Lacking peace in life is one of the major causes of stress, worry, anxiety and frustration. All of which (for me) lead to food. When I am not at peace, food is the number one thing I go to. If my mind is racing with thoughts and my emotions are running high—FOOD is the first thing I reach out to so that I can calm down. I have always used food to calm my emotions, fears and anxieties. It has acted as an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. Food is easy to find. Always available. And it works immediately. I don’t have to wait 2-6 weeks for it to kick in. That’s why food has often become the peace I was seeking.
That PIECE of cake becomes my “PEACE” of cake. The problem only comes later when I realize that the peace it gave me was temporary. If anything, it brings more problems later. The crash that follows after the sugar high. The pounds that show up the next morning. And the fact that it’s only a temporary fix. You must keep going back to it repeatedly if you want the same effect. You have to keep revisiting it. And the more you do that, the bigger you become. That’s how I ended up at 417 pounds.
We all need peace in our life. We can’t just exist in a state of unrest. We can’t just always feel anxious, depressed or worried. We may be able to tolerate those emotions for a time but eventually we will need a break from them. We have to find a way to calm the fears that chase us. To fill the loneliness that haunts us. Whatever void is there–we were created to fill it with something. And when that something is destructive to us, it leaves us with an even bigger problem than we originally had. And whatever peace it provided is now gone. Leaving behind in its wake more confusion, anxiety and depression than was there previously.
Lack of peace is probably one of the worst feelings in the world. And lately I have been struggling a great deal with my lack of peace. You see, I am someone who always worries about things. I have always struggled with being a worrier. I can be washing dishes and suddenly a stray thought will pop into my head. Usually a thought I already swatted away 1000 times before but there it is again.
Currently the random thoughts going through my head are the following:
What if something happens to Savannah and I’m not able to get there right away because now I have to catch a flight?
What if my house never sells and I have to go into debt paying on two houses?
What if I can never get back on track with my food?
What if I never lose the weight I regained?
What if getting this Masters degree is a mistake and I’m wasting my time?
What if I can’t handle the ice and snow in the winter out here and I wreck the car?
What if the wasps that built a nest in my attic get in the house and I can never get them out?
What if I get lost in the dark driving down some country road and run off into a ditch but I can’t call anyone for help because I can’t get a signal out in the middle of no where??
What if I can’t maintain the much bigger yard I have with this house and all the flowers die and I kill the raspberry bush and the peach tree and all the pumpkins and I’m THAT neighbor who can’t keep her house up?
What if something breaks and I can’t find someone to to fix it?
What if my kids hate the school?
What if I put something down the drain because I forget I don’t have a garbage disposal anymore and the septic tank explodes?
What if I wake up to another gigantic spider and I have a heart attack?
What if my abnormal pap smear turns into cancer and I die early and I can’t take care of my children?
What if I can never stop being depressed ?
What if I go crazy?!
Or MAYBE….I’m already there!!
Many times my thought life is like a rapid fire assault. And it can happen at the most inopportune times. I might actually be having a conversation with someone when suddenly I am hit with a thought missile out of no where. Then my entire demeanor changes. My whole mood shifts. And now I can’t even enjoy whatever I was doing or whoever I was talking with. For me, it can happen just like that.
One of the most useful things I have ever studied is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Also known as CBT, it teaches you many things about our thought processes and the patterns many of us fall into. Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that lead you down a very destructive path. After all, the following is true:
“As a man thinks, so is he”
I saw this movie once called “Being John Malkovich”. These people found a portal that lead them inside someone’s head. Different people would go into the portal and experience what it was like to be him. If you could live inside my head for a day, it would probably exhaust you!! The list of thoughts that I outlined above might literally all go through my mind within a span of 10 minutes. ALL OF THEM. And then like a broken record they would just keep going. Suddenly you’d be like—no wonder that girl has to grab brownies! It’s totally mind draining and debilitating to live this way. ENOUGH!
My thoughts definitely disturb my peace. They steal it from me. They keep me focused on negativity, worry and anxiety. I think the fact that I am prone to worrying and exaggerated thought patterns is also one of the main reasons why I have struggled at times to stick to a food plan. I am always looking for ways to quiet those thoughts. Because those thoughts lead to depression and anxiety. And I don’t have time for that! I have to be able to function. So what do I do with these thoughts when they come? Because sometimes they literally wake me in the middle of the night. That is why I used to have a bag of candy sitting on my nightstand. Something I could grab quickly if I needed comfort. Obviously that is not the strategy I want to keep employing. So what is the alternative?
I find it helpful to recognize and put a name to the thought patterns that are assaulting me. To acknowledge that they are cognitive distortions and to identify them as such.
Catastrophizing: Assuming the Worst/Expecting disaster to strike
All or Nothing/Black and White thinking: I am either a total success or a complete failure. If I have made a mistake in any way, all is lost
These are the two most common cognitive distortions I fall into. There are probably about 15 others I am great at but these are my top two (especially at this point in my life)
One strategy that works for me is to be aware of this. When I find myself falling into this line of thinking, I acknowledge it. It makes me become a bit more self-aware and it takes me outside of my own thoughts. Like a casual observer, I see what is happening. Now I am like someone watching a movie. I can recognize what is unfolding. And I become aware that much like a character in a movie who falls under a certain stereotype—I am falling into a thought pattern that is so exaggerated it is almost like a scripted character.
In literature and movies you have those scripted characters. Those characters that are a stereotype.
The Hero….The Villian….The Underdog….The Damsel in Distress….
They are usually exaggerations of some type of individual. In movies, everything is bigger. Every disaster has to be more disastrous. Every tragedy has to be more tragic. And every romance has to be more romantic. But that’s fiction. Real life shouldn’t operate that way.
If the tragic movie is in our own head, it is far less entertaining. When I become the villain in my own story because of my distorted All or Nothing thinking….it’s not ok. I can’t wake up every day feeling like the villain in my own life. I can’t live every second feeling like either a total success or an utter failure. It makes it hard to function! It might be fun to watch disaster movies. The Sci Fi Channel is full of them. But if my head IS the script for a disaster movie—NOT COOL. I can’t be anticipating disaster to strike constantly. I don’t need to be waking in the night afraid of a car wreck that might happen 6 months from now for no reason other than fear based, catastrophic thinking that is out of control—that’s no way to live! So this is when it becomes a good thing to find the plot holes in the story running through our head. To recognize what doesn’t make sense. What thoughts are not realistic. Which ones are exaggerated. When you do that while watching a movie, you no longer are immersed in it. You wake up and realize this is fiction. The same is true of the thoughts inside our own head when we confront them with truth. When we recognize they are distorted and full of holes. And then we wake up and start seeing things in a more accurate light.
Yesterday on my blog, I actually posted all about how much I hate exercise and how I always have hated it and probably will always hate it.
This falls right in line with one of my primary forms of distorted thinking. All or Nothing. Black or White. Love or Hate. Everything is exaggerated with no middle ground. Do I really HATE all forms of exercise? Well let’s think over the past few years. For someone who claims to have always hated it was I not the one who for almost a year belonged to Crossfit? Arguably one of the most difficult forms of exercise out there? YES. Did I hate it?? Did I despise it? Well I won’t say it was easy but if I hated it then why would I get up and drive 20 minutes there in traffic almost every day? Why would I go back? Why would I write about it, talk about it and tell people I enjoyed it? I’ve gone to Zumba with my daughter and always had fun every single time. Did I hate that too? Not at all. Yet yesterday I think I wrote an entire two paragraphs on how much I have always hated exercise. Exercise in every single form! And always will (foot stomping tantrum added for effect). Once again that all or nothing thinking is hard at work to convince me of any negative thought it can!
If I don’t seriously stop and pay attention to the thoughts running through my mind—I am liable to believe every crazy thing they say!
The reality is that right now at this time of my life I am coming out of a long standing episode of letting my feelings and emotions run my life. My “flesh” has been having a field day with me for quite awhile demanding what it wants and refusing to get in line! When I decided to let bad habits slip back into my life, I also stopped being as diligent in controlling my thoughts. I was not working at keeping my thoughts in check and keeping my thoughts in check is something that takes a lot of effort. Unless I am willing to put that effort in, I will never get back to living a more peaceful life.
I know life will not always run smoothly. But on a daily basis, I need to be at a place where my flesh isn’t running the show. Where every emotion and feeling I have doesn’t get its way. Where every thought that rolls through my mind doesn’t have the power to derail me. I have to intentionally fill my mind with thoughts and ideas that lift me up instead of bring me down.
Sometimes I don’t know where to start with this. Where to even begin. What to say to myself to counteract the destructive thoughts that want to run free on replay. So, for me, it is a matter of focusing once again not on myself and my problems. But rather the One who has promised to walk me through those problems. Brownies and cake may taste sweet for a moment but they have no lasting comfort to offer me.
I must look instead to the One who is the Beginning. The End. And everything in between. (Revelation 21:6)
The Alpha and Omega
The Author and Finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2)
My Advocate, Comforter and Counselor (John 14:26)
My Deliverer and Redeemer (Galatians 1:4, Psalms 78:35)
And finally—The Prince of PEACE (Isaiah 9:6)
PHEW! That’s a long list right there. A rapid fire of positive thoughts that lead me closer to peace than I was before.
If I’m going to fill my mind with something then let it be THAT!
After all, He is the source from which every good thought flows.
So that’s where I’ll start.
And that’s where I’ll RE-start.
As many times as it takes. Because He never gives up on me. (Psalm 100:5, 2 Peter 3:9)
So I won’t give up on Him.