had never felt closer to my Savior and my Heavenly Father. Life just seemed blissful.
Sure, my family and I were experiencing our share of trials, but overall, I was excited and had a lot of plans for what would come next. But then I came home. And the shock was pretty brutal. I struggled adjusting to everyday life again. I worried incessantly about making good choices and being perfect in my obedience. I put so much pressure on myself to stay at the high spiritual level that I had throughout my mission because I feared that if I didn’t, I would regress spiritually.
As the pressure I put on myself increased, I started experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. They became more and more frequent, and I eventually felt like I was drowning.
Unfortunately, I hid my feelings from my family and friends. I knew that anxiety and depression were nothing to be ashamed of, but I felt so out of control and lost that I didn’t even know how to express what I was experiencing to seek help.
Thankfully, the Lord is always there to guide us when we turn to Him. After some pondering and prayer, I felt prompted to open up to my brother and his wife. They helped me recognize that I wasn’t as “crazy” as I thought and that emotional struggles can happen to anyone.
Sister Reyna I. Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, testified of this truth: “My dear friends, it can happen to any of us—especially when, as believers in the plan of happiness, we place unnecessary burdens on ourselves by thinking we need to be perfect now. Such thoughts can be overwhelming. Achieving perfection is a process that will take place throughout our mortal life and beyond—and only through the grace of Jesus Christ.”1
As I prayed to Heavenly Father for guidance, I realized that I needed to give the resources He has provided for us a chance, and I needed to learn and change for the better. Gratefully, at that time I had the chance to attend the Church’s emotional resilience course. The opportunity seemed to come at just the right time, and I don’t believe it was a coincidence.
In the course manual, emotional resilience is defined as the following:
“The ability to adapt to emotional challenges with courage and faith centered in Jesus Christ.
“Helping yourself and others the best you can.
“Reaching out for additional help when needed.”2
In other words, emotional resilience is something we all need.
To me, this inspired course is a clear sign that Heavenly Father is aware of the trials we are facing nowadays as members of the Church of Jesus Christ. He wants to be able to help us keep moving forward on the path back to Him. Seeing the many beautiful aspects of this course helped me realize just how deeply Heavenly Father knows each of us and our individual needs, and I immediately felt peace as I started studying. The course teaches clear and powerful eternal truths that can be applied to our lives when dealing with mental health issues, whether it be ourselves or someone we love.
One of the teachings that struck me is found in chapter 9, “Providing Strength to Others.” This chapter is what helped me finally reach out for more help. It teaches the principle of serving one another. I learned how important it was to serve others by validating their feelings, emotions, and opinions and reaching out with empathy and understanding. I also realized that I needed to trust others to help me in my struggles.
When I was able to put these ideas into practice and open up to my family and friends about my mental health struggles, I was surprised that they were so compassionate and nonjudgmental. I received so much support from them.
I feel like my anxiety would have taken a deeper and darker turn if I hadn’t shared my challenges with my loved ones. And this experience helped me reach out and empathize with others about their worries and problems too.
I find it funny how when I came back from my mission, I was so worried about losing the “spiritual ground” that I had gained during my mission, because now I realize that coming home was just the beginning of a new chapter where I could find new ways to deepen my faith.
My personal relationships with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have grown and deepened so much since I came home, especially because of the principles I learned in this emotional resilience course and through relying on Heavenly Father and the Savior for help. They feel much more real and present in my everyday life.
I’ve learned and accepted that as children of God, we constantly change, learn, and evolve. And yet through our life changes, Heavenly Father is unchanging. He didn’t expect me to be perfect on my mission, and He doesn’t expect that now. He simply loves me and wants me to continue to strive toward Him and do the best I can on my journey back to Him.
Now, just because I took this emotional resilience course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any more anxiety or panic attacks or moments when I feel overwhelmed by fear of the future. I still do at times. But now I recognize these patterns and have learned tools to help address them in a healthier way, improving the quality of my daily life.
In the end, this course taught me coping mechanisms for times when I experience anxiety and challenges. It taught me to have patience and compassion for myself and my imperfections. And I learned to understand how God sees me and to not be terrorized by the unknowns of the future.
Through both professional and heavenly help, I’ve come to realize that we have the necessary tools to know how to “act … and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26) by our emotions and feelings as we continue to move toward Christ.