What do you think would happen if you revisited some of the old ghost towns that haunt your memories? What if you revisited the house where you grew up and were taught you weren’t a capable person? Maybe it’s the school where you were taunted and teased and picked last. Or maybe it’s a person and not a place — a person who withheld approval and affection, though you did everything you could to earn them.
Sometimes the life we live causes stress and sometimes the life we lived causes stress. Each of us is a product of our past. If that past is full of ghosts, that past will haunt the present. To determine if memories of your past are creating stress in your present, ask yourself the following questions:
- What negative memories seem to haunt me? Which events and the pain they caused are still vivid, as though they just happened?
- What words or voices from the past are still ringing in my mind today?
- If you find that past pain still has power over you today, you need to begin moving out of your past and into the present. Start moving out of your ghost towns by reminding yourself those days are over. You may have had no power to stop them negatively affecting your past, but you do have the power to keep them from negatively affecting your present. Even more, God has the power to redeem those negative events and turn them into good.
Think about the good things of the present and be thankful for them. Think about each of your abilities and gifts and how each has played a part in making you the unique person you are. You will have to make a daily decision to dismiss the hurtful memories of the past and concentrate on the positive things of today, until the past no longer controls your thoughts.
The choice is yours. It will require some risk and demand a deeper trust of yourself and of God, but that will only enhance your growth. In the end, all you will lose are your ghosts of the past. What you will gain is an opportunity to regain control of your life.
We all have the capacity to become what we were meant—created—to be. Our ghosts haunt us and keep us fearful. God means for us, through his power, to break free from the past. Do you believe God has the power and desire to do that for you? Can you say, like the apostle Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14)?
If you or a loved one is struggling with hurtful memories from the past, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.
Helen came to The Center • A Place of HOPE suffering from anxiety and depression. Her moods swung from hopelessness and lethargy to being stressed out and anxious. If it wasn’t one, it was the other. Both were taking their toll, and she wanted an end to them.
Helen was tired of never feeling settled. She had become terrified she was bipolar because of her roller-coaster moods. It was this fear that finally propelled her into counseling. In addition to her therapy, Helen set up an appointment to see our nutritionist. What was mysterious to her was obvious to him. Helen had hypoglycemia, which was a major source of her depression and anxiety.
Over the course of her adult life, Helen developed a pattern based upon her eating habits and food choices. She preferred quick, calorie-rich foods, eaten sporadically, with large amounts of caffeine throughout the day. Because she worked for a newspaper, Helen’s duties were stressful and time sensitive. Many times she put off eating, subsisting instead on high-caffeine beverages and sweets, consumed on the run. The caffeine and sweets propelled her headlong into nervousness and anxiety as her blood sugar levels spiked. The resulting crash of insulin to counter this massive sugar dump in her system brought feelings of depression and physical depletion. At these low times, Helen doubted her abilities, fretted over her age, and raged over any mistake. When Helen hit rock bottom, she questioned whether she was really capably of doing her high-stress, high-profile job. Her body was playing right into her fears of unworthiness and inadequacy to handle her job.
Hypoglycemia is more commonly known as low blood sugar or the “sugar blues.” The body’s main source of fuel is glucose, which is a form of sugar. Glucose is produced by the body through the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, and starches. Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream during digestion. Glucose that is not needed is stored in the liver as glycogen. When the amount of sugar in the blood is insufficient to fuel the body’s activities, hypoglycemia occurs. While this condition has been universally accepted as a cause of depression, even skeptics will agree that hypoglycemia can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue. All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.
Some in the medical community, especially those schooled in holistic medicine, do make the connection between depression and hypoglycemia, including the U.S. National Library of Medicine of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 
Food and caffeine became Helen’s drugs of choice. Food, so abundant in this country, is often used as a form of self-medication and comfort, especially high-sugar, high-fat foods. These foods flood the bloodstream with an energy surge. While using food to treat feelings of depression may prove temporarily effective, the resulting crash of low blood sugar can make you feel even worse. As you look at your own cycles of depression, look for a connection between what you eat and how you feel.
Here are common signs of hypoglycemia:
- confusion or disorientation
- rapid heart beat
- slurred speech
- tingling lips
If you find yourself having feelings of hopelessness, stress, anxiety and depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.
 M. J. Park, S. W. Yoo, B. S. Choe, R. Dantzer, and G. G. Freund, “Acute Hypoglycemia Causes Depressive-Like Behavior in Mice,” Metabolism 61, no. 2 (February 2012): 229-36, summarized at U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21820138
The physical side effects of a dysfunctional relationship with food are not unlike the environmental complications that have arisen from pollution in our world today. You may have trouble imagining your body as polluted, so do the following exercise using graphic pictures that depict the damage pollution is causing to the earth.
- Collect some magazines and make a collage of beautiful pictures of the earth; sky scenes, landscapes, seascapes. If you can’t find appropriate images, draw a picture in your journal of a beautiful world. This world represents the way God intended your body to be.
- After that, find pictures of the ravages of pollution. On the next page in your journal, draw or paste pictures of how pollution has harmed the world. These images represent how your eating behaviors have polluted your body. Be aware of your physical reactions to these different pictures. Does the beautiful scenery make you feel calm and peaceful? Does the polluted world give you feelings of sadness?
- At the bottom of each picture, write a brief description of how you feel about what you’re looking at. Just as the awareness of pollution’s dangers has caused people to repair the damage done to our earth, so also your own awareness of the real toll you are placing on your body can give you added motivation for discovering the source behind the pollution of your eating behaviors and putting an end to them. Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as God intended it makes me feel…. Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as it has been polluted makes me feel… Fill in those blanks and reflect on your feelings.
All your life you’ve heard the expression, “It’s never too late.” You need to believe that now. Yes, there has been damage done to your body, but that damage can be dealt with and, in most cases, reversed.
In the past, you have spent a good deal of time focusing on how your body looks from the outside. Now it’s time to look at your body from the inside. What is happening to you on the inside affects how you look on the outside. Your relationship with food has not brought you to the point of vibrant health. Instead, it is robbing you of your well-being, little by little.
Before, you were concerned only with the end result, attaining some sort of desired result. Now you need to be concerned with the means you are using to that end and the damage it is causing. To be thin is not necessarily to be healthy. To put on weight is not necessarily to be fat. Vibrant health is what you are striving for physically. Proper nutrition can aid your body in regaining the health of its systems.
Learn more about how nutrition can have an impact on your mental health.
If you or a loved one show signs of having an eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.
Everyone feels lousy sometimes. Everyone experiences days when they just don’t want to get out of bed, when they’d rather just roll over, pull the covers up over their head, and call in sick to their life.
Depression is more than an occasional I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed day. Depression is a condition marked by three characteristics: frequency, severity, and duration.
To help figure out if you are depressed, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- How often does this happen? (frequency)
- How bad is it when it happens? (severity)
- How long does it last when it happens? (duration)
The more it happens, the worse it is, and the longer it lasts, the more likely you are not just having a bad day—you are dealing with depression.
But what exactly is depression, especially when everyone has bad days, and people come in all sorts of emotional shapes and sizes? Depression is an overall category of specific feelings and behaviors. However, if you are depressed, that depression may look very different from your cousin’s or aunt’s or the person’s down the street. Trying to compare the way you feel, and matching it up with how someone else feels, may not help define whether or not you are depressed.
Instead of comparing one person to another, try comparing the way you feel with the following two lists. The first I call my Yellow List, which describes symptoms that signal caution, and a need to be monitored.
As you look over the following Yellow List, a word of caution is needed. Some Yellows can be tricky to identify, because they may have been present in your life for a long time. You may be so used to these Yellows they have become normal for you. A Yellow is not normal if it follows the three characteristics of depression symptoms: frequency, severity, and duration.
Here are items in the Yellow List:
- A loss of enjoyment in established activities
- Feeling restless, tired, or unmotivated at work
- An increase in irritability or impatience
- Feeling either wound up or weighed down
- Feeling overburdened with life and its activities
- A lack of spiritual peace of well-being
- A constant anxiety or vague fear about the future
- A fear of expressing strong emotions
- Finding relief by controlling aspects of your personal behavior, including what you eat or drink
- Feeling unappreciated by others
- Feeling a sense of martyrdom, as if you are constantly asked to do the work of others
- Exercising a pattern of impulsive thinking of rash judgments
- Apathetic when you wake up in the morning about how the day will turn out
- A sense of enjoyment at seeing the discomfort of others
- Anger at God for how you feel
- A recurrent pattern of headaches, muscle aches, and/or body pains
- Feeling left out of life
- Feeling trapped during your day by what you have to do
- Experiencing recurring gastrointestinal difficulties
- Feeling like your best days are behind you and the future doesn’t hold much promise
- Displaying a pattern of pessimistic of critical comments and/or behaviors
- Bingeing on high-calorie foods to feel better
- Feeling social isolation and distancing from family or friends
- Feeling that it’s easier to just do things yourself instead of wanting to work with others
- Feeling old, discarded, or without value
- Feeling trapped inside your body
- Dreading the thought of family get-togethers or social gatherings
- Feeling overweight, unattractive, or unlovable
- Sexual difficulties or a loss of interest in sexual activities
- Unmotivated to try new activities, contemplate new ideas, or enter into new relationships
Living in the Yellow means diminished joy and fulfillment, yet some people seem to live in that zone for a long time, finding ways to cope until the accumulated weight of despair or a sudden, traumatic life event propels them into a deep depression.
You can survive in the Yellows for quite a while, but that’s not really living. This may seem like bad news, but it’s actually good news. You weren’t meant to live a life of mere survival, and you don’t need to.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. The Center was recently voted one of the Top Ten Facilities in the United States for the Treatment of Depression. Break free and achieve peace. Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.
The symptoms of stress can show up in unexpected ways. Consider the following questions and whether you’re experiencing any of the following signs of a stress-filled life:
What is your current resting heart rate?
Stress leaves you energized and may cause you to have difficulty relaxing, so your heart may have difficulty returning to a low resting rate.
What is your resting blood pressure?
The more stressed you are, the harder your cardiovascular system works. This can create a situation where your blood pressure spikes and then takes longer than normal to fall back down to within normal range.
Do you find yourself hyperventilating?
Deep breathing in the face of physical exertion is useful, as it allows for increased oxygen to be used by the body. Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, however, creates a situation where the body releases too much carbon dioxide, resulting in dizziness, tingling, headache, and general weakness.
Has your dentist mentioned that you grind your teeth at night?
Teeth grinding is a known symptom of stress, as clenching of the jaw muscles causes the teeth to work against each other, even during sleep.
Do you find yourself breaking out in pimples, acne, or skin rashes?
Stress produces toxins in the body that can be excreted through the largest organ you have—your skin.
Are you always quick to catch whatever cold or flu seems to be going around?
Stress puts a tremendous strain on your immune system, which can result in lower resistance to illnesses and infections.
Is your interest in or ability to have sex flagging?
Stress can suck all the sexual energy out of a room, leaving you tired, unmotivated, and uninterested. Stress can also lead to painful periods in women and episodes of impotence in men.
Are you gaining weight, or have you lost interest in food?
Food is a common way people cope with stress—either by self-medicating through food or losing their appetites. Large shifts in weight—either up or down—can indicate the presence of stress.
Are you eating normally and easily digesting what you eat?
In response to stress, some people may eat too much, too little, or the wrong types of foods. In addition, the physical effects of stress can interfere with the process of digestion and elimination.
Do you find yourself ranting or venting your feelings of anger?
An emotional rant or venting may make you feel more relaxed, more relieved, because stress can be painful, and people in pain may react strongly in anger. Anger is a powerful physical and psychological response that can bleed off some of the effects of stress.
As a busy professional, husband, and father, I feel the effects of stress in my own life. As a therapist, I often see the effects of stress in the lives of those I work with on a regular basis. For some people, these stress effects are so familiar, they seem normal.
In order to stress less, there are six steps you can take that, when integrated together, provide a pathway to successful long-term recovery. These steps can be found in my new mini-book that discusses the importance of finding recovery from a stress-filled world.
Remember that God has promised to be with us through times of tension and stress. When stressed, we are meant to say, like Paul, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
If you or a loved one is struggling with severe stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.