Stop the Mental Static

Words are powerful! If you don’t believe me, just utter two words and watch me fall apart. My hands start shaking, my palms get sweaty, and my shoulders scrunch up to my ears, at the sound of just two tiny words- Tornado Warning!

Have you ever had one experience color your entire existence? One Saturday twenty-three years ago my life changed. I consider going to town to pay bills boring now, but to my fifteen year old mind it seemed like an adventure. After all, I might run into my crush, or meet some new heartthrob. Yes, I read way too many books, and my imagination— way too active.

Unfortunately, no knights in shining armor crossed my path and carried me off on their white steed. Sigh! Hopes dashed, we headed home. On the way home, I noticed a really black cloud ahead. Fear clasped me. I urged my mom to go home, but she had one more errand to run.

We turned on the radio to figure out what to do— static. Almost immediately it started to hail. Balls of ice the size of golf balls started pelting the car. Words I never want to hear again came from my mother’s lips, “If I tell you to get in the ditch, do it, no questions asked.” I urged her to get to a nearby grocery store, “let’s try and get inside, I begged.”

The moment we pulled into the parking lot, the tornado hit full force. “Terror” isn’t a word strong enough to describe how I felt. A large barrel slammed into the front of our car, causing the storm to lift us off the ground slightly. A dumpster floated across the parking lot like a feather. In that moment, my life flashed before my eyes. Our little town suffered some damages, but thankfully no one lost their lives.

In hindsight, we probably should have taken shelter instead of trying to go home, but because the radio only played static, we had no idea what to do. Which is exactly what happens in our lives, when our mind is full of mental static we don’t always make the best decisions.

WHAT IS MENTAL STATIC?

Mental static simply means the fog… the clutter… the debris we all tend to have in our minds. The stress! According to Physiology Today, “Ongoing stress makes us susceptible to illness and disease because the brain sends defense signals to the endocrine system, which then releases an array of hormones that not only gets us ready for emergency situations but severely depresses our immunity at the same time. Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases, including cancer and heart disease.” Wow! What a sobering statistic. How can we get rid of this mental static— stress? I have a few ideas.

STOP THE RIPPLES

One day while visiting my grandparents I felt a little bored, so I began browsing grandma’s floor to ceiling book shelves, almost immediately a book caught my attention, I read aloud… “The Power of Positive Thinking.” From the moment I opened the book— hooked! I read, then re-read, then read and took notes, then re-read again the book multiple times. At one point I could almost quote the book. Two of Norman Vincent Peale’s concepts stood out to me, the first of which, I like to call Stop the Ripples.

The power of this concept became clear to me almost as soon as I read it. I am not quoting from the book, this is my interpretation. I’m sure you could do this sitting up, but I always found it to be the most effective laying down. Personally, I would lay down on a couch or bed and close my eyes.

The concept is simple, basically you just pretend your mind is a body of water. All of the static, mental chatter, debris going on inside your brain causes ripples to the surface of your water. Your objective is simply to calm the ripples, to make the surface of the water as still as possible. At first you may find your “body of water” to be very choppy, but with practice you can began to see it calm.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Using this verse along with many others, simply give God whatever is causing the ripples in your water. We all have problems, we all have issues that bother us, we all have stress. Say, “God, I give you this problem.” To the best of your ability  try and remove it from your mind, and in return have one less ripple. I truly believe this method is a game changer, the question is, why don’t I use it every day? Laziness! Fatigue? Complacency? Simply, it comes down to presence of mind.

GET IN THE RYTHM OF NATURE

The Rhythm of Nature (as I call it) is also quite profound. Stop reading for just a second and close your eyes, what do you hear?

Right now, I hear the tick of a clock, a car passing on the road outside, the hum of the refrigerator, and the click of the keys on my keyboard. Each sound has it’s own rhythm. The tick of the clock is tick… tick… tick. The refrigerator has a pretty much constant hum. As I listen to myself clicking off words on the typewriter I realize my rhythm is a little spastic. Instead of it sounding like, a… b… c… it sounds more like ab… c…def…

Norman Vincent Peale suggests that we try and get our tempo to match God’s tempo. How is that possible you might ask? His suggestion is quite brilliant, you need to go to a place where all you hear is nature. Some examples are a mountain stream or a deserted beach; a place where the roar of cars, the chime of cell phones, the chatter of friends is not present. Sit down relax and listen. Listen to the babbling brook, the roar of a waterfall,  and the chirp of the birds— listen for the rhythm of those things. Count the beats if needed. Figure out what the rhythm of nature is, and then start breathing to that rhythm, start moving with that rhythm even if it’s just for those few moments spent in nature. Try to figure out what that rhythm is like, and try to bring it back into your hectic life. Refuse to be moved when life starts screaming at you “hurry, hurry, hurry.” Move to the rhythm of nature, not the rhythm of man. Repeat.

What if you don’t have nature near you? I recommend finding a great sound app, sound machine, or maybe even a nature sounds Spotify playlist. Personally, I really enjoy the app Calm, not only does it have sounds, it has great breathing exercises, and hypnosis. Nature would always be my first pick, but if you can’t find nature for any reason, technology provides some great second options.

EMPTY THE TRASH CAN

As humans we’ve all been hurt, we all have things in our past that haunt us, that make us doubt ourselves, that embarrass us. I like to call them “past bunnies,” like dust bunnies, when left alone too long they tend to pile up. The more “past bunnies” you have, the harder to dust them away. Let’s just say a few years ago, I had quite a few “past bunnies” piling up. I decided I needed a little extra help, so I enrolled in a life coaching program called “Brandon Barber Coaching.” One of the best decisions I have ever made! While in the coaching program I learned so much about myself, I let go of a whole pile of “past bunnies.” One of the tools they used was called a “Brain Dump.” I had heard about it years before, but hadn’t really ever used it. What I do is similar, but instead of calling it a “Brain Dump,” I call it, “Emptying the Trash Can.”

The concept is super simple. If I did this every day or even every week I would probably get even better results than I currently do, but most of the time I just do this when I need it. When you are feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed, simply take out a journal or a piece of paper and write down every thought that enters your mind. Sometimes the thoughts are embarrassing. Sometimes the thoughts are good. Sometimes the thoughts are bad. Your piece of paper or journal is a “no judgement zone.” Once done, go back and sort out your thoughts, if the thoughts are a to-do task, transfer them to your calendar or planner. When your to-do’s are transferred, examine what’s left. If you wrote down something you have no power to change, give it to God. Just say, “God, your will be done, I give this to you,” then cross it off your list. Last but not least are your feelings, take another piece of paper or papers, and began to dissect, why you feel the way you feel. Dig deep. Why are you having those feelings? You will be surprised what surfaces. Once you’ve finished, just throw away the papers. Let all of those feelings go! Shred them, burn them, stomp on them if you need, just do it safely. However you chose,  just empty the trash. When finished, you’ll be surprised your “trash can” can be so clean and sparkling.

No doubt there are lots of other ways to lessen or stop mental static, such as: meditation, hypnosis, or exercise. All of which are excellent. I might explore these further in the future. Hopefully though, these few suggestions will clear up the static, and help you tune-in the “beat of your soul.”

For Your Journal: Put It In Ink…

What are some other ways you have discovered that help you clear up the static and stress in your life? I’d love for you to share them with me in the comments.

Try implementing just one of the three methods above and share with me your results. Remember, if you don’t wish your comments to be public, you can e-mail or even Facebook message me.

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