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Allowing Food to Nourish You

Sally was overweight, unhappy, and on the brink of emotional exhaustion.  She had an unhealthy relationship with food, After numerous counseling sessions, this is what she decided to do:

One, I started eating a simple, healthy breakfast each morning.  This was my only guideline; that it had to be healthy.  No list of special foods, no restrictive diet, no calories to count, lie about or eat.  Nothing.  What surprised me was that I was being asked to make my own decisions, and not rely on someone else’s idea of what I should consume.  I was given complete freedom to eat when I wanted, and how much I wanted.  It just had to be healthy.  Actually, this frightened me, because I wanted to be told what to do.” [1]

Sally was really frightened when I asked her to make her own decisions about food and about making food the right kind of friend.  Here’s the rest of Sally’s story:

So I chose to eat a large breakfast of whole grain cereal and lowfat milk and some fruit each morning.  It was bulky so it made me feel full.  It wasn’t sugary, so my insulin level did not increase.  I knew all about this theoretically, but it wasn’t easy to put into practice.  A big part of me (which was most of me) hated it.  I missed my usual two jelly donuts and three cups of coffee with lots of cream, followed in a few minutes by grazing in the fridge for a few leftovers from the night before.  But I’d made an agreement with Dr. Jantz to do this, and besides I was desperate.

The second thing was even more amazing to me.  I was asked not to weigh myself at all in between sessions.  I’d already sent my scale “on vacation,” so there was no way to weigh myself at home.  But I was not to weigh myself anywhere.  This was difficult.  How would I know if I was making any progress if I couldn’t weigh myself two or three times a day as I’d done most of my life?  I didn’t understand it, but I said I’d stick with the program and obey the rules. [2]

I’m happy to report that Sally is doing quite well, self-correcting along the way as she’s still tempted to return to her old way of thinking about food.  She’s rediscovering what food is all about — it’s there to nourish her body and is not a substance for abuse.

When recovering from emotional exhaustion, you quickly learn the benefits of decreasing the amount of fat and refined carbohydrates in your diet.  Additionally, when you start to take seriously the reports of increased risk of heart disease and cancer associated with these high levels of fat, I hope you will quickly choose to self-correct.

You will read food labels more carefully and seek to interpret the wealth of information they contain.  This is a far cry from the ineffective calorie counting and roller-coaster dieting you may have engaged in before.  You will also stop frying your foods and breading your meats.  You will learn that broiling and baking are better alternatives to cooking foods in fats and oil.  You will also begin to investigate food supplements that are specifically designed to help rebalance the body chemistry of those who are emotionally and physically exhausted.

Sally had to learn that dieting and bingeing were terrible obstacles to her stressed physical health and mental stability.  Each round of dieting caused increased hypertension and a rise in her blood pressure.  When she finally understood that dieting and bingeing were making her more prone to stress-related illnesses, heart and kidney disease, and stroke, she knew she had to make a change.  To do this, Sally had to start listening to her body.  She had actually forgotten what it was like to eat normally.

This all began with a commitment to a proven, effective program of permanent weight loss and a deep desire to join the 2 percent who succeed in losing weight permanently.

Can you relate to Sally?  Perhaps now is the time that you, too, need to learn to see food as healing you, making you strong, and filling you with vitality.

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.

[1] Jantz, Losing Weight, 110.

[2] Ibid.

 

The Road to Happiness

In this world of difficulty and doubt, of struggles and hardships, of compromises and second choices, of injustice and affliction, each person comes to a crossroads in life.  There are two roads with signposts on each that say, “Way to Happiness.”

On the one hand is the road championed by the world, which promises much and delivers little.  This road is taken by the vast array of people who are tricked into believing the billboards along the way.  Those inducements, even in your own internal dialogue, for taking this road can be compelling because of all their glitzy promises.  Instead of happiness, though, this road can lead to depression, anxiety, and addition.

There is another choice, another road.  However, this road can appear less attractive when compared with the first.  Because of this, it is a road less traveled.  This is the road of faith, which uses a cross for a talisman.  It does not say, “Take this road to avoid your pain.”  It says, “Take this road because of your pain.”  The one road promises you’ll be in control.  The other says you must give it up.  The one appears all about pleasure.  The other appears all about sacrifice.  In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to make the right choice.

In other words, you’ve come to a fork in the road — two paths promising to lead you to your desired destination.  However, the one you choose may not be the most popular, but it may lead you to true happiness.

Taking the road less traveled will make all the difference.  The world’s road eventually leads to a literal end.  God’s road leads to eternity.  Because it can be so difficult to choose the road less traveled, here are just a few things to remember as you stand at the crossroads each day:

  • Happiness is not a response to life that comes from the inside of a person, not from outside circumstances.
  • Happiness is a gift from God, based upon His goodness and mercy apart from circumstances.
  • Depression isn’t something you live with; it’s something you get help for.
  • Worry and anxiety can be treated; they are a learned response to life that can be acknowledged, understood, and overcome.
  • Addictions both mask and amplify the pain; they never heal it.
  • What you tell yourself becomes who you are, so be careful what you say.
  • Relationships are meant to support you, not drag you down.
  • Taking care of your body helps you take care of your heart, soul, and mind.
  • Stop trying to control your own life, and start trusting in God to get you where you need to go.
  • An attitude of optimism is a choice.
  • Each day presents you with a new opportunity to be happy.
  • Sometimes the clearest lesson you receive today is confirmation of where you don’t want to go tomorrow.
  • Don’t wait on others to hand you happiness; take hold of it yourself.
  • Don’t let anything get in the way of what you need.  Ask, expect, and act.

As you embrace a new way of thinking, living, and responding, may you recognize that there is hope.  Optimism can lead you down the path to happiness and joy, and it can overpower the strongholds of depression and anxiety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  The Center was voted in the top 10 facilities for the treatment of the depression in the United States.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Are You Experiencing Burnout and Exhaustion?

Perhaps you are a single mother who’s working full time.  Your kids are with a babysitter or in day care all day.  You feel angry, bitter, guilty.  Or maybe you’re a pastor or youth worker in a church.  You spend every single hour serving God, loving people, and making a difference in the lives of others.  Yet your own marriage is a disaster.  You’ve lost the art of communication with your spouse.  Passion is only a word in the dictionary.  You’re ready to call it quits.

Perhaps you’ve gained thirty pounds over the last year, and you’ve finally admitted that food is your only true friend.  You may have a problem with drinking, or are afflicted with a sexual addiction, or find yourself emotionally or physically abusing others.  Whatever your challenge may be, it has you in a nice grip from which you can see no escape. One thing for sure: You are exhausted.  Each day is another twenty-four hours of pain and struggle.  You scream inside but no one can hear you.

When our lives start to sputter and we forget to follow our dreams, we tend to become stagnant.  We stop thinking, caring, observing, and reaching out to others.  This is usually subtle, but it’s the first critical stage of coming distractions.  Because of this stagnation and cessation of emotional growth, we stop giving our bodies and minds the proper stimuli they need.

Fear, feelings of guilt, animosity, an unforgiving spirit, loneliness, frustration, or a Lone Ranger mentality can siphon off our energy, potential, and zest for life.  Left unresolved, these attitudes develop a life of their own, creating stress that over time can lead to emotional exhaustion.  Thoreau once said that most people “live lives of quiet desperation.”  They look good on the outside but internally they are a seething mass of pain and fear, walking a tightrope of emotional instability, hoping against hope that no one removes the safety net, because they know they are heading for a fall.  Until this quiet desperation is dealt with, the exhaustion will remain, and there will be little hope for inner healing.

What do we do when life seems hopeless or out of control?  We move into areas we think will help: more work, more alcohol, more obsessive/compulsive activity, more entertainment, more frantic escape from reality.  But it’s always more and more of the wrong thing.  Instead of helping us regain control of our lives, it produces an internal environment that evolves into burnout.  We feel an uncontrollable sense of disease, but because we’re on a vicious cycle of unproductive activity, we keep doing the same unproductive activity over and over.  When our burnout and stress builds to a level at which we cannot endure pain any longer, we cross the line to physical and mental exhaustion.

Before long we forget who we are and what we’re about.  We start to decompose.  We no longer feel special.  We wonder if God has even taken away our giftedness.  We look into the mirror, and we don’t like what is looking back at us.  We no longer see a beautiful creature, designed in the image of a loving God.  Instead, we look through bewildered eyes and see only what is wrong.

We forget that joy comes from within, never from external sources.  We fail to remember that spiritual emptiness produces impotence.  And because we have selective amnesia of what is truly good, loving, and kind, we become displaced persons, every bit as confused and alone as hapless refugees who stumble onto a foreign shore.

If you are struggling to find joy in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating issues surrounding addiction, depression, stress and anxiety.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Part 1: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Consider a single trip to the grocery store.  On your list today is a new toothbrush, soda, sandwich bags, ground meat, milk, bread, eggs, and tissues.  Pretty standard.  Should be an easy trip, right?

  • There are 15 types of toothbrushes, all different colors, from extra soft to extra firm.  Which is the right one?
  • Regular or diet or caffeine-free soda — and which brand?
  • Sandwich bags come in 50 or 150 or 300, fold-top, single or double zipper-top.
  • Ground meat is available as extra lean, lean, or regular, in varying package sizes.
  • Milk can be whole, 2 percent, non-fat, skim, fat-free, enriched, in regular, soy or almond.
  • Bread in plain white or honey wheat or 7-gran or 12-grain or multigrain all in different brands.
  • Seven types of eggs – organic and how many do you need?
  • Tissues come in small square boxes or medium boxes or large rectangular ones.  They could be scented or non-scented, colored or not, with lotion or not, in 100-count or 200-count boxes.

Then when you’ve overcome all of those choices and make your way to the checkout, do you choose the regular line, express line, or the self-checkout line?  Paper or plastic or both?  Cash, credit, or debit?  Any coupons?  Cash back?  Need any help out?  Groceries in the front seat or trunk?

We live in a complex world that has the capacity not only to trigger our emotions but also to inundate our minds.  The more we feel compelled to do, the more energy our lives require.  A hurried, fast-paced life is draining.  Bit by bit, detail by detail, the sheer weight of our lives can wear us down, leaving us feeling inadequate and devastated.

The pace of life can be daunting, threatening to overwhelm even the resilient.  Keeping your emotional balance from jumping from task to task, demand to demand, can be acrobatic even for the resilient.  But what happens when you take a stressful life full of tasks and demands and add onto that a belief system that “knows” you’re not good enough, that “knows” you don’t deserve to be happy?  Or what happens when you take that stressful life and add onto it a belief system that says happiness can only be found when you’re in total control?

In order to recover from depression, understanding the role of emotions is vital, but you must also understand the role of the intellect, of the mind.  Recognizing what you feel is one step in the recovery process, but another step is recognizing what you know — what you believe to be true — because what you “know” may not, in fact, be the truth.

Let’s look at the example of a half-empty glass.  The truth is, yes, the glass is half empty, but is that all there is to it?  If the glass is half empty, isn’t it also half full?  The truth of a half empty glass is that the glass is also half full.  Those people who see a half empty glass actually see an empty glass because, to them, the glass should always be full to the brim.  If the glass is not brimming, then that glass is unsatisfactory; it will always contain emptiness and loss.

No one’s glass is ever truly filled all of the time.  Life simply doesn’t operate that way.  instead, the truth is even a half empty glass has fullness.  Those who are depressed don’t see half empty, they see completely empty.  Some will rage because the glass never seems to be full.  Others will despair because they are convinced they aren’t worthy of even a half empty glass.  Others will quietly accept the fact that the glass will never be full for them.  They look at the glass and see what isn’t there instead of what is.  They focus on the lack of what is absent instead of the presence of what is there.

To learn more about intellectual integrity, and how it assists in depression recovery, read Part 2 of this article.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

The Effects of Emotional Abuse

Andrea couldn’t stand to be alone; she just didn’t know it.  At home by herself, usually at night, she would panic — heart racing, hyperventilating, sure she was having a heart attack.  The attacks would come upon her suddenly, in the middle of watching television or after cleaning up the kitchen.  Terrified, she tried to calm herself, but when that proved futile, the fear would accelerate as she convinced herself something was physically wrong.

After her third visit to the emergency room in as many weeks, a hospital caseworker suggested that her health difficulties might better be addressed by a therapist than a physician.  Andrea had never considered counseling before — it seemed to intrusive and personal — but she was desperate, unable to hold her debilitating fear at bay.

Even though desperate, Andrea arrived at The Center • A Place of HOPE guarded, wary, and on edge.  She just wanted something, anything, to stop the panic attacks.  She insisted that the only reason she had come in was because the hospital suggested it.  What she wanted was medication.  What she got was the truth about herself.

Andrea came to realize that because of emotional abuse she had endured as a child, she never felt truly comfortable with herself.  Instead, she derived her sense of self from other people.  Andrea strove to please those around her and to do the best job possible.  She was a perfectionist when it came to her job.  She was at her best in the midst of a busy, bustling office with a high level of demands.  When Andrea had something to do, she knew who she was.

Growing up, being busy meant being away from home, and that meant she was out of range of an unhappy, bitter mother and a demanding, capricious father.  If you weren’t busy, you were noticed.  If things were quiet, there was no place to hide.

Living in a household where an emotional attack was always a real possibility, Andrea grew up never feeling safe or being totally able to relax.  As long as people were surrounding her and things were going on, Andrea was able to divert her growing anxiety and panic into tasks and activity.  It was at home, in the quiet, that panic took the upper hand.  In order to heal, Andrea needed to learn to relax and be herself — something she had never had the luxury of doing while growing up and something she had never given herself permission to do as an adult.  Andrea needed to learn to like who she was, even with nobody else in the room.

Any kind of abuse, emotional abuse included, is an attack on a person’s sense of self.  It demeans and controls that person through words or actions, devaluing that person and ultimately elevating the abuser.  If you have suffered abuse in your past or are suffering in the present, it is not something to be ignored, denied, accepted, or perpetuated.  The damage it does to your sense of self is pervasive and destructive.

Over the course of my years of working with the abused and abusers, I have found several distinct negative effects to the sense of self associated with emotional abuse:

  • low self-esteem
  • lack of self-confidence
  • transfer of needs
  • acting out sexually
  • loneliness
  • failure syndrome
  • perfectionism
  • unrealistic guilt
  • crisis oriented
  • unresolved anger and resentments

Depending on your situation, you may find that one or more of these effects is true in your own life.  You may have been aware of these effects without understanding why they exist in your life.

If you are struggling with emotional abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

Finding Relief by Writing Your Own Script

In the play As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.”  Put another way, life is a drama.  Sure, there are light moments, but most of us don’t live within some sort of frivolous sitcom.  Each of us is called to deal with serious issues and handle difficult situations.  That’s just the way it is.

For too long, you’ve allowed your anxieties to set the stage of everything that happens to you.  For too long, you’ve allowed your fear to act as the director of your life, determining how you act and respond.  For too long, the producer of this play that is your life has produced little relief from the unending concerns and stress.  You’ve allowed yourself to be played, to be directed instead of insisting on taking charge yourself.  You must decide to write your own script and set your own stage.

As yourself, when you wake up in the morning, whose script you are following, whose stage you are walking on to?  Anxieties, fears, and worries set a dark and ominous stage with a script full of negatives.  That doesn’t have to be your life.  You can refuse to play along.

Every story is told from a particular point of view.  Each one of us has an attitude about life.  We’re either optimists or pessimists.  We expect either good things to happen or bad things to happen.  Now, you might say, aren’t there people who expect neither good things nor bad things?  What are they – optimists or pessimists?  The absence of expecting good things isn’t all that positive, so I would say those people are really not neutral; they are pessimists.

If you’re anxiety-driven about something, you’re a pessimist about it.  The more things that cause you anxiety, the more pessimistic you are about your life.  This is the script you’ve been operating from.  It’s time to fire those scriptwriters and take over yourself, switching from a negative, pessimistic worldview to a positive, optimistic one.

One of the best ways I know to reorient your attitude is to have a heart-to-heart with yourself.  Some people do this silently, inside their own minds, and others prefer to hold an audible conversation with themselves.  One woman I worked with would argue with herself like an opposing attorney, talking to herself out loud.   She said it helped to hear what she had to say out loud because she had an easier time detecting the emotions underlying the various arguments.  If something didn’t sound right, she would stop and repeat the statement to herself, working through it until it made more sense.  So she didn’t disturb other family members, she would often do this while taking a walk.

Another woman I know would hold her conversations with herself in front of a mirror, looking herself directly in the eye.  Other people, will have conversations privately, in the confines of their own minds.  There is something valuable in articulation, in requiring yourself to produce the reasons behind what you do and then making those reasons visible and examinable.  It’s not unlike what people do with their therapists, or when they talk with trusted friends.  All these dialogues can be extremely useful, but you have got to learn how to have these conversations with yourself.  Start building trust with yourself.

As you engage in inner dialogue, don’t forget to control the volume.  Pay attention to the volume of the negative and the positive.  Be aware of when you need to change the dials and allow in more positives.  This is especially true when problem-solving.  You’ll need to crank up optimism, hope, and joy so you can find the motivation and courage to find and implement a solution.

If you aren’t verbal and don’t process things in an auditory way, I encourage you to articulate how you feel through writing.  Many people find great freedom of expression through journaling.  This has an added benefit in that you have a written record of your inner discussions that you can review and refer back to.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 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.

Managing Your Time

What do you think of when you hear the phrase time management?  If you are a go-getter, you may hear those words and think of how many tasks you can cram into a single day.  However, I didn’t say task management; I said time management.

Healthy time management, meant to reduce stress and increase quality of life, includes more than merely scheduling tasks.  Time management means incorporating times to accomplish tasks, yes, but also times of rest, reflection, recreation, and communication.  Each of these is needed daily to advance priorities and goals.

If you are a stay-putter, you may hear “time management” and think of how impossible it is for you to get anything done, no matter how much time you have.  For you, time management means incorporating effort, progress, completion, and accomplishment into each day in order to advance priorities and goals.

Time — no matter how much of it you have — needs to be harnessed and controlled: each morning (or even the night before), decide what you goals and priorities are for the day.  If the day is a word day, then arriving to work on time and being ready to actively participate are going to be main priorities.

However, most people don’t work sixteen-hour days, so there will be hours in each day for other activities.  Decide ahead of time what those activities should be based upon what you want to accomplish as well as on the type of person you want to be.

For example, as you’re on your way to work, you might decide to listen to music or an informative or informational podcast.  You might decide to spend the time in quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer, depending upon your mode of transport.  At lunch, you might send a quick text, or place a quick call, to a friend or family member.  On your way home, you might catch up on the news and take time to disconnect from your workday.  If you don’t intentionally plan your day, your day will plan you.

If the day is not a workday, then you will have more time to harness and manage.  There is a danger in thinking that you have all the time in the world over the weekend, but how many Sundays (or the equivalent) have you gone to bed, realizing that you didn’t get done half of what you wanted.  Instead of being satisfied with the goals accomplished, you’re distressed about tasks left undone.  Now not only do you have the week ahead, but you’re also playing catch-up from the week just ended.

When it comes to time management, the challenge for go-getters is to balance time with reflection.  The challenge for stay-putters is to balance time with achievement.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 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.