Exercise Against Anxiety

Anxiety is not my favorite subject to talk about. I kind of avoid it. If you’ve had anxiety or panic attacks and have been debilitated by them, then you know – anxiety is terrible.

In 2017, I struggled with anxiety big time. When I wasn’t giving into the “flight” response, I would use some fighting tactics like reaching out to others for prayer, taking medication, seeing a therapist, and private journaling to cope.

Over the next year, my anxiety weakened as I clawed towards full-recovery. I had to return to “normal!” The process was back-and-forth; my anxiousness flared up at random times. At best, anxiety would hover in the background like a buzzing wasp ready to sting. I couldn’t ever fully shake it.

But finally, there’s been a big improvement in my life. I think there were two changes that made the difference.

Less sweet and more sweat!


Sugar

It started back in December. After Thanksgiving last year, I had a bad recurrence of anxiety that sent me back to my therapist. I also saw my doctor and discussed my diet, which was suspect. There seems to be a direct link between gut-health and the brain.

So I decided to reduce sugar in my diet, which was huge for me! And my biggest daily intake (addiction) was – coffee! – with cream and sugar. But I didn’t know how I would pull this off. I figured I could survive for one week and see what happens. I’d drink coffee as usual but not add any sugar.

And you know what? Somehow I made it that first week. So I tried a second week. Then I also limited my overall sugar intake. One week led to another. And to this day, 3 months later, I still do not add any sugar to my coffee!

How does this help make a difference in my anxiety levels? I think it improves my gut-health because I no longer have those sugar highs followed by crashes. And the result is that my up and down mood swings are mostly gone! Feeling less grumpy at times, less negative, I also feel less anxious.


Exercise

There’s also been one other big change in my life recently. In January I rejoined my karate class! I had been out of practice for over a year (initially due to the anxiety). So I quickly began to exercise and train for an upcoming test to rank up a belt. Part of that test is vigorous physical exercise to push you to your limits. Naturally, this impelled me to get my sedentary butt into shape – fast!

As you know, exercise just makes you feel better! And it gets you more focused on your physical body and what’s out in front of you rather than staying stuck in your head in a rut of mental rumination with the brain tumor of worry.

Exercise excises anxiety!


Less sweet and more sweat – good for your health! I think that’s been instrumental in reducing the amount of anxiety I deal with on a regular basis. It no longer seems to lurk in the background of my life, waiting to strike like a viper.

Mentally, I have greater fortitude and resilience. The random negative-voice type thoughts that creep into my brain are fewer and farther between, and I’ve been able to cut them off before they can take root.

Now, I’m not doing a victory dance here. I don’t presume to be fully healed or have a changed personality. Anxiety attacks are not that far behind me; I haven’t forgotten how terrible they are. I’m not letting my guard down, lest I be blind-sided by them again. I still sometimes have what you might call mild anxiety-aftershocks or tremors.

I’m simply saying that – surprise – exercise and diet do positively affect one’s mental (not just physical) state! I know there are other factors to consider. I’m not a psychologist and I’m not giving medical advice. This is my anecdotal evidence I guess.

I’m also saying to you that I’ve been there, in anxiety’s death-grip, and I’ve gotten better over time. There really is hope.


Do you struggle with anxiety? What have you tried to help? Comment below or contact me privately. I’d love to hear from you!

A Groundhog Tradition

It’s Groundhog Day here in America. Kind of a weird holiday on the calendar when you think about it. But it’s kind of a fun annual event I look forward to.

“That’s right woodchuck-chuckers, it’s Groundhog Day!”

One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. I have a tradition now; every year I watch the movie on or around Groundhog Day. It’s like I’m stuck in a time loop, doing the same thing every year…ironic.

I’ve watched the movie many times, and it truly seems like I get more out of it each time I watch it. It’s like an onion where layers keep peeling back to reveal more inside.

The thing about this movie is that there are no special effects like today’s common superhero movies. There’s no computer generated stuff. Even the setting is pretty much the same scene over and over.

The story, though, is compelling, not to mention humorous. I enjoy watching the main character’s story arc as he slowly does a complete change for the better from start to finish.

I like the existential or philosophical stuff the protagonist demonstrates. Trying to understand his weird situation (no spoilers), he goes through stages like disbelief, denial, and despair. He is selfish and hedonistic.

But after failing at finding meaning in his life in himself, he finally starts to look outside or away from himself towards others. He becomes selfless and then finds true meaning or fulfillment. He learns to love.

Anyways, I don’t mean to go deep on the movie. I just enjoy it and am glad to be watching it again in 2019. Maybe I will find more in the movie that I missed before.

In a way, I think our lives are similar to the movie. We are given many days to live and figure out how to live this life the right way or the best way. Each day may not literally be the exact same, but in general, we encounter the same basic circumstances over and over.

Through these experiences, we learn how to respond slowly over time. Our first reactions to things that are difficult are usually selfish in some way. We’re taught to be better than that, and we kinda figure out how to get along with others most of the time.

I think we should be thankful for the time we’ve been given and realize that whatever lesson we did not learn yesterday will probably come back around over and over until we learn that lesson. We get a lot of chances, and every day is a precious opportunity to learn and grow.

Anyways, not too insightful really, but I hope that helps bring some good perspective to the table.

If you have not seen Groundhog Day, now’s your chance to go watch it!

Merry Christmas 2018

Just a short post here to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I hope you can enjoy holiday time and get some rest and relaxation.

May your time with friends and family be blessed! And may you know the love of Christ this Christmas!

Thank you for reading and following Jason Journals in 2018.

A Heaping Helping Of Honesty

I recently read a book that I just loved! I want to write about it, but I’m not that good at book reviews. I might ramble a bit. But here goes nothin.

This book was one of those rare finds; a gem. I somehow discovered a blogger named JS Park a few weeks ago. Turns out he’s written several books (I’m already reading a second one of his). I liked what he blogged about so much that I had to read his longer more focused stuff.

The main topic that drew my interest was the struggle that people have doubting God and wrestling with faith. You could say I’ve had that struggle. You could also say I’ve struggled with admitting such a struggle.

That points to what I think drew me in the most about JS Park’s writing: he is very open and honest. It’s disarming. I don’t have to be defensive against feeling judged by him because he doesn’t hide the fact he’s as broken as any normal human being.

So yeah, I’m gonna read me some more of that.

We all have struggles. That’s life. But in a survival-of-the-fittest world, it is not fitting to reveal your weaknesses. That’s how you get eaten alive, right? So people play tough. Yet we know we shouldn’t come off all macho like we’ve got it all together. It’s too unbelievable. Someone will call our bluff.

So we sometimes admit we struggle, but we won’t go deeper than that. It’s too vulnerable. We’ll say we struggle in general, but we don’t really want to show our specific struggles.

Anyways, maybe you can relate to something like that just as I do.

The book, “What The Church Won’t Talk About,” is just awesome. It’s got a lot of meat. Each chapter kinda covers certain topics or themes. It’s easy to skip around to whatever questions you find most relevant to you. And there are many real questions.

Some of the questions asked are the same ones, of course, that I myself have harbored (and not had the guts to ask)! These taboo questions may hit you in the guts.

Here are some of the topics. I got this list from Amazon’s page for the book. (And no, I don’t make money off anything on my blog.)

“What about: Porn addiction? Homosexuality? Self-harm and cutting? Sex before marriage? Suicidal thoughts? The evil in the world? And long dry seasons of doubt?”

“From sex, dating, sexuality, doubts, depression, pornography, abortion, apologetics, to family drama, these were questions that we’ve always wanted to ask in church, but were too afraid to stir the status quo.”

The author does not simply say the answer to everything is, “Jesus.” Nor does he just flatly blame sin for all the troubles we all have. He does not come off so simple. He shows respect, dignity, and also knowledge.

Seriously, I can tell from his writing that he’s not just giving you knowledge from his head. You know, he’s not just trying to have an answer or “the answer” to everything. He’s sharing his heartfelt compassion. And he admits when and where his answers are insufficient. But he does his best.What the church wont talk about

Yes, I know, it’s trite or cliché…but “I care how much he knows because I know (trust) how much he cares.”

I totally recommend this book to anyone who “tried church” and gave up. Also, to anyone who just has these real honest questions and you are still unsatisfied with the answers so far.

That’s my two-cents.

Take care,

-Jason

The Fight And Flight Of 2017

A few months ago, I summarized my summer as one that was very anxious. Now I’m wondering how to best summarize my entire year. If I had to describe it in a single word, I’m not sure what it would be.

For me, although there are many positive highlights and things to be grateful for, 2017 has been one of my most difficult and stressful years ever.

This year brought a lot of potential changes for the better, but they were very stressful transitions and situations. And they all happened about the same time, which compounded their effect:

  • My family moved to a new house and different lifestyle (city to country, big to small, two bathrooms to one bathroom, etc). It required me to do new levels of do-it-yourself work (remodeling entire bathrooms) that I’d never done before and felt incapable of. I also felt great pressure to get it all done in a short time.
  • I started a new job position with more and new responsibilities that were challenging and trying and pushed me to my mental limits.
  • My family joined a new church that was different and challenging and we ended up going back to our former church.
  • I took my first major karate test that literally pushed me to my physical limits in order to test my spirit. Then due to other circumstances, I ended up quitting karate.

All these took a real toll on me. Just the move to a new house was more taxing than I anticipated. I felt deeply drained. All this happened while trying to parent my 5 sons, and one of them was a 2-year old! That’s hard enough by itself. I was hit in all aspects of life: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, intellectual.

afterglow art backlit birds
Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

So yes, 2017 was hard. Despair was tempting. Hope was hiding. Despondency was circling. Faith was floundering. Depression was sneaking. Anxiety was attacking. Panic was pushing.

But there have been glimpses of light from the lighthouse during the storms this year. A lot of people showed me a lot of love this year. And grace. There’s been power in prayer from others. Emotional support has not been lacking.

There’s also been some huge positive or unique highlights this year:

  • My family was on TV! Basically, we had some crazy encounters with venomous snakes. The first one swam up our toilet…it kind of went viral on Facebook, and then it spread through the news. This led to my wife and I being interviewed for an episode in a new mini-series on Animal Planet, which aired in November. You can watch it online to get most of that story.
  • No more changing diapers! After 11 years of diapers, wipes, and potty accidents through 5 sons, my last child is now potty trained!!!
  • I turned 40!!
  • No more mortgage! My wife and I for the first time are literally 100% debt free! No car payments, no house mortgage, no house rent or payments, no consumer debt. We were blessed being able to buy a house, land, and 2 nicer cars this year all with cash! It can be done!
  • My parents moved and now live only 6 minutes from our house!
  • I started this blog!

My biggest take-away from this year, I think, is the great empathy I now have for people who suffer or struggle with anxiety or similar and related mental or emotional challenges. I’ve learned a lot from others’ experiences as well as my own. And I’m still learning. I might blog more about that, but we’ll see.

I’m hoping 2018 will be much better than 2017. How about you? How was your year, and what’s your outlook for 2018?