If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you have ups and downs with your mental health. The mind can be a tricky place. And not just the mind, but the brain itself. Realising there is a physical and biological aspect to mental health helps take away some of the stigma when we might feel like we ‘shouldn’t’ be struggling or suffering in our minds when we ‘ought to’ have control over our own thoughts. I’ve had this ‘argument’ with myself, but often our brains can do things we don’t want them to, especially in times of stress.
Thinking over my life, yes there have been times of stress, of trauma and mental overload and confusion, but there have also been great times and wonderful days feeling well, travelling (see my travel posts 🙂 ) even with anxiety, going out with friends, helping other people, serving in church, walks in the park, being part of community, and being liked, admired, respected by other people and achieving various goals. There have been days enjoying soaking up the beauty of being alive, of nature and connecting with God. Wondrous moments. Yet there are also days like today where I know I’m not 100% ok. I’d been pushing through anxiety and troubling thoughts to do various more positive things recently like going to work a couple of days in the office post-pandemic restrictions, going for walks and chats with friends, attending church and meeting new friends there and being able to help out, meeting up with good friends again. Some of those days have had the backdrop of anxiety but they still allowed me enjoyment. For the past month and a bit I’ve been recovering from Covid and post-Covid fatigue and it is impacting my mental health and brain health. I look at photographs to remind myself that my life is a beautiful life with a lot of blessings despite the times of stress or difficulties that I’ve experienced in various seasons. Yet my mind / brain can forget these things and bring up all sorts of ‘automatic negative thoughts’ – I think I’ve written about these ‘ANTS’ in previous blog posts – perhaps I’ll do a search to see if even I can find something helpful. When we’re ill and fatigued things can get a bit more difficult mentally especially if we’ve struggled in the past.
So why have I written the above? It’s to remind you that if you are in a dark or confusing moment that those are not the only moments you’ve had in life. This too will pass. You are a special, beautiful, worthy human being no matter what your brain is telling you, no matter what anyone else or any experience has told you. Our minds can be tricky and disorganised places and it can be difficult to pull ourselves up and out of the experiences of our own thoughts. Try to recall a time when you were in a better place or try to distract yourself by thinking on something good, true, lovely. Sometimes something as simple as watching a nature video can help, or talking to a friend or family member. It can be hard when we feel stuck to take that small step that cognitively seems huge to us, but just try a little at a time.
If you are in crisis, remember that it will pass. Don’t act on any troublesome thoughts but try to sit with those difficult feelings and if you can reach out to someone, even a helpline. Look at something that is positive rather than trying to ‘make sense of’ your confusing thoughts, although there may be a place for that when you are feeling better. Try to eat well, rest well and connect with people in some way. If you are able, go for a walk – I’m not able to go for a walk at the moment with the way my health is, but I often find that this helps to ‘clear my head’. I’m blessed to know that I have a loving Heavenly Father, and a Saviour Jesus Christ, and I know I’m never alone and can reach out to God any time, and am indwelt by His Spirit. This is a real comfort to me, as is turning to His Word and being reminded in Scripture that we can cry out to God, and that so many people experienced times of distress and that God rescued them from it. Even psalm 22 prophesies the intense distress that Jesus Christ would face on the Cross hundreds of years before the event. He knows, and He understands.
Despite the past seasons of darkness or trial, my life overall is a beautiful life, yet at times my mind tends to overwhelm me with unhelpful thoughts. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone, and it doesn’t have to last forever. No matter how bad your life might feel right now, there is hope. Ultimately, I would point you to Jesus Who has taken away my deep pain and Who forgives us and gives us a brand new life, gradually changing, cleansing, freeing us from within. There is hope for another day. Know that there are hundreds if not millions or more people across the globe right now whose brains are also struggling with the world we’re living in. Perhaps because of experiences, perhaps because of Covid, or ‘just because’….just because we’re human. It can be easy to look at others and think they’re doing great, and maybe they are but we can’t see beneath the surface or understand what’s really going on in someone’s mind. Most people would look at me and not have any idea that my brain can cause me distress but then I might look at them and assume the same. Wherever you are, just hang in there. Please. Know that it isn’t the end, there is light in the darkness and the thoughts tumbling upon you will clear. Thoughts are not reality but they can lead us in directions that can either help or harm us, so take a moment to consider dwelling on a different thought. Sometimes when you’re in the thick of it this can be difficult to do so an external input or distraction can help – this might be something you watch or read or talking to someone who can be a kind and supportive voice – or perhaps reading this blog post might, I sincerely hope, give someone a bit of perspective to hang on in there.
Don’t give up, dear friends, you’re not alone. Yes, our minds can cause us distress, but they can also be places of hope and of inspiration, faith, love and joy. That might feel like a million miles away from us at the moment but we can start with one thought at a time. For me, writing this blog post has helped engage another part of my brain, my mind, my thinking to steer me to a more helpful course, to seek to help someone else rather than getting lost in the automatic thoughts that my brain seems to throw at me from time to time, especially when feeling unwell physically. What might help you when you’re struggling? I’ve written in previous posts about having a ‘toolbox’ for mental health and self care, perhaps this is something we can have in reserve – strategies that are helpful – that we can go to and remind ourselves of on those more difficult days.
I hope that you’ve founds something helpful in this. Praying for you. Hang in there. Those thoughts, like clouds, will clear, and once again we’ll have brighter days. ❤