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.
People who struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating often experience companion emotions. Three of the most common companion emotions to eating disorders include fear, guilt, and shame. Addressing these emotions is a crucial part of truly recovering from an eating disorder.
If you grew up in a rigid, perfectionistic family, you may have developed an intense fear of failure and rejection. If someone you desperately wanted approval from conditioned that approval on unrealistic goals of perfect behavior, you got the message that no matter how hard you try, you were never good enough. If that person conditioned their approval on physical appearance, you got the message that being thin was the surest way to measure up.
Your parents or other family members may still focus their attention on outward appearances. They may not be comfortable, even today, talking about your feelings and emotions. They may express their approval only of your outward signs of success: your physical appearance, a prestigious job, exemplary school performance, a high salary, or material possessions. Success for them is determined by how you are “doing,” as opposed to how you are feeling. You need to recognize the possibility that your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns have come about as a response to your need for this conditioned approval. If you were unable to gain acceptance in other areas of your life, you may have turned to your physical appearance as an avenue of acceptance. Your fear of rejection has metastasized into fear of being fat.
Children’s frames of reference for sorting out the jumble of adult actions and motivations are their own experiences. So there is a tendency for children to blame themselves for family difficulties. A child whose parents are divorcing will ask himself what he did wrong. A child whose mother is angry all the time will wonder how she can make her mother happy. Children understand when something they have done wrong produces pain in others. An immature leap in logic can produce the false impression that when they experience pain themselves, they must be the cause of it. And those feelings lead to tremendous guilt.
Eating disorders and a dysfunctional relationship with food can often be caused by past guilt manifested into control and self-harm. In order to control the guilt, an anorexic will self restrict food and liquids. A bulimic will binge to comfort the fear and purge out the guilt. An over-eater will binge to bring comfort as a way to appease the guilt. People who insist upon intentional unhealthy eating may have already written themselves off because of guilt and lack of motivation to make better choices.
A dysfunctional relationship with food thrives in an atmosphere of shame. Without significant weakening in the self-esteem and self-worth of a person, these destructive behaviors could not stand. In the progression of the eating disorder and disordered eating, shame over her inability to control her own behaviors is like a suffocating blanket. The person who has learned to love and forgive herself would throw off that blanket. But to the person who has lived in an atmosphere of shame, that blanket is a familiar, acceptable place to hide.
The anorexic feels shame at never achieving impossible perfection. The bulimic and the overeater feel shame at the out-of-control binging. In addition, the bulimic who purges through vomiting or laxatives will feel shame at the very way the food is expelled from the body. The overeater feels ashamed at simply being fat. The disordered eater feels ashamed at being unable to control those urges. Together, they constantly attack self-esteem and promote self-doubt—the perfect breeding ground for shame.
If you or someone you love is struggling with and eating disorder and the co-occurring emotions of fear, guilt or shame, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone from The Center • A Place of HOPE will be in touch with you soon.
Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.