The world has so many problems that if Moses came down from Mount Sinai today, the two tablets he’d carry would be Prozac and Xanax!
Our world is crazy, isn’t it? Think of all the disasters we’ve witnessed—tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, overcrowded hospitals. Then there’s political and social upheaval, and economic uncertainties.
So I just want to reassure you, if you’re feeling a little mentally imbalanced, the American Psychiatric Association says that talking to your plants during the pandemic is perfectly normal . . . but seek help if they start talking back!
Now what can we do when we find ourselves fearful and downhearted in a toxic world? I want to focus on three areas: your body, your mind, and your spirit. A lot could be said about each one, but I just want to highlight some things you may not have considered before when it comes to mental health.
First, be kind to your body. Poor diet can really play a role in our state of mind. In fact, some patients have been completely cured of their anxiety and depression when they followed their doctor’s prescription for healthy eating. Usually answers aren’t so simple, but if you’re struggling, diet may be a hidden source of your problem.
At the very least, reduce caffeine and sugar. I’ve had clients who’ve significantly helped their anxiety by cutting down on coffee and other caffeinated drinks.
Sugar depletes your B vitamins which you need to combat stress. It also messes with insulin and feeds Candida which can lead to chronic fatigue and many other health issues.
So as you’re problem solving what to do for your mental health, consider your body. Do you need to address sleep issues? Do you need a physical? Thyroid imbalance, for example, can make you feel either sluggish or too keyed up.
Secondly, be kind to your mind. Reduce stress of all kinds, but I especially want to focus on one source of stress which we often overlook—stress related to technology. Phones, tablets, computers. Even my new refrigerator has a large built-in tablet on the door that allows me to play Pandora, check Facebook, and access my calendar. But it took hours to figure that thing out! Fun, yes, but there’s always the learning curve which causes stress.
Our phones have a huge impact on us. Have you heard of the terms doomscrolling or doomsurfing? These refer to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news. Many people find it difficult or impossible to stop consuming negative information.
The last two years have traumatized us collectively, and traumatized people chase information because they are desperate to keep themselves safe. Yet to preserve our sanity, we need to go against this instinct and limit our exposure to sad, disheartening, and depressing news.
As wonderful as they are, our devices can be very addictive. Social media can hook us into comparing ourselves to others. If we’re on our phone too much, it can not only compromise sleep, but our peace of mind as well!
And here’s another thing. Have you ever caught yourself wanting to go to your smart phone for wisdom, for comfort, or to relieve boredom? I have.
Compared to the cool game you can play on your phone, reading the Bible may suddenly seem dull. And when you can get insight from a TED talk or otherwise research answers on the internet, seeking God’s face might seem like too much work. You can even substitute online sermons or Christian podcasts for spending time with God.
If we’re not careful, a terrible emptiness will overtake us. I want to be more intentional about shutting out all other voices on a regular basis, so that I can hear the Shepherd’s voice.
Let’s live life to the fullest! From the Lord’s perspective, our lives continue to have great meaning, purpose, and potential until the day we die. (Sometimes we have trouble believing that when we get older, but it’s true.)
So, be kind to your body. Be kind to your mind.
Finally, be kind to your spirit. The coronavirus is not the only thing infecting us. Sadly, a spirit of divisiveness is also making the world sick. It has not only infected us nationally, but it has spread to our churches, our friendship circles, our families. Divisiveness hurts, and if we’re not careful, it can lead to unforgiveness and poison our spirit.
Unforgiveness is like being on a giant hook. Next to you on the hook is the person who has hurt you. The hook is extremely painful. Wherever you go, so does the hook, and so does the offender. The only way you can get off the hook is if you allow the offender off first.
Who is the person you find it most difficult to forgive? Maybe it’s a parent or someone who unfriended you on Facebook over some political issue.
We all know what God’s word says: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37b) But this is easier said than done sometimes, isn’t it?
Do you find forgiveness difficult? There are all kinds of myths around what this means. I want to share something that has been helpful in my work. This is a list of seven common thinking errors around forgiveness. We’ll talk about the thinking error and then the correction to that error.
Error #1 — I will not give him the satisfaction of my forgiveness.
Truth: Forgiveness is not for them, it’s for me. Unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die. Why continue giving the offender control over my life?
Error #2 — Forgiveness is like saying what she did to me is okay.
Truth: No, it is saying that what they did is still as unacceptable as it was the day they did it, but that I’m choosing not to hold it against them any longer for my sake.
Error #3 — Forgive and forget—and since I don’t think I can forget, then I must not be able to forgive.
Truth: Actually, if I forget, I may not learn from past situations. Just because I will never forget has nothing to do with my ability to forgive since forgiveness is a choice. It’s not a feeling.
Error #4 — If I forgive him that means I have to trust him again, and there’s no way that’s happening.
Truth: Forgiveness is about the past. Trust is about the future. Trust is earned. I can forgive him but never trust him again. I can forgive and still set whatever boundaries I need to. (Let’s say an uncle sexually abused his niece. When she grows up, she can forgive her uncle and still set the boundary that she will not attend family functions when he is present.)
Error #5 — I’m just not ready to forgive yet—I’ll forgive when I feel like it.
Truth: You may never feel like it. Forgiveness is a choice. It is first granted, then felt. If the offense is serious, this choice will need to be made over and over as the offense is processed.
Error #6 — I’ll forgive her when she apologizes to me.
Truth: It may be easier if she apologizes, but what if she never does? Then I’m continuing to give her the power to keep me miserable.
Error #7 — Time heals all wounds. I don’t have to do anything—it will just get better with time.
Truth: Time can help me think about a situation more objectively, but the reality is that I can hold a grudge as long as I want to. If I don’t want to be one of those people who go to their grave angry, I need to participate in the forgiveness process and choose to let the offense go.
Maybe the person most difficult to forgive is yourself. But consider this. God is the only true Judge of your life. Why not let go of judging yourself and leave the judging to him? He’s a much kinder judge than you are! He sees us only through the lens of Jesus whereas we tend to look at ourselves through the enemy’s filter.
So in summary, what can we do to reduce the toxins of this world that lead to feeling down and anxious?
- Be kind to your body. Take care of your health.
- Be kind to your mind. Consider limiting electronics, and be more intentional about living.
- Be kind to your spirit. Forgive.
I’d like to close with this scripture. It’s so relevant for the climate we live in today:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant sacrifice and offering to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)
What a good word for today as we try to be like Jesus in a polarized world.
- When it comes to being kinder to your body and your mind, what changes are you considering to reduce toxic stress?
- What truth about forgiveness stood out to you today?
(This talk given to Women in Touch at First Baptist, February 16th.)