I didn’t even realize it was happening. I hadn’t noticed how worry and fear were taking over and robbing me of peace of mind.
One night I started paying attention to why I couldn’t fall asleep. I was shocked at what I discovered.
I discovered I was a bully. No, I wasn’t bullying anyone but I was bullying myself around. My self-talk was unreal. All of a sudden in my head I would turn on “Bossy Betty” and demanded to know why I didn’t get things done and listed everything I did wrong. And not to mention played our scenarios in my head that filled me with fear.
I would rehash all of my failures and all of the “could’ve and should-haves. “I could’ve done. I should’ve done. This could’ve happened. This should’ve happened.”
All of these thoughts immediately threw my mind into a tizzy. And guess what? It was sending all sorts of messages to my brain putting it in ALERT! mode, not sleep mode. When you’re in this frame of mind your thoughts send signals to your brain telling it something is wrong, so your body prepares to shut down, to fight, or flee.
Before I knew it, right in the comfort of my bed, laying next to my husband in the quiet of the night, I was in “Fight or Flight!” mode.
It was not so quiet anymore.
The worst of it all was I was trying to fight something that wasn’t actually happening.
No wonder I couldn’t fall asleep. No wonder I felt awful inside. Who wouldn’t feel this way after rehashing all of the failures of the day? All of the fears of tomorrow.
Worrying about all of the possible dangers around the corner is enough to make your brain go into Ninja mode and before you know it your heart is beating faster, your teeth are clenched and your neck starts to feel this overwhelming sense of ache.
Though these thoughts may be passing don’t underestimate the power they have if you allow them to linger. But don’t fret if you have allowed them to linger, because He will help us. His word reminds us, “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
So, let’s talk about –He who is in you! His truth that is in you!
Calm Your Worry Filled Mind–Rehearse instead of Rehash
We demolish argumentsand every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,and we take captive every thoughtto make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:5
I’m going to share with you what I started doing to help fight against my inner critic and worry-filled mind.
Now please understand this– if you struggle with anxiety and depression these things may help but you also may need to see a professional Christian counselor who can assist you in the process.
My inner critic and fear-filled mind comes out of hiding when I’m struggling with other deeper root issues. The inner critic and fear that takes over my thought life are only symptoms to a deeper problem.
Sometimes the inner critic and worry are just lingering thoughts but when they begin to take over your nights and days this is a sign that you should seek help.
At some point I realized I needed more than just a few tools to silence my inner critic and that I needed a counselor to help me delve into the root cause. So I put to use the “4 R’s to Quiet Your Mind”, prayer, worship music, verse memorization, spent time outdoors and off screens and I also saw a counselor.
The following 4 R’s are what I use on an ongoing basis and it helps me with the lingering inner critical thoughts and fear that comes out in the midst of stress or hard days.
The 4 R’s to Quieting Your Mind: Receive. Release. Rehearse. Rest.
Receive His grace. I start with grace because what better way to enter into peace than by entering through the door of God’s grace. Usually when our minds are functioning in “distortion” mode we are in our “emotional” part of our brain. The fancy words for that are our Limbic system and Amygdala.
So when you’re functioning from your “emotional brain” you can’t fix things immediately and start slapping on “band-aids”. Why doesn’t this work? Well sometimes it does help for like 10 seconds and then your mind picks up where it left off.
When we approach ourselves without acknowledging where we are at, we are using our “thinking brain” (prefrontal cortex). Usually in a heightened state of fear and worry you’re not calm enough to hear the truth or facts that your “thinking brain”is trying to get you to understand so you need to enter through the empathy door.
Have you ever tried talking to an adult or child who is irrational? They can’t process what you’re saying until they’ve calm down. They are in “emotional brain” mode and can’t hear your “thinking brain” message. So when you start with empathy it helps calm you down. It also acknowledges that God is not up in heaven pointing down His finger at you ready to scold you.
Instead we start by acknowledging where you’re at.
So this might look like using empathy and God’s truth, “This day was really busy. I can see why it was so frustrating and how hard it was to stay calm with the kids. (empathy)
I’m so glad God’s love for me doesn’t change based on how my day played out.(His Truth)”
Or “I get so mad when my child leaves a mess all over the house. I just don’t understand why she can’t remember to clean up after herself. Help me God love her even when I’m so frustrated.”
This kind of self-talk is not ignoring what has transpired. It’s simply having some grace for ourselves and inviting God in the mess without fixing anything. God may eventually open our eyes to see if we have something to confess or see what needs to change but the focus doesn’t start there. We remember that Christ did on the cross changed everything for us. We are sinners BUT no longer guilty, no longer unclean, no longer ashamed so we can call on Him in the midst of our pain, sin, challenges, trials and temptations.
An important part of receiving His grace is acknowledging where you’re at and bringing it to the Lord. Let go of trying to be okay or make it okay. So it means being honest and bringing your care and concerns to God because He cares. (1 Peter 5:7) You’ll say things like: I am worried. I was frustrated, disappointed, jealous, hurt, or sad, and confused. Help me God. I need you.
Release the lies. The thing about your worry or your inner critic is that it sounds so true (in the moment, in the quietness of your head) which is why you end up believing its voice.
So you’ll need to ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom in spotting the lies. Sometimes it’s very obvious other times it’s disguised in half-truths. Talk to someone about those thoughts, sometimes just saying them outloudhelps us see how far from the truth they really are. Go to the Lord with these thoughts, “Heavenly Father, I’m so disappointed with my behavior today that I can’t even tell the difference between the enemies condemning voice and your truth. Help me!”
Once you’ve spotted the lies you need to bring them to the feet of Jesus and ask Him to help you let go of them. “Heavenly Father, I bring to your feet the lie that I will damage my children for the rest of their life for how I handled that situation today. I bring to your feet my thoughts that I’m going to mess up my children. That my son will never figure out how, to be honest and it will mess up all of his relationships. This situation does not make him a compulsive liar nor does this mistake mean it will define his future. You tell me in your Word that I can be confident of this that the good work you began in him you will finish to the end. (Phil 1:6) I believe help my unbelief. In your name, amen.”
In the morning, or whenever you’re more cognizant ask God to help you realize what is triggering these lies. When does it happen most often? What are the lies usually about? What are you listening to? Watching? What are you doing that triggered these lies? Jot this down. There’s usually an underlying pattern.
When we are releasing the lies we may discover that Repentance is needed. Sometimes it’s not, but more often than not God shows me that the thoughts I am releasing to Him were filled with jealousy, bitterness, lack of forgiveness, or some other controlling tendency of mine. Repenting is healing to the soul so don’t skip this if the Holy Spirit is nudging you.
“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Listen closely this “acknowledgment of repentance” is a gentle voice and it’s calling you to repentance. However, it is not a condemning voice calling you names.
So release the lies & worry and leave out the condemnation. Repent without the condemnation. Acknowledge what you need to repent of and let it go. Do not sit with it and fill yourself with condemning thoughts, those are not of God.
Releasing the lies is an active step. It’s a choice we have to make. Sometimes we ask God to take the worry or fear away but we are holding tight to the lies. We aren’t willing to let go of the lies we are believing. Jot down the lies or thoughts you are believing and replace them with Truth. As you pray, ask God to give you the wisdom to recognize the lies. If you can’t at the moment, come back to this when you’re calm. Go through the list of thoughts or lies with your Bible and ask God to show you His truth about each thought. Jot down the truth right next to the lie and mark a big fat X over the lies. Sometimes it helps to go over those thoughts with a trusted friend or counselor.
Releasing requires surrender! Realizing when we need Jesus and His Holy Spirit working in us to walk in Truth.
Surrender can be hard but it’s in this place that we discover peace.
Rehearse His Faithfulness. Make God’s truth your most trusted ally. Here in this place of rehearsing His faithfulness is where we submit ourselves, our minds to His truth. When we are filled with worry or lies we can’t trust our feelings, nor our experiences, Bossy Betty or whatever voice is replaying in our mind– only God’s truth is a reliable source.
Instead of spending our sleepless nights rehashing all that went wrong and what we did wrong fill your mind with rehearsing His faithfulness.
This “rehearsing” looks different for me depending on the situation but it always involves replacing the lies, replacing the worry or fear with truth.
You have to replace those thoughts, fears, worry, lies. You can’t just tell yourself to stop thinking about it because that will only make you think about it more. So you have to replace those thoughts with a truth, praise song, short prayers, things that are good.
Paul knew exactly what he was talking about in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Sometimes in my sleepless and restless state all I can do is what I call “breath prayers”–Breathe in Jesus. Breathe out the lies. Breathe in His Truth. Breathe out the fear.” Other times, I fill my mind with God’s word and He brings to mind verses. I have a few jotted down by my bedside so when I can’t remember, they are at arm’s length to remind me. I also like singing a praise song to snap me out of my trance of fear. If it’s during waking hours, I have texted my husband or a trusted friend and asked for prayer. Journaling really helps me as well.
One night when I was letting fear take over I began rehearsing His faithfulness in the life of my son whom I found myself worried about. I went through each area where God had met him and before I knew it I was back to sleep again. It brought my heart peace, so much so, that I was able to fall asleep again.
Rest. Finally, we Rest in His grace and love. Rest your heart, mind, and soul in His truth and love. If there are things robbing your joy your peace of mind, triggering anxiety, stress, fear, and worry–remove it. I kind of mentioned this in some of the points above but I’m going to focus on it here because we can’t enjoy peace of mind or rest in our hearts when we set ourselves up for fear and worry. Rest means to rely on His truth not our own strength.
Earlier this year I had to get real with change. I knew something had to give but I wasn’t sure what it was. So I paid closer attention and realized I had to go to bed earlier, not read or watch the news before going to bed, and to stop watching a TV show that was too much for my compassionate heart.
When I started doing this it was amazing how my nighttime anxiety was much more manageable. I don’t know what triggers you, is it social media, news, certain friends, TV shows, food…?
I’m not saying social media is bad or TV is bad but what I am saying is that we have to guard our hearts.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
That verse is no joke. I recently went back to my old ways and started staying up later and reading the news at night again. Guess what I found myself doing at night? I was filled with fear and worry again because I wasn’t guarding my heart. Don’t just pray for peace and rest but be proactive in removing those things that are robbing your heart of that joy.
In order to truly enjoy rest in our hearts and mind, we have to remove and cut some things out of our life to make room for those things that really fulfill us– fully fill us with the truth.
In rest you will find, that God sings over you and delights in you. Resting in His truth and promises of who God says He is even if…
brings us joy.
The Honest Truth
I tried to make this simple by keeping it all R’s for you to remember–Receive. Release. Rehearse. Rest. But I have to be honest with you, it’s not easy! You’ll need your boxing gloves on because the fight is real. Sometimes rehashing our failures and believing the lies is easier than fighting. But don’t settle for easy because His peace that sings over us is so worth it.
For some of us, you’ve been rehashing the negative, the errors, rehearsing the lies instead of the truth, for decades. As a result of this, you have paved deep engrained paths (habits) in your brain that immediately take you down this path of fear or worry when you’re being triggered. So you’ll need to discipline your mind to set new pathways (habits).
So listen closely–be patient but don’t give up.
Know that your flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of our heart and our portion forever. Psalms 73:26
These paths you’ve created are on autopilot so it will take some work and fighting to get out of our automatic response to criticism, stress, worry, or fear. So lean in to Him!
Rest assured that you’ll find refuge in His truth. Not in who you are but in Him.
In my state of deep fear or worry, I don’t need to hear that I am enough. The reality is I am not enough but what Jesus Christ did on the cross is enough and will always be enough!
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