This topic is massive in its power to change lives. It has changed mine dramatically. Once we learn to navigate our hearts and minds well, almost everything about our lives begins to shift. I am no psychologist, but I am a girl that’s had a lot thrown at her in life and learned that through research and seeking the wisest counsel, we can overcome most anything! Let’s get started.
It may sound obvious, but a good place to begin taking care of your emotions and mind is getting to know yourself. If you haven’t taken the time to learn your various personality types, I’d suggest that. Myers-Briggs and The Enneagram are great places to start. Understanding ourselves can guide us in learning how to best take care of our hearts and minds. Knowing something is half the battle; learning what to do once you know it is the real victory. These tests offer insights into why you think certain ways or why you handle situations the way you do. They have a lot of tips to help you navigate life.
Some of you may identify more with the ways I will describe caring for your minds and emotions, and some of you may not. No matter which, reading this will be helpful because you may benefit yourself, or you may be able to support your friends and family better.
First, let’s talk about emotions, those nasty buggers that can be really amazing or seriously depressing. When I was in my early twenties, I decided to pack it all up and move halfway across the country. I was much more of a daredevil then, and I had no idea what was ahead of me. The challenges of adult life, being out on my own for the first time, and not having a support system really had me overwhelmed. I was facing trials right and left. I asked a friend, who found someone, who knew of a free counselor at a local church. I didn’t know this woman, but I didn’t care. I needed help!
I only went to a few sessions with her, but I remember being shocked when she said I didn’t have a good grasp of understanding emotions. She handed me a paper that listed various emotions with matching facial expressions and descriptions. I immediately felt like I was two feet tall and seven years old, but even though I was humbled, I knew she was right. I started exploring my emotions. Was I angry or sad, irritated or offended, annoyed or repulsed? Why was I having this reaction? The more I began to understand how I was feeling, the more control I had over myself and the situation.
I eventually moved back to my home state, very near to family, which added its own emotional fog to wade through. I had mother issues and father issues, sibling issues, trust issues and trusting-too-much issues, boy issues and single issues, love issues, and pride issues. We’ve all got something to figure out. I know I’m not alone in this.
You may be wondering why I’m talking about relational issues in an article about emotions. Well, it’s all one big lovely ball of feelings. You could have a root of thinking you’re not lovable as a lingering reaction to your mom leaving when you were young. You may not trust others well because of a boyfriend that cheated on you. These roots may cause you to respond in certain ways to others and to yourself. Understanding our emotions and how to handle them is a good first step, but we have to dig down in order to identify the why behind those feelings. Once we know the why, we can let God in to heal those places. Nothing ever gets healed fully unless we go down to the root and pull the entire plant up. We can trim the branches or even saw it down to a stump, but if the roots are still there, it hasn’t left us for good. True healing comes from deep vulnerability.
It’s always good to seek out wise counsel when trying to sort through baggage and uncover the truth. There are a few different avenues for this. The most readily available avenue for healing is time with the Lord. Let the Holy Spirit bring the hidden places into the light, and let Him shower them with love. Learn the truths of scripture. What does God say about you? Write His words on notecards and speak them over yourself. I had a season in life where I did this. I thought I was so unlovable. I went through the Bible and wrote down every verse I could find about God saying He loved me. I had a stack of them on my bedside table and I would read them when I woke up and when I went to bed. Over time my heart began to soften and I could feel His love for me. His Word is extremely powerful. You should never pursue healing outside of His love. You can seek healing with Him one-on-one, or you can seek His healing with other people.
I have personally found a lot of help through healing prayer sessions. I know it can sound odd, but it’s really just people going to the Father with you on your behalf.
James 5:13-16 says:
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
This verse is pretty straightforward. It helps guide us on how to pray for one another. The healing prayer sessions I’ve experienced usually involve two to three fellow believers. These people are trained in prayer and healing and often spend a great deal of time with the Lord. They can discern the voice of the Holy Spirit and have often experienced the Lord restoring people either physically and/or emotionally. Some of them are often prophets and are very discerning. I will caution you to listen to the Lord yourself. There are people who proclaim to do these kinds of ministries but are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and don’t have your best interest at heart. Seek the Lord and ask Him to bring you to the people He has for you.
These healing prayer sessions have walked me through a great deal of recovery, ranging from food addiction, rejection, pride, feeling unlovable, not knowing if I had the Holy Spirit with me, physical restoration from digestive issues, miscarriages, and fear/anxiety that led to adrenal fatigue as well as long-lasting insomnia. I know there’s more, but the main point is that these prayer sessions can cover a wide variety of topics. Prayer servants will often invite the Lord into a memory or situation that has caused trauma. The Lord meets you there and mends the broken places. He can also reveal a memory or issue you didn’t know you needed to process. Some people view this as bad, but remember those roots? Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. When things are revealed, that means we can truly move past them.
Secondly, I recommend counseling. Make sure they are Bible-based and Holy-Spirit led. Counselors are trained with tools and experience to walk us through challenging and complex emotions and memories. Some of us need this more than others. It goes back to the personality type you are and what your life has looked like. I have needed quite a bit of counseling, and will probably go off and on for years to come. I am a firm believer in working through things when they surface, and we often need outside help to do that. A lot of people hold onto things and don’t know why. It can cripple their friendships and marriages. It can cause them to feel anxious and nervous in certain situations. There’s no reason you have to continue living this way! Jesus wants to walk with you to heal those broken and hurting places. He is a God of restoration and new life. There is absolutely nothing that is impossible when it comes to Jesus.
Alright, let’s talk about the mind. When you were being created in your mother’s womb, your little mind was learning about the world (parenting.com). It was putting little clues and pieces together about what life must be like. Some people were born into peaceful, loving homes. Others were born into chaotic families with possible abuse. Still, others may have been born to be left on doorsteps or down street alleys. The environment we are born into has massive repercussions. “Experiences of environmental chaos early in life have the capacity to disrupt the processes involved in young children’s stress reactivity, neural circuitry, physiological regulation, as well as metabolic, cardiovascular, and immunological systems, in turn impacting short and long-term health and development” (National Library of Medicine). Although our minds are so small when we are young, what a person is exposed to has lifelong impact.
The first three years of life are crucial for mental development. Not just to learn to hold a pencil or how to talk but for developing strategic pathways. If we grow up in chaotic environments, then our bodies develop coping mechanisms for safety. Your body may not learn to sleep deeply because it feels that you must be ready to flee if the situation gets too dangerous, for example. This can create a jumpy disposition where your adrenals work overtime because your body has trained itself that it needs to be ready to fight or flee at a moment’s notice.
Our brains are full of pathways. They get stronger and stronger the more we use them. These synaptic pathways begin after birth and get stronger over time. “By the time children are 2 years old, their brains have approximately 100 trillion synapses. Based on the child’s experiences [these] synapses are strengthened and remain intact” (childwelfare.org). These pathways connect all the various parts of the brain and can be triggered at any time, so the more a situation occurs, the more a brain develops its respective pathway. For example, if a child frequently experiences verbal abuse, then whatever pathway they have developed for that scenario will grow stronger and stronger in their minds. Some children may respond by running away and crying. Some may think they deserve it. Some may grow angry because of the rage they see. There are many different pathways that can be formed from the same trigger. Whatever that pathway is, it becomes deeper and stronger the more the child is exposed.
I was spending the summer in New York City as a part of a summer ministry, and we had a wonderful speaker come. His name is Sy Rogers, and he travels the world helping people understand the mind. I was so blown away by his teaching that, as a broke college student, I spent over $100 on his material and chose to eat PBJs for the next few weeks. It was completely worth it.
Sy talks a lot about these pathways and how we can change them. He gives a great deal of hope about changing our habits and thought patterns. I remember one part of his talk when he described redirecting his gaze. If he saw someone attractive walking down the street, instead of looking again, he began to look up and then down at his watch. At first, he had to tell himself to do this. Over and over again, he forced his thoughts to abandon the first pathway and go down a new one. He wasn’t going to look; he was going to check the time. Second Corinthians 10:5 says that we are to take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ. At first, doing this will require self-discipline, but over time, and as that new pathway becomes stronger, it will get easier. It is crucial to note that the first pathway is never gone completely. Our minds will try to use it again, so it is important to continue strengthening the new pathway anytime our minds try to choose the old one. Romans 12:2 calls us to renew our minds daily, and this is how.
Our minds not only need help shaping and reshaping their pathways, but they need help slowing down. With TV, the internet, and social media giving us limitless new entertainment, our minds can grow accustomed to constant stimulation. Our minds begin to expect instant gratification which can lead to greater degrees of anxiety and depression when those expectations aren’t met. Social media addiction is just like any other addiction. Without the flood of instant likes, shared posts, or new information, our minds don’t get the rush of dopamine, and we start to feel down, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Meditation is a great way to combat that. I especially love guided meditations. Nigel Mumford is a wonderful healing teacher, and he has some really powerful meditations that help to calm nerves and relax the mind. The more you participate in slowing your mind down, the more peaceful your mind and body will be. You have to retrain your body for peace when it becomes too used to chaos. Another great teacher that loves the Lord and teaches about the mind is Dr. Caroline Leaf. She has a lot of material to help get out of toxic thought patterns and renew the mind. I follow her on Instagram and love seeing her little nuggets of wisdom as I scroll through the feed.
It’s taken years of work to reshape my mind, and there’s still a lot of room to grow. As a small child, my mind was being shaped in a chaotic and stressful environment, so the pathways of my mind were formed using that filter. The result was an overly jumpy, adrenaline-filled woman no matter the environment. I could be sitting and reading a book while sipping tea, and WHAM, I’d feel a rush of adrenaline. It was like my body didn’t know how to function in peace.
My naturopath was the first to suggest meditation as a way to combat my body’s inability to calm itself. I thought she was a little crazy, but I knew something needed to change. I began meditating every day for at least ten minutes. During these sessions, I would often listen to guided meditation where a woman would walk me through relaxing my body and focusing my mind in order to quiet my thoughts and allow peace to settle in. Often people view meditation as something ungodly or scary, but God often encourages His people to be still and rest. Meditation is nothing more than that. Over time, my mind began to let go and understand that I was safe. My adrenals stopped pumping out unnecessary energy, and my body has learned to rest.
Changing our minds and learning how to handle our emotions are massive accomplishments, and they will take the rest of our lives to truly conquer. It’s an everyday battle, but it gets easier and easier the more ground you cover. I promise that you can change the way you think, and those hurting places can be healed. You can love yourself and learn to love those around you better. God values all the parts of us He has made, and the mind and heart are no exception. He wants us to flourish in every area.
Follow Jesus in Mark 6:31 when He says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Resting with Jesus is the best rest we could ask for.
Thank you so much for continuing this journey with me as we discover the ways to take care of ourselves. I hope you are being blessed. Our next adventure is Spiritual, so come along to How to Exercise Your Spirit.
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