I had already been to my therapist. Now it was time to follow up with my doctor. As I nervously shifted on the crinkly white paper, I rehearsed how I was going to tell my doctor that my anxiety disorder was flaring up. I scrolled through all the questions in my mind about my medication, symptoms, and possible next steps. I had been really struggling for more than a month; I needed to know there was a way forward.
I’m grateful to have a healthcare provider who takes her time, listens closely, and really cares about me. She also knows Jesus, and her love for Him and others shines even when her face is masked. So once we started talking about my racing heart and intense fatigue, I felt a bit more at ease. We talked through adrenal issues and what happens when our cortisol gets all out of whack. We talked about supplements and sleep and temporarily increasing my anti-depressant dosage.
And then she suggested something I wasn’t expecting.
“Have you ever done an elimination fast?” she asked. “Eliminating caffeine, sugar, and refined carbohydrates for a period of time could help reset your nervous and digestive systems, bringing you back to a healthier baseline.”
She encouraged me to take some time to think and pray about choosing a nutritional reset as part of my treatment plan. But I didn’t need time to think or pray about it. I knew in my gut that was exactly what I needed to do. Because in my anxious, distracted, fatigued, foggy-brained state, I had been relying more and more on the temporary pick-me-up of coffee. When I couldn’t think straight for a work project or afternoon homework with my kids, I was also quick to reach for salty carbs or the comfort of sweets to push me through. The pick-me-ups and push-me-throughs were short-lived. I knew I needed something different.
The Monday following my doctor’s appointment, I started my reset. I brewed cups of lemon herbal tea instead of strong coffee and prepped veggie sticks to curb my munchies. When the afternoon lull hit and I couldn’t keep going, I let myself take a nap instead of hyping up on Doritos or handfuls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
But even as I purposed to make healthier choices, going against the current of my typical rhythm revealed how deeply dependent I had become on coffee and comfort foods. Like a baby relentlessly reaching for her soothing pacifier, I found myself automatically reaching for sugary granola bars. I had a relentless craving for afternoon coffee and evening ice cream.
All of it pointed to this truth: Not only did I need a physical reset, I also needed a spiritual reset. I needed to face my habit of turning to caffeine and sugar more than I turned to Jesus.
I had swallowed the socially acceptable lie that life (especially as a working mom) was meant to be fueled by endless cups of coffee and chocolate bars, that it was okay to wrap my peace and hope around the drinks and snacks I could reach for, rather than my Savior. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying your favorite latte or a thick slice of pie. But what we are really made to crave is the thick presence of God.
I was more worried about withdrawing from my caffeine and sugar addiction than recognizing God’s invitation to draw closer to Him.
This was an opportunity to embrace a different rhythm that would reset not only what my body craved but what my soul craved. I had to learn in my full embodied self that there wasn’t any food or drink or treat that I needed more than the presence of Jesus and to experience anew how the joy of the Lord is my strength, not the joy of java or Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream.
For three weeks I pressed into the discomfort, headaches, and irritability from eliminating the foods and stimulants my body had become dependent on. My anxiety didn’t go away instantly. But as the jittery buzzing in my body slowly waned, deep, unexpected peace slowly increased.
The world preaches reaching for the quick fix: Get that double-shot latte or Botox shot. Drive through for the milkshake or let another Amazon order make you feel better. The list of possibilities is endless, but nothing we can buy or eat or wear or do to fix ourselves will provide the soul relief we really need.
Nothing but Jesus.
Before Jesus departed, He told His closest friends, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” (John 14:27 NIV)
That peace is the Holy Spirit — the gift of a constant companion; a relentless source of hope, guidance, and strength; an assurance we can count on when our jolt of caffeine runs out. Jesus deposited His peace in each of our hearts. Sometimes we just have to let go of the things that are numbing us, distracting us, or disconnecting us from our awareness of His presence and how much we desperately need Him.
I’m grateful to say my three-week reset resulted in decreased anxiety, better sleep, and healthier patterns I’m working to maintain going forward. But even on days I choose to enjoy a cup of coffee or a chocolate chip cookie, I remember that the most satisfying and sustaining thing I can ever reach for — and savor — is my relationship with Jesus.