As a healthcare provider, I view self-control as one of the most modifiable risk factors for our health. For our patients and ourselves, self-control encompasses what we eat or choose not to eat, how often we exercise or defer physical activity, what response we make to another's sharp words or disagreeable ideas, how far we allow our thoughts to wander through ungodly territory, and the intensity of our spiritual pursuit. Self-control is a quality crucial to our whole being.
I also have learned from my patients that self-control requires self-awareness. Being deliberate about capturing and understanding our thoughts is at the heart of self-control. This is the root of what Paul says: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). As we learn that the Holy Spirit guides our minds, we can pray for the Spirit to increase our self-control. As advance practice nurses (APNs), this perspective offers regular benefits.
Recently, I spent time with a young woman dying of cancer. Her peaceful demeanor felt supernatural; her fearless attitude was empowering. She reflected wisdom beyond her years. I asked how she kept control of her mind. She explained that purposeful reflection has shown her the importance of understanding when she is angry, sad, or irritable. Because of this daily and deliberate introspection, she often notices negative emotions before they become unmanageable. This is how she maintains a positive focus while facing a terminal illness. She knows only she can address her emotions and their power. More importantly, she knows the power she has as a Christ-follower—that she must allow Christ to address her thoughts, one thought at a time. She emulates the truth God gives us in Ephesians 4:22-24 that speaks to being made new in the attitude of the mind.
In nursing literature, we see the value of emotional intelligence in nursing practice (White & Grason, 2019). Yet, true mindfulness cannot come without the power and intervention of the Holy Spirit. How can we be fully ourselves if we do not understand who God has made us to be?
Self-awareness requires a daily commitment to recognize and take captive thoughts that may cause us to stray from truth. “We demolish arguments and every pretension [claim] that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV). As healthcare providers, it is necessary that we be keenly aware of our thoughts, recognizing those that may take us down a path of fear or anxiety. Stopping a cascade of thoughts and emotions that is not God-honoring is key to a healthy mindset. The Holy Spirit residing in us offers protection and power against spiritual forces that seek to overwhelm us. In addition to the Spirit and God's Word, these practical steps are helpful in keeping control over one's mind.
- 1) Journaling is a great start to gauging one's own thought process.
- 2) Talk therapy with a neutral person allows for self-reflection before emotions get complex or unmanageable.
- 3) Stepping away from one's routine, such as going for a walk, prompts the mind to be introspective.
As APNs, we should intentionally take time to reflect on our responses so we can be empowered to guide our patients in the same manner. I've come to realize that I can only capture my thoughts as I deliberately spend time reflecting on what I'm thinking about and allowing the Holy Spirit to replace fear or anxiety with self-control. Then, these emotions lose their controlling power. I am so grateful for this patient who reminded me of this important lived truth.
- To what degree have you allotted regular time to distill and process your thoughts? How can you add this step if it is not part of your present practice?
- What questions help you process your thoughts?
- What situations or people tend to disrupt your mental or emotional self-control? What Scripture can you pray when this happens?
White D. E., Grason S. (2019). The importance of emotional intelligence in nursing care. Journal of Comprehensive Nursing Research and Care
, 4, 152. https://doi.org/10.33790/jcnrc1100152