Anxiety, depression, and fatigue are three bears that David Cummings knows well. David also knows black bears because he’s camped with them—only not on purpose, of course! Recently, I dove into David Cumming’s book, Everyone’s Got Bears. Afterward, I had the privilege of connecting with David during an interview on our Thriving at Home Summit.
David is a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. He’s also a husband, daddy, and an avid outdoorsman. David began our discussion by recounting his encounter with a black bear while camping in the Sierras. An empty can of pork and beans drew the bear into David’s camp as he slept. That evening, David awoke to quite the adventure—but you’ll have to read the book or watch David’s interview to dive into this part.
Anxiety, Depression, and Fatigue – the Other Kind of Bear
During our interview, David and I dove deep into the topics of anxiety, depression, and fatigue. These are other kinds of bears that sneak up on unsuspecting victims. This is especially true in our hustle-and-bustle, 21st-century life. In a recent poll, couples cited busyness as their number one barrier to connection.
Similarly, David pointed to his non-stop activity as a probable trigger for his own battle with anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Stress can cause people to do funny things. According to the diathesis-stress model of mental illness, when our stress level elevates above our genetic threshold, symptoms like anxiety, depression, and fatigue kick in. In other words, people really can drive themselves crazy with too much stress!
An Honest and Insightful Look at Anxiety, Depression, and Fatigue
What I appreciated most about my conversation with David were his dual perspectives. David approaches the topic of recovering from non-stop stress from both the perspective of a family man and a biologist. His message is especially applicable for families today.
My grandfather worked for General Dynamic for the majority of his life. Back in his day, work and home-life were easily separated. Sure, he may have brought a big project home to finish up over the weekend ever now and then. But for the most part, work stayed at work, and time at home was reserved for family. This just made sense.
At home, there was no email, voice-mail, lap-top computer, or connection to the internet. This means that any busy professional looking to get ahead by bringing extra work home would need to be intentional. Today, there is nearly always more work that can be done. Employees who don’t set good boundaries will quickly find the worlds of work and home bleeding together.
Of course, all of this non-stop business increases our stress level and can wreak havoc on our closest relationships. During our discussion, David provided invaluable insights for families on how to beat anxiety, depression, and fatigue before these bears nose their way into our lives. Below, you’ll find some of my favorite takeaways from our time together.
David’s Insights into the Bears of Anxiety, Depression, and Fatigue
- David attributes his bears to many changes (including a move, a new job, and new financial pressures) coupled with a lack of good coping skills. New pressures—even good ones—can cause us to slowly crumble. Truly, anxiety, depression, and fatigue can be sneaky bears.
- David’s first warning signs manifest in physical illness (including vertigo, weight-loss, dizziness, nausea, and other health problems).
- Our brain can manufacture physical symptoms associated with ongoing stress.
- David’s slow road to recovery involved going backward, unpacking undealt with pieces of his past, and learning how to cope better.
David’s big picture story reminds me that human beings are a lot like spaghetti. Our biology, psychology, and social relationship all intertwine. Psychologists sometimes use the word biopsychosocial to describe this. If we neglect just one of these areas, it will bleed over into the others. David’s story is a good reminder that anxiety, depression, and fatigue can be sly beasts. So don’t let them sneak up on you!
Warning Signs of Stress Build Up
- Inherent stressors are built into life. This means crafting a stress-free lifestyle isn’t possible. In fact, even if we could, this wouldn’t be good for us.
- Marriage, children, and work all bring stress (sometimes called eustress or positive stress). And this isn’t bad. It is, however, important to be aware these stressors exist.
- The statistics tell us that nearly 50 percent of the population will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health disorder during their lifetime. Most often, this will be anxiety or depression. These bears are very real!
- One of David’s key warning signs of fatigue was saying the words “I’m exhausted,” and “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” David didn’t notice himself saying these things, but his wife did. Phrases like these can serve as early warning signs of the accumulation of stress.
- Today, the phrase “I’m busy” has become a status symbol. Even in the church, there is a misperception that we are not doing enough for the Lord if we are not busy. In our minds, we might tell ourselves, “If I’m not busy, then I’m not interesting or important.” Often this is more about our own pride than what’s true.
- God’s will for us is not for us to be busy all the time and running on fumes.
- Busyness is the new smoking. It may look cool, but it’s also bad for our health and hard to quit!
Understanding the Roots of Anxiety, depression, and Fatigue
- David’s bear encounter in the Sierras triggered his body’s fight or flight stress response system. In emergency situations, this response is a great thing.
- However, elevated stress responses (at work and home) will also activate this same fight or flight response system.
- This elevated stress state for long periods of time will begin to break us down psychologically and physically, leading to increased anxiety, depression, and fatigue over time.
- All of us have stressors and if we don’t learn how to reset from them, we will deal with the physical and psychological ramifications.
- Some of the most common stress-related symptoms are “something in the gut,” (pain, nausea, lack of appetite, or diarrhea), headaches (or migraines), and a general feeling of weakness. Of course, only a medical doctor can rule out the possibility of these things being a physical illness. So if you think these things may be symptoms of stress, don’t assume. A medical professional should be involved.
- Finally, know that too much stress can lead to a bullying/abusive style of leadership and life overwhelm can lead to a passive style of leadership.
Finding a Stress Reset
- The first step to anxiety, depression, and fatigue recovery often starts with honesty. Human beings have a finite capacity for stress. There comes the point where we can’t will ourselves to take on more and more. Resetting starts with ownership. It’s OK to admit that we’ve reached our maximum stress threshold.
- One especially important recovery strategy is to create a climate at home where feelings are validated. In this type of environment struggles and authenticity is the norm. Difficult things are talked about without judgment, shaming, or correction.
- One way to create this home environment is to model openness and honesty in front of the kids (in a healthy way). This positive parenting style doesn’t expose the kids from everything, but it also doesn’t shield them from all hardship either.
- For more great stress reset ideas, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Self-Care. It includes two free self-care printables to help you bust stress and boost your mood fast!
The bottom line is that our human bodies can only handle so much stress. Then, symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and other illnesses kick in. So if you’ve got bears, or see them looming on the horizon, congratulations, you are normal! There is no shame in getting help in managing stress well. Human beings are God-designed to connect. And the truth is, some burdens are simply too great to bear alone. So don’t wait. Everyone’s got bears. If you need to dive deeper into taming your’s, start the journey today!
If you enjoyed this post on taming anxiety, depression, and fatigue, then you’ll want to check out some of the other amazing posts from our Thriving at Home Summit! This include:
- How to Have a Great Relationship with Your Kids – From Diapers to Dorms!
- How to Control Your Anger: Anger management advice from two experts.
- The Problem with Being Nice: Be kind. Be good. But please don’t be nice!
You can also dive into our full Thriving at Home Summit with the all-access pass. Preview the summit and get your all-access pass here: Thriving at Home Summit All-Access Pass.
Continue the Conversation
Jenny and I would love to hear from you!
- What would you add to our discussion on anxiety, depression, and fatigue?
- Have any of these bears ever intruded into your life? If so, what did this look like?
- What is your biggest takeaway from the insights David shared?
- Are there any strategies for managing anxiety, depression, and fatigue that you would add to this post?
Add your thoughts in the comments below. We can’t wait to hear what you have to say!