Be Still My Mind

I coach women of all ages from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. During our time together, they often ask me interesting and sometimes challenging questions, but two of the most frequently asked questions are:

  • How can I stop my mind from going in unhelpful directions and then becoming fearful and negative?
  • How can I stop being so anxious?

We all know we are not meant to worry. We have all read about the long-term, damaging effect it can have on our health, and in Matthew 6:25-34, the words “do not worry” are written least four times.

That is easier said than done when mind and heart are racing headlong into deep pits of darkness and despair at
4 a.m., while sleep is as elusive as catching a butterfly on a summer’s day. Or when you are frequently faced with the  same feeling of helplessness when trying to contain or control your  own mind.

The holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom writes that “worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.”

Wikipedia states: “Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil.”

I am sure we can all identify with both of these statements at some level.

There are many experts who have written extensively about what to do with these negative emotions, and it’s certainly worth spending time reading them. Here, below, is my list of things that I always encourage others to do when I am asked questions about dealing with fear, anxiety and helping our busy minds stay still.

First and without any hesitation, I recommend seeking proper medical help if your emotional and mental issues  don’t get any better after two weeks of trying the techniques suggested below. Counseling and medicine are part of God’s healing plan. Be brave enough to say, “I can’t do this anymore. I need help.”

If, however, it is a temporary phase you find yourself in, it might be worth trying the following techniques. They may be helpful.

  1. Identify the root emotion you’re feeling—e.g., anger, bitterness, fear—and write it down. Naming it brings clarity.
  2. Tell a trusted friend—who will hold you accountable for your progress—what is really going on, what you are worrying about and what you are going to do about it.
  3. Pray about it. Obvious maybe, but not always.
  4. Write down encouraging Bible verses that speak into your situation, then stick them on sticky notes everywhere—in your car, on your mirror, at your desk. Then read them when your mind goes to an unhappy place.
  5. Ask friends to text you encouraging words throughout the day.
  6. Picture in your mind wrapping up all the thoughts in lots of paper, placing the package in a heavy suitcase and throwing it into the ocean. Reimagine this when the thoughts return.
  7. Actually get some rocks or bricks, and write down your feelings and thoughts on them. Then throw them over a cliff or into some water. Watch them disappear.
  8. Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, sleep well and don’t over work.
  9. Breathe deeply and slowly for at least 5 minutes. Concentrate on breathing.
  10. Listen to worship music before going to sleep and in the car. Surround yourself with praise.
  11. Read Psalm 91 before turning the light out. Re-read it if you wake in the night. It specifically speaks about terrors of the night and how they won’t have a hold on you.
  12. Don’t take electronics to bed. They are a distraction, and the lights and sounds that they emit are not stress-free.
  13. Audit your rest. Do you get enough rest? Regularly enough?
  14. Do something creative. It restores both the soul and mind.
  15. Don’t beat yourself up about what you are thinking. Be honest, but not brutal.
  16. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Comparison steals peace and joy every time.
  17. Be thankful for something or someone. It stops all sorts of negative behaviors from taking root.
  18. Get a physical. I was once told by a consultant psychiatrist that more than 50% of all mental illnesses were medically based. It is worth checking.

All emotions simply roam the body looking for a place to land. Sometimes it is the negative ones that make an airstrip.
I hope this is helpful. It is by no means a complete list of all the possible things that you can do to help yourself, but it’s a start.

Let me know what you think.

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