Writing this makes me realize just how far I have come.

Thank you for joining us on our Navigating Worry course, if you’re just linking in now, the free, online course can be found here

And finally! Elaine’s story…

The word I dislike the most is process. To me, it means long-suffering, pondering, unsettled, unrest. When I look for answers, and the answer is “well, it’s a process,” my heart sinks. Knowing this about me has made the “process” of being “unwell” significantly harder than it maybe should have been. Being defined by others as being strong, confident, and reliable – only made this “process” worse.

In 2016 I was diagnosed with a disorder that took my sight, my mind as I knew it and, what I miss the most – my confidence. 

I would go on to describe it as someone taking my world and throwing it up in the air just to see what and where the pieces would land. It would never look the same, it was different, and my process started. Who was I if I couldn’t read, remember details of our world, remember to pick up kids, recipes, remember songs or what year my kids were born. 

Who are you when the mind you’ve relied on so strongly is gone and what feels like an only whisper is left? Who is around you to remind you of who you are? What coping strategies are needed for you to be safe in your own skin never mind looking after others? 

To this day, I remain frustrated at moments with this process, yet writing this makes me realize just how far I have come. 

How has anxiety played into this? 

At first, I didn’t know it was anxiety. That was for weak people, I am strong – it can’t be that. I can hear my judgemental thoughts even now. The injury my brain sustained most don’t statistically live from. It means that even to this day or until I am healed, I can’t handle certain lights, sounds, environments, without significant coping skills and “outs.” So at first, I was able to view my obsessive thoughts and control as, just that, coping skills. I was being seen by 14 professionals who couldn’t agree on literally anything. They then put me with a brain trust worker who helped me work through what I later learned was PTSD. After a few seizures, the ministry was pulled in to make sure I was capable of taking care of our 5 kids. A supervisor when I showered, and a minor car accident with a doctor telling me I may never drive again.

What was left?

I left the house with industrial ear plugs, blue glasses to block out any light and little communication. It’s amazing how invisible you can make yourself when you try. I would go out as little as possible to avoid explaining myself to anyone, why I was different? Why I couldn’t remember their name? Why I wasn’t ‘Elaine’ anymore? 

One day in Costco, I remember the devastated face of a grade 2 girl I knew from a classroom I helped in. I remembered her as a girl that helped me lead chapel each week for two years. I couldn’t find her name – it was there somewhere like alphabet soup. I stood there blank, then started to cry. I vowed to try and avoid kids that looked familiar, which became everyone. I became more and more isolated. I couldn’t find people who could relate, few understood and the feeling that most just wanted “me” back. 

Anxiety for me has presented as a crippling fear that has impacted each minute of each day. When I found myself trying to control each little detail. I was taught to stop, analyze each thought, and discuss it with one of my safe team members. It often looked irrational- anxiety often does. Healing twice from PTSD has taught me that healing is often, not always, fourfold. You are made of a body, mind, soul, and spirit, healing needs to happen in each area. So prayer, reciting scripture, implementing strategies, and calming my physical body has all been apart of my coping. 

This isn’t a one size fits all.

For me, I need to escape the situation when I get overwhelmed, communicate with the safe people around me, implement CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I speak truth and scripture into the space and then trust in the God who made me to see me through.

Easy peasy right?

Here’s an example with a bit of back story. The trial was carried out with Pres syndrome (my illness) with a case study of 25 people, within six months, fifteen of them died. This left the study without enough members to continue. Each time I experience a migraine, tingly arm, sore back, you name it … I hear these statistics. It’s true – yup, it’s real – yup – and I serve a God who is bigger and stronger than those.

I take time to assess my physical body, what do I need, doctor, medicine, ER, I speak to a safe person to see if I am “over the top,” I pray for healing over my body and peace for my mind. Each time my thoughts get away from me, I will sometimes allow one or two but catch myself before I spiral. I pray like crazy to receive wisdom and discernment to know what steps to take next.

Process.

Healing.

Process.

Faith.

Process.

Trust. I truly don’t know how people do this world without knowing that there is a Saviour. Who sees and hears every need, who is ever-present and available, and completely faithful every single time.

Every …… single ……. time …..

My prayer for you; a peaceful mind, a calm spirit, a healthy body, and a restful soul. 

Elaine 

Meditate and Memorise ‘Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.’ Romans 8:26-28 

Listen: Cornerstone, Hillsong 

Listen: Alleluia, Upper Room – my go to when I have no words. 

Anxiety Playlist: Created for us by Joshua Leventhal 

A few other helpful resources

https://abide.co Abide, is the world’s most popular Christian meditation app, guiding hundreds of thousands of people around the world in Biblical truth and personal reflection.

This new app, ‘Switch,’ is an excellent tool for helping you deal with the root cause of your anxiety. It is based on Caroline Leaf’s 5-step program, which is designed to help you identify and eliminate the root of your anxiety, and help you build healthy new thinking habits through the mental process of reconceptualization.

https://pray-as-you-go.org Pray As You Go is a daily prayer session, designed to go with you wherever you go, to help you pray whenever you find time, but particularly whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc. A new prayer session is produced every day of the working week and one session for the weekend. It is not a ‘Thought for the Day,’ a sermon or a bible-study, but rather a framework for your own prayer.

Divine hours. A form of prayer at specified times to be used by individuals or groups. The Divine Hours includes morning, midday, vespers (evening) and compline (before retiring) offices, having roots in the biblical tradition.

https://hope4mentalhealth.com/about/stories More stories of hope to encourage you. 

You are loved,

Michelle xo

What! You too? I thought I was the only One

Today we look at community, this devotional is linked to Phil’s talks – sign up here

Most people have heard these words of Mother Teresa, ‘the greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.’

Loneliness has been defined in different ways. A common definition is, ‘a state of solitude or being alone.’ The other definition is, ‘loneliness is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, it is the perception of being alone and isolated that matters most.’

Our greatest need is food, shelter…and connection. Brene Brown writes a lot on this subject, ‘a deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.’ 

It is so important to allow ourselves to be seen, sharing the truth of where we are at. Our fears, doubts, extreme thoughts. As Brene says, in doing so, ‘we connect with others and in turn give them permission to be themselves. In sharing our fears and insecurities, we find true relationships.’

Community is woven throughout scripture. I love where scripture writes of the importance of us being joined together, that we cannot function well without one another, that we are called to encourage one another, to bear one another’s burdens. We are designed for each other! 

It’s so easy to withdraw isn’t it, I am often overthinking and sensitive – the familiar villain of fear can cause me to withdraw into my world where I find encouragement in scripture and in God’s presence,

But, that’s not enough.  

Yes, my life is hidden with Christ in God, and I live/love that, but as you know one of favorite lines is, ‘created for community.’ I think the enemy of our soul wants nothing more than to isolate us in loneliness – hiding away in a world of silence and unreality. 

This needs us to make a change – stepping out, being vulnerable and honest, inviting people into our imperfections. 

I love the idea of a community where are arms are wide open, where judgment is abandoned, and encouragement is the norm. Community allows light into the dark places, 

Jen Hatmaker writes, ‘and as we witness this beautiful community, we aren’t just observing vulnerability but rather chains breaking, darkness receding, victory rising… when enough bright places are created, the dark has nowhere else to hide.

To do this, we have to be seen.

‘Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one. ” C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Kaitlynn 

I thought I could do it alone. I had chosen not to engage fully in fellowship or let family see what gripped me. I thought that I would be judged by my family, my friends, or anyone who heard about what I had been going through. 

Years later, the movie “Frozen” portrayed how this time in my life felt. When I saw this movie the first time, I SOBBED. For those who need a refresher: the part where from childhood to adulthood, Elsa locks herself in her room. Anna, her sister, tries to entice her to come out and play. Elsa always refuses and sometimes wouldn’t answer. Eventually, Anna gives up and leaves her alone. Fast forward to the end, and Elsa realizes what she needed all along was family and a friend. 

It took me a long time before I would let people in to see what I was going through. Anxiety and depression gripped me hard from an early age. Finding people who understood, or even tried to just understand me was a game-changer. I had placed no value in community for a long time. 

I would encourage anyone who feels like “no one will understand”- to reach out to trusted people. One of the tools I firmly believe the enemy uses is isolation: whether by actually isolating us from family and friends – or making us believe we are. We would have no idea how many people really have been dealing with anxiety and depression, until we reach out, or back to those we love. 

Maybe just start with one person. I used to imagine what these conversations would look like – I would get so worked up that I would not even start them. But once I got going, how freeing it was to build community without hiding something real about me. For me – every time I would tell someone my story, it got easier to ask for help or let someone in. 

Scott 

Before I had my anxious breakdown, I had a friend tell me about his experience with anxiety and how he was overcoming it, and so, he was the first person I called on when things started getting bad for me. Having someone like that to talk to was incredibly helpful in learning to understand my anxiety and showed me that I wasn’t alone. I haven’t been shy when it comes to talking about my anxiety, and in doing so, I’ve met so many people who have been through situations similar to mine. Some of them sought help from their community immediately, but others say that they have never spoken about it until now and that they have spent years trying alone to find themselves again, which they did but with great effort and lots of time. I was fortunate to speak with people who had experience with anxiety, but I was also immensely blessed to have my whole bible study group committed to praying for me and checking in on me, most of whom admitted to me that they didn’t personally understand what I was going through. It was enough to know that they still accepted me and were interceding in prayer for me. Now that I am feeling mostly better, I still let those people know when I’m doing well or when I have a bad day or two. Maybe the most important part of having a supportive community was having people there for my wife when I wasn’t in a place to be there for her. My anxiety struck hard right before our second child was born, so having people to support her practically and emotionally was crucial to our healing.

Meditate and Memorise

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.’  Prov 12:25

I also love this verse in the The Passion Translation, ‘anxious fear brings depression, but a life-giving word of encouragement can do wonders to restore joy to the heart.’ 

Listen: You Say, Lauren Daigle. 

I Know a Wonderful Counsellor.

A quick reminder that throughout this series we are not waving a magic wand offering you ‘twenty seven easy steps to an anxiety free life,’ but – we are delighted that some will find lifelong strategies, others will learn to walk well and breathe in their anxious self and others of you will become unstuck. 

On this sixth session of our Navigating Worry course, I’d like to focus on Phil’s point of being your own lawyer, or a therapist, or even a friend. A lawyer finds out the facts – read books, articles, blogs, listen to Ted talks. We all learn and respond differently and there are a variety of answers and helps that could work for you. 

Could it be that we compartalize our anxiety and set times to ‘meet with yourself?’ According to Caroline Leaf, this is an effective mental tool, shifting your focus to the task in hand. ‘This is a proactive step that gives you a sense of control over your life, even when things may seem like they are falling apart.’ 

When you meet with the virtual lawyer, this could be through writing out your current scenario or lists of pros and cons. Allow the lawyer to offer the hard questions, the upside perspective, the best case and the what if? One therapist suggested speaking out your catastrophizing and hearing how it sounds. This can have the effect of diffusion or even humour as the anxious person hears their out of control thinking.  

Or, you could imagine telling your closest friend of your anxious thoughts, someone who knows you well and wants the best for you. 

For the rest of this post, I’d like to focus on the voice we can trust. 

~compassion incarnate, peace as a person, the wonderful counsellor~ 

When you read of Jesus life, you meet a deeply compassionate person. Jesus isn’t one to hurry you from your anxiety, but allows you to be fully human and sympathizes in our struggle. Who better to allow to come alongside us than one who knows our soul. Let’s think about Jesus ministry here on earth and learn from his counselling ministry. 

This is Jesus who finds us at white weddings and the whispering wilderness, in green gardens and gushing streams, lost in dark valleys and defiant clouds. 

He will not judge you. But He does weep with you. He is life abundant and wants you to walk alongside to that place of His promise. He wants you to walk in the rhythms of grace. Freely and lightly. His presence is healing. 

With this in mind, write down in your journal/ask Jesus questions, such as:

Is this worry realistic? 

Is this really likely to happen?

If the worst possible outcome happens, what would be so bad about that?

Could I handle that?

What might I do?

If something bad happens, what might that mean about me?

Is this really true or does it just seem that way?

What might I do to prepare for whatever may happen?

Let His peace settle as you wait for answers. 

Love, Michelle 

Deborah

I started struggling with anxiety in the fall of 2018. It scared me. I had no idea what was going on. What I learned was with my fluctuating hormones and being in perimenopause, one of the side effects is anxiety. Many wonderful people came along side me and shared with me their tips and techniques to battle anxiety. 

First defence call on the name of Jesus. Out loud even if only a whisper. 

Quote scripture. Lately these two scriptures have really encouraged me. Isaiah 26:3 and Isaiah 41:10. 

Breath prayer has been so beneficial. I have taken a piece of Isaiah 26:3 perfect peace, and breathed in for a count of three, saying to myself perfect, then breathed out for a count of 5 saying peace. For a total of 10 minutes. 

Ask others to pray for you. Go to my happy place. Your happy place is a fictional image that you create in your mind using all your senses. A place when you feel anxious you can go to and it will fill you with peace. 

Listened to the song Psalm 70:1 by Steve Bell and let the words wash over me. One time when I had my biggest anxiety attack I had tried everything I cried out these words over and over again. Come to my help oh God and hurry to my rescue. 

Read a devotional where it talked about not making mountains out of molehill. That day and the next few anxiety tried to whisper to me. But I told myself that I was not going to make a mountain out of a molehill. Anxiety left each time. 

I also take some pills from the health food store. Harmony Menopause pills I take daily to help with perimenopause.  EMP by Truehope pills I take daily to help with anxiety. L-Theanine to take right at the first sign of an attack.

*speak to your doctor or medical professional before taking medication or supplement

Meditate and Memorise

‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’ Matthew 11:25-30

Listen: Goodness of God, Jenn Johnson.

 

Steps to your Imagination

‘The critics have made them impotent,’ writes Hemingway, but the only way they will make you weak and effective is if you listen to them. Which anxious thought is your biggest critic? 

Tom Corby, a psychotherapist, writes, ‘accepting anxiety doesn’t mean ‘resign[ing] ourselves to a life of anxious misery. It simply means that we are better off recognizing and fully accepting the existence of anxiety and other uncomfortable emotional states that are inevitable, but transitory.’ 

~transitory: not permanent~ 

~allow waves in – experience it – ride out ~

One of Caroline Leaf’s suggestions to cope with anxiety is to visualise and imagine yourself in the future. The process of imagination actually creates actual physical networks in the brain. She writes, ‘when done in an “optimism mode,” we develop what I call a possibilities mindset: instead of seeing a series of failures, we see a series of learning opportunities and open doors. Imagine yourself in the moment, when you have accomplished x or overcame a hurdle. How do you feel? What are you doing? How are you celebrating your victory? 

As we imagine our future, we actually change the present—our brain responds positively to our hopes and dreams! However, it is important to remember this works both ways—imagining a positive future can have positive results in the present, while fearing the future can potentially make what we fear a reality because our expectations change the structure of our brains, impacting what we think, say and do in the future.’ 

So good! Caroline Leaf’s books and blogs are invaluable, you can find her work here.

As you imagine your future self, I would encourage you as Phil did, to begin to take those steps. Set yourself realistic, daily goals. 

Examples of small steps we have taken with friends… 

  • You are panicking – your first step is to focus on your breathing. ‘Deep diaphragmatic breathing triggers our relaxation response, switching from our fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system, to the relaxed, balanced response of our parasympathetic nervous system.’ 
  • You are a carer – worried and wondering how you can even care for yourself. You have even said, ‘I’m losing myself, my mind.’ It is time to find some space for your own wellbeing. Your first step is to find out a realistic respite that you can access. Starting with just one hour to catch your breath. 
  • You are a new parent. Your sweet tea is cold, and you can’t think straight. You don’t feel like you used to. This is all normal. Nap when the baby does. Hydrate. If you can, join a local parent and baby group. I’m sure you’ll find many parents thinking and feeling the same way. 
  • You are struggling to sleep. It is highly recommended that you cut out screens an hour before sleep. Adopt suggested journaling techniques. Reduce alcohol and coffee. 
  • You are isolated. Open your curtains, your window, leave your room. Play music. Breathe in the fresh air. 
  • You are facing the dragon of drugs. You dare to dream of being clean and living a different life. There are groups in your community or can help and often churches who offer you kind, praying people. One person is all you need today. That one person will know other clean, kind, praying people who will love you. This is not an experiment, this draws you to destiny and brings you into a new community.
  • You have never dared tell anyone how you are feeling. I promise there is an indescribable weight that lifts in telling even one trusted person. 

….as you take those small steps, the weight in your body and mind will lighten. Enabling you to take more steps, minimize anxiety and begin to cope in a new way. 

I hope you’re finding Phil’s talks helpful, if you haven’t yet, you can sign up here, or forward to a friend who might find them useful! 

Love, Michelle 

Darlene’s Story 

Through my interactions with friends, I know this is a concern for so many. My anxiety was at an all-time high about 3 years ago. I am very intentional with my self-care now. I am convinced that as a woman, hormones had a huge part in skyrocketing my anxiety. I could not be driving in my car in a lane that I could not get out of without often going into a panic attack (control issues, yes). One thing I did that helped hugely was educate myself on the effects of toxic chemicals through products we use and how that disrupts our own natural balance. I went toxic-free with my product usage as well as added very high doses of essential oils. Something else I know to be true for myself is that I cannot watch TV that much. My mind spins out of control when I get too involved in the news or reality shows. So I intentionally saturate myself with viewing things like Joyce Meyer, Bobby Schuller, etc. Sleep and exercise are a must for our minds to stay clear. The enemy gets a huge foothold when we don’t take control of our own minds. One more thing that has been a very large part of my learning how to manage anxiety is developing my personal growth. I have done this by reading books and studying who I am in Jesus. John C Maxwell has had a huge influence on my personal growth as well. Anxiety is not something that one day you wake up, and it’s gone. I believe ongoing decisions need to be made every day that will strengthen my mental health. I also know that Jesus is the author of goodness. The more I seek and search Him out, the healthier my mind, spirit, emotions, and body will be.

Meditate and Memorise

‘God is weaving all things together for your greatest good, and equipping you with all that you need to accomplish his will.’ Romans 8:28

Listen: Through and Through, Will Reagan

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened…


‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.’ Mark Twain

Session three on our Navigating Worry online course, explores hypothetical worry, i.e., worrying about future events, imagined scenarios that cannot be solved or action taken and the likelihood that the script will never take place. 

I’ve been thinking about the thoughts we often have when everything is going well. Have you ever had that? Work is good, the family is #blessed. Brene Brown describes at that point that joy itself can become foreboding. ‘That impending feeling that it’s going to be taken away and that in moments of joyfulness, we try to beat vulnerability to the punch. It can often happen when you have experienced disappointment. The habit of waiting for the next bad thing, or, on the other hand, I speak to some who feel so blessed, and things are going so well, their mind hovers around ‘things are so good something will go wrong soon enough.’

Brene shares a poignant story in her book, Daring Greatly, about a man she interviewed who admitted to her that he never allowed himself to be too joyful about anything in life. An elderly man who lived a life ready to be disappointed. He made an effort to never get too excited or too joyful so that he would be prepared if things didn’t work out and pleasantly surprised if things did.

Then one tragic day, he lost his wife of 40 years to a car accident. ‘The second I realized that she was gone, the first thing I thought was ‘I should have leaned harder into those moments of joy. Because [foreboding joy] did not protect me from what I feel right now.’

Proverbs 15:15 in the Amplified Bible says this, ‘all the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances].’

What is a foreboding? The dictionary definition describes, ‘a feeling that evil is impending or that something bad is going to happen.’

Worry can feel omnipresent, constant, an irritation, a dripping tap of what if’s and dread – of waiting… a familiar subtle presence hovering over and gnawing at your everyday existence, Song of Solomon 2:15, ‘catch the little foxes that are ruining your vineyard.’ Catch them. To do so, we must first recognize them and name them.

The verse goes on to say, ‘he who has a glad hard has a continual feast (regardless of circumstances) Scripture is full of promises such as this, or Psalm 27:13, where David writes, ‘what would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!’

You know by now that I’ve known and still know the reality of struggle and darkness in my family, and I know this is often not a quick fix. But I do know the freedom of God’s promises.

Let us recognize the source of forebodings and not let them overpower us. 

Yes – there are often many reasons for our soul be too downcast – let us learn to live with a glad heart, allowing our soul to prosper, taking thoughts captive – continually feasting. If the ‘forebodings’ are something you experience,  ask someone to pray with you, to speak life over you and remind yourself of God’s word for your life. 

Have you been able to recognize the forebodings that gnaw at you, the little foxes destroying? Do you need to be reminded of God’s promise again today?

Let us know if you’re finding these teaching sessions and devotionals helpful! 

Love, Michelle 

Today, we begin our ‘real-life story’ section, where, after each devotional, you will find a story from someone I know who has experienced worry/anxiety/stress and what they have done/are doing to find their way through. 

Rose

Anxiety often comes in the form of an attack. A mental one, sometimes a physical one, and I feel it is certainly always a spiritual one. For me it can range from charging my phone constantly, so I have enough battery to call someone in an ‘inevitable’ and irrational emergency, or being too afraid to leave the house/go to new places in case something bad happens, to a throat closing, heart-pounding panic attack while in the car – all of which can make day-to-day living difficult. So to me, anxiety is very much a feeling of impending doom. It’s the enemy finding a way in and spreading like a slow-acting poison, consuming you with worry and dread, which is why it’s so important to find your antidote. Because of this, for me, prayer is the number one remedy as oftentimes living with anxiety can make you feel isolated and weakened to a point where you don’t feel able to talk to anyone about it – sometimes your only option is to call out to God and give it to Him when you can no longer deal with the all too familiar weight of these worries. It can also be so easy to let yourself become buried in your mind, letting fear dictate you and making you forget to live, so what is helpful to me in these moments is having people around me that I trust who push me out of my comfort zone – not too far, but far enough so that I don’t let the stress of these feelings win. What further helps me when I feel anxiety building is trying to reassure myself that I’m safe, telling myself that these overwhelming emotions are probably temporary, that the rustling I heard outside at night isn’t sinister but an animal or something of nature, that statistically, what are the chances of something bad happening to me out of everyone else in the world? I will also tend to put on a familiar nostalgic movie or tv show that I know brings me comfort. Hopefully, with such coping mechanisms and with time the voice of anxiety may become quieter, and though the fear may never fully leave, you can move forward with the knowledge that you have the strength, courage, hope, and faith that things will get easier and that with God you are never alone.

Meditate and Memorise

‘You cannot lose your standing with God. You are an adopted son or daughter of the King’ Galatians 4:5–6

Listen: Still. 

Journaling: How to and why

Psalm 61:3 You’ve always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all. 

I hope you found my introductory post helpful. I am writing these posts alongside Phil’s course on the Fill In, found here. While I am not a counselor or mental health specialist, I write from personal experience and pastoral ministry. 

As Phil refers to journaling during his sessions; I thought I would offer my experience of this invaluable practice while adding some interesting research. 

For centuries people have written their feelings, joys, and laments. The scriptures are full of words of wisdom and poetry – writers finding access to God’s presence along the vulnerable path of words. 

There are many ways to approach journaling. Thankfully, journaling is not prescriptive, and once you find an approach that works for you, I’m sure you’ll experience many benefits. 

You might choose bullet journaling. The main idea behind bullet journaling is quick notes rather than full paragraphs. This creative system is often referred to as ‘a diary, schedule, and goal setter’ all in one and suits people who love lists, goal setting, tracking, and being organized. This system also uses an effective symbol system. There is a lot written about the to-dos of bullet journaling – just a quick search will get you on your way. This smart method could be specifically helpful for tracking your mental health and mood over a month when visiting your doctor or therapist. 

Others might choose a gratitude journal. Counting our blessings is a wonderful way to focus our attention on the positives in our lives. Many reports acknowledge that a gratitude journal helps both physical and mental health. A template such as ‘I am grateful for this _________ because_________,’ helps takes our gratitude deeper. Let’s start today – what three things are you thankful for? Why? Now, write it down and allow it to become a habit. 

A prayer journal is a helpful journal to record prayers for yourself and others, add to this scriptures, and promises over situations. These journals are a great encouragement to look back on and remind yourself of the faithfulness of God.  

I have journaled for most of my life, and I have stacks of journals overflowing with emotion, prayers, milestones, loss, and adventure. 

Some specific helpful journaling practice I have adopted and adapted over time have been using particular Q&A. For example, what’s the best thing that happened today? What made me anxious? What am I grateful for? Prayer needs? 

I have often used my journal to clarify and unclutter thoughts and feelings, talking through the page, pen in hand is a cathartic experience. Extracting negativity, exploring offence (second hand in particular – pastor’s wife anyone?!) Adjusting my sight and shifting my focus.

As we are exploring stress and anxiety, in particular, I have often focused specifically on anxious thoughts. Acknowledging my fears, forebodings, or traumatic events – it’s here a specific root of thought patterns can be highlighted. These helpful reactions appear as both sides of our brain are at work. 

Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her book’ Switch on Your Brain,’ refers specifically to detoxing specific thought patterns. She takes you through a sequence of days, progressing to 21 days on dealing with a particular negative thought. Sounds long winded but she acknowledges it takes this long to break a habit and rewire thinking. Again, this involves journaling daily replacing a specific thought with scripture or a positive thought.  

I’ve tried this process, and it works!! 

My mom finds Scripture journaling to be invaluable. Begin to write out specific verses, gathering more and more truths over time. When you struggle to pray or find words, these truths will remind you that you promised God’s love and presence during life’s mountains, valleys, and everything in between. In the middle of anxiety, God’s word is a beautiful way to connect with truth and his presence. I will often use these written scriptures to combat stress. Reading out loud, reminding God, writing, memorising. 

Some snippets from scriptures I have written… 

I love to read Psalm 23 out loud. ‘God, You are my shepherd, I lack nothing. You make me lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside the still waters. You restore my soul. You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me! Your rod and your staff, they comfort me! You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in Your house forever.’

Or this word of vulnerability from the Message, Psalm 34, ‘I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise. I live and breathe God; if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out. God met me more than halfway. He freed me from my anxious fears. Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him.’ 

And finally, the reassurance of Psalm 139 from the Passion Translation. You know those dark times, when it’s hard to see for the dark is impenetrable, whether through thoughts, irrational fears, or physical responses. This is how God sees you…,

‘The night, to you, is as bright as the day; there’s no difference between the two. You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord! You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book.’

And if that isn’t enough, research (sites below) shows that journaling can offer the following:

Decreased the symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions.

Improves cognitive functioning.

Strengthens the immune system, preventing a host of illnesses.

It counteracts many of the negative effects of stress. 

Do you journal? Have you found it gives you breathing room? Any tips for us here? 

Love, Michelle 

If you’d like to read more about the overall physical and mental effects of journaling, I found these articles to be helpful. 

https://www.mic.com/articles/110662/science-shows-something-surprising-about-people-who-still-journal#.n0QO5ApTN

https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/07/5-powerful-health-benefits-of-journaling/

Mediate and Memorise

‘When I said, ‘My foot is slipping, your love, O LORD, supported me. When my anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.’ Psalm 94:18-19

Listen: Oh God, Citizens