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Creating an Emotional First Aid Kit

Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC


As the people of Ukraine fight for their freedom (and their lives), we are praying together from wherever we are throughout the world. Today, the number of Ukrainian refugees exceeds two million, with adjacent nations working tirelessly to provide food, shelter, and clothing. We can support agencies such as Samaritan’s Purse, who are proactively helping on the ground.

And please don’t forget to pray for the thousands continuing to suffer in Afghanistan. People there are desperate, without food, heat, work, or safety. (Afghanistan recently moved to the top of the list of places where it’s most difficult to be a Christian.) Pray people there will discover the freedom and hope available in Jesus Christ.

Let’s be in prayer for Russia, too, since most Russian people love their neighbors in Ukraine and do not want war. Yet, anyone who dares protest the government’s aggressive actions is jailed. Our dear Russian friend wrote, “6,000 people who came out in St. Petersburg, Russia, on a peaceful protest against the war were thrown in jail! 6,000!”

Currently, the word “peace” is forbidden in Russia. People there are joking that to align the title of War and Peace with the requirements of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Russian Mass Media, the renowned literary masterpiece should be renamed Special Operation and Treason. If you meet a Russian, please be kind. Russian children are being bullied at U.S. schools, a student in the Czech Republic was attacked with a knife when he spoke Russian...we must do our part to share God’s love. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3). There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

To help you live in God’s peace, you could create an emotional first-aid kit. Most of us have first-aid kits with band-aids and various other things for physical emergency care. But we urgently need to prepare to manage mental and emotional emergencies, too. Here are a few things you could put in your emotional first-aid kit to help move all five of your senses from fear to calm, from a state of being “hijacked” to living in God’s peace:

SMELL: A cotton ball to which you’ve added a drop of lavender or other essential oil (or even vanilla from your kitchen). Place the cotton ball in a small plastic bag, and the scent should remain for weeks, if not months.

TOUCH: A small rock to help you remember He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. You could also select a small stuffed animal, a stress ball, or something else soft and cozy to provide calming touch.

SIGHT: A tiny bottle to remind you God “put my tears in Your bottle” (Psalm 56:8). He cares. Another option for “sight” is a picture of somewhere in nature—a waterfall, the star-studded sky, a lamb—to remind you of our Creator’s amazing power, majesty, and protection.

TASTE: A roll of lifesavers to help you remember the promise of Psalm 34:8, Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” You could even place small packages of fun-size M & M’s in your kit to remind you to “Memorize” and “Meditate” on God’s Word rather than focusing on fear.

HEARING: have a playlist of calming music (such as Michael O’Brien’s Safe in the Arms of Jesus ) ready to use any time you need it. Guard your self-talk, avoiding common lies, such as “God will never give you more than you can bear.” That notion is preposterous! We often experience far more than we can bear, which is why it’s wonderful to know God’s power is made perfect in weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It was humanly impossible when three armies were simultaneously attacking Judah. And God spoke to King Jehoshaphat and the people with him: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15, ESV).

To integrate your senses of touch and sight, you could glue a tiny mustard seed on a card with Jesus’ words of Matthew 17:20, NKJV: I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

In Through Seasons of the Heart, John Powell described an ancient Christian tradition stating that God sends every person into the world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow. You can ask God to portray His love through your life today. Every facial expression, action, and word matters to someone. Will you allow God to provide what you need so you can be a vehicle of His love today? Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself (Matthew 6:34, TPT). Let God do the mountain moving while you put your trust in Him.

Whether living in a war zone or hearing about one, people throughout the world feel anxious, overwhelmed, and helpless. As Ukrainians crowd train platforms to escape bombs and hit squads seek to end the life of precious President Zelenskyy, we need to practice self-care. We cannot help them by spiraling into a state of fear; we need to be calm. Here’s how:

Live in this moment. If you fast forward into the future, you won’t have the strength to cope. God provides strength as we need it. Living where you aren’t can fuel anxiety (which can occur when you focus on the future) or depression (if you focus on the past).

Stay in the present by living in the Three R’s of Regulation

Regulate: choose to breathe calmly, deeply. As you inhale, “inflate” your lungs so much that you can actually see your belly go “out.” Pause to a count of two, then “exhale,” emptying your lungs while you consciously relax and release stress stored in your mind and body. Talk to yourself (and others) in a calm, soothing voice.

Relate: validate your feelings (instead of repressing or denying them), admitting, “This is hard, and I can trust God to strengthen me in the midst of it.” If you have children, validate their feelings, too, helping them feel safe, sharing Scripture such as Psalm 27:1. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

Reason: 2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP) explains God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgement and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].

How that translates into everyday life: we can notice our emotions and manage them, applying God’s Word to our concerns. Pay attention to where you’re breathing; if you’re “chest breathing,” you aren’t getting enough oxygen to help you relax. Practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing so you can think rationally; focus on Truth so you can live biblically. Use your emotional first aid kit throughout each day, staying anchored in the present, living in God’s love.


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