“Stress can be an addiction and worry can be our lunge for control and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.” – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
A thought dawned on me as I was teaching a nutrition class on proper sugar management. And it lingered…
During the class, I talk about what happens to blood glucose levels when you eat too many simple carbohydrates and the host of problems this can ignite. While I may not have a problem with sugar management, I have another self-debilitating addiction – stress and worry. Thus, the never-ending cycle of peaks and valleys is not untrodden territory to me. I think it’s safe to say that all of us go through ups and downs at various points in our lives. As the saying goes, life is a roller coaster ride.
The sad truth is, after years and years of this constant pattern and stress becoming an increasingly powerful force in my life, even when life is pretty darn good, I’m not enjoying these moments to the fullest. Instead, I start to worry and prepare myself for when things will take a downward turn. Living life to the fullest, I am not. I simply exist under the unrelenting weight of anxiety.
I know this post is quite different from my usual food or nutrition-related posts, but as a holistic dietitian, I believe it’s just as important to fuel our minds as it is to fuel our bodies. So what if I eat a clean diet and practice yoga >3 times a week? If I’m being honest with myself, I know that I’m a walking stress bomb. And you know how stress can wreak havoc on your body, right? If not, then I suggest you read this post first – How to reduce cortisol naturally. Go ahead. I shall wait for ya ;).
Just as I encourage my clients to take baby steps as they seek to eat more healthfully and mindfully, overcoming emotional addictions should also be approached as a journey. But where do you even begin? My answer came in the form of a book – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. For those of you who share in my struggle of finding peace and joy, this book is a game changer.
For so long, my solution to fighting off stress and anxiety has been trying with all my might to block them off from my mind. Of course, this strategy is doomed to fail just like with dieting. As you know, I take a non-diet approach because dieting is based on deprivation. Whether you meticulously count your carbs, eat only at certain times of the day, label foods as “good or bad,” eat only the “safe” foods, chew gum to fight off hunger, and so on, I’m pretty sure the long-term outcomes haven’t been so positive, despite your best efforts. That’s because anytime you restrict yourself from certain foods, it actually heightens your desire for those foods. Oh, the irony. The more you try to avoid, the more powerful your craving for that particular food becomes. Unfortunately, once you give into that craving, it will lead to loss of self-control, so binging followed by feelings of guilt. Sound familiar?
// A must read! The Problem with Dieting via Alex from Delish Knowledge
It sure is a vicious cycle, just like my way of dealing with stress and anxiety. By telling myself that stress is the ultimate evil and I should do everything I can to avoid it, I actually gave it more power. It totally consumed me, and I felt like a failure despite my best efforts and intentions.
As I flipped through the pages of the book, my eyes began to open to the power of giving thanks. After about a month of journaling, I’ve come to realize that my addiction is powerless in the presence of a heart overflowing with gratitude.
“Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle.” – One Thousand Gifts
Yes, our house is still on the market with very few showings, but I give thanks for this opportunity to grow in patience and trust in the Lord.
Yes, I feel extremely burnt out trying to juggle work, blogging, cooking, and everything else. But I give thanks for a job that I love and pays the bills. I give thanks for this humble space of mine where I can pour out my heart and creativity.
Yes, I struggle daily with low self-esteem, but I give thanks for my husband who loves me and all of me. Most importantly, I give thanks because The Lord loved me enough to send His one and only son to die for my sins.
Yes, I feel like I’ve failed my family by being childless after 8 years of marriage, but I give thanks for all the quality time we’ve gotten and continue to spend as a couple. I give thanks because His timing is always perfect.
“Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.”
Here’s what this new habit of keeping a daily gratitude journal has taught me:
I recognize stress for what it is, and rather than trying so hard to avoid it, I now look for ways to cultivate gratitude even in the midst of trying and difficult times. I say YES to this very moment because of Christ. He never leaves my side, and I say YES to here and now.
Here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful when keeping a gratitude journal
- Don’t just go through the motions. After a while, journaling may turn into a task to be crossed off your to-do list. Instead, feel and believe what you write.
- Don’t set limitations. There will be days when you can’t stop writing and others when you struggle to write even one. That’s perfectly ok! This is not a race to see how quickly you can fill up the pages. Also, don’t feel like you have to write at the same time every day. As thoughts cross your mind, jot them down right then and there.
- Do write from your heart, not from your head. Feel and believe what you write.
- Be specific and elaborate. Otherwise, your list will get redundant and uninspiring. For example, instead of saying “I’m thankful for my sister,” say “I’m thankful for my sister for sending me an encouraging text today.”
Now your turn!
There is always always always something to be thankful for. What are you thankful for today? Jot them down right now and everyday from here on out. Experience for yourself the inexpressible joy that will begin to overflow from your heart.