055 Personal Growth: Coping Skills Part 2 – Exercise

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We hope you enjoyed last week’s kick-off to our series on 101 Ways to Cope With Depression and Anxiety. Over the next nine weeks we will be discussing over one hundred ways to cope with anxiety and depression. As we mentioned in our episode on depression and anxiety, depression and anxiety can cause discouragement and a sense of overwhelm.

Our goal for the next few weeks is to provide you with a list of coping skills that are attainable.  No one can say that they cannot do any of the over one hundred activities that will be discussing.  That’s encouraging!

Each week there will be a theme for the particular activity that is featured.  We have grouped the one hundred and one skills into ten different themes.  God, exercise, slowing down, fun, animals and nature, socializing, aesthetics, creating and learning, touch and smell, and helping will be the themes.  

In the last episode, we discussed God as the foundation of where we find peace of mind and provided many healthy activities that you can do to improve well-being and mood. 

In 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 we learn that our bodies “are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

…Honor God with Your Bodies – EXERCISE

The American Heart Association recommends that we have at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. For someone experiencing depression, summoning the motivation to run may feel like trying to pry your feet out of cement. 

Many people suffering from depression have an all-or-nothing thinking habit which discourages them from being active.  They may think “if I can’t run five miles, then I shouldn’t exercise at all.” 

That’s where today’s suggested activities steps in. This week we will take Philippians 4: 8 into the realm of exercise (think on things true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Meditate on them.)  Although running is one possible mood-booster, it is not necessary to be physically fit or to improve depression.  

Whatever is…..Lovely

We will begin with walking.  Have you ever noticed that taking a walk seems to clear your head?  It gives you a change of scenery and an opportunity to appreciate the world outside of your 9 to 5 existence (or in the case of someone struggling with severe depression, out of your bed.) Walking has been shown to improve memory, along with many cardiovascular benefits.  

2.  Go for a walk. According to Harvard Health Publishing, walking for 2 1/2 hours per week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 %, and some studies show that walking can be as effective as drugs at reducing depression.

If you struggle with the idea of starting the habit of walking or any other form of exercise, remember this:  If for the last few months you have completed zero minutes of exercise, five minutes today is a great start. 

Don’t feel that you must complete an extensive and exhausting workout the first time you try.  Try five minutes today. Try five minutes tomorrow.  That’s still ten minutes this week that you did not do over the past few months. 

You may surprise yourself by going past five minutes! Next week try ten minutes each time.  (Don’t forget opportunities to park further away in parking lots to add some distance for your feet, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Find ways to add an extra minute here and there. Your body and mood will thank you!)

Another great way to take in the scenery is to tap into your inner child and ride a bike. You never forget to ride a bike!

10.  Take a bicycle ride at the park. Cycling can help reduce stress naturally.  According to Dr. David Conant-Norville at Vanderbilt University, activities that require quick reactions, balance, and decision-making skills like cycling help control ADHD in children. In a study, adults who performed a short but complex exercise were 40 % more likely to solve a problem that required focus than participants who were idle.

25. Go kayaking down a gentle stream in the mountains.  Kayaking provides an immersive experience of communing with nature, which provides a calming, meditative experience.

48. Go for a swim. Aerobic activity reduces depression symptoms. Swimming in particular offers a quick way to release endorphins – the feel good hormones. At the same time, some of the fight-or-flight hormones are taken up as well, reducing anxiety.

Whatever is…Noble

Being a good sport is a fine quality. That’s why we’re looking at certain activities as “noble.”  They provide the body and mind health benefits, but they also build strength of character. 

8.  Play a sport. According to the League Network, sports stimulate the body’s production of endorphins, the team participation builds self-esteem, the activity promotes better sleep, and the social engagement provides emotional support by sharing a common interest.

34. Run or walk in a 5K race. For those suffering from mild to moderate depression, running can be just as effective as anti-depressants.  Running is so effective, a psychotherapist in California practices “on-the-run” sessions. 

79. Horseback riding. Horseback riding has many physical and mental benefits.  It helps the rider develop greater confidence and to cope with fear.  It increases energy and is a great stress reliever.

Whatever is…Pure

We all have experienced those moments that require intense focus.  When we focus it means we have to eliminate all other distractions and place our attention solely on one thing.  It’s a “pure” action. 

Some people feel close to God when they are outside on the golf course or fishing.  I know this seems like a joke or an excuse, but for some people these activities pull them away from the distractions of other people and concentrates their focus on God’s creation.

17.  Go fishing. Fishing is a great way to spend time in the outdoors, to get some physical exercise, and relax. Studies have shown that a weekend fishing trip can reduce the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in war veterans for as long as three weeks afterwards.

56. Go to the driving range. Smacking a golf ball can relieve a lot of tension. Golf requires a lot of concentration which can help get your mind off of other things as well.

Whatever is of…Good Report…

We are told to think on things of good report.  This pertains to others and how we experience the world with them.  What better way to get to know people and enjoy the company of others than to play with them?

74. Go bowling with friends.  Socializing just once a week can lessen one’s chances of suffering from depression, along with improving our immune systems.


How we feel is tied to how we think.  In cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, we learn that if we change the way we think, then our behaviors, actions, and feelings will change.

Unbeknownst to him, Paul was an early cognitive behavior therapy pioneer.  His letter to the Philippians was all about focusing our thoughts on what is good and that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 

Our hope is that our coping skills list are opportunities for you to see that you can do more and be more than you ever imagined all while improving your relationship with God.  

054 Personal Growth: Coping Skills Part 1 – God

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For the next ten weeks we will be discussing over one hundred ways to cope with anxiety and depression.  As we mentioned in last week’s episode, depression and anxiety can cause discouragement and a sense of overwhelm.

Our goal for the next ten weeks is to provide you with a list of coping skills that are attainable.  No one can say that they cannot do any of the over one hundred activities that will be discussing.  That’s encouraging!

Each week there will be a theme for the particular activity that is featured.  We have grouped the one hundred and one skills into ten different themes.  God, exercise, slowing down, fun, animals and nature, socializing, aesthetics, creating and learning, touch and smell, and helping will be the themes.  

This week we will begin with the most foundational and profound theme:  God.  In Him, we move and have our being.  When our focus is on Him, it changes our view of our world. 

We are told in Philippians 4:8 to think on things true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.  We are told to meditate on them. This is the thread that ties together the next ten weeks for our series.  While we will be talking about God specifically today, His hand is in the different themes we will address in later episodes.  

Science and Faith Collide

Researchers studied the impact of six weekly prayers in hospital patients.  The stress hormone cortisol was studied through saliva samples from each patient.  The prayer intervention showed significant improvement of depression and anxiety, as well as increases of daily spiritual experiences and optimism compared to those who did not.  Wow, this is Philippians 4:8 in action!

Whatever is…..True

15.  Read the Bible. The Bible has many verses and passages that address anxiety. Philippians 4:6-7 states, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

53. Pray. A study by Dr. Harold Koenig and other colleagues at Duke University showed that six weekly prayers with patients at the hospital reduced their stress and anxiety while raising their optimism.


26. Walk on the beach and look for seashells.  The color blue has a calming effect.  Gazing into the ocean literally changes our brain waves, putting the mind into a meditative state.

33. Visit a cathedral or church to view the stained glass windows.  Viewing artwork stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain. It also serves as a positive distraction for those who are chronically ill.  

90. Lay on your back outside and watch the clouds.  Being in nature separates us from the bombardment of technology in our lives and allows us to be alone with our thoughts. Interestingly, a study found that people would rather administer to themselves mild electric shocks than to sit alone with their thoughts.  At the onset of the study these same people said they would pay money to avoid being shocked.  Modern society has indulged this need to be entertained.  Cloud watching is a pleasant form of distraction that will not seem as threatening.

87. Go sailing.  Spending time in nature allows us to slow down and appreciate God’s creation. The chemical composition of salty air balances serotonin levels.  The rhythm of waves have a relaxing effect on the body. 

Good Report

59. Write a letter. Letter writing is a great way to express yourself. It forces you to organize your thoughts instead of letting them ruminate in your mind.  After writing the letter, you don’t have to send it for it to be helpful.

70. Attend a bible study.  Community is important to the wellbeing of those struggling with mental health issues.  Finding a group and a church that is not antagonistic towards mental health can provide support for someone struggling with depression and other conditions.  More churches and church groups are partnering with mental health professionals to give much needed attention to those suffering from depression and other conditions.

76. Write down what you are thankful for.  Making the habit of identifying three things you are grateful each day for even a few weeks can create improvement in depression.  In fact, some scientists believe that the impact is as strong as an anti-depressant!  Practicing gratitude can also decrease overeating, increase empathy for others and improve self-care.

84. Sing a praise song.  Singing lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.  It improves life quality and decreases anxiety. Research suggests that singing as part of group even synchs the heart rates of group members, which is almost like a meditative state.


You have probably noticed that each of these God-themed activities require different amounts of energy and motivation.  Some activities are solitary (just you and God) others involve being with others or nature.

If you are feeling particularly unmotivated, activities such as reading the Bible or prayer may be a good starting point.  Prayer journaling and letter writing may be a next good step.  Finally, working your way up to being a part of a bible study and/or singing in a group will provide great fellowship and give you the opportunity to feel less isolated.

053 Personal Growth: How Discouragement Leads To Depression

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In 2016, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) determined that 44.7 million adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness—that’s nearly one in five adults.  Only 19.2 million received treatment.  Many mental illnesses have their seat in depression and anxiety, and because of that, we want to educate you on depression and anxiety and what can be done about them.

In the next 10 weeks, we are going to give our listeners a resource.  We are going to jam-pack you with coping skills.  If you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety, these suggestions will offer a wealth of ideas of how to cope.  

Every day we are faced with clients who do not know where to start.  They come for guidance and many times they struggle with coming up with even one goal to accomplish. 

More often than not, they are experiencing some depression and or anxiety.  They are so overwhelmed; they have just about given up on how to begin.  That’s why they come to us and that is why we have developed this new podcast series “100 Things to do When You Have Depression & Anxiety. 

Let’s Take a Look at Discouragement

There’s an old story that I think you may relate to.  The devil held an auction one day.  He was selling his tools from his toolbox.  Pride, laziness, arrogance, hate, envy, and jealousy—they all had high price tags.

There was one tool, however, that was marked “Not For Sale.” It was worn down, and looked rough.  Someone asked, “Why isn’t this tool for sale? It must not be worth much.  It looks like it’s been used a lot.”

The devil smiled and whispered, “That tool is discouragement!  It’s priceless! I’m not parting with it.  It is my most used tool.  When I use it, I pry open a heart, get inside and do anything I want!”

Discouragement is an entry point for Satan.  Discouragement can easily lead to feeling defeated, and as Christians, this is exactly what Satan wants.  He wants us to forget what God has done for us. 

He wants us to forget Christ’s death on the cross and victory over sin and death, because what else can Satan do?  If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, then Satan cannot claim our soul, but he can give us a feeling of defeat and a sense of displeasure in this life.  

Let’s Look At the Bible

In the Bible, numerous people were depressed. Job was depressed for the whole book of Job after everything was taken from him. Jeremiah was so depressed for the people of Israel that he wrote Lamentations.

Jeremiah was very discouraged that his friends had left him and that he had many enemies, but no friends. After being beaten publicly, Jeremiah was so discouraged that in Jeremiah 20 verse 14 he says, “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!” (NIV)

Elijah wins the battle with the Baal prophets on Mount Horeb. He has them all slaughtered. But afterwards, he becomes discouraged. Queen Jezebel makes death threats toward him. Elijah flees alone.

We pick up the story in Kings 19 verse 4, “while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” (NIV)

Both Jeremiah and Elijah had become suicidal. They did not want to live any longer.

David, the Articulate One

David had many ups and downs. He slayed Goliath and was chosen by Samuel, but King Saul tried to kill him while he was in his service. He was king and defeated many enemies, but he sinned with Bathsheeba, killed her husband, and God confronted him through the prophet Nathan. His child did not live.

In Psalms, David expresses how he felt at different times. David talks not only about his feelings, but how it affected his body. We hear symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In Psalm 32 verses 3-4, David talks about the guilt he feels: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of the summer.” (NIV) Note that if David didn’t talk about it, his bones ached.

In Psalm 38 verse 3, David again talks about his symptoms, “Because of your wrath there is no health in body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin.” (NIV) David is describing depression.

In Psalm 38 verses 10-12, David gives even more insight into what is happening to him. “My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away. Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception.” (NIV)

David is expressing how discouraged he is. His life is threatened. His friends are not there. He is alone and has anxiety (“my heart pounds”). The anxiety has taken all his strength (“my strength fails me”). He is depressed.

Know the Signs of Depression

The phrase, “I’m depressed” has become as commonplace as “I’m sad.”  But sadness is not necessarily a sign of clinical depression.  The diagnosis of “Major Depressive Disorder” requires several features that last two weeks or more.  These include:

  • Feeling hopeless, sad, or numb. 
  • Loss of interest in activities.  (These include activities you once enjoyed.)
  • Significant change in weight (lost or gained) with change in appetite.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Psychomotor retardation or psychomotor agitation (Moving slowly OR fidgety/purposeless movements such as pacing).
  • Low energy
  • Feeling worthless and/or excessively guilty (low self-esteem)
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death (without a suicide plan or with a plan for suicide)
  • Struggling to function at work or at home

Note how Jeremiah, Elijah, and David mention some of these symptoms. All of them had feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities (and so they were alone), low energy, excessive guilt, and thoughts of death.

Another depression condition is called dysthymia.  Unlike a Major Depressive Episode that lasts a few weeks, dysthymia lasts years.  It is a low-level depression, marked by symptoms of hopelessness, low self-esteem, low appetite, low energy, difficulty concentrating and sleep changes.

Both Major Depression and dysthymia can be treated with medications and talk therapy.  If you feel that you are experiencing depression, a doctor or therapist can diagnose and treat you.

What are the Signs of Anxiety?

  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Nervousness.
  • Feelings of dread.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Twitching muscles.
  • Irritability.
  • Difficulty concentrating on things other than the fear you are focused on.

Note how David mentions the rapid heart rate and feelings of dread. David was anxious, and it leads to depression. His body was stuck in the flight/fight mode too long, and it was worn out.

When anxiety persists for too long, then we become very tired. The energy is sapped from our bodies. We have negative thoughts and tired bodies. Depression sets in. (Read more about anxiety symptoms.)

When these symptoms interfere with your ability to function at home or at work, it is time to talk to a therapist and/or doctor. There are many different types of anxiety disorders.  A therapist can determine what type you are suffering from. (Learn more about anxiety attacks and panic attacks.)

Could I Be Suffering from Depression or Anxiety?

Oftentimes people go to their doctor when they do not feel physically well.  Because mental health has been stigmatized so much,  many people would rather be treated by a doctor than consider that they have depression and/or anxiety and seek the help of a therapist.   

101 Things to do When You Have Depression & Anxiety

In the next few weeks, Vincent and Laura will be covering different activities that you can do to reclaim vitality in your life.  These coping activities will help you connect with the wonderful things God has created for us to pleasure in.  You will open your eyes to new sights, hear new things, and experience new accomplishments.  

There’s no way that you cannot do one out of one hundred things on this list.  It is impossible.  With that in mind we encourage you to pick one!  You’ll probably want to do more!

All of us have had discouragement. How we handle it is one of the keys to good mental health. In today's episode, Laura and Vincent discuss how discouragement can lead to anxiety and depression. This is the introduction to their 10 week series on "How To Reduce Anxiety and Depression."
All of us have had discouragement. How we handle it is one of the keys to good mental health. In today’s episode, Laura and Vincent discuss how discouragement can lead to anxiety and depression. This is the introduction to their 10 week series on “How To Reduce Anxiety and Depression.”

051 Personal Growth: How To Navigate A Guilt Trip

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We all have those people in our lives…You know the ones who make us feel guilty on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s your mother, a friend, or a spouse. Whoever it is, it makes you feel miserable.

Would you like it to stop? Here are some tips on how you as the “guilt trippee” can deal with those people in your life that conduct the Guilt Trip train, as I call them in this article “guilt trippers”.

1. Recognize your feeling of guilt (anger, sadness) when it comes on.

During an encounter with your friend or loved one do you feel like you’ve been coerced into doing something you did not want to do in the first place? Do you feel that if you say “no” it will damage the relationship?

2. Understand that you are being manipulated.

More than likely this guilt tripper has done this to you (and probably others) before. They have not been called out on it and get what they want if they lump on the guilt. Unfortunately, the guilt tripper has learned how to manipulate others rather than going about getting their needs met in a healthy way.

3. Acknowledge that this feeling of guilt means that a boundary needs to be set in place.

It is not healthy for you to harbor negative feelings towards another person. After so long, the guilt trippee can begin to become bitter towards the guilt tripper. In order to prevent further damage to the relationship it is going to require you to do something different.

4. Clearly express your feelings and put up your boundary.

Here comes the meat and potatoes of Communication 101 in counseling…You are going to have to “confront” your guilt tripper. Many struggle with the concept of confrontation. 

Understand that confrontation when done in a healthy beneficial way is not becoming loud and/or violent. Anger is not a sin. However, how you handle your anger can be. 

Before you begin talking, make sure that you are calm and relaxed as possible. Maybe pray beforehand to yourself. Make the atmosphere as mild and inviting as possible. Use a neutral tone (not too harsh, but not too mild) and make you body movements casual.

You may want to start with some positive allying statements if you feel that it may help the atmosphere. If not, begin with an “I statement”. “I feel __________ when you ___________.” This way you are owning your feelings. You are not coming off as accusatory. 

If the guilt tripper does not respond positively to your feeling statement, continue with putting your boundary into place: “I will not be able to __________ the next time you ask me to ______________.” Here comes the hardest part of all for the guilt trippee you will have to enforce your boundary.

5. Enforce your boundary

Because guilt trippers are well-practiced, you will have to be firm and unrelenting with the new boundary you have created. Once again, this means stating your boundary without malice.

Understand that you do not have to explain yourself, only put up the boundary. The more words you use the more likely the guilt tripper will focus on something you said and try to manipulate it to their advantage.

Let’s Look At the Bible

Jesus Handling a Guilt Trip

Luke 10: 38-42 is a classic example of a guilt trip. Here’s the passage:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’”

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Wow, Martha puts a guilt trip on Jesus! But Jesus does not take that guilt trip. He addresses it directly, gently, and firmly. 

Jesus says her name twice to let her know that he hears her and to calm her. Then he used an allying statement to show that he knows where her heart is – “…you are worried and upset about many things…”

Jesus addresses her guilt trip directly by saying “…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…” He tells Martha that she is focusing on all the wrong things in the moment. She is not focusing on bad things, but just things that are less important for that moment.

At the end, Jesus sets a boundary firmly by saying, “…it will not be taken away from her.”

Of course no one can be as eloquent as Jesus, but here are some examples where we can try to be…

Example #1

The Guilt Trip: You are delivering a prescription to an elderly relative. They may say something like “I thought you were going to stay and visit.”

The Response: “I am really glad to see you, and I hope that your back gets to feeling better. But I cannot visit today. I’ll call you Thursday evening, and we can plan a visit.”

The Breakdown: You are respectful to the older person, but you are direct. The first sentence is an allying statement followed by your direct response. Note that you do not give them excuses or too many details. 

The last statement is a way of letting them know that you do want to visit, but it needs to be planned. Do not use this statement unless you really would like to visit them another time. Leave it off and just say “Take care!” 

Example #2

The Guilt Trip: Your wife and you are talking in the kitchen. Your wife says, “You used to hug me all the time…You used to plan your day around me…etc.”

The Response: Set your wife down together with you on the couch. While holding her hand, say something like this, “I feel uneasy or guilty when you say things like – ‘You used to…’ It makes me not want to be around you as much. I feel like you are holding me up on a postal and putting all of these expectations on me. I appreciate you wanting to improve our relationship, but next time you mention this, I will point out the it is making me feel guilty.”

The Breakdown: You are setting the mood or atmosphere by setting your wife down beside you and holding her hand. This is a way to ally with her. (Of course, you are not squeezing her hand like a WWF wrestler.)

You are direct about how you feel, but not in a harsh way. Women need to be spoken to gently. You are articulating your feelings honestly and genuinely as possible.

Lastly, you are laying down a boundary. You will address it each time it happens on a continuous basis. (Note that this does not have to be a long drawn out conversation each time. It can be just a short gentle mention. Of course, your wife may do it on purpose just to get you to hold her hand, if you use this method each time.)

Example #3

The Guilt Trip: Your teenage son has just came off of two weeks of grounding, and now he wants to go out with friends that you have not met. Your son says, “Mom, you let Sally (your sister) spend the whole day with her friends. I never get to spend time with my friends.”

The Response: “I understand you would like to spend time with your new friends, but I don’t appreciate you trying to put a guilt trip on me. No, you may not go out with them today, but you may have your new friends over to our house to hang out and watch a movie.”

The Breakdown: The first phrase was an allying statement showing that you understand what he wants. Next, the guilt trip was addressed directly and firmly. 

The last phrase was a compromise where you allow him to have his new friends over to the house. This accomplishes a few different purposes. You’re still allowing your to have social time. You have an opportunity to get to know your son’s new friends. 

Lastly, this is a good test of the new friendship. If they come over, then they do care somewhat about your son. If they do not, then maybe the friendship is not as strong or healthy as your son may have thought.

A final note…

Please understand that people who are guilt trippers are not all “bad people”. Most of the times these people have not had healthy communication modeled to them. Or they have had controlling people in their lives that has forced them to get their needs met in more subtle ways.

We all have people in our lives that make us feel guilty. Sometimes, it's your mother, a friend, or a spouse. In today episode, Laura and Vincent discuss guilt trips and how to handle them in a healthy way. They provide examples and role play ways to appropriately address the guilt-tripper.
We all have people in our lives that make us feel guilty. Sometimes, it’s your mother, a friend, or a spouse. In today’s episode, Laura and Vincent discuss guilt trips and how to handle them in a healthy way. They provide examples and role play ways to appropriately address the guilt-tripper.

050 Personal Growth: For the Mother Who Has Nothing Left to Give

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Jill McCormick, a.k.a “The Try-Hard Girl”, has learned that grace is available to everyone—including the exhausted mother. Jill is a mom, speaker and writer.  She encourages women who have struggled for so long to do “all the things” to give themselves grace as God freely gives.  

Are You a “Try-Hard Girl”?

“A try-hard girl is someone that feels that grace is to be earned and so she has to do a lot to earn the grace when really we know from the Bible, from God’s own mouth, that grace is a gift. It’s free, it’s undeserved, it is unmerited and it’s there for the taking. Grace is hard for the try-hard girl.

Intellectually we know that grace is there, but our hearts have to accept it. It is easier for us to extend grace to others instead of ourselves.  Many women struggle with perfectionism; they have set the bar so high and it is hard to maintain that high, stressful level all the time.  They are always striving.

How Can a Try-Hard Girl Relax?

Jill describes three areas that she has struggled in: 

1.) Comparison.

2.) Doing “all the things”.

3.) High expectations.  


The try-hard girl often compares her body, home, children’s behavior, her career, and the vitality of her marriage to others.  In order for the try-hard girl to overcome comparison, she has to recognize that God ordains her gifts, personality, temperament, health and finances. 

God gives us all of those.  Believing Psalm 23:1 is important.  The Lord is our shepherd.  God is not “holding out on us.” 

Our kids, our jobs, and our marriages are all things He has gifted us with. Yet these are the things we focus negative energy on through comparison.  

Jill believes that we are “a whole bunch of modern Esthers”—women who have been gifted for such a time as this.  These gifts have purpose. We have to remember God is in charge. 

The things you see that others have may be things you actually are not ready for.  “We have to trust that God knows what He is doing in this moment with me and my people.”  

We must have some God-talk.  Our default-mode is comparison, and it has to be “taken to the feet of Christ.”  God loves us enough to not give us these things that we wish we had—these things that we see others have.   He has reason behind it. 

The try-hard girl has an “over-developed sense of responsibility.  Whatever the problem is, it is our fault.”  

Comparison is this fleshly default mode. “I take it upon myself that ‘if I was a better mother, then I would (fill in the blank).”  We tell ourselves lies. 

Part of overcoming the try-hard girl mentality is to uncover the lies we have told ourselves and believe to be true.  Many times they are very subtle.  Ask yourself “what lie am I believing?”  and give yourself the grace to sometimes not notice it when you are believing a lie.

Oftentimes you need some distance from the moment to be able to reflect on what just happened.  Jill uses the example of misbehaving children in the grocery store as an example.  You may not be able to recognize how you have compared your parenting to someone else’s while at the store with your misbehaving kids, but the drive home may give you the space to think it through.  God can use this time to fill in the truth.  

Doing “All the Things”:

“We want to do EVERYTHING well.”  We try to do all of our roles very well, be it wife, mother, leading, etc.  Jill compares the try-hard girl to a juggler who has so many balls in the air and wonders how she can maintain this. 

The try-hard girl is tired. Jill finds that it has been helpful for her to ask “why am I doing all of these things? Why do I feel so busy?”  She feels that women use busyness to avoid having to think or feel hard things.  Busyness could be “numbing out” the voice of God.

Ironically, we justify busyness as something we are doing for God.  Some struggle with feeling that God’s love is conditional and that our busyness earns His love.

“We don’t have to work so hard! There’s nothing we can do for Him to love us more or love us less.  We are called to do good works, but when we serve out of guilt we are acting out of a lie.  

“Change is hard work and may mean difficult conversations.”  Try-hard girls depend on safety and security and the concept of letting go or changing is overwhelming. 

We need to give ourselves permission to see that we have been operating under false belief systems and give ourselves time to grieve it.  See that these systems or lies were unhealthy.

Oftentimes we don’t put things at the feet of Jesus because we think we “have all the answers” and should know how to handle everything.  Try-hard girls don’t like to receive help, they like to be the ones giving help.  It’s hard to give it to Jesus.  Try-hard girls have to allow others to minister to them.  

In attempts at being the “dependable one” the try-hard girl actually hurts her relationships because she does not allow others to help.  Allowing others to help actually “cements” relationships together.  

Try-hard girls often choose friends who are “safe”.  These are people who do not force them to examine the difficult parts of our lives and struggles.  

High Expectations:

Try-hard girls set high expectations for themselves, but not necessarily for others.  Jill’s personal examples are “I should always fit into the same size jeans I have worn for the last ten years, I want my house to always be clean, I want a vibrant marriage, I want a career that is moving onward and upward and I just expect everything to go smoothly—how I want it to go…and well-behaved kids!”

These are not bad things, but when we try to meet these self-imposed expectations to receive love, acceptance or recognition and our worth is based on them, we have a problem.  

Jill emphasizes the importance of recognizing this self-worth issue and taking it to Christ.  She asks Him “is this expectation from me or is it Your expectation for me. If it’s not Your expectation, will You show me what Your expectation is for me today?”

Jill mentions that we’ve heard the message that we are precious yet we so often struggle with believing it. Ask God to help you understand why that is and to be filled with truth.  She also advocates for Christian therapy when you are struggling with self-worth.

The try-hard girl believes that if she has enough willpower and logistics management that she can make everything work.  This is what she calls “operating under the gospel of willpower instead of operating under the gospel of grace.”  What is your operating system?

Are you carrying the weight of how things turn out or is Someone else?  The gospel of grace says that God is the one in whom, by whom, through whom and for whom all things hold together.

God has got this. He’s in charge of outcomes.  We’re to love others and he’s in charge of the rest.  We have to surrender and allow Him to carry the weight. 

He freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, and He does not want us to be enslaved by self-imposed expectations.  He wants us free of those things so we can live fully in His presence.

Speed Round:

What are you most excited about today?

Jill loves to speak God’s truth to women and is currently preparing her speaking engagement calendar. She feels the enemy tries to make us believe that doing more is what gives us worth; that we are not allowed to fail and she wants to encourage women through her presentations.

She wants this generation of Esthers to feel motivated to use their God-given gifts.  She wants them to see what they can do in their community and their world through His power.  

What has been your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God?

She admits that she has not always been open and honest with Him.  She would check acts of spiritual discipline off the list without asking for His help in her struggles.  She calls this “having my game face on.”  It means that she is still trying to rely on her own power without taking it to Him.  

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

From her dad:  “The answer is always ‘no’ unless you ask.”  Opportunities will not arise unless you ask.

From her mother:  “Leave the place better than you found it.”  She believes it is important to leave the physical space and people around you better than you found it. 

Who do you admire the most, other than a biblical figure, and why?

Her favorite author is Emily P. Freeman.  She has written three books and has a podcast, “The Next Right Thing.” She is “all about finding space for your soul to breathe.”  This is great for Jill, or the woman who likes to be busy, because Emily P. Freeman allows margin in your life. Her book “Grace for the Good Girl,” inspired Jill to step away from the try-hard life. 

What is your favorite book and why?

“Grace for the Good Girl” mentioned above but also Mark Buchanan’s book “The Rest of God” which is about the Sabbath. 

Check out Jill’s resources for our listeners!  Her favorite books and podcasts that have helped her move away from the try-hard life can be found by texting “commonsense” (no space between the two words) to 444999.  Jill will email you this list of helpful resources to get you on track from stepping away from the try-hard life.

What is your most effective relationship habit? 

At the end of every month she writes a note to her daughters.  She identifies the different habits and qualities that she has observed that are positive.  This could include how they helped someone else or the way they put others ahead of themselves, how they have showed love. 

The results of these letters are two-fold; it helps her daughters, but it also “changes the filter” through which Jill sees her daughters.  She is more likely to focus on the good things that they do. She hopes to make a scrapbook of the notes to give to them when they are adults.  It’s a collection of situations over the years that tells them who they are.

Parting wisdom:

Jill wants you to know that God is crazy about you!  He is so happy He made you.  You’re a really good mom and be kind to yourself!

Contact Information:

Jill’s blog:  www.jillemccormick.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jillemccormick/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jillemccormick/

Jill McCormick, aka "The Try Hard Girl"
Jill McCormick, aka “The Try Hard Girl”
A never-ending to-do list.  Hair that hasn't been washed in days.  Jeans that don't fit. Kids who misbehave in public.  No matter how hard you try, it's never "good enough."  Our guest, Jill McCormick, the self-described "try-hard girl", shares her insights and encouragement for the mom who feels that she does not measure up.
A never-ending to-do list.  Hair that hasn’t been washed in days.  Jeans that don’t fit. Kids who misbehave in public.  No matter how hard you try, it’s never “good enough.”  Our guest, Jill McCormick, the self-described “try-hard girl”, shares her insights and encouragement for the mom who feels that she does not measure up.