The ding on her cell phone startled her. Puzzled, Beth wondered why she was getting a reminder. Reading the short text, her heart sank. She’d completely forgotten about the meeting. She’d agreed to help Kathy weeks ago but only because she felt guilty. Beth didn’t really want to go to the meeting, let alone stay and help Kathy clean up. This was going to put her seriously behind. Tonight was the night she was supposed to catch up on all the things she hadn’t done over the weekend, like laundry and buying that baby gift.
One small ding and Beth felt close to tears. There was too much going on, too much she had to do. She never caught a break, never got caught up. Beth prided herself on being the go-to person, someone people could rely on, which is why so many people asked her to do things. Didn’t they understand how much pressure she was under? Now all she wanted to do was run and hide. Lately, she wasn’t motivated to do anything, which is why last weekend came and went without the laundry getting done and the baby gift being purchased.
Beth had thought she would have time tonight to find some breathing room. Now time had run out—all because of this stupid meeting. She resented losing her evening and resented Kathy for having pressured her into saying yes in the first place. Checking the time, Beth started planning how to get out of the crisis. Forget the laundry; she’d make do.
Tomorrow was the baby shower and Beth had desperately wanted to find the perfect gift. Well, so much for the perfect gift; that would take time she didn’t have. If she shopped through lunch, maybe, just maybe, she could find something acceptable to pop in a gift bag. Janice would just have to be happy with whatever she got; after all, it was a gift. Beth figured she’d put a gift receipt in the bag and if Janice didn’t like the gift, she could just take her own time to go back to the store and get something better.
Time always seemed to be running out and Beth always seemed to be running after it. When, she wondered, was she ever going to get caught up?
Stress is not the ideal environment to make the best decisions. Stress skews your priorities and downsizes goals. Desperate, you make short-term decisions that have long-term consequences. Pressure starts to poison even the best of intentions. However, knowing what your priorities are and the goals you want to work to achieve allows you to take control of your time.
A stress-filled life can cause us to careen from activity to activity or distraction to distraction with little time to stop and think about what we are doing. We are so consumed with the what in our lives that we fail to recognize the why. Take time to stop and consider all of the whats in your life—what you are doing on a regular basis.
On a piece of paper, make two columns. On the left column, write down all the what’s. Next, assign each what a why, and write the why in the right column. Then, consider how your life would be if you stopped doing that what. As much as possible, be truthful and realistic about those consequences.
I hope that through this exercise, you can begin to identify the truly important and necessary things in your life and begin to make choices about what to continue, what to modify (or ask for help accomplishing), and what to end.
I encourage you to recognize how much control you have over your choices. Stress has a way of creating its own urgency through manufactured crises. Once you take back control of the priorities in your life, you can begin to reduce your stress level.
Without the false urgency of stress, you’ll be able to evaluate when to say yes and when to say no. When each yes or no is in line with the truly important, you’ll feel better about and energized by your choices. Life will become less about what you have to do and more about what you want to do.
When you are actively engaged in doing the things that give you purpose and meaning, your life has moments of joy. Saying no to the wrong things and yes to the right things becomes easier. Filled with these moments, stress has less room to maneuver in your life.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.
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 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.