Mental Illness is at epidemic proportions in the prosperous west. With all the things modern technology has provided and with all the security of food, clothing and shelter that third world countries struggle without, it is absurd that comfortable westerners should have a care in the world.
Yet they do. Millions of well-off westerners (in global terms) struggle with depression, take medication for stress or anxiety, encounter mental instability and lack the contentment and security their environment should provide them.
The causes and solutions are many and varied and I do not profess to be an expert on these matters. However I have made suggestions to sufferers which they tell me proved very helpful. So I am sharing some of my thoughts here, for the benefit of those who may also find them helpful.
My gut feeling about much of the mental struggle that westerners contend with is that it is in fact an “Intensity Disorder”. It seems to me that people who are tormented in mind are trapped in a situation where they struggle with uncertainties, doubts, worries and the like, which create a ‘turmoil of intensity’ in their thinking, and possibly their emotions as well.
I have seen people resolve some of their mental disorder by simply reducing the mental intensity that has abducted their thinking patterns. That’s why I’ve titled this post “Take it Easy”. That is my advice to those who are getting all worked up about things, creating storms in the tea-cup of their situation.
Now, it is true that the mental state some people get into is somewhat out of their control. People do fall prey to things that torment them and which have a mind of their own in attacking and besieging the minds of their victims.
Biblically we would see such things as demons assigned to attack and harass a person. The whole process of spiritual warfare involves issues of the mind and that must include those who are tormented by evil spirits which mess with their mind.
The Apostle Paul taught that we have spiritual weapons which pull down strongholds in our mind and which also bring thoughts back into line.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2Corinthians 10:3-5
Wrong thinking patterns can be enemy “strongholds” in our mind which create fearful or distressing imaginations and thoughts. Our spiritual weapons pull down those strongholds and destroy wrong imaginations, bringing our thinking back into line with Christ, who is the truth.
Turning Off the Intensity
People who are anxious and distressed in mind usually have something gnawing at their thoughts.
“I’m not sure I did the right thing.” “I don’t know if people like me.” “I can’t be sure everything is going to work out.” “I tried to help that person but it didn’t work out, so now I feel like it’s my responsibility.” “I want my circumstances to improve and so I’m thinking about it all the time.”
Myriad thoughts can cause you to be buried in intensity, unable to let go and “take it easy”. People berate themselves, get tied up in knots, lose all capacity to move forward, and have their mind go into overload when they have this kind of Intensity Disorder.
Imagine how much better life immediately becomes when you can turn off the intensity.
Give Yourself A Break
Stop attacking yourself. Stop putting your mind into overload. Just relax. Give yourself a break. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Take it easy.
As a Christian you have all the capacity you ever need to be able to turn off the intensity. You can cast all your cares on the Lord, knowing that He cares for you. You can give your burdens to Him. You can take His load on your shoulders, because His load is always light.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7
“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you will find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I remember various times in my youth when I struggled with anxieties. I wondered whether I was reaching manliness as well as I hoped. Did I look like a man? Did I stand like a man? Did I fit the part properly or not? What should I do differently to convince those around me that I was every bit a man?
I was probably influenced by the insecurity generating media that wanted me to buy a product or dress the way they prescribed. I thought that looking the part was an important part of being the part.
But I noticed that people accepted my manliness even when I didn’t go out of my way to convey it. I was as tall as a man, with a deep voice like a man and I shaved and had grown up responsibilities. When I walked through a shop women would tell their child to “get out of the way of the man”, and they were referring to Me!
All my anxiety had nothing to do with reality. I was a young man, whether I felt the part or not, or whether I dressed trendy, in a uniform, or in my gardening clothes. So I learned to relax and accept that I had arrived, even on those days when I doubted the fact.
Another process of relaxing and taking it easy came from my early months of driving. I noticed one day as a teenage driver that my arms and shoulders were totally tense. Everything from my fingers to my neck was tight with tension.
I knew that most drivers seem so much more relaxed than I felt. I also realised that a three hour drive would just about cripple me at that level of muscle tension. So I deliberately relaxed my fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and neck.
The experience was liberating. I could drive and watch the road and rear-view mirrors much better when my body was not stiff. I relaxed my legs, wriggled in my seat, settled back into the chair, put my elbow onto the arm rest and even let go with one hand.
Every time I caught myself tense again I would physically relax my body until being relaxed in the driver’s seat became normal.
If you are tense about something stop and address it. If it’s a responsibility then trust it to God. If it’s something you need, ask God for it and then trust Him enough to rest while you wait. If it’s uncertainty about the future commit the future to God and concentrate only on today.
Pray about those things that concern you. Let God know what your requests are. Then Relax. Loosen Up. If you catch yourself tense and anxious then change posture, pass the problems to God again, and settle into a relaxed posture once again. Practice the posture you would have and the thoughts you would think if you knew that God heard your prayer and everything was under control.
Give it a try and see what it does for helping you work through those mental storms that tie you up and bring you down.