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Reversing the midlife mind spiral

A few years ago, I was washing my face over the bathroom sink, and I knocked a favorite earring loose. It fell into the stream of running water and swirled around the bowl while I tried to catch it. No luck. It eluded my frantic fingers and disappeared down the drain. I quickly shut off the water, hoping the earring would be caught in the bottom of the U-shaped pipe under the sink. I didn't know how to disassemble the pipe, so I blockaded the sink with tape and sticky notes so no one would wash my earring away. Several days later, my husband had time to play plumber, and there in the sludge at the bottom of the U, he found my earring. I washed it and returned it to my jewelry box.




That was a happy ending for my pair of earrings and I still enjoy wearing them today. But when I myself am spiraling over some unhappy or upsetting circumstance, I would rather not go all the way down the drain! It's just no fun sitting in all that sludge. What's more, worry accelerates aging. Recent research indicates that rumination contributes to brain aging, which speeds up physical aging. I hope that's not one more thing for us to worry about . . .


But it's hard not to worry as an empty nest momma! When the kids left home, my life became less busy but my mind became more so. And not always in positive ways. In addition, the fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels that we experience in midlife increase feelings of anxiety and stress. Add to that all the other stressors of midlife, and we have a recipe for rumination, my friends!


That's why the third mindset habit I'm working on in 2024 is this:


Thinking life-giving, faith-filled thoughts

rather than letting my mind enter a spiral of negativity


It's a great goal, but how to do it? Here's how I'm learning to catch my thoughts before they spiral all the way down to the bottom. I'm a work in progress, but when I remember to use these techniques, they are powerful!


  • Pray first. I talked about this a few weeks ago in a post you can read here, where I shared how I'm learning to pray before responding to any crisis that comes my way. But I've learned I can turn to prayer when the crisis is purely internal, too. Talking to God calms my spirit and helps me refocus on what I know to be true, which is the second tool in my arsenal when I'm fighting worry.

  • Name what is true. Worry is focused on the future, but I can break worry's hold on me when I name what I know to be true in the moment. If I am really panicking, I can name three things I can see, three things I can touch, and three things I can smell in my immediate environment, and this quickly slows my swirling brain. Then, I remind myself of what is true about God: He is in control, He is faithful, He loves me, He will work all things for my good, He will be with me through all the challenges I face. I can stand firm on God's character despite the deep waters which swirl around me. Once I am focused on God, I take one final step . . .


  • Bring the fear to God's Word. I learned this from a dear friend, and it has been life changing. I have a journal in which I write my fears. I spell them out exactly as I feel them. I start with "I am afraid that . . ." and then I write out the worst case scenario that's revolving in my brain. Once I have it written out, I pray for God to open my eyes to specific scriptures that speak to the fear, and I write them out in the journal, word for word. Sometimes He brings verses to mind, and I look them up in my Bible. Other times, I google a specific topic that speaks to my fear, such as "verses on God's love," "verses on courage," or "verses about God being in control." I have even flipped through the pages of my Bible, looking for passages I have highlighted in the past. I find the verses that speak to my heart, and I copy them out in my journal, word for word, until my mind is convinced that God is in control of my situation. This has been a powerful weapon in my arsenal against negative spiraling thoughts, and I have created a library of verses that speak to my deepest fears.


Negative thoughts are part of the human condition, but there's no reason to let our minds go down the drain. If we let our minds hit bottom it's hard to shake off the negativity and get back to faith-filled thinking. Instead of spiraling, join me in learning to take each fearful thought to our loving God. He is faithful to transform each one into trust in His good plan.




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