I took some time over my lunch hour today to mind my mind. That is, I engaged in some mental health behavior. For me that equated to going for a bicycle ride. I didn’t go far, but it was good to be outdoors, take part in one of my favorite forms of physical exercise, and improve my mental outlook as well. There’s nothing quite like the solitude of a wind in your face bike ride to provide time for prayer and unwinding of the mental pretzels you’ve created in your thinking. Perhaps you have a different means of minding your mind. Whatever it is, now is an important time to practice it.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing mental health issues. Anxiety and depression rank right at the top of the list. As we hear the endless news and ever changing developments, and cope with “new normals” like working from home, e-learning for students, and sheltering in place; it’s inevitable that mental angst will rise. So, in addition to caring for your family, and checking on your neighbors; let me encourage you to “mind your mind”.
Here are some ways you might do that:
Be mindful of how your begin your day
What is the first content you allow into your mind each day? The blather of a cable news host? The headlines of today’s newspaper? Or a verse of Scripture or devotional thought? Just as a good breakfast sets the tone for our bodies, the first input into our thinking sets the tone for our minds.
Give yourself permission to take a break
Rest your eyes and you mind from endless screen time. Go for a walk – it doesn’t have to be far, even a few minutes can reset your perspective. Do something “mindless” – maybe not the best choice of words – but you know what I mean. Engage in something that doesn’t require a lot of brain power: watch a movie, read a novel, call a friend.
Recognize when you need a professional perspective
All of us can occasionally benefit from talking with someone who offers an informed and fresh perspective. If you find yourself falling into escape behaviors and patterns more and more (self-medication, isolation, etc.) – it might be time to seek some help. Arrange time with a counselor, spiritual director, therapist, or your pastor. These appointments can be conducted over the phone or via video. It’s healthier to ask for help than to try and muck through alone.
Don’t neglect your prayer life
Sometimes when we are tied up in those mental pretzels we shy away from our time with God. We may blame God for the situation, or be under the delusion that God doesn’t care about our problems. In truth, we are encouraged to go to God with everything. Consider exploring different methods of prayer, like centering prayer, scripture prayer (lectio divina), or silence & listening.
Be mindful how you end your day
I can be something of a news junkie and I’ve had a bad habit of falling asleep to a cable news show or two. When the content of some of those shows began to creep into my dream cycle, I recognized this as a bad habit. Better to spend time reading or praying before turning the lights out. How we end our day will stay in our minds, and make for good rest or poor rest.
Self-care is quite often one of the hardest things for persons who are by nature or calling care givers. We fool ourselves into believing it is selfish to care for ourselves. But let’s take a clue from the flight attendant, who reminds us in a crisis to put our own oxygen mask on before we assist others. Minding your mind is akin to that advice. It will be easier to help and respond to the mental and spiritual health needs of others during this challenging time if we are mindful of our own mental and spiritual health first.