When you give up something like sugar or social media, your brain is going to freak out. Don’t worry. We got you!
We know exactly why human brains freak out when we take something away. The trick is to give them something to do instead. We have a few ideas including how to bring Jesus into the mix. 

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Hi, and welcome to the Made for Greatness podcast. I’m your host today, Sterling Jaquith. And today I’m gonna be talking about the times that your brain thinks you’re going to die, because it really is that serious to our brain. Sometimes, you know, I think we get down on ourselves for not doing the things that we think we want to do. And we say, oh, it’s just a willpower issue or a discipline issue and a little bit, but also I think we’re discounting the fact that we have this human brain that was designed to be a computer that keeps us alive and just so confused in the 21st century about what keeps us alive. And so this episode’s coming out right after lent and Larissa did such a beautiful job last week of talking about ways that we could really celebrate, lent by choosing to, to walk in the desert with our families and some creative ways to do that. And like anything, we start out a challenge or the beginning of lent and we’re like, okay, I’m gonna do this. It’s gonna be great. I’m gonna give up sugar. I’m gonna wake up early and pray I’m going to drink coffee.

And we usually make it a couple days. Some of us don’t even make it a couple days before our brain is like, oh, you’re for sure gonna die. Right? But at some point, your brain is like, whoa, this is a problem. And it equates the discomfort that you’re feeling with potential death. And so I want you to know that this feeling will stop you in your tracks. You know, when you’re walking near a cliff and you get a little bit too close and your stomach feels weird and you just like, kind of jump right back. It’s interesting. I used to be much more brave, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more afraid of things like Heights, more afraid of ways that I could die. So things that I didn’t used to be scared of, I’m a little nervous about now, but in my body, it’s a visceral reaction, which means in my body, things are actually happening. And I can feel this urge to jump back from the edge of a trail. If there’s a cliff and our body is hardwired to do that, Hey, get outta here. It’s hardwired to be really nervous and alert. When you hear noises in your home at two in the morning, whoa, what’s happening. We’re gonna throw some adrenaline in your body. Your heart’s gonna be racing. Don’t die. Remember our protocol is don’t die.

And yet when we create habit loops in our mind, When we practice a certain behavior over and over again, and the neural pathways get grooved in our brain. When we stop doing those things, particularly if we didn’t insert something else, instead, Your brain is gonna freak out. It’s gonna think that you’re gonna die. And you’re gonna have a bodily reaction that feels very strong. Just like jumping back from the cliff. So let’s just use a couple of common examples. Okay. Let’s do not drinking coffee as the first one. Okay. Right now your brain is used to waking up regardless of how much sleep you got or how many kids you have or what kind of day that you have. And it Thinks, Ooh, stressful things tension to my body. I’m gonna have some coffee and that’s going to make me feel better. Hey, Sterling, I love you. And I noticed that when we have coffee, you seem to calm down and feel happier. And that’s for many reasons, one coffee, legit, has caffeine. What’s very interesting about caffeine is that that does not give you energy. It actually just shuts down the tired part of your brain. It makes that signal to your brain quieter.

And so you’re still tired. There’s just a duller sense of it. So caffeine doesn’t give you energy. It just tricks you into thinking you have more energy than you do. So you’re just working your tired body hard.

Okay? So we get this caffeine. It does work by the way, feels amazing when you’re tired and then you have caffeine. It’s very relieving. Also drinking warm things is very wonderful. And then for most of us, we drink warm things with milk and milk has sugar in it. So that lights up our brain. And then a lot of us put actual sugar in it or sugar frees, something in it that lights up our brain. And then for some of us, we go get our coffee from a person that asks us how we’re feeling. How’s your day going? What are each in a day? I’m gonna make some jokes with you. I’m gonna laugh at what you say. I’m gonna make you feel like a person, a human. I’m gonna give you this $5 cup of caffeine and sugar. It works really, really well. And your brain has grooved that path so much that it is very sure that we need this to be okay. So it feels like death to your brain. When you wake up one day, one of lent and you say, I’m not gonna drink the coffee. I don’t need it. I’m gonna offer it up for the holy souls and purgatory.

Okay. Sounds great. But then your brain is gonna be like, oh no, but what if we die? And it’s gonna feel very serious in your body. And I wanna talk about it like this because when you struggle most of us, because we have such a negative voice in our brain are just like, I knew you couldn’t do it. Something’s wrong with you. You’ve never been able to stick with things, your garbage post, whatever it is, right? Like our brains are so mean to us. And they’re very sure it’s a Sterling problem. Very sure. Like other people, they can do it. They can experience a little discomfort and they move on with their day. So now I’ve added judgment and guilt on top of my already freaked out brain reaction of not having the coffee to calm me down. Now, I’m tired, anxious, and feeling terrible about myself. Just notice, notice the way that I describe that. I just want you to pause right now and be like, oh, that is what I’m experiencing. That does feel like a lot. What’s going on there? Whew. I’m having a really human reaction right now. My brain wants to complete this habit loop so badly because it thinks something really grave will happen. If I don’t, my brain is wrong. Like not having coffee and feeling uncomfortable today is not going to kill me.

How can I compass with myself in this moment with this obstacle that I’m climbing right now? How can I bring Jesus into this moment? Lord, thank you for giving me a human brain that keeps me alive. Please send down the holy spirit to give me wisdom in this moment. How can I take care of myself? How can I use your strength, Lord, to get through this? What do you want me to do right now? And the other thing about habit loops is that if we don’t create something to do instead, just imagine hitting your head against the wall. It’s like, you wanna complete a loop, but you keep hitting a wall instead. But it’s like, like a wind up toy. You just keep doing it over and over again. What we wanna do is we wanna create a different loop for you to go on instead. So you’re not just hitting your head up against the wall.

So what is it that you want to do instead of drinking coffee? Are we gonna drink some tea? Are we gonna go for a walk? We have to put something in that place. It’s even better. If we,k ‘re able to identify why we own it in the first place. When I feel stressed, I want cookies in the future. When I feel stressed, I’m going to put my shoes on and walk outside for one minute. Right? It’s creating a loop. So then your brain’s like, oh yeah. When we feel stressed, we’ll go outside. And then the air on our face makes us feel calm. It’s important that what we replace in the habit loop is doable. We’re not gonna go walk five miles. My brain thinks I can do anything for two minutes. Even if it’s five minutes, it starts to tantrum a little bit. It’ll be like, I don’t think we have time for that. But for some reason I tricked my brain into doing something for two minutes. It’s usually on board with that. But if it’s five minutes or 20 minutes, it’s like I don’t know. I don’t wanna do that. Especially in this situation where I wanna go down a yummy sugary habit loop. And instead I wanna choose an exercise. One it’s like, now, why would we do that? But if I say, Hey, we’re gonna just go outside and stand on the front porch for 120 seconds and calm down and take deep breaths. It’s like, all right, I could do that.

It has to be doable. And it has to make sense for the trigger, right? So if you’re a trigger, when your children are crying, you may not be able to leave them to go outside. That may not be available to you at that moment. So what is it that you wanna do instead of drinking coffee instead of drinking glass glass of wine at night, instead of picking up your phone and scrolling mindlessly on social media, let’s say we have this urge. We’re gonna reach for our phone. And then we remember, oh, I gave up social media for lent. Now your body’s gonna feel terrible. Like you’re gonna die. Ah, I wanna jump back from the edge of the cliff. This is terrible. Give me the thing that makes me feel calm and safe. I need it. I need it. So first we just don’t judge that reaction. We’re like, yeah, that’s a strong habit loop there. My brain is freaking out right now. I’m okay. I’m safe. And then hopefully you have made a plan. I’m gonna do this instead. I’ve been really enjoying a Sudoku puzzle that I got where you put the numbers in order.

I wanted something I could do on my phone, but I didn’t want it to have ads or flashy colors or anything moving. I wanted it to be really boring. And so I remembered that I liked Sudoku puzzles. And so I’ve been playing that and it still feels like a game and I enjoy it, but it doesn’t Jack me up Like social media does, or like things that have moving parts or sounds or anything like that. I also don’t feel stressed out about completing them a, a certain amount of time. I just kind of want to do them. So it feels a little bit mindless, But I chose to do that instead of watching anything. So what is it that you’ve given up for lent, you probably chose something appropriate that you were too attached to. We kind of know the things were too who attached to Then, Why were you doing it? How was it helping you? How was it calming you down? How was it making you feel safe? And when was this coming up?

Maybe it’s, you know, mindless buying on Amazon. We just had our minimalism workshop, which was so great. And we talked about mindless buying and the three ways that we buy things without thinking about it, sometimes it’s just emotional shopping. Sometimes it’s to make up for a fear that we have. It doesn’t matter why we’re doing it. If you notice, oh, I’m mindless buying a lot. And I would like to stop doing that. I’m going to decide that I only make purchases on Friday mornings, or I’m not gonna make any purchases in all of L that aren’t necessary.

Then when you’re triggering something, whatever it is, remember, you’re gonna feel like you’re gonna die. It’s gonna feel awful. Your brain will start negotiating. Oh, but we really need to get on top of Easter gifts. And we’ve got that confirmation coming up and shipping takes so long. Now, brains are very good at negotiating. And so notice when it’s coming up and then ask yourself, what do I want to do? Instead, when I am feeling stressed out, what do I want to do? Instead of going to Amazon? One of the things I thought of recently was shopping my own bookcase. So like going to Amazon and I’m like, Ooh, I want a book. That’s just a habit loop I have. And then being like, Ooh, we do want a book. Let’s go shop our bookcase. Cuz there are at least 10 books that are really good that you have not read yet. Go find one. So that would be an example of replacing my habit loop with something. So I have something to do so that your brain starts to freak out and you’re like, no, no brain. Remember we have this awesome new plan. It’s like a life preserver.

We’re gonna do that instead. So we want you to know that this is just perfectly normal. It’s why we have life coaches because we have human brains that throw big tantrums. And we’re battling dragons that we think are real. And then when you work with a life coach, they’re like, Hey, love that. Dragon’s not even there. We don’t teach you how to battle the dragon. We just showed you, it wasn’t even there. Then you can just put your down and keep living and you have a lot more energy. It’s why I can work with a person and help them clean out their brain. And they feel like they have so much more time. Even if their life stays exactly the same. But what we’re talking about here is a great example. How much energy do you, you are spending right now trying to run a habit loop because you didn’t create something to go there instead. And then judging yourself harshly for even having the urge to keep doing it. That takes a ton of energy. And instead if we just drop both those stories, the first story is something’s wrong with you that you’re even having this reaction. And the second story is that you should be able to just white knuckle your way through with discipline. So we just let both of us go and we go, oh, Hey, welcome to the club. You have a human brain.

Of course it’s gonna have a huge brain tantrum and act like you’re dying. Toddlers are really great at that, right? Toddlers are like, if you don’t give them the candy or the sticker or whatever, and they freak out and we’re able to see that and just, we can even have compassion for them. Like, Hey, I see you’re freaking out and you really wanted that candy. It’s not a big deal, bud. I love you. Let’s go. That’s what you’re gonna do for your brain. You’re like, oh sweetie, I see that. You’re just really freaking out about this. I see that. You really wanted that. Well, that’s frustrating. It’s not a big deal though. Let’s go. So just normalizing your reaction. And then the second piece is what are you going to do? Instead, We teach you how to do this in masters. We have an entire class on habit loops. It might be about the brain and habit loops as part of it. I can’t remember. I know we cover that, but I don’t remember if the whole class is about that. Or if there’s some other tools in there too short, though, I can teach you this in 20 minutes and learning how to respond to your brain’s temper tantrums is everything.

So I wanted to read Romans chapter seven. We’re gonna start at verse 15 for, I do not understand what I am doing for, I’m not practic what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate so straight up, God knew that we were gonna struggle with this. And he put it in the Bible. He was like, oh, for all those days, you do what you don’t wanna do. And then you’re grumpy about it. I’m gonna give you a story. However, if I do the very thing I don’t wanna do. I agree with the law. Law is good, but now no longer am I the one doing it. But sin that dwells in me. So he is talking about serving two masters. One master is the law or God and God’s word and one is sin. And so he’s either saying I given to sin and that is my master or I give to God and it’s uncomfortable to do that thing

For, I know that good does not dwell in me. That is in my flesh for the willing is present in me. But the doing of the good is not for the good that I want. I do not do, but I, the very evil that I do not want to do. But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me. So he’s not making excuses exactly. But he’s just kind of acknowledging here that there’s we’re of the flesh and there’s sin in our flesh. And that is the part of us that does the thing we said we didn’t wanna do. So the God part of us, the holy spirit, part of us, the part of our soul that wants to please God, is the willing part. But the doing part ends up being our flesh. And that’s where sin shows up.

 I find that the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good for, I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind. So again, he is saying, my mind has decided I want to be holy and I wanna do this good thing, but my body wants to do this other thing. So this is just like us saying, I’m gonna give up sugar for lent. And then the freaks out, you’re gonna die. We can’t do that. I’m in charge. You gotta listen to me. I’m gonna do bodily things to make you think you have to do this.

So, I’m gonna say this part again, the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin. It feels like we’re actually prisoners to you guys to this, the law, which is in my body’s parts. I bet there’s a better trans. I put the Catholic translation, not always my favorite translation. You guys for learning something. I actually do find that some of the other translations make it a little more clear and I bet another one uses a different word than law here. Wretched, man, that I am, who will set me free from the body of this death, right? He’s saying I can’t do it. The sin is in my body. My body is running automatically and it wants to do these things for the world. And then he says, thanks. Be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then on one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other

 With my flesh, the law of sin. And I think that’s how we bring Jesus into all of it. It is where we just say, Lord, seek my heart. Know that my heart and my soul longs to give up these things for you. It longs to know the suffering that you went through in the desert. It longs to give you this, this gift of sacrifice. But man, my it’s so weak. It wants to follow sin and it wants to run. The old habit loops in my brain. I really am trying Lord. I love you. And so we tap into the intellectual part when we can, we use our brain, the part that wants to serve the Lord and be holy, the best version of ourselves. And we say, okay, what’s triggering me. How can I create a different habit loop? But then if our flesh takes over and we break the rules or we sin, we take it straight to the Lord and we say, forgive me, Lord. My flesh was weak. I do love you with my whole heart though. Please forgive me. Like he knew this was gonna happen to us, you guys.

 And so, again, we’re not making excuses for our sin, but we just bring it to the Lord. And we acknowledge that we have this flesh, these bodies that betray us. It’s not a Sterling problem. It’s a human problem. And only because of God, thanks be to God through Jesus Christ. It is only because of him that we can find the strength to do something else. And I think that the real lesson of lent is learning that until you fall on your knees and you realize it is only because of him that you will find the strength to do it. We want to be intelligent. We want to be practical. We want to learn tools and we want to try to use the tools. That’s good. We don’t just wanna sit on the couch. We have to get up and live our life. And it’s messy. We wanna be honorable about what we try and set ourselves up for success. But we also want to bring the God of endless mercy into everything into every moment and ask him for his peace and his love and his grace. So whether you’re listening to this during lend or any time of the year and pretty much every time of the year, we’re always trying to be better versions ourselves and be a little detached from the things that take over our mind. I just want you to know that you’re doing a good job.

 You got a human brain and it didn’t come with a manual on how to use it. And you’re learning some new things and you’re gonna practice creating a new habit loop instead of just taking things away from yourself and gritting your fists. And I want you to bring God into the process. Lord, what do you want me to do instead? What truth do you want me to believe? And then just knowing that his endless mercy is always there available to you like a hug. He will always say, I forgive you. And I love you. Even if that’s the only thing we learned during lent is that we can’t do it without him. We can’t do it without his forgiveness every day. That’s a pretty good lesson. All right, ladies, we love you. We’re praying for you. Have a blessed day.