by AChuckAllen 04.20.2021
Like many of my readers, I grew up in an era with zero tolerance for mental illness. We threw terms around that were harmful, hurtful, and disrespectful. We didn’t do that out of some weird bias or odd bigotry, but out of pure ignorance. Today, we all have a better understanding of the significance of our mental and emotional health. But have we stepped into the arena and determined to be a part of the solution instead of saying the usual “somebody ought to do something” line? As for me, I have experienced the oddities of the pandemic, just like you have.
Now is the time to step onto the floor of the arena and determine to
make a difference, and it just might start with you!
First, let’s accept the fact that we all have some sort of anxiety, restlessness, or stress in our life. I haven’t met anyone in the past year that has been able to say that they are stress or worry-free, at least honestly. The power of our brains is astonishing. Our brains are constantly attempting to course-correct our lives, but with enough stressors and insecurities, it can send all of the wrong signals to our bodies.
Did you know that when your brain’s pre-frontal cortex exposes your amygdala, that amygdala kicks into high gear with fear that sends stress hormones coursing through your body? That starts a reaction that creates digestive challenges, rapid heart rates, muscular tingles, and inflammation. None of that sounds good. But here is the good news. You can do something about it! My friend, Julie Homrich, LPC, has been coaching me on the brain and how mental health and spiritual health go hand in hand. She is a really bright human, and I’m continually grateful for our friendship and what she is teaching me. When I came to grips with the fact that we could literally accomplish what Paul wrote in the Bible book of Romans, when he said that we “Should not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we might know the perfect will of God,” I got so captivated that I began an in-depth study to help me understand the correlation with a passage of scripture written some 2,000 years ago and the modern brain.
Romans 12:2 NLT
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
In short, I came to this conclusion: We Need Help!
To keep from remaining in fear, anxiety, and an over-stressed state of mind, we need to know how to be transformed through the renewing of our mind. Maybe you are like me. Maybe you don’t have a severe mental illness, but you are stressed out, maxed out, and occasionally anxiety-riddled. If so, even mildly so, here is a three-step approach that has been scientifically proven to assist you.
1. STOP AND SUSPEND THE PRESENT NARRATIVE. Science has proven that it can take as long as 20 minutes to metabolize the stress hormones sent to our bodies from that fear-mongering amygdala. Stop and suspend your assumptions on the motives, actions, and predetermined conclusions of the present narrative that has your stressors on high alert. Stopping long enough to evaluate before acting is an essential part of coping well and retaining healthy relationships. Stop and allow your mind to ask three questions. 1) What if I didn’t understand the narrative as it was intended? 2) What if the person sharing or group sharing the narrative is in a difficult season or just a terrible day? And 3) What if I am stressed because I am part of the narrative’s problem, and my brain is firing our guilt signals. Suspend the answer and/or action long enough for the stress hormones to clear from your body.
2. ENGAGE IN DOING GOOD. Multiple studies, including a study from Stanford University, have proven that when we take action to help or serve someone else, we are fueling our brain and our soul with dopamine that instantaneously improves our mental and emotional health. If you lead a business, the new economy screams at you that “doing good is good for business.” The new understanding of our brain screams at us doing good is good for us! I know it doesn’t seem like something beneficial to mental health, but both God and science assure us that it is indeed perfect for us!
3. START YOUR DAY WITH PRAYER MEDITATION. I know I just lost half of you, but this is the one thing I would plead with you to do. It’s so simple, and it’s been proven to strengthen our mental and emotional health for centuries. Somehow, in the American culture, we determined we didn’t need that weird meditation stuff. But prayerful meditation isn’t some weird journey with incense and mantras. It is simply quietude, plus solitude, plus mindfulness = peace. I start each day with one question. What am I grateful for, and write it down. I then enjoy about 6 minutes of prayerful meditation through a great, free app, “SOULSPACE.” It is so simple. I listen and pray in a quiet space, and it gets me centered on God’s design for my day and gives me an attitude of gratitude, confidence, and peace. Once again, like serving others, meditation has been scientifically proven to strengthen our brains to transform us into healthy people. How great is that? I am living proof that six minutes each day can radically transform your mind, heart, and soul for good. If you knew me twenty years ago, or more, you might be thinking, “who is this, and what happened to Chuck?” The answer? I’m here, and I’m in the best mental, emotional and spiritual health of my life!
Here is the key. These are simple solutions to a complex challenge. But these three simple steps have proven to make me a far better husband, father, grandfather, pastor, leader, and follower of Jesus. America is a mess, people. We might start with our own mental, emotional, and spiritual health before grumbling more about everyone else’s part of the problem.
I’m also committed to the firm belief that the church desperately needs to tackle mental and emotional health. It is one of the great American crises of the day. We, the church, have the opportunity to stop lobbing bible verse hand grenades at people in crises and offer real, tangible, God-honoring solutions. I’m in no way suggesting that scripture isn’t tangible. I am strongly stating that scripture and science are a hand in glove experience. Mental health is a practical part of Christian discipleship. As we learn to surrender our assumptions and egos to the will of God, we discover contentment. When we are contented, we can, as Paul stated, “do all things through Christ Jesus.” But surrender and contentment require a healthy state of mind and emotion.
It’s like a wheel that keeps rolling. Strive for mental and emotional health. Seek peace in that journey. Keep it sustainable, not just based on feelings. Surrender our lives and discover contented gratitude and boom! There it is, PEACE! That sounds exactly like what Jesus would invest in should He have chosen this generation to walk on the face of the planet. Oh, wait! That’s exactly what He did, as He walked across Israel some two-thousand years ago. Jesus cares about our mental and emotional health – Be more like Jesus!
Go in Peace,