What do we do when life feels like it’s piling on top of us? In depression, we bury our optimism, hope, and joy and react with anger, fear, or guilt, allowing overwhelming circumstances to knock us flat. Emotional depression can become an automatic reaction to life’s trials. Reactions are automatic, but responses need not be. Depression does not have to be automatic.
Even if we may immediately react negatively, we can learn to intentionally reassert positive emotions. This may not be our first reaction, but our first reaction doesn’t need to be our only response. Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” Our reactions are on one level, but we can learn to take our responses to the next level.
The next level above automatic reaction is intentional response. You need to be intentional in your response to life and its circumstances. You need to deliberately recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy. In the midst of depression, the thought of sustaining even a modicum of positive feelings may appear overwhelming, a burden too heavy to bear. But aren’t you already carrying around the weight of emotional baggage? Think how much energy it takes to carry around anger, fear, and guilt. When you begin to put those emotions down, you will find strength for optimism, hope, and joy.
Negative emotions may be part of your personal landscape. If that is the case, you’ll need to intentionally seek out and rediscover optimism, hope, and joy. Optimism, hope, and joy are responses that come from within you and are not necessarily derived from your outside circumstances. Regardless of the circumstances, you determine to remain optimistic; you decide to have hope; you derive joy.
When you are depressed, you live pulled to one side of the emotional spectrum—the negative side. Your emotional responses are so overrepresented by anger, fear, and guilt that you have lost the ability to absorb and experience optimism, hope, and joy. Without joy, there is no hope. Without hope, there is no optimism.
Intentionally choosing how to respond to life is not a trivial matter; this attitude can save your life. We will not always have control over our circumstances, but we can determine to hold on to optimism, hope, and joy—to recognize them, promote them, and sustain them.
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.
Successful recovery from an eating disorder requires you to spend an enormous amount of time thinking about who you are. Keep in mind that really looking at yourself honestly is not self-absorption; it is introspection. Self-absorption leads to a false reality; introspection leads to insight. Insight leads to truth.
We all have times in our lives when we need to concentrate on ourselves in order to survive. This is deﬁnitely one of those times for you. Your eating disorder has brought you to a point where you’re seeing that this introspection is really addressing your survival.
Pride—both your own and that of those who hurt you—will work against your recovery. Faulty pride cannot coexist with perceived imperfection; it’s impossible to be prideful when you recognize your own ﬂaws and weaknesses so clearly. You’re beginning to understand that your eating disorder was not the “perfect” solution it promised to be. You’re starting to remember that yours wasn’t the “perfect” family after all. You’re now seeing that your pursuit of being “perfect” yourself isn’t bringing you any sense of peace.
It’s okay to admit that you’ve made mistakes. To do so is simply to recognize your humanity. And it’s perfectly fine to recognize the mistakes of others; you’re simply seeing them for who they really are. It’s okay to understand the way others’ mistakes have affected you; you’re simply accepting reality.
Accepting reality means facing the pain and discomfort in order to process it and place it in its proper context. Within that context, your pain will cease to wield such unhealthy power over you. The truth will weaken the hold your self-destructive behaviors have over you. Truth is not something to fear; rather, it is something to be embraced. The truth will not diminish you, no matter how much your false reality says it will. The truth will complete you, giving you needed understanding of yourself and others. The truth will enable you to operate from a new reference point of strength so you can deal with future hurts, pain, and frustration.
False realities do not dissipate quickly. They are stubborn and hold on for dear life. But you must let them go. If you don’t, you won’t be able to change from wanting to die to wanting to live. You must let go of pride. Coming out of the darkness of a false reality of pride is not an overnight trip. It will require determination, perseverance, and faith. It will require an acceptance of your own weakness and an admission of your own need for God to strengthen you.
For many people, it also requires outside, professional support. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at guiding people through a whole-person, individualized recovery program, designed specifically for you and your needs. We are standing by to help you face your eating disorder and to heal. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with an eating disorder specialist today.
Guest blog post contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Director @ Eating Disorder Hope, and Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC, President @ Eating Disorder Hope
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, it may be difficult or confusing to understand the many signs and symptoms that may be present. Though there are many stigmas surrounding eating disorders, these diseases should not be taken lightly. Eating disorders are severe mental health illnesses that are caused by complex factors, such as biological, psychological, and environmental reasons.
Many of the misconceptions about eating disorders concern the reasons why eating disorders develop. Unlike a diet fad or the latest dieting trend, eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating patterns and disturbed eating behaviors. These disorders are not simply an attempt to “lose weight”, or a “disease of vanity”. Whether it is Anorexia, Bulimia, or Binge Eating Disorder, these psychiatric diseases develop and progress over time. To heal from an eating disorder, a professional treatment team is needed to address the many factors involved.
With over 20 million women and 10 million men suffering from eating disorders in the United States, it is important to understand the signs that someone might be at risk for developing an eating disorder. Identifying these diseases as early as possible improves the chances for interventions and treatment outcomes. Thankfully, treatment methods are improving as eating disorders are better understood by researchers and health care professionals. While it may feel daunting to face the fact that you or someone you love has an eating disorder, recognizing what you are struggling with will only help the recovery process.
Given the complexity of eating disorders, it is critical to be aware of the different ways symptoms may appear. Eating disorders impact a person’s physical health, emotional well-being, relationships, finances, and more. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, look for these signs and symptoms:
- Abnormal food behaviors, rituals, or eating patterns, such as eating unusual portion sizes, cutting food into tiny pieces, hiding food, or purposely eating alone.
- Fixation with food, weight loss, and/or body image
- Obsession with counting calories, fat grams, nutrient content of foods, etc
- Heighted depression, lethargy, and/or anxiety
- Withdrawal from relationships, social functions, family, and friends
- Severely restricting caloric intake, resulting in unstable weight loss
- Intense fear of eating and/or weight gain
- Episodes of bingeing on a very large amount of food, followed by purging
- Feelings of guilt or shame in regards to eating or body image
- Feeling out of control while eating
While these symptoms may indicate that an eating disorder is developing, it is necessary to see a qualified health professional for a full assessment and diagnosis. If you are struggling with any of the above symptoms, it is important that you seek the help and guidance of a medical professional. Your life is valuable, and recovery from an eating disorder is possible, no matter what has brought you to this point in your journey. Though it may be scary to reach out and ask for the help you need, you are taking the most vital step in reclaiming your life and finding freedom from an eating disorder.