BLOG Straight from Steph

Are you a “worn out woman?”

More and more women are suffering from adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia or even chronic fatigue syndrome. But God did not create us to live life exhausted!

There actually is a syndrome now called Worn Out Woman.  You can read more about it and take the quiz in an excellent  book of the same name by Alice Gray.

The causes of this syndrome are many, but stress does play a major role. As we are all acutely aware,  modern day stressors  include bad habits, negative thinking and toxic people.  We may be aware of the problems, but not know how to fix them.  When evaluating if you are a worn out woman, it is important to think about how you got there in the first place.  Things to consider are your basic temperament, the people in your life and what happened to you in your past.

Among the things we can control are lifestyle habits such as poor nutrition, poor sleep hygiene, lack of exercise, as well as our thoughts, messages and decisions we make.  The bible says, “Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Proverbs 4:23.

We may not always be able to control the people in our life, but we can improve and enhance our people skills.  Everyone can learn better boundaries and communication.

But maybe you know all these things but are too tired to put solutions in place. This could be the case for several reasons.  Maybe your thyroid is low, your vitamin D is deficient or your neurotransmitters are off. Are you suffering from depression?

Whatever the case, we don’t have to settle for a life of fatigue. The most important thing to realize is that there are solutions. God has a better plan for you – a plan for abundant health.

If you are a Worn Out Woman or you know one (and we all do), come gather with other women as Stephanie Ellis Ecke, also known as The Trauma Queen, and myself present an experiential  workshop “From Worn Out to Well: Women’s Wellness Connection”, on April 13 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Summit Christian Center. We’ll learn, have some fun and leave more refreshed!

Beware of Narcissism

In NARCISSISTIC LOVERS, the authors state that” narcissists tend to be drawwn to co-dependents because they have a subconscious desire to be mothered and taken care of. They also are often aware that many codependent types have a fear of abandonment and they use that fear to maintain control over them.

Look at the following list of codependent traits and see if you see yourself:

  • You base your feelings of selfworth on your partners approval.
  • You try to solve your partners problems because you feel directly affected by them.
  • Your primary goal is to satisfy and care for him/her.
  • You feel happy when you are able to solve problems for your partner.
  • You put aside your interests and spend time focusing on your partner.
  • You feel your partner reflects you, their appearance, etc.
  • You view your positive qualities as what you have to offer others.
  • You are unaware of what you want and are concerned with what your partner wants.
  • You have dreams of your future which include your partner.
  • You are careful not to provoke your partnes anger.
  • You are afraid of rejection by your partner.
  • You are generous in order to feel secure and prove your love to him/her.
  • As you involve yourself with your partner, you lose contact with friends and family.
  • You put your own values aside in order to relate to him/her.
  • You hold his opinion in high regard.
  • The quality of your partners life has an impact on the quality of your life.
  • Positive comments from your partner give you a high; negative ones leave you low.

How did you do? did you answer yes to many of these characteristics? Becoming aware of these tendencies can giv eyou choices about what you want and/or need to change. There is hope and help for you!

Take this quiz and assess your partner’s level of narcissism.

Score 1 = never; 2 = ocassionally; 3 = frequently; 4= always.

________ Very competetive

________ Manipulative

________ Misleads and lies

________ Insensitive to your feelings

________ Controls you

________ Envious

________ Needs to be cente of attention

________ Demeaning

________ Self-Absorbed

________ Easily angered when confronted

________ Indirectly looks for attention

________ Feels their needs take priority over yours

________ Critical of your friends

________ Careless and impulsive

Total your score.

Authors of the book, NARCISSISTIC LOVERS, suggest that if your score totals between 43 and 56, it reflects that your partner has excessive narcissistic qualities. A score between 29 and 42 indicates your partner has a high amount of narcisisstic traits and a score between 14 and 28 illustrates your partner has limited narcissistic characteristics.

The book suggests that you must arm yourself with information about narcissism in order to deal with it and know what you need to do to best take care of yourself.

Stop the Stress Eating

By Kay Spears, Nutritionist and Stephanie Ecke, Trauma/Addiction Therapist

Why do we eat all the wrong foods when we’re stressed?

The answer to this question can be tricky. First, we’ll discuss the physical aspects of stress eating, followed by the emotional aspects.

You need to know that serotonin plays a huge role in stress eating. Serotonin is one of many neurotransmitters in the brain. Nutritionists have testing available to help identify serotonin levels and when necessary, they will build a nutrition program to aid in adjusting those levels.

Serotonin is responsible for our overall sense of well-being. 90% of serotonin is manufactured in the gut. When we are stressed, the serotonin levels in the gut are depleted. When that happens, we actually crave foods that will bring our serotonin levels back up.

These foods are called our comfort foods. Examples are pizza, cookies, pies, hamburgers and french fries. These foods are simple carbohydrates — they are high in refined sugars. What we accomplish when we stress eat is to temporarily increase serotonin levels. The key word here is ‘temporarily’. Serotonin will go back down and thus, we enter into a vicious cycle.

We are always going to have stress in our lives, so it’s important to learn how to modify our stress levels with lifestyle changes.

Stress eating means we are eating to relieve stress and anxiety when we aren’t really physically hungry. Some people actually become “addicted” to sugar and/or refined foods. Due to a number of reasons, their bodies become very sensitized to simple carbohydrates and their mood altering effects.

There are some natural ways to modify stress levels that will not add inches to your waistline:

• Go for a brisk walk
• Swim (in fact, movement of any kind helps)
• Write your feelings down
• Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby

If you’ve tried these solutions and you’re still stress eating, perhaps there’s a deeper cause. Emotional eating is often triggered by negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, anger, or shame. Hidden self-sabotaging thoughts can also be the cause, such as “Nothing calms me down when I’m upset” or “When I’m upset, I deserve to eat.” A counselor can help you discover the root of your stress eating and help you heal.

Of course, the ultimate stress relief of all comes from developing a relationship with God. When we truly experience His powerful love for us, we can rest in His presence and allow Him to bring us that peace that passes understanding.

If you’ve tried these solutions and you’re still stress eating, perhaps there’s a deeper cause. A counselor, a nutritionist — or perhaps both — can help you discover the root of the stress eating and help you heal.

Of course, the ultimate stress relief of all comes from developing a relationship with God. When we truly experience His powerful love for us, we can rest in His presence and allow Him to bring us that peace that passes understanding.

Recovery — Sometimes Swift, Sometimes Slow

Yikes, I broke two bones in my leg when I “took a tumble” (thanks, Jan) walking on Saturday. I had surgery two days ago. I feel like I am back at the beginning of my addiction recovery in some ways….back remembering the basics….taking it one day at a time.

So I thought I’d blog my way through. Maybe I can share some tips that are helping me make it through and you can share any ideas you might have too?
So for now, what’s working?

TIP #1) Don’t over do it…..Accept where I am and surrender to the processs. I can remember in the early days of my addiction recovery I was in so much (emotional) pain I was in a hurry to get it over with. I thought I could be done once and for all and out of pain…but you really cannot push the river in recovery and…..the same goes for the human body. Although amazing in its capacity to heal, it does have it’s own timing.

TIP # 2) Trust in my Higher Power….When I first began on my journey to transformation, I really didn’t know my Higher Power. Today, (although admittedly I still have much to learn, I do know a few things…(in large part thanks to Sandy Ross and many life experiences) I know God is good. I know God loves me personally. I know God has a good plan for my life. I know I can trust Him and his will. I know He makes all things work together for the good. And He can and will provide me comfort and solace.

TIP # 3) Ask for help. I tried to do everything by myself when I was a newbie. I used to think it was shameful to need help and a sign of weakness. Now I know that it’s human and healthy to need help. Ok…here’s where I need help! CRUTCHES SUCK…any tips out there?

TIP # 4: God will provide all my needs if I let Him….I really believe I am so afraid that God won’t meet my needs that I can block the flow by getting in there and trying to fill His role myself….Today (Im almost embarassed to admit how many blessings I received.) Hubby fixed breakfast, a friend dropped by for a visit and got me out for a yogurt, another friend came over and brought lunch and watched a movie with me and the kids came over to see if I needed anything. Now in the old days I might would have missed it with my “Never enough” attitude….:(

TIP # 5: Which brings me to the next tip Im trying to re-remember over and over again…Practicing gratitude is a daily discipline – definitely not a feeling. Practicing gratitude is a habit which increases my joy…

TIP # 6: Feel my feelings. It’s important in taking care of myself to identify my feelings and express them in a healthy manner if possible. In program circles they used to say “Trace it, face it and erase it.” and “you can’t heal what you can’t feel”…This helped me learn the value of my feelings.

Later I have had to learn that although important, feelings don’t get to run the show. “The mind controlled by the spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

The Toxic Cycle of Love Addiction

The new year is here and your list of goals are set for 2012. Do you find yourself thinking that this is the year you will finally be able to have a fulfilling intimate relationship? However, based on past experience, you wonder if that is even possible.

Many people long to have an intimate connection, yet because of events and wounds in their childhood, they find this a very difficult and oftentimes scary task. Perhaps they had some sort of abandonment in their past, such as parents involved in a nasty divorce, or neglect of some kind, so they keep picking people who are unavailable. Some may have been abused either physically, emotionally or verbally, and consequently have difficulty trusting and pick untrustworthy people. Or they felt unwanted as children and therefore have a rejection theme and no matter what, end up feeling rejected by their unavailable partners.

The events they experienced in childhood have created patterns and habits of negative thoughts, feelings and even behaviors, which in turn become self-fulfilling prophecies.

One extreme outcome that can occur from abandonment or neglect in childhood is love addiction. Love addiction is an addiction to a fantasy about love or about a person. There is actually a powerful chemical released in the brain which promotes passionate love, phenylethylalanine. This is the same chemical that makes chocolate so addictive. It is said that it is the chemical spike of phenylethylalanine in the brains of love addicts that causes them to become addicted.

The love addict’s fear of abandonment drives them into a cycle of obsession and aggressively pursuing the object of their affection (drive-bys, obsessively calling, etc.) This toxic cycle has the effect of pushing their partner away, the opposite of what the love addict wanted, but what they subconsciously expected. They continue this cycle over and over which produces the exact same painful feelings they had in childhood: abandonment, fear, anger, pain, emptiness and most especially yearning.

Not helping the situation and a part of the cycle is the fact that love addicts usually pick someone who is emotionally unavailable. To the extreme, this can be a person who is actually love avoidant.

According to Pia Mellody, author of Facing Love Addiction, love avoidance is the systematic use of walls to avoid intimacy. They avoid intimacy by creating intensity outside of the relationship, usually with some addiction such as sex, gambling, drugs or alcohol. Love avoidants were often enmeshed with a needy parent of the opposite sex. Since taking care of one’s parents was overwhelming to them as a child, the love avoidant’s main fear is that of being suffocated, overwhelmed or engulfed. They tend to stay in relationships usually out of duty or guilt instead of love, and in a repeat of their childhood, feel they must take care of their partners. The love addict’s neediness combined with the love avoidant’s original wound causes them to eventually leave.

What ensues is a dance, or toxic cycle, which leads to both partners stuck in the loop of anger, pain, loneliness, and yearning… always the yearning. And even if they do leave each other, they start the cycle over with someone else. Either one of these scenarios makes having a loving connection with another virtually impossible.

Fortunately, not everyone fits into those two extremes. So, what’s the solution to finding the love of your life if you don’t fit into these two categories? The following are some tips to help you on your quest to attract your soul mate:

  1. Pursue health – make a decision to become as healthy and happy as you can be in body, mind and spirit! True health glows and that glow is a love magnet!
  2. Hire a nutritionist or a health coach. The right food, exercise and supplements can go a long way in promoting the healthy new you!  Find out about food sensitivities. Believe it or not, food sensitivities, gluten intolerance or insulin resistance can cause mood swings and/or anxiety when you eat the wrong foods.
  3. Feed your soul. A spiritual practice such as worship, prayer,  scripture reading, or yoga causes us to be at peace. Meditation has been proven to bring more peace and actually can change our brain waves. An intimate relationship with a higher power that provides solace, comfort, guidance and wants the best for us, is very healing and an important step toward being intimate with others.
  4. Get in touch with negative thoughts that may be affecting you. These are negative programs that have been running subconsciously since childhood, so they might be a bit challenging to reach. Such beliefs as, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m not important”, or  “I’m ugly”, effect what we will attract into our lives. Pay attention and write down all such thoughts. Then challenge them with a more accurate and positive thought.
  5. Finally and most importantly, learn to love yourself. We can’t expect others to love us if we don’t love ourselves. You might find it necessary to hire a coach or counselor, and even explore some of your childhood history or relationship history to look for patterns that may be sabotaging you.

If you find you can’t take the above steps for any reason, or if you feel you might actually have a problem with love addiction or love avoidance, look for a therapist trained to help you. There are support groups as well that can help. Love Addicts Anonymous, AlAnon, and Adult Children are good adjuncts to recovery from this insidious addiction.