Whether you are
hitting a rough patch of life, which is causing reactive depression and anxiety,
or you’ve been diagnosed with an actual brain disorder, you’re craving relief
and the ability to manage life.
You may hear voices from friends, family, and even from the church, telling you to “Just persevere. Endure. Let this build your faith; find God in this trial; trust God, and don’t give up …” However, this advice only reinforces your anxiety, which can lead you to feel hopeless and stuck.
The truth is, we may not be able to “fix” everything, but we all need effective habits that help make life more manageable. There are plenty more beneficial behaviors than the few listed here, but these are seven basic ways to achieve a highly effective mind.
ONE: Mind Your Matters
Fortify the brain and body against psychological distress.
How you sleep, eat, and exercise have huge benefits on the brain and body. Getting a complete night’s sleep, eating healthy food, and integrating physical activity into your day can help reduce fatigue, irritability, and emotional heaviness, while increasing focus and mood. I have worked with people when making these simple changes and some within a week often say, “I feel a little more energy and feel more refreshed.” Many times the trick is simply adjusting your daily schedule and routine—not adding more expensive options.
TWO: Mind Your Brain
Refresh and exercise your brain.
Hobbies activate the “feel good” areas of the brain and other areas associated for positive and creative thinking. Hobbies build self-esteem and confidence. Other options include “thinking” games. Simple word games/puzzles, Sudoku, card-games, or even Tetris can help you stay cognitively sharp. There’s no need to pay for brain game websites, however, as research is unclear on whether they are truly beneficial.
THREE: Mind Your Perception
Consider new perspectives and discover comfort.
Your emotions follow the way you think and perceive. Learning to develop new strategies for negative thoughts help activate your brain, bringing relief and comfort. Jesus said when we are in distress that we should come to find REST and feel no burden (Matthew 11.28-30). He didn’t say, “Just trust Me!” In our recovery program and support groups, we use a Healthy Thinking Tool to help manage anxiety and discover mind-renewing thoughts. The tool helps us recognize difficult thoughts, then find new comforting perspectives. You can do various mindfulness activities, which can aid this process and incorporate these new thoughts into your personal, specific devotional times. Be patient, renewing the mind is a process!
FOUR: Mind Your Friends
Stay connected to key people.
Those around you may not understand the difficulties you are experiencing, which may cause you to feel rejected. Rejection, along with other distressing feelings, lead to isolation. However, support is essential. Relying on key friends who cause you to feel emotionally safe will dial down your feelings of “Fight or Flight” anxiety. You don’t owe everyone an explanation; you just need 1-3 people who have compassion and who will support you in implementing these seven effective habits. Our support groups provide this place of safety, understanding and incredible support.
FIVE: Mind Your Distractions
Find creative and healthy distractions for difficult moments.
A healthy distraction is not a cop out, but rather healthy coping. When we are overwhelmed, we tend to filter life through the “ultimatum” feeling (anxiety). Coping helps to dial down the parts of the brain that are on high alert. This might be a short-walk or drive, a breathing exercise, or a short comforting prayer, or even calling a supportive friend. God gives us grace so we can be empowered to manage our stressors. This is responding with grace and faith!
SIX: Mind Your Appreciation
Gratitude reinforces calm, comfort, and positions for healthy thoughts.
The Bible often encourages us to be thankful, because it allows us to regain comfort and calm (peace). It triggers the parts of the brain associated with empathy and compassion, which can lead to healthy balance. Being thankful is asking yourself what you truly appreciate in your life or what you have. It can be simple or profound, it as long as it is personal to you. For example, with an ongoing overwhelming frustration, I took some time to write in my journal, “Why I trust God?” After a page and half, my situation didn’t change, but I had more peace and perspective. I could breath easier!
SEVEN: Mind Your Self
Your sense of identity and purpose gives vision for your life (hope).
This goes right along with “Mind Your Thoughts.” Keep your brain trained toward healthy perspectives about yourself and a sense of purpose. I can anticipate your thoughts of doubt, such as …
“What about failures and mistakes or other horrible misfortunes?”
In response, I would say, “It’s an opportunity!” We can’t go back and change past hurts, mistakes, or misfortunes, however, what can you learn from them? What wisdom have you gained? How has it helped you maneuver various limitations? How has this new depth enhanced your life, your future, and even ways to impact others? Mental health difficulties, disorders, circumstances, and the many demeaning voices in your head do not define you. God (through His Word, The Bible) gives me and us a “freeing” description of our worth, inheritance, and sense of purpose. No matter what has happened or what apparent limitations you’re currently facing… You are worthy; Let no one ever tell you otherwise! I know many who are achieving great life, at home, school, and in their career!
What about faith? Isn’t that an effective habit? This is all faith lived out. When you’re suffering with mental health difficulties or disorders, you know that it takes every ounce of faith to work on these habits. God is present in every aspect! It’s grace. It’s faith!
Life improves by grace!
The Grace Alliance