Battling For Freedom

It was raining. A dismal, grey day in February. It made me want to curl up on the couch and ignore my priorities. I had things to do, but the Dark Side (how I refer to the devil & his minions, lately) was fighting hard to keep me down.

I’m sure you have had days like these, yourself.

And, as my newly acquired accountability partner, Anna, likes to say, the struggle is real.

Battling For Freedom | Life, Unleashed

I am thanking God for Anna, though! I’d complained to her about how I was feeling, and I tried to make excuses for why I wasn’t going to get things done. But she wouldn’t let me succumb to the Dark Side — she told me that I needed to “do it anyway” (just GO!), and that I’d feel better afterward.

I kept arguing with the Dark Side, in my mind. I was still making justifications, even after talking to Anna. But, I’ve been here before. I have fought this battle countless times, in the past year, especially, as I have been building the habit of going to the gym on a regular basis. And, each time I’ve made myself “do it anyway”, I have felt better afterward…and I’ve been able to do a little victory dance, as I’ve dealt one more blow to the enemy!

So in the end, yes, I did go to the gym, and I did get my errands run. Score: Jenn – 1, Dark Side – 0 … for the win!

For Freedom | Life, Unleashed

John 10:10 tells us about the Dark Side. It says that the enemy (the “thief”) “comes to kill, to steal, and to destroy“. He is out to KILL our dreams, to STEAL our freedom, and to DESTROY our future! And, he does it one poisonous thought at a time.

That is why we’re instructed (in 2 Corinthians 10:5) to “TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE”, and make our thoughts submit to Jesus’ ways. The battle truly does begin in our minds!

It is not easy, by any means. But then, that’s why it’s called a “battle”, right? We have to fight back against the Dark Side! Our default setting is to do what is easiest, and what feels comfortable in the moment. We’re suckers for pleasure. But that is exactly what the enemy wants — to get us comfortable so that we will forget that we’re in a war.

My goal is to level up my life, and to take back the years that the enemy has already stolen from me. And, if I have to do that one thought at a time, so be it! Like with getting myself to the gym … some days, I really have to fight my thoughts HARD! But, I usually end up telling myself that I can just do 20 minutes of cardio (on the treadmill). By the time I’m there and warming up, though, I always decide that I “may as well” do the rest of my workout. So, I win. It’s always that FIRST step that’s the hardest. And, like I read in someone else’s post, the other day, that first step is actually… SURRENDER. I know — it sounds counter-intuitive, right? Surrendering –not to the Dark Side, but to God’s will for my life– is how I win, because Jesus already fought the battle and won the victory for us! So all we have to do is CHOOSE to surrender to Him. By choosing to go against the Dark Side, by choosing to take our thoughts captive, and by choosing to fight for the abundant life and foregoing the “easy” path, we are choosing to accept Jesus’ victory, and to stand with Him against the enemy! So yes, surrender to God is how we win against the Dark Side.

This is war, friends. But we’re already victors! So, stand strong, and show the Dark Side that you won’t be falling for its schemes!

 


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Outcomes

There’s a quote I’ve seen, online, that says, “What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be.” {source unknown}. And, oh goodness, if that ain’t the truth — am I right?

Outcomes... Aren't Mine to Control | Life, Unleashed

So, so often, I want to control how things will turn out in my life. I pray with the expectation that I will get what I think I need. Yet, God has other plans.

When I try to determine the outcomes I think should happen, I only end up frustrated, disappointed, and miserable in the end — because, yeah… I’m not God.

In thinking that I have any control, I am –in essence– trying to play “god”, thinking that I know what’s best for me & my life. How naive.

Thankfully, God is merciful and patient. He allows me to experience these situations (and their resulting frustrations) to gently correct me and remind me that He is the one in control, while also showing me that I can trust His plans for my life. He only has my best interests at heart.

And funny enough, it’s those times where I relax and hand over the reigns to my Lord — trusting Him wholeheartedly — where He tends to ‘show off’ by giving me something that is far, far better than I could have chosen for myself.

Though I seem to need continuous reminders about all of this, God is faithful.

 

God is in charge | Life, Unleashed

True Nourishment

I recently shared my own take on what true nourishment looks like. Today, I’d like to follow up, and expand on each point, a bit.

True Nourishment | Life, Unleashed

TRUE NOURISHMENT…

TAKES SOME TIME

This is two-fold. First, you aren’t likely to completely change your habits overnight. If you’re used to eating processed foods and sweets, and rarely eat healthy, you aren’t going to be a consistent healthy eater from today, forward. However, you CAN start to practice eating better and making healthier choices.

Second, studies show that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’ve eaten just enough to be satisfied (not stuffed). So, it’s important to eat slowly, and watch for the “cues” your body will send you.

PAYS ATTENTION

In addition to eating slowly, you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you. We have built-in sensors (the hormones, Ghrelin & Leptin) that tell us when we are physiologically hungry, and when we’ve eaten just enough to refuel ourselves.

Unfortunately, most of us have lost the art of paying attention, so we aren’t familiar with these feelings, or “cues”.

However, if you choose to pay attention, you will begin to recognize your body’s unique signals, and can then respond accordingly.

Fun Fact: Did you know that most people will “sigh”, or pause, during a meal, when they have reached their “satisfied” point? If you stop eating at this point, you will find that you’re no longer over-stuffing yourself!

REMEMBERS ITS SOURCE

It is important for us, especially as Christians, to remember that everything we have has been given to us by God — He is our Source.

At the same time, it’s helpful to also, occasionally, reflect on how our food got to our tables in the first place. We can choose to thank God for the people who worked to produce this food for us, from the farmers (or factory workers), all the way to the hands of the one(s) who helped to prepare the meal.

HONORS THE GIVER

Here, I am thinking not just about nourishing foods, but also our entertainment choices. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do”, it should all be for the glory of God. So, before you eat, or partake in an activity, think to yourself, “Does this please God? What might be a more God-honoring choice?

DOES NO HARM

Yep. I borrowed this phrase from the medical profession. But, it fits. Think about the food you eat regularly: Is it helping, or harming, your body? Is that can of soda beneficial to your health (really)? While no foods are inherently “good” or “bad”, some are obviously more beneficial than others. Some foods give us energy (eg. water, fruits, vegetables, legumes), while others leave us feeling sluggish (eg. refined sugars).

 “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you.
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.
// 1 Corinthians 10:23 //

KEEPS IT SIMPLE

Meals don’t have to be complicated, or include big productions in order to be considered healthy. You could have an Antipasto platter, and call it a meal. Or, you could steam some veggies and get a Rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked, from the grocer’s deli department … all in under 30 minutes!

The key is to do what feels right for you. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.

OFFERS GRACE

We are al human, which means none of us are going to do things “perfectly” all of the time. If you slip or stray from your good intentions, give yourself grace, forgive yourself, dust off the crumbs, and try again. You haven’t truly ‘failed’ unless you stop trying, and stop moving forward.

For, though I fall, I will rise again.
// Micah 7:8 //

INCREASES ENERGY

This goes along with two of the points above. Again, certain foods will benefit you more than others. If you pay attention, you’ll start to notice which choices give you energy, and which ones drain you. Obviously, plant-based foods will be a better energy source than, say, a cookie (not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional cookie, of course!)

IS ENOUGH TO SATISFY

Ever notice how, some days, you can eat and eat and eat, and never feel satisfied? My guess is that, on those days, you aren’t really asking your body what it truly needs, and then listening for the answer!

Sometimes it’s not even food, at all, that our bodies are calling for! It could be that we need a hug… or, some time to ourselves… or, maybe you’re just dehydrated, and need a drink of water.

Also included, here, is the fact that our stomachs are, in fact, designed to hold very little food (approximately the size of your closed fist). It doesn’t take much to hit that “satisfied” point — at least, physically. So, check your emotions, and see if something else may be eating you!

NEEDS NO EXTRAS

For those who have trained their tastebuds to no longer crave refined sugars, many fruits & vegetables taste great on their own, without the need for anything “extra” (eg. butter, fruit dip, salt, etc.).

True Nourishment also feels satisfied with a single serving, and doesn’t need to go back for seconds (or more!). 

The truly healthy choices will leave you feeling energized, satisfied, and vibrant (not sluggish, stuffed, or guilty).

DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU WOULD ADD TO THIS LIST? FEEL FREE TO COMMENT, BELOW!

You Always Have a Choice

There are two individuals who come to my mind when I think about choices in life. Both of these people are in a spot where they’ve been beaten down in life — their choices have gotten the better of them. This has made these individuals very pessimistic. They don’t feel that life will ever get any better… like they’ve just had bad luck, and that that luck isn’t ever likely to change.

You Always Have a Choice | Life, Unleashed

What both of these individuals fail to realize, however, is that, if they could be open to the possibilities, they could begin to see that it’s all very much about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

They can CHOOSE to see things differently. They can CHOOSE to work on their mindset. They can CHOOSE to work on finding a way to either (a) escape their current less-than-ideal circumstances, or (b) make their circumstances more bearable. It’s all a matter of CHOICE.

God gave each one of us free will. And it hasn’t been revoked just because we got ourselves stuck in some “mud”. We can choose to continue playing the woe-is-me “victim” and settle for the mediocre life we’re in. OR, we can choose to make changes!

It absolutely breaks my heart to see people giving up and settling for a life that is so much LESS THAN what is available for us!

Trust me, I’m not always the optimist. Goodness knows, I’ve gone through a lot of stuff in my own life that could have left me hopeless (and just about did!). Heck, I’m still dealing with circumstances that are far from ideal! But, I also know that it could be worse… and it’s not (which I thank the Lord for).

I just keep leaning on the Lord for my strength. He has given me hope to see that my current circumstances are not my final destination, and that “it can be well with my soul, even when it’s not with my circumstances”. God has used my less-than-perfect situation to teach me that life really is all about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

What I truly hope is that I can help others realize that only they are responsible for what their life turns out like. It’s YOUR choice. If you don’t like your life, make a change. {Start here}.

 

CHOOSE: Victim or victor? | Life, Unleashed

What is Mindful Eating?

Maybe you have heard the term “Mindful Eating” (aka, Intuitive Eating, or the Hunger/Satiety method) before. Or, maybe you think you can guess what it is, just from the name. Either way, I would like to give you my version of it here, today.

What is Mindful Eating? | Life, Unleashed

First, though, three (3) things that mindful eating is NOT:

  • It is NOT some fancy diet
  • It is NOT anything mystical, New Age, or woo-woo
  • It is NOT another fad or trend

Mindful Eating is

  1. FREEDOM from the (confusing, conflicting, and ever-changing) diet industry.
  2. RE-LEARNING to trust your God-given internal systems that tell you when to eat, and when to stop eating.
  3. CHOOSING foods & drinks that you enjoy (rather than what you think you “should” be eating).
  4. BEING MINDFUL of what type of fuel you are choosing (eg. the best would be non-processed, or as close to natural as possible).
  5. SIMPLE — no need to count calories, avoid food groups, or feel deprived at restaurants.

IMHO, mindful eating is the best choice for eating, and for weight management. Why? Well, (1) it is how God designed our bodies to function (watch any toddler or baby — they are natural-born mindful eaters!), and (2) it works for anyone (including those with special conditions, like Diabetes, or food sensitivities, etc). You simply listen to your own body to determine when, what, and how much to eat.

After all, only YOU are the expert on you!

{Want to know more? Check out my eBook, “Mindfulness & Eating: The Journey to Health & Wellness“!}

HAVE YOU TRIED THE MINDFUL EATING METHOD? OR, DO YOU WANT TO, BUT STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

It’s All About Perspective

This is a story that I heard many years ago, and found online recently. It highlights the value of perspective … and the fact that mindset plays a big part in the choices we make!

It's All About Perspective | Life, Unleashed

{story source}

As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?

How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? How many of us have avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?

Life, Unleashed is dedicated to helping you see that –at any time– you can BREAK FREE! You are never without choices. Just like the elephants, God has given us great power … but, we have been “conditioned to believe” that we are limited in what we can do. Satan wants to keep us stuck. That’s how he “kills, steals, and destroys” our lives, and our futures. It’s time we WAKE UP and remember who we are.

The Importance Of Mindset

Today I’m sharing a snippet from my future eBook. This is from the chapter on the importance of thoughts and mindset.

The Importance of Mindset | Life, Unleashed

For years, I’ve struggled with low self-esteem. I could blame it on my parents’ divorce, or any number of things. But that wouldn’t change my situation. If anything, dwelling on blame, resentment, and/or any other negatives only adds to the problem.

What I have been coming to discover, recently, is that so much of life depends on our thoughts and our mindset. In pretty much every area of life, how you look at things determines how they are. It’s very much about perspective. Even the Bible agrees! Proverbs 23:7 {KJV} says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” And, Philippians 4:8 encourages us: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

God frequently reminds us, throughout Scripture, to PAY ATTENTION… to keep alert, and to be aware. The reason for this is because we are in a constant war — not physically, but mentally and spiritually; good vs. evil; our flesh against our spirit.

Joyce Meyer tells us that our mind is the battlefield — our battles are won or lost there. Think about any temptation you’ve faced. If you kept thinking about the thing, eventually you would give in, right? But, if you don’t allow yourself to dwell on thoughts of the thing — if you dismiss these tempting thoughts right away — then you are able to stand strong and resist.

Nowhere has this been more evident to me than in my eating and my attempts to lose weight. The more I think about eating when I’m not hungry, the weaker I get. Eventually, I have made enough excuses and rationalizations in my mind that I end up giving in.

However, on the (still rare) occasions when I dismiss the tempting thoughts outright, and distract myself with other things, I find myself victorious, and moving forward!

Taking control of our thought life, then, is so extremely important! It’s a cliche now, since it is said so much, but it remains true:

YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Something that has been helpful to me in becoming more aware of my thoughts has been to write out the negative things I think, and then — directly beneath the negatives — write out the positive alternatives. Psychologists call this exercise “reframing”. So, for example:

Negative: I cannot lose this excess weight.
Positive: I am taking baby steps toward losing my excess weight, and getting healthy

Negative: I am so stupid when it comes to this!
Positive: How can I go about learning more about this so that I feel more confident and capable?

It is important to remember that Satan will do anything and everything he can to “kill, steal, and destroy” what is good and positive in our lives. He is intent on keeping us stuck in the mediocre and mundane, so he puts negative thoughts in our minds to keep us from living in the Truth. He knows that if we get control of our thoughts, he’s going to have an awfully hard time making us miserable from that point on.

Another great way to change your mindset is to “reframe” with Scripture. Logan Wolfram, in her book, “Curious Faith”, calls this “Praying the Opposites”.

Say you’re feeling discouraged. The opposite of this would be feeling hopeful. So you would then look up verses in the Bible that talk about hope, and you’d use those verses to pray to God, asking for Him to “renew your mind” according to what His Word says.

You can do this with the negatives you are thinking about yourself, as well! For example:

Negative: I cannot do this!
Positive: Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ, who strengthens me!”

Negative: I will never be able to pay my bills this month.
Positive: Philippians 4:19 tells me that “My God will supply all of {my} needs, according to His riches…”

So, don’t let the devil win! Take control of your thought life, and pray for a renewed mindset. It’s the only way to walk in victory.

WHAT NEGATIVE THOUGHTS DO YOU BATTLE WITH THAT YOU CAN TURN INTO POSITIVES? HOW WOULD YOU REFRAME THEM?

Let’s Talk About… Depression

This isn’t an easy post to write. I’m about to get super-real with you, peeps. But I feel that this is a really important conversation to have. So, let’s talk about… Depression.

Let's Talk About ... Depression | Life, UnleashedI have suffered from depression since I was a young girl. But it wasn’t until April 2013 that I finally started taking medication for it. The reasons for my delay were these:

  1. I had been misinformed / ignorant about the different types of depression that exist, and therefore didn’t feel that I was a candidate for medical help. I didn’t fit the description of someone with major depression — though, I did have some of the symptoms — so I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.
  2. I had long been under the impression that antidepressants are habit-forming, so I didn’t want to take them for fear that I would suffer awful consequences when I tried to go off of them.

What changed for me is that, in 2013, I read an eBook called, “Pros of Prozac” by Beca Mark*. In it, Beca outlines her own struggle with anxiety and depression, and how much taking antidepressants had helped her. Reading Beca’s story, I could relate to so much of what she described of her life before taking medication. As such, I started to –once again– really research depression and antidepressants.

Side note: I’ve also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks since 2001, so I have done a lot of research on these topics over the years.

Thanks to my new research, though, I learned two things that I’d missed before, that made all the difference for me:

First, antidepressants are not habit-forming. If you follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take them, and for how to be weaned off of them, there shouldn’t be any major issues.

Second, I have what is called, Dysthymia, also known as chronic low-level depression. That’s why, although I have some of the symptoms listed for major depression, I don’t have all of them. Yet, my form of depression is no less serious, and can still benefit from the use of antidepressants. Here is the description {source}:

Persistent depressive disorder, also called Dysthymia (dis-THIE-me-uh), is a continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression. You may lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, and have low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy. These feelings last for years and may significantly interfere with your relationships, school, work and daily activities.

If you have persistent depressive disorder, you may find it hard to be upbeat even on happy occasions — you may be described as having a gloomy personality, constantly complaining or incapable of having fun. Though persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as major depression, your current depressed mood may be mild, moderate or severe.

Because of the chronic nature of persistent depressive disorder, coping with depression symptoms can be challenging, but a combination of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication can be effective in treating this condition.

Armed with this new information, I went to see my doctor to talk with her about trying antidepressants, and she wrote me a prescription.

It took a while to figure out the proper dosage, and which brand of antidepressant worked the best for me (turns out, it’s Zoloft). But I just have to tell you: choosing to go on antidepressants was the best thing I ever did for myself. It has made a world of difference in my life. Some of the benefits include:

  • I can have important conversations with my husband, or family, without falling into tears, and then being unable to continue the conversation
  • I’m no longer irritable, grouchy, and snippy with everyone all the time
  • I can respond, rather than react, to stressful situations
  • I don’t cry over the stupidest little things
  • I have battled my anxiety and panic attacks… and (still, by the grace of God), I won! {see below}

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these things are the major highlights, for me.

When I first started taking the medication, I didn’t tell my husband about it. Reason being, he is one of those people who doesn’t agree that depression is a mental illness. He thinks it’s just “all in one’s head” and can be overcome through “mind over matter”, diet and exercise {side note: yes, a healthy diet and regular exercise have been shown to lessen the effects of Depression, so they’re still highly recommended}. In order to “show” my man that I actuallywas helped by the medication, I waited a few months of being on it before I let him in on this choice of mine. And, when I finally did tell him, I asked if he’d noticed a change in my personality over the previous few months — he had. So, he agreed that maybe this was an important choice for me to have made.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to depression and antidepressants. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and also a lot of misunderstanding. People who have never suffered from anxiety, or never had a panic attack, don’t fully know the horror of it… the feeling of being so very out of control, and the feeling of utter terror. Anxiety and panic attacks are not just “all in your head”… they are physical manifestations of a chemical imbalance in your physical body. You can know all of the statistics and information, but your body is going to react (usually there are “triggers”), regardless of your level of knowledge.

For example, in 2001 I had my first panic attack. My family and I were eating dinner, when all-of-a-sudden, I heard a helicopter flying over our house. And much as I knew it made absolutely no sense (mentally), I was utterly convinced that that helicopter was going to come and crash into our house. I ended up excusing myself from the table to go to the washroom, where I collapsed into a shaking puddle on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. I was scared-to-death, because this had never happened to me before, and I had never heard of panic attacks. I thought I’d completely lost it, and that I was going to have to be locked away in some mental institution. I’d gone off the deep end. (Thankfully, this wasn’t the case!)

From that point on, I couldn’t hear any aircraft going by overhead without seizing up in a fit of anxiety. My heart would race, my fists would clench, and I couldn’t think of anything else.

Thankfully, my faith has helped a lot with this… I’ve learned to pray through the attacks, asking God to protect both my family, and those on the aircraft.

 

Mind you, the 9-11 attacks certainly didn’t help. Especially since I’d had some eerily “prophetic” (for lack of a better term) dreams about them before they even happened! Put it this way: I saw what the people in the World Trade Center must have seen, seconds before the plane went crashing through those windows.  This still shakes me to my core.

Anyway. Like I said, my faith has really helped me in overcoming my anxiety and panic attacks. But I also believe that the antidepressants have, as well. As proof, I can proudly say that — thanks be to God! — I was able to get on a plane and fly out to visit my sister, last summer … and I didn’t even have to take anything (tranquilizers) for the trip, either! Was I still scared? Absolutely! I was very, very nervous. But, would I do it again? Yep — in a heartbeat!

To wrap this up, let me just encourage you in a couple of things:

  1. If you, yourself, suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression (in any of its forms), please don’t hesitate to get help. Research it, if you need to. Talk to friends or family, or go see a counselor. Talk to your doctor. It’s not worth it to continue to suffer alone. You don’t need to… Heck! Send me an email if you need to talk, and feel you have no one else! I’m here, okay?
  2. If you have, or are considering suicide, PLEASE call this number, right now:  1-800-273-TALK (8255). Reach out — you are NOT alone!
  3. Ignore the haters and those who tell you that it’s “all in your head”. Do what you feel is the right thing… for you. That’s all that matters. You are the only one who truly knows your body, and what you need. You are the only one who needs to make this decision {with the help of your doctor, of course}.
  4. If you aren’t opposed to it, seek God in the matter. Tell Him what you’re struggling with (He already knows, but He wants you to come to Him with this). Ask for His help in overcoming this. It IS possible… Did you know that the Bible encourages us by saying, “Do not fear”, 365 times?  You could also go talk to a local pastor or priest. They are trained counselors.
  5. Help spread the word! The more people who talk openly about mental health issues like Depression, the more we can get rid of the “stigma” that surrounds it, and the more we can help those who truly need help.

ETA: Have a look at this article, on the Health Ambition website, all about the top 10 anti-anxiety foods that help reduce stress… it may be of some help to you, as well.

HAVE YOU GOTTEN HELP FOR DEPRESSION? DO YOU TAKE MEDICATION FOR IT? SHARE WITH US A BRIEF SNIPPET ABOUT YOUR STORY IN THE COMMENTS! LET’S SHOW THE LOVE!