Jen Roland, a certified mental health coach through the American Association of Christian Counselors, Christian writer and speaker is joining me on the show today to talk about fitness, mental health, and Christianity.

  • Jen’s personal fitness journey 
  • Her initial motivation to lose weight and get fit.
  • Jen’s unhealthy obsession with fitness and how it caused stress and anxiety
  • Inviting God to her health journey. What did God show her that changed her perspective about health and fitness?
  • How exercise and movement can help with chronic pain
  • Christian view of health and fitness
  • Practical tips on how to start exercising when you feel overwhelmed.

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Jen Roland

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Carrie: This is Hope for Anxiety and OCD episode 60. Just want to say happy new year to everyone out there. I know that our last episode at the end of December was about, making a new year’s resolutions and goals and why goal setting is important. And I know that some of you out there who are listening, probably have some goals surrounding. Getting in better shape or starting an exercise routine. And we know that those things can be really helpful for anxiety. 

So today on the show I have with me, Jen Roland, who’s a Christian writer speaker. She’s also a certified mental health coach through the American Association of Christian Counselors and a personal trainer. Jen has her own experiences with anxiety that she’s gonna talk with us a little bit about as well. So thank you for coming on the show, Jen.

Jen: Thank you, Carrie.

Carrie: So tell us a little bit about your story and how you got so interested in these different connections between fitness, mental health, and Christianity.

Jen: Sure. Well, I’ve always been interested in fitness. So growing up, I was always very much involved in team sports. I played team sports throughout middle school and high school and even in college. I joined the club teams and played softball and volleyball. And even after getting my first job as a high school, actually middle school. And then I was a high school science teacher. I was able to maintain a modified level of physical activity.

But once I had kids, I found that a lot of that really fell by the wayside. Team sports were the first to go cause it was just too difficult to drag our kids to softball games and things like that. And then quickly after that, any consistent exercise routine that I have. Also came kind of to an abrupt halt. And so what kind of came along with having little ones that I ended up having three kids each two years apart, there were lots of sleepless nights that led to poor food choices. I gained some weight and I really struggled to lose the baby weight from my second child.

So adding in not getting enough sleep and not eating well, I definitely had increased stress. And I didn’t have a way to release that stress through physical activity. You know, I didn’t have those natural endorphins that stimulate those positive feelings. Initially, my motivation for starting back with a Fitbit is her chain was actually kind of self-centered, but I’m gonna talk about how that evolved over time. As I kind of invited God into my health journey, but initially, it was because my sister-in-law asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding and I had to wear a bridesmaid dress. 

So, I was determined to lose the baby weight from my second daughter, who was one at the time. And I wanted to get in shape, you know, and I wanted to look good in this bridesmaid dress so that I was gonna do this workout program. I made up a calendar. I wrote my workouts every day and what I was gonna do. And even though it took me, you know, it was a three-month program. It took me five months to do it, but I still did it because I just tried to commit to, you know, looking at that calendar crossing each day off as I went along and on the days, I didn’t feel like doing anything.

I just told myself to do something, even if it was like five minutes just to do something, put your workout shoes on, you know, do a couple minutes. And most of the time it would turn out to be a decent workout. And so I did finish it and I felt like I was in great shape and other women that I was friends with at the time that had little ones started noticing that, you know, I had lost the weight that I was looking stronger and more fit. And so they started asking me what I was doing. Well at that time I wasn’t teaching anymore. So I ended up using my background in science and nutrition and human physiology. And I went into health coaching. I became a health coach and personal trainer, and I started helping other women. Develop these fitness routines and hold them accountable to following through. Even if it took them like me, you know, a lot longer than they expected it to. And they were seeing results. 

But what happened over time was that the pendulum kind of swung to the opposite extreme. And I started becoming a little bit obsessive about those habits to the point where I was measuring out all my food and I was measuring the success of my day on whether or not I had gotten my entire workout in. And so it actually became a source of stress and anxiety for me, there really was a struggle for quite a few years for me to find this balance. Between caring for myself, like in a healthy way, while also caring for others in between like self-discipline, while also giving myself grace by didn’t get the workout in. And it really wasn’t until I invited God into my health journey that He began to show me that I needed to do things a lot differently.

My faith had grown a lot over that time from when I had had the children. And as I started to grow up, as I started kind of inviting God into my health journey, He really did show me that health was about so much more than physical health, but that included my mental. And my social and my spiritual being and it, they were all very much interconnected. And I wholeheartedly believe that. He showed me that my priorities were kind of out of whack and that the spiritual training really needed to be prioritized over the physical training and that self-care and fitness. 

We’re not merely a means to achieve this, you know, ideal body, but rather a way that I could honor God. And my body is a gift that He had given me for the purpose that He had created me for which a lot of that at that time was parenting, but has developed into much more than that. And so he really began to weigh the shift the way I looked at it. And I really contribute that change in perspective to inviting my God into that and bringing my spirituality into my journey with physical health. And then about three years ago, I was so very much into health and fitness.

I started experiencing chronic pain. That doctors thought was a back issue and I found out two years later, was actually a chronic condition called, Small fiber peripheral neuropathy, which is uncurable without a cause. They don’t know the cause of it. So I’ve been dealing with chronic burning pain in my legs and my feet for the past three years. And I have found the most other than my faith. And I do take medication for pain as well. I have found that movement and exercise, especially aerobic exercise is absolutely essential for my physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing and to minimize. Really the pain that I’m having, because it really does stimulate those endorphins, which are painkillers. 

So my passion is really like whole person wellness because I really don’t think you can address anxiety without looking at the physical person and what’s going on socially, spiritually and physically, and then mentally as well. So that’s really become my passion. And I think inviting God in, he has directed me toward now this ministry that I have and, and helping other women, you know, move towards health and wholeness.

Carrie: I think that you make, you know, a couple of good points there that I just wanted to capitalize on. One was that 

you started out with something that was healthy and it went to an extreme and it became unhealthy. And that’s, I think, important for our listeners to know that, that can happen in any area of our lives really is to just gonna pay attention to that. Especially if people are prone to obsessions or anxiety, is to start to evaluate and realize, like how much space is this taking up in my mind and in my life.

And is it gone too far at some level?

I really interested a lot in what you said about just the chronic pain and how you’ve noticed that movement has been helpful for that. Because I think that a lot of people, when they experience pain in their bodies. Her first thought is, I shouldn’t move. I should go lay down or I should rest. How do we know if it’s a situation or is that something maybe a medical professional or a trainer can help us with, like in this pain, do we move or do we rest?

Jen: That’s a really good question. I mean, it reminds me of like the chronic pain cycle. I mean, a lot of times with pain, we avoid activity and we avoid movement, but what that does, this actually perpetuates the anxiety because now we’re isolated or sedentary. And as our muscles tense up and we’re getting isolated from other people, that only further exacerbate the anxiety that we’re feeling. I think it does make sense first to evaluate what the problem is. For example, when they thought that I had a herniated disc and that was the source of the pain, they told me I should rest because in that case, resting and keeping the pressure off of my back was what I would have needed to do.

But once I realized that it was actually a nerve issue and that exercise was not. Making it worse, but actually exercise was providing the circulation and the nutrients that my nerves needed to be able to heal and to be able to continue to function. I knew that while my body hurt, moving was good for me. I would say there are some times where rest is needed first and that’s where the medical professional would come in. But if you have, there’s a difference between. Chronic pain and acute pain, acute pain, you know, which is like less than three months, which is usually from like a traumatic injury and things like that. Oftentimes rest is needed first. 

However, with chronic pain, most of the time movement is not making it worse because at this point it is extended beyond, you know, the normal amount of time that someone would expect for that to heal. And your body is sending these pain signals and it could be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there’s no tissue damage at all other times there is. But in my case, once it kind of crossed over into chronic pain and they knew this was not a back issue, there was no harm in me moving. I do have to be smart about it. 

So if I exercise and I am absolutely wiped out, like within two hours afterwards, the point that I just, you know, I’m exhausted on the couch, I’ve done too much. And that’s a good general rule of thumb. If you two hours later, just can’t go on with your day because you’re so wiped out, then you’ve over done it. So that’s why later, when we talk about starting a routine, it’s important to kind of ease in and go about things gradually. But the other thing is in addition to starting small and kind of easing in, this I was gonna  say about getting into it wasn’t about gradual. With chronic pain the movement is oftentimes what we need to, to get over that anxiety, that fear further harming ourselves and the movement is actually improving our mental health and our physical health. 

Carrie: So I know we’re always being told to exercise and move more. Especially in America a lot of times we have more sedentary lifestyles. What are some benefits of exercise? 

Jen: There are so many benefits. I know most of us know the physical benefits of exercise. Things like increased strength of our muscles, of our bones. It lowers our blood pressure. It’s improved cardiovascular, endurance and health, but some of the other big benefits of exercise include that it’s a stress reliever who is a great way for us to relieve stress. It releases endorphins, which are those  the body’s natural painkillers that also stimulate those feelings of pleasure. So they actually do reduce feelings of pain and stimulate feelings of pleasure. We have an increase in energy. So contrary to what most people think. If we feel kind of tired, a lot of times getting, especially getting outside. In the fresh air 0and doing a first go off will actually increase our energy levels, not decrease them.

I remember what I was, the other thing I was gonna say before about overdoing. It is that if it increases our pain level, that’s something to look out for. If I, when I do impact activities, it makes my nerve pain worse. So I do shy away from doing those. And I stick to activities that when I do them, I do. I may not feel great doing them. And that sometimes true is exercised, but I feel a relief. I feel good afterwards. And so that’s a good way of knowing that as well as people are kind of easing back into a routine, you know, am I exhausted to really move or am I experience increase in my pain, but if it’s the same or even a little bit better for a period of time, then that’s a good sign that movement is actually helping them. Move it again, can produce anxiety. It can help us sleep better with anxiety.

I remember when I was really struggling with anxiety back in like 2016, and I had such difficulty falling asleep at night and movement. Again, especially that aerobic exercise. We’re getting your heart rate up, whether it’s walking or jogging or cycling or swimming, which has become a favorite of mine now on with chronic pain. I sleep so much better when I exercise is, and it’s a way where, you know, when your body is tired, it’s just so much easier to fall asleep. That’s another great benefit of exercise as well. But I know as I mentioned before, you know, my story about wanting to get fit to get into that bridesmaids dress.

I think a lot of us think about benefits to ourselves. Naturally we think, okay, well, these are all the benefits to my health, but where it really changed for me was where I started looking beyond my own health and looking at the people around me. And then even to, how does it benefit or how does it bore a fire God.Right? And so I started thinking about, well, gosh, like if I’m healthy than I am, or as healthy as I possibly can be, right? I’ve got a chronic illness. I have chronic pain.

There are some things that I can’t do with my kids. I can’t run around in the backyard for 45 minutes and play tag because I will be in a lot of pain, but there are still things I can do. And by exercising and taking care of my health. I am able to be more present for my kids, I’m able to help them have good health. Does that example for them, even though mommy can’t do everything, mommy is still making an effort to make the, her health a priority. I think it makes me a better spouse because I’m in a better mood when I’m able to have that release of whatever stress or tension that I’ve just been carrying around. And I know, you know, not only does it help me physically be more comfortable because it lowers my pain, but, you know, I think we’re just more comfortable with our bodies when we know that we’re taking care of them. And we know that that affects, you know, how we interact with others, our intimacy with our spouse, like all of those things are impacted by exercise, but, you know, we even take it even bigger than that.

Our bodies God’s word says that our bodies are temples of the holy spirit and that’s 1 Corinthian 6:19- 20, it says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own. You are bought at a price, therefore honor God with your body so we can honor God with our body”. Through physical fitness. It’s actually a way that we worship God by showing you, we care enough about the body He’s given us to take care of it. And there’s also a verse in Ephesians that talks about caring for your body as well, to care and nourish your body as Christ cares for the church. 

So they want, you know and want us to care for our bodies, even though they are temporary, they’re not eternal.

Our souls, they’re important because they’re the only house that our souls have to live in here on this earth. And so if we’re gonna be a reflection of Christ out to the world, well, then we need to be nurturing and caring and fueling our bodies and our minds. Right? And our souls with the right things. So whether that’s good food or good company or God’s word, you know, what we fuel ourselves with is ultimately what’s going to come out is what we’re gonna pour out to everybody else. And so we wanna make sure that it, that it’s good. And then it’s wholesome that it’s nurturing and that it’s caring for ourselves.

Carrie: That’s really good. That’s really awesome. I think so many times, unfortunately. What I’ve seen in church is that people want to talk about our minds or our spirit, and they neglect the physical body. And that’s what our mind is in. That’s what our spirit is. God’s spirit is housed in. And so if we don’t pay attention to our physical bodies, we’re missing just such a crucial piece there in terms of spirituality.

So let’s say maybe somebody is listening to this episode, because they don’t currently have an exercise routine and they wanna get started or they want, they know they need to take more care of their physical health. What would you suggest to them? Maybe they don’t know where to start feel overwhelmed.

Jen: The first thing I would say is to kind of, to evaluate where you’re starting from. So I mentioned before, just if we try to just jump right back in to where we were, that’s where we do find a lot of times that we are prone to injury. I mean, it can be very humbling. I mean, I know after quite a long time of not doing any exercise at all. And because I was on bedrest thinking, it was my back and it didn’t get better and they extended it. And so I had no physical activity for at least the better part of a year after being very active. And I did notice that it was affecting my mental health and I knew that I needed to do something. And I tried to, I joined a gym,and to start swimming, which has been great for me and anyone that deals with chronic pain.

I mean, I asked for that like as a Christmas gift to have money for that, because I knew, you know, that there was a cost involved, but it’s been very worth it for me. 

So starting off in the pool for me was really good. There’s water aerobics classes. And, you know, there’s, Y there’s a lot of local lifewise and things like that. I have a low cost, you know, to join the pool or aquatics class, but think about where you’re starting from. Because if you try to just jump in and go to the first, you know, hit class at the gym, then you’re likely to feel discouraged or to get injured or to be in so much pain afterwards that you have zero desire to go back. So think about were you starting from, and then gradually increase it. So like, if you’re doing absolutely nothing right now, that’s okay. Right? There’s no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, like just, okay. Where can we start? And I highly suggest just doing a walking program. 

I mean, the new year’s a great time to start because the spring is when there’s a lot of,like, five Ks or like the color run or things like that. That can be very social and fun while also encouraging physical fitness. And so that’s, I remember doing that years back, whether you walk or run, it doesn’t matter if you sign up for something like that, it gives you a date that you there it’s April or May, and that you’re working toward, that you can put on the calendar and you might do like a couch to 5K program. Or we might just start walking like 10 minutes a day.

 As a personal trainer, I do highly suggest that you focus on like consistency over performance. So rather than say, well, I’m gonna walk three times a week for 30 minutes, I would say, well, can you just walk 15 minutes? Every day or six days a week? Because when you build that habit, even if you have one rest day, but when you do three times a week, what happens is, well, it’s only Monday I have the whole week I’m gonna start. I’m gonna do it tomorrow. And then Tuesday rolls along and it just gets put off. 

But if you can make it a habit, it really does your body comes to expect it to eventually crave it. That movement and walking is a great place to start. I would say, try to choose something you enjoy. And there’s some people out there to be like, well, I don’t enjoy anything, but you know, it could be gardening. It could be, again, walking with a friend or a neighbor, they could be cycling, whether it’s stationary cycling or running a bike. I said, I did, I ended up doing swimming. I didn’t love it at first, but I got underwater headphones and it became like the new running for me because I used to run. So I put my earbuds in and I listened to music and I swim and I came to love it because once I got over the hump of this is miserable because I’m so out of shape this, it became enjoyable for me. It really becomes something I look forward to doing. 

Carrie: Tell us about when you were a busy mom and you were getting into a fitness routine, like how did you schedule that in? What did that look like for you? 

Jen: When I was the busy mom and I had the little ones. I found ways to exercise a Chrome. And I actually do have some really short, simple and workouts that I’ve put on my website, which is and under resources there’s exercises. So I have like 10 to 15 minute exercises and that’s what I would do. So I literally just got free weights and I had an exercise mat. There are a ton of free exercise videos that you can look up like on YouTube or online. You can find, you know, a beginner yoga, you can find a beginner, a cardio class, you can play it.

Sometimes I bring my like exercise mat upstairs and I would like lay it on the floor by the playroom. And I would do, you know, and it was frustrating sometimes. Stop, but except even on a, such a good day, I might get 10 or 15 minutes in, in the morning. And then I try to finish it up later in the day. And I learned to be okay with like splitting up a workout that was 25 minutes into two or three parts and being like, I still did it, right? Free weights and a map basically is what I used for the longest time. That’s all I had and that’s all I needed, but I was able to do strength core. And then for cardio, I’d either put the kids in the double stroller, which was a great workout and push them around. Or, you know, eventually we later did get a treadmill, but I’ve had a bike I’ve had to look to goal. So throughout the years I found some way to get some kind of aerobic exercise in. So I think any, whether they’re working in or outside the home, I think there are ways  to make it work on a budget of even nothing right now. 

Carrie: Sure.

Jen: You know, even if you were to invest $50 in some free weights, like you could do a lot of workouts with that. And I do have some strength and some, some cardio workouts and one of them, I just use a stairwell and that’s it. And it’s a short little cardio exercise to get your heart rate up when you can’t get outside or can’t leave the house. There’s a lot of really good I’m free resources out there that people can use. And then there’s others that you can pay for if you have the money and you want a subscription to them. 

Carrie: Sure. I think that we over-complicate things sometimes, or we make excuses. I don’t have that 25 minutes in my day, but what you were just saying was like, well, what if I did, you know, 10 minutes in the morning and then 15 after the kids went to bed or something like that, what if I took part of my lunch break, if I have an hour lunch break and what if I took 15 minutes of that or 30 minutes of that to walk? Those are doable things that I think a lot of times we don’t think about, or we just, we make some kind of excuse for why we aren’t able to do something. 

I know since COVID, I have been exercising at home, I had a gym membership and I was doing the classes and everything else like that. And then with COVID of course, all of that changed. And I bought a streaming service and ended up streaming workouts into the house. And that’s been just really great for me to be able to physically and mentally to have those workouts in, on a regular basis. And I do miss it when, when I don’t have it now I’m pregnant. So now I’m doing the prenatal yoga and the, those type of workout. It’s very different than what I was doing before, for sure. I mean, you know, changing body, you have to change your, your movement and your activity level. And there’s definitely some pain in there as well that I’m trying to deal with and work around and stretch out. But Hey, they say exercise is good for labor, so I’m rolling with it.

Jen: And you bring, you bring up a really good point too, is that like pull that warmup and that cools down, you know, like that’s just even just like the stretching, we forget about things like that, but that’s really important as well. You mentioned streaming, I streamed workouts all the time. And my husband was able to set it up so that you can just, pass through laptop like screen onto the television. Right? 

Carrie: Right. 

Jen: So we put a TV in a room where I do my workouts. And so rather than having to like do it off this little screen on my computer, I had it on the TV screen. And that’s how I would do a lot of my workouts as well. But having that warmup and that full down is really important as well.

And I loved having that calendar if you buy, if you string a program and you buy like a program, they usually come with workout calendars, and there’s something satisfying about like, just crossing off each day as you go along and seeing, I did one more cam on one day closer, really just focusing on the process of getting in the habit of making physical activity a habit.

So there’s eventually, like you said, Carrie something that you look forward to do, and then you actually missed it. If you don’t get to do it and just,  rewarding yourself to along the way with a healthy reward, like maybe it’s, you know, at the end, I’m gonna go get a pedicure or something like that. Something that’s not gonna derail your progress that you’ve made,

Carrie: Right.

Jen: But that’s going to reward you in a way that just also helps you relax and things I did, is things you’re struggling with. I think pedicure or massage or just meeting a friend, you know, for coffee, all can be just great ways of rewarding ourselves for disciplining our body, which is a good thing. You know, also biblical as well, too, that we’re disciplining our bodies. 

Carrie: How do you incorporate spiritual practices into movement? 

Jen: That’s a really good question. One thing that I wanted to mention, you had mentioned at the beginning, that I have a certification as a mental health coach through the American association of Christian counselors. Well, before that I did a behavior change certification through ACE, which is not Christian-based and it was very different in talking about behavior change versus mental health and sustainable long-term change. And here’s one point that I feel like is just really worth emphasizing is that without the holy spirit in our lives, without God and invited into our health trinny, the best that we can hope to achieve is to change our outward behavior.

We are disciplining ourselves to change an outward behavior without truly having that deep heart level change as to why we’re doing it and why it’s really important that it’s deeper and bigger than ourselves, but that it really involves God and it’s honoring glorifying him. So when we invite God into our health journey and we have the holy spirit in us, that’s when we can achieve like true heart level, sustainable change.

Okay. And that’s only through the power of the holy spirit in us. And so as we are engaging in physical fitness and we are inviting the holy spirit to give us the strength to endure. 

To the push through what might be a difficult workout to overcome the, the will of just being lazy and staying in bed. He is giving us the power to do more than change our behavior, but to actually change our hearts so that we begin to see it as a way of worship. And so some ways that I have done that. One of the It gets ways. I was like, cause I mentioned music and like I used to run to, to certain playlist and when I couldn’t run anymore. And that was hard. Just like you said, it’s so hard doing like your prenatal workouts when you’re used to doing other things. And I used to be doing insanity and these, you know, pull ups and chin ups and it was very difficult to not be able to engage with those things. 

But one thing that I found helpful was like to take the music with me that I found swimming and that was a robotic for me, but I will listen to worship music when I swim. And so bringing, you know, music and it doesn’t have to be Christian, but like music therapy is a real thing. It is therapeutic and I have playlist depending on what I’m even feeling. I’m sure other people probably do too, whether it’s just like, let’s go get them playlist, or I just need to relax. I’m in a spa kind of playlist and you might play one when you’re walking and a different one when you’re doing, you know more intense workout, but I actually have ones for how I’m feeling. So I have a let go and trust God playlist. I have a finding comfort in God’s presence playlist. I have a song to overcome hopelessness playlist, and those are all actually my freebies library. 

So if you go to my website and subscribe you’ll have access to all of them they’re on Spotify. But worship was, is a huge way for me to bring spirituality into fitness. Another one is walking wholeheartedly, admit that I’m guilty of like 99% of the time walking with earbuds in because I like to listen to podcasts. I’ve been listening to a bunch of yours recently carried. I was listening to one on nutrition and I was listening to one on mindfulness. And, and so I’ve been, I listened to podcasts. I listened to my Bible app. I listened to music and I realized that in doing that, there were times I would complete my walk and I really didn’t even notice like what was going on around me, because I would be like constantly looking at my phone or just, you know, my mind would be elsewhere. I got a really good tip from someone else that I’ve tried to incorporate into my life. And that is to go on a walk without your earbuds, without your phone and do one of two things. The first would be just to be like mindful and notice what’s around you.

Carrie: That’s good.

Jen: You notice the beauty of the leaves changing color right now. This morning, it was, there was a bird sitting on the tippy top branch of the tree. And like, it was, it was just really kind of comical looking. And I, I noticed that. Just noticing, I mean the littlest things, we had a bunny in our backyard this morning. That was super cute. But just being able to notice that being mindful, that lowers anxiety, that mindfulness is, is also needed for emotional regulation and to notice what we’re feeling and to be able to go to God and say, God, you know, I’m feeling this right now, you know, and maybe identified as whether it’s loneliness or boredom or anxiousness or fear. Just practicing that mindfulness is key. 

So try going for a walk and just noticing what’s around you and not having those ear buds in. And the other thing would be to take an index card with you with a, a positive affirmation of this could be a scripture verse, or it could just be inspiring quote, but it coming up. Some kind of fear or a lie that you’re struggling with. Okay. So for me, my thoughts would oftentimes, especially with my health, they would just I worry. I would worry and it didn’t help that other people with my condition would say things like, well, aren’t you worried? You’re gonna end up paralysed. Well, aren’t you worried that you’re not gonna be able to like drive your kids around anymore? Aren’t you concerned? And I would get an earful of, plus I would get an ear full of things I should try. Will have you tried this? Have you tried this? Have you tried this? And it was very anxiety provoking for me.

Carrie: Sure.

Jen: And so my verse was Philippians 4-8, which I’ve also now framed. I have that on my wall. But whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right. Whatever is your, whatever is lovely. Whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent and praiseworthy, think about such things. And for me, that was the changing my thought taps. And it was like, there I go again, I’m thinking about the future. And I realized that like anxious people,of eyelid, let’s say. When I’m showing with anxieties, because I’m living ahead, I’m thinking ahead. I’m grieving losses that haven’t even happened. Whether I’m gonna be paralyzed or whether it’s just gonna get worse. And I’m not on my retirement, I’m gonna be just stuck at home because I can’t travel. And rather than worrying about these things. But haven’t happened to just, I think of like a fishing rod, reel it in. Where are you right now? Be here, there are joys. And there are things to be experienced right here.

Let me focus on those things that are true, that I know that are true, that I know that are praiseworthy. That’s where I need to be thinking about. So that’s a big verse for me. So just walking and every, maybe five minutes, just reading that verse out loud. And while your neighbors might look at you a little funny because you’re, you know, doing that, there is something about the movement and the auditory and putting it all together where I really think that can be very, a very powerful tool to renew our mind.

So if you can say it out loud, just like sometimes we’ll do positive affirmations in front of the mirror. And speak it aloud to themselves. There’s power in that versus reading it and just reading it internally and not saying it out loud. So when you combine that with movement, I think there’s just, it just adds a whole nother level of depth to it, to help it really sink in. 

Carrie: Sure. Towards the end of every podcast. I like to ask our guests to share a story of hope, which is a time in which you received hope from God or another person. 

Jen: Well, I thought a lot about that and the things that came to me if I thought back to when I was struggling with it most, which is when I was going through some marital issues back in 2016, through 2018.

And my husband and I were in counseling. And I just remember feeling like I shouldn’t be struggling with it.

So I just wanted to speak some words of encouragement and then share a little bit about how God used that period of my life. I wanted to say that we can walk with the Lord and still struggle with anxiety. It is very possible to be walking closely with God and still have these difficulties. All of us have difficulties and limitations, and they’re there for a reason.

Carrie: Sure.

Jen: God is using them. Anxiety, It’s, it’s not your identity. It’s not who you are. It’s just a result of living in a fallen world. That is plagued with sin and disease and illness and very difficult circumstances, especially with what we’ve all gone through the past year and a half, never for a moment. Do I want anyone to think that having anxiety that is shallow with anxiety makes them any less of a Christian. Being on medication doesn’t make you any less of a Christian? I knew there were some people that led me to question how I could take an antidepressant for pain and also be a strong believer and that, you know. I used to be praying more and that’s just not true.

There are definitely cases where people just have lower levels of serotonin and exercise does help that as well. I don’t want to get too off track, but if you do have a lower level of serotonin, which definitely can happen, people that have depression, anxiety. Exercise also helps that, and there are foods that have tryptophan that you can also eat that your body uses that tryptophan, to produce serotonin. So things like turkey and bananas and salmon, and you can Google like foods with tryptophan and that can help raise your serotonin to a normal level, which may help your mood. 

But, you know, in some people they need that medication and that, that can actually help balance their brain chemistry to what it’s supposed to be. So God gives us Jesus, you know, for hope, but he gives us doctors and nurses and counselors and coaches for help. And he wants us to reach out to those people. Just like, it’s not a weakness to reach out to Carrie for counseling, if you need counseling, right? If you live in the same state and you wanna connect with her for counseling. God gives us counselors to help us through hard things. And he gives us doctors to also help us where our biochemical environment may not be exactly what it should be. And it, that doesn’t mean it’s a long-term thing, but there’s no reason to be ashamed of that. 

So I know what it’s like to struggle with anxiety. I know what it’s like to be on medication as well. And I’ve come to see, you know, over the past five years that God has really used it in such a way that I can now see it as like a gift. And here’s why I say that because we were like, there’s no way. There’s just no way. Okay. The reason I would say that it’s a gift is because it has drawn me closer to God. It has, you know, it’s what encouraged me to seek counseling, my husband and I to get into counseling. Us to both seek the Lord. 

We’ve both been transformed. 

Our marriage is stronger. I have grown tremendously, both spiritually and personally. Okay. And it’s really showed me that I have to let go of the things I can’t control and focus on the things I have agency over. And in doing that in letting go of control, I feel like I’ve really been able to receive what God has planned for me, which right now is turned into a ministry of serving other women. 

When we try to grasp tightly and control everything near actually, like clenching our fist in a way that we’re unable to really receive what God wants to teach us through our struggles. And that’s why Bernay Brown. She wrote that book, you know, the gift of imperfection. It’s our imperfections that draw us closer to God. And in drawing closer to God that we really discover who we really are and how he wants to use our anxiety for our growth. So I would just encourage everyone that’s going through that today, that God is going to use it just to keep seeking him with your hands open for what he has to give you. Remember that He is gonna use it for your good, He really as for your growth and scientification, and just to, to just seal that relationship, that union with him even more so.

Carrie: Thank you so much for coming on, and talking with us about these things. I really appreciate it.

Jen: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Carrie: I really appreciated Jen’s perspective in the Christian Integration into this episode. I want you all to know in a transparent node, that I’ve really been struggling to keep up with everything that’s going on with the Podcast a last couple of months. It’s been a riff time with my pregnancy and you hear me talk about that this, a little bit of  our upcoming episodes. About back pain that I don’t with. And  It’s been a journey. And I hope to actually do a Podcast. Sometime in the future to talk about mental health and chronic pain, anxiety.

How those things interact with each other? Because there’s so much linkage that I don’t feel like people talk about these things. What is like to go through a chronic health struggle and not know when the end day of that is going to be. So, there’s so much that I want to do. I want to really get our website fully up to date where it needs to be. And I want to be pouring more efforts and to make sure that our newsletter goes out every week. I just want be able to do such of those things. So, I’m sitting on the acceptance that I am not where I want to be with this Podcast. I  assure that, because it’s a lesson to all of us. That sometimes we go through things and we have to take a step back. And we have to acknowledge our limitations and we really have to dig in and take care of ourselves. 

Fortunately, my recording season is over. I am now focused on just getting everything out to you guys over the next several weeks. For I’m going on maternity leave. How much I get out there and remain to be seen? But, we’re gonna do the best that we can. I would love to hear from you and you can reach us anytime on our website. Hope for Anxiety and We have a contact form on there. And we love to hear from real live actual people who’s listening the show. Because a lot of at we get, you know, junks bin, on there. So, leave us a little note and let us know which you like about the Podcast. What do you like to see different and anxious suggestions? Thank you so much for listening.