By: Aimee Hart, M.A., Coach with Carrie O’Toole Ministries
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). Why do we as humans so often try to be in the past, present and future the way that GOD is? What do you think about this premise? Consider for a moment: Have you ever experienced depression? What about anxiety? What if these symptoms are the tell-tale signs of being in the past or the future, respectively?
When I was in college, I learned in Psych 101 that depression is ‘anger turned inward on self.’ Renowned grief work researcher Elizabeth Kubler Ross stated that anger and depression are also part of processing grief and loss. Did you know that depression also happens when your mind is in the past? How does that resonate? Consider what depresses you. Do you rethink things that happened to you, wishing they weren’t true? The focus of your mind is in the past. Are you ruminating on specific regrets you have? Regrets are based in the past. Your mind is back there, in that previous time and another place – in the past. You get the idea – and – we’re not the only ones! The Psalmist found himself doing the same thing.
In Psalm 51, David said “My sins are ever before me.” All humans have sinned (Romans 3:23) and even the best of us can get stuck ruminating on our past mistakes. A key in preventing depression is not to camp out there. Solomon advises that there is a time for everything under the sun, including “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). How then, shall we leave the past in the past? We’re getting there. First, a look at our experiences in the future.
How many trips have you taken to the future? ( I’m referring to the trips we take in our minds.) Personally, I am big on prevention so the future is a place I go naturally, and quite often. It was years before I realized that some of my driven-ness was actually anxiety. When we are always looking out to the horizon, the actions that we take can sneakily be founded in fear resulting in attempts to control the future. This is how driven-ness can sometimes be rooted in anxiety.
Consider this idea in your own life around areas such as money or safety. Remember Peter’s adamant response of total loyalty to Jesus, when Jesus was telling them one of the disciples would betray him to his death (Matthew 14:29). For others, anxiety tends to be based on the past but focused on the future. One might think: thus-and-such bad thing happened before so it is probably -about to -definitely -going to happen again! In this way, anxiety can sometimes wear the mask of depression, because the fear of what might happen again can become paralyzing. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down…” (Proverbs 12:25). “What if…” is another dead giveaway for anxiety, and dare I say, most familiar to all humans.
How did I become so wrapped up in this mindset? Why does it feel like I’m stuck in the past? How do I stop being so anxious? These are not easy questions and there are no simple answers. Scientists are still doing experiments and writing dissertations about these very things and many reasons why are personal to the individual’s life. However, before modern day science -in the beginning- there was God, our Creator. God has not given a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7) but of power and love and sound mind. He knows we are but dust (Genesis 2:7) but he has given us ways to keep our minds in Christ Jesus.
Romans 12:2 says we can be transformed by the renewing of the mind. I encourage you to look up Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:9-11 as well. II Corinthians 10:4&5 tell us that “The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We are not controlled by our thoughts – we are the thinker of our thoughts. Through the power of the living God who is inside every Believer, we can have victory over our thought life.
There are many tricks that we can utilize to help us take our thoughts captive and to keep us from being swept into the past or carried out into the future. Breathing is foundational. While it sounds simplistic, intentional, deep breathing has a profound ability to focus our mind and is one of the most important things our coaches teach our clients! Deep, slow, intentional breathing is something even U.S. Navy SEALs are trained to do. Breathing helps by getting more oxygenated blood into the thinking parts of our brain in the prefrontal lobe and helps to settle down our reactive amygdala and brain stem.
Basically, breathing creates the space we need to take our thoughts captive! Another trick we like to share with our clients who need tools to stay in the present is a grounding technique involving the five senses. Grounding refers to being firmly connected in our bodies in the present moment and our senses can help us to become more aware of our current situation. Looking around the room to find things you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste can eliminate that floating away feeling we can get when our thoughts and emotions try to carry us to another time and another place.
One of my favorite things to do to settle myself down is sing! Singing is fun, plus singing actually gives a little massage to the vagus nerves. This is helpful because the vagus nerves go from the brain to every single organ in our body. Consider the last time you were anxious. You might have felt your heart was beating faster or noticed your eyes were open wider. There are many more reactions our body has when we are fearful (to get us ready for a fight or to run away) and the vagus nerves are a major part of that reaction.
When we sing, we are telling our body it was just a false alarm and we are safe and can relax again. Now, imagine if you were to combine all of these things and include Jesus. Let’s say you breathe in and out to the rhythm you create with each breath while saying Psalm 46:10 in your head, “Be still…and know…that I…am God.” Then, let’s say you express gratitude to God for the things you are finding connected to your senses. And after that, you sing a worship song – or two – or three! Now you are joining the heavenly warriors in this battle and you might just find the Holy Spirit carries you far away from those regrets or, right on through that fear of the future, and gives you the strength to do the next healthy thing!
If you could use someone to coach you through a situation in your life right now, our coaches are available and would love to do exactly that! We each keep our own personal schedules so just email directly to set up a time to talk.
In the battle for our minds, we can be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).