The 7 Weaknesses That Could Be An Entrepreneur’s Hidden Strengths

 

Have you ever been told to turn it down a notch? To back down or chill out? To be less loud, less daring, less weird? Have you ever been worried you’re too much to handle or that you come across as a tad full on? Have you ever been called intense, obsessed or rebellious?

In a world mired in conformity, standing out makes you a target. Most people just want to keep their head down and be part of the herd, so those who dare to be different often find themselves on the receiving end of disapproval, even punishment.

Schooling teaches us to stay in line. Social media stomps on anyone who expresses an unpopular opinion. Managers flag personality quirks as weaknesses and advise you to “work on them” in performance reviews. After a while, even if you have brilliant visions of the future and the execution to match, it can become tempting to keep your head down and your dreams small.

But what if those perceived weaknesses were actually your biggest source of strength? What if the qualities that seem provocative are really your superpowers? That’s what Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger think, and in their book RARE BREED: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different, they make the case that the world’s oddballs, mavericks and troublemakers are often its creative geniuses and change agents.

As founders of leadership and brand consultancy, Motto, that has worked with brands including Virgin, Google, Microsoft, Hershey’s and Twentieth Century Fox, Bonnell and Hansberger put forward that such weaknesses should be celebrated, and that entrepreneurial geniuses tend to be the ones who don’t fit in and aren’t afraid to stand up and speak their minds.

Bonnell and Hansberger call these people Rare Breeds. The duo says that thinking with a rare breed mindset enables entrepreneurs to demand more of themselves, their careers, and their companies. I interviewed Bonnell about the seven rare breed virtues often considered vices.

Rebellious

The rebellious kids in school often found themselves in detention. They were reprimanded for disturbing others, labelled as difficult and their prospects were limited because they couldn’t sit still, be quiet or follow instructions. In business, however, a rebellious streak can be a huge advantage.

“Rebel leaders have zero tolerance for ‘we’ve always done it this way’ thinking,” explained Bonnell. “They push against authority, precedent, and tradition. They hurl themselves against the walls of business-as-usual to see what breaks and they hold the key to innovation.” Rebels question and test with no regard for ego, leading to the breakthroughs that others miss.

Audacious

Cheeky, cocky, above their station. Audacity can be synonymous with arrogance, not an endearing trait for winning friends and influencing people. But Bonnell says it’s a key tool in the entrepreneur’s toolbox, held by rare breeds, who are “brimming over with nerve and audacity.”

This unashamed audacity means they “see realities other people can’t see. They have the sense that they have capabilities others lack and they’ll gleefully dare the impossible, especially if you tell them it’s impossible.” Daring to attempt the impossible is what separates those who create the future from those who are surprised by it.

Obsessed

Not only is obsessed a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated, but the term is also synonymous with entrepreneurs who go on to be successful. Obsession is a badge of honour they wear with pride, not something to be embarrassed by.

According to Bonnell, obsessed rare breed entrepreneurs “are the ones all-in, always on, 24/7” and it shows in everything they do, whether it’s “practicing pitch lines in the shower, scribbling equations on the walls of the shower, or agonizing over punctuation.” This obsession, over time, leads to greatness.

Hot-blooded

Villains in movies are hot-blooded. The phrase is usually associated with violence, anger and a lack of control. But for rare breed entrepreneurs, explains Bonnell, this trait can work in their favour. Hot blooded individuals have “passions that run so deep nothing else matters. They’re activists, champions, avengers, and people you don’t want to cross.”

No one sleepwalked their way to changing the world. No one passively made a huge difference. No one reached new heights with zero effort. Hot-bloodedness, a hunger for more and being raring to go, when channelled in the right way, can be a resounding advantage. How are you using your drive?

Weird

Throughout schooling, being labelled as weird was social suicide. Weird was not the goal, mainstream was. Popular, universally liked, with plenty of friends. Weirdness meant eating alone, being picked last and having no date for prom.

In entrepreneurship, however, weird is desirable. According to Bonnell, weird rare breeds are often “unapologetic oddballs who hang out at maker fairs and comic cons. They see the world from odd angles and through strange filters, they think around corners and make ridiculous intuitive leaps.” They don’t care about fitting in and being normal, they feel lonely in crowds but at home with fellow geeks. Geeky and weird are the new cool, but not all are confident enough to embrace their quirks.

Hypnotic

Intense and severe with a penetrating gaze sounds more like a scary headmaster than an inspirational entrepreneur. Whilst leaders might wish to seem relaxed, friendly and in touch with reality, the best can apply their hypnotic charm.

Many great entrepreneurs were said to be hypnotic in their approach. Steve Jobs had his “reality distortion field,” which convinced his team to achieve the impossible on many occasions. Whilst this can be interpreted as manipulative, it wasn’t intentional.

His unwavering passion made hypnosis inevitable. Bonnell said hypnotic rare breed entrepreneurs often have “disconcerting levels of charisma” and “find it easy to sway and spellbind others up to—and sometimes, beyond—the point of manipulation.” Leaning into your hypnotic powers might bring your team to your level of certainty in your cause.

Emotional

Emotional, in business, has connotations of irrational and unreasonable. If you argue with your heart, you lose your head. Remaining cool, calm and collected in the boardroom is seen as desirable. Losing your temper, crying at work or being affected by news are weaknesses to be strengthened.

Bonnell puts forward that wearing their heart on their sleeve could be an entrepreneur’s hidden strength. Leaders who “weep at everyone’s pain but also find joy in the small things” might unlock new ways of amassing a tribe, inspiring a team and creating a culture of openness. Emotion, empathy and vulnerability could be the source of leaps forward in your business.

Navigating your notorious personality traits can lead to incredible breakthroughs and triumphs in business and in life. Reframing your weaknesses as strengths might be the source of unlimited success and the happiness you didn’t know was possible.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I founded a digital agency in 2011 that was acquired in 2021 and write books and articles on entrepreneurship. Books include Daily Me, Stop Acting Like You’re Going to Live

Source: The 7 Weaknesses That Could Be An Entrepreneur’s Hidden Strengths

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More contents:

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How to Reduce Tech-Related Stress for Customers and Employees

How to Reduce Tech-Related Stress for Customers and Employees

Your ability to become a successful company of the future depends on developing a cultural mindset that is focused on creating value for the people inside and outside the organization. The myth that technology drives digital transformation has been an ongoing fairy tale because while technology is an important factor, there is another element to the equation that creates a strong dependency on the first — the people.

Technology in most ways has a positive effect on business operations, especially in the automation of admin processes that come with communication with customers. While artificial intelligence is getting to know your customers by analyzing their wants and needs, it also means collecting huge amounts of customer insights. Some other digital tools such as chatbots are being used to interact with customers instead of a customer service agent and in some exceptional cases, this works just fine.

The belief that these digital tools can improve customer engagement like a miracle is just an illusion however, despite offering an effective and efficient way to speak to large audiences. The reality is that these technologies are greatly designed to replicate some sort of friendliness but are simply not able to offer the much-needed level of human connection customers need.

Covid-19 has been a wake-up call for businesses and has aggressively fast forwarded digital adoptions in working practices that most companies were not ready to take on. They were forced to send employees home who had to deal with the implementation and usage of new digital tools, something that should have progressively happened years ago.

According to research carried out by Mckinsey, it would have taken businesses more than a year to implement the level of remote working that was enforced as a result of the crisis. Despite the advantages of the nature of these digital technologies, the sudden change led to huge gaps of acceptance among the workforce and this is because employees have different needs, challenges and technical proficiency.

Employees and customers are often slow to adapt to new ways of doing things so now it’s time to ask yourself: What can I do to reduce the tech stress of my customers and employees and make their lives easier? I suggest two main things to consider:

1. Focus on the people.

Digitalization has many different positive aspects, but the more digital your business becomes the less human touch it can provide. Customers today expect more human interactions and less automated interactions. The role of new tech should make the life of your employees easier and ultimately highly complement their tasks so that they can focus on the emotional side of customer relationships.

The rush for easily monetizable consumer automated interactions makes it clear for customers that a brand is not authentically engaging with them. A Harvard Business Review study shows that companies are becoming increasingly impersonal by automating as many customer touchpoints as possible. In a highly digitalised world the human factor in customer experience gives your business a distinct competitive edge. The latest technology gets prioritised too often over authentic customer engagement.

First and foremost you should create an authentic and trusted customer relationship and then with the consent of your customers, use the technology available (predictive analytics and machine learning) to personalise the interactions with them. Not the other way around.

2. Reassess your digital initiatives.

As you’ve been experimenting with a huge number of virtual operations and interactions since before the pandemic started, you now have the opportunity to assess which technologies are extremely needed and which are not. The world of business is changing, some things will go back to previous ways, while others will remain changed forever.

You might think that using many different business tools to automate and improve processes will skyrocket productivity. However, switching between too many apps has some side effects such as lower productivity, higher costs and lack of collaboration in teams, to name a few. Developing a digital state of mind requires you to engage, educate and provide continuous support to your employees.

Low employee stress levels and making sure their experience remains positive throughout are as important as deciding which new technology to adopt. Digital transformation should have your people at the core because your people will be those who will make a successful transformation happen.

As I’m writing my book on customer-centricity, I find it imperative that companies find the right balance between the use of technology and human interactions. The challenge of the future is not whether artificial intelligence will replace people’s jobs but rather how to create a business culture in which technology and employees are able to walk hand-in-hand to provide human-driven customer experiences.

Ilenia Vidili

 

By: Ilenia Vidili / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

 

Source: How to Reduce Tech-Related Stress for Customers and Employees

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Anxiety In Product Development

Last year I stumbled across an article about anxiety in men. It highlighted how it can surface in atypical symptoms such as anger. I learned to recognise and work on my own anxiety. It also lead me to recognise anxiety in others. Soon I realised this does not only affect other people but also organisations and processes. Let me introduce you to anxiety driven development.

We already have fear driven development

Fear and anxiety produce similar responses. Fear is based on a concrete threat. Whereas anxiety is fuzzier and more vague. Fear driven development is graspable which makes it easier to talk about it.

As an engineer it could look like this: You’re afraid of pushing your code because you could break the build. Or you shy away of touching a method because you fear shipping a bug.

If you are a product manager you might try to squeeze that extra feature into a release because you fear that you won’t be able to close a new customer otherwise.

Patterns of anxiety in product development

But anxiety runs deeper than this. Anxiety becomes more of an underlying current. Here are the most common anxiety driven development patterns I have observed,

Play not to lose

Your product is driven by the fear of losing. Losing market share, customers or ratings. You are driven to keep up with whatever the competition does. So you go out of your way to get every feature built that your competitors ship.

As a product manager you might push a feature request to the top of the backlog with every release announcements of your competitors. You can even call that agile because you’re adapting to change quickly, right? Unfortunately what you’re doing is destabilising your development flow and hinder the long term success of your product. You will always be at least one step behind, always trying to close the gap. This will choke all innovation because who has time to take additional risks when you’re barely keeping pace?

Play to win

Play to win instead. The treatment for this form of anxiety is to develop a strong unique selling proposition (USP). If you can differentiate yourself from your competition you will not be reeled into the fruitless thought pattern of playing not to lose. Do not try to differentiate yourself by price alone. This is a very weak USP, just waiting for the next competitor to undercut you, speeding up the race to the bottom. Also it creates almost no customer loyality.

All that glitters is not gold

If you’re anxious your business is falling behind but you can’t quite pinpoint why you will act in a continued state of emergency. You will chase quick wins. This might calm the the anxiety for a moment but it won’t last long. It’s possible to make a team stay late or rally the whole company behind you for an initiative. Once. But the more often you cry wolf the less likely it is you get the desired response. If your body is being continuously flooded with stress hormones it will render it incapable of responding to stressful situations adequately. The same goes for your organisation.

If you push your team every quarter to add a last minute feature for the opportunity of a featuring in a prominent partner store your team will anticipate this and instead already create buffers beforehand. The emergency response will create a fatigue which will appear in the form of demotivation, inflated estimates and non-commitment. All of this hurts the true output, fuelling your anxiety even more.

Steering the ship

To break out of such a vicious circle practice saying no. Take a step back and craft an inspiring, authentic vision. Let this vision influence an actionable strategy. You can then break your strategy down into a rolling wave plan with more details of the near future. This gives you clarity on the current work while not losing the bigger picture. Ultimately you will be less swayed to jump onto every potential quick win.

Permit A 38

Anxiety can make you feel out of control. What’s a natural response to this? You try everything to regain control. But that perceived control can in truth be an overly bureaucratic process which slows down your product development, once again feeding your anxiety.

How could that look like? You might be creating or working on tickets that resemble a full-blown requirements sheet, specified to the very last detail. At the same time every idea has to go through various stages of approval (until it’s rejected). This is extremely damaging for motivation.

Cutting the red tape

To get out of such anxiety driven behaviours you need trust. Trust your own market research and strategy. And most of all trust your team. Empower the team to be the experts to achieve the product’s vision and let them self organise.

Awareness is the first step

Anxiety is widespread and on the rise, not just during a pandemic. It would be naive to believe that this does not also affect your workplace. Anxiety driven product development is hard to crack because it sustains itself. Take a step back and reflect on what you’re doing to break out of this Catch-22. Once you recognise your destructive behaviours it is much easier to change them.

Other articles:

  1. What’s wrong with traditional product ownership – Part 1 of 3
  2. Good intentions make bad roadmaps
  3. 5 steps to craft a vision for an established team
  4. Crafting a lean roadmap

By: andre.schweighofer

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Philip VanDusen

The number of people afflicted with anxiety has been steadily growing in recent years. For solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, creative professionals and consultants who work for themselves the negative affects of anxiety can be particularly acute. Here are some effective methods for reducing these emotional and psychological strains that can help you feel happier, more fulfilled and successful in your work and your business. _______________________ This video is targeted to my channel’s audience of entrepreneurs, designers, creative professionals and anyone interested in brand strategy, business planning, design, trend, marketing and communications. Philip VanDusen is the owner of Verhaal Brand Design, a brand strategy and design agency. Philip is a highly accomplished creative executive and expert in brand strategy, graphic design, marketing and creative management. Philip gives design, branding, marketing, career and business advice to creative professionals, entrepreneurs and companies on how to build successful brands for themselves or for the clients they serve. ——————————— WEBSITE: http://www.philipvandusen.com​ JOIN THE BRAND•MUSE NEWSLETTER: http://www.philipvandusen.com/muse​ FREE MINI-EBOOK DOWNLOAD: “9 Design Elements Your Brand Absolutely, Positively Needs” http://www.philipvandusen.com/direct-…​ TWITTER: https://twitter.com/philipvandusen​ YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/c/PhilipVanDusen​ PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/philipvandu…​ LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Verhaal-Bran…​ GET TUBEBUDDY – THE BEST TOOL FOR YOUTUBERS: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ RECOMMENDED BOOKS: “Change By Design”, Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2mTFDrz​ “Imagine: How Creativity Works”, Jonah Lehrer http://amzn.to/2mJpQe9​ “Free Agent Nation” by Daniel Pink http://amzn.to/2mWlbpR​ “Orbiting the Giant Hairball” by Gordon MacKenzie http://amzn.to/2noTnIL​ “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work” by Kevin Carroll http://amzn.to/2moisCu​ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Al Ries + Laura Ries http://amzn.to/2noZGwd​ “Change By Design”, by Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2uaXYjX​ “How To” by Michael Beirut http://amzn.to/2u9lnnh​ “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier http://amzn.to/2CAbYZk​ “Good Design Is A Tough Job” by Kirsten Dietz, Jochen Rädeker http://amzn.to/2CAIH0r​ “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley http://amzn.to/2wtAevL​ “The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands That Lead” by Allen Adamson http://amzn.to/2Ef6fse​ “Art + Design” by Rex Ray http://amzn.to/2yLMRRT​ “Expert Secrets” by Russel Brunson http://amzn.to/2zEDOBT​ “Shift Ahead” by Allen Adamson + Joel Steckel – http://amzn.to/2xLrEX4​ MY GEAR: Canon EOS 80D DLSR Camera: http://amzn.to/2nn4y4q​ Canon EOS 80D 18-55mm kit lens: http://amzn.to/2mnAAws​ Canon EOS 80D Yongnuo 35mm lens: http://amzn.to/2nniETh​ RODE NT2000 Condenser Mic: http://amzn.to/2mFoNvG​ Shure SM58 Dynamic Mic https://amzn.to/2B4CQkT​ ART Tube MP: Tube Mic PreAmp: http://amzn.to/2mFoVeE​ Rode Mic Boom: http://amzn.to/2nxNFmJ​ Sony MDR 7506 Headphones: http://amzn.to/2mFpsxa​ Screenflow 6.2: video editing software: http://amzn.to/2nxFLK3​ Neewer 2 Packs Dimmable Bi-color 480 LED Video Light http://amzn.to/2Cz8INK​ Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920: http://amzn.to/2nmX4hZ​ Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone: http://amzn.to/2n2xL7B​ HP 27er 27-in IPS LED Backlit Monitor http://amzn.to/2w29u1S​ Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse http://amzn.to/2iZHKts​ TubeBuddy: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ Adobe Creative Suite (2019 CC)

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6 Natural Remedies for When You’re Stressed About Work or Life

Let’s be honest: This is a tough time to be a business owner. Since March, the world has turned upside down. Your office is likely closed, revenue is disrupted if not massively down, business travel is mostly non-existent, keeping workers on staff is an issue, the future is uncertain — and let’s not even get started with the SBA Payroll Protection Program and other stimulus measures.

If stress is getting the best of you, here are six natural remedies that might help. As always, do your research and talk to your doctors about introducing supplements. 

1. Rhodiola Rosea

You may not have heard about this herb, but rhodiola rosea has been used by people in Scandinavia, Russia and China for years as a way to reduce fatigue and boost energy. Research has shown that among its other effects, rhodiola rosea boosts the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that slows down our mental and physical processes. 

For most people who use it, this herb helps combat anxiety nicely. But it isn’t for everyone; some people actually report the opposite effect, with it increasing anxiety and irritability.When you give it a try, monitor your moods closely and ask those you live with to do the same. 

2. L-Theanine

One reason that some people drink tea is because it reportedly gives a boost without the buzz and anxiety that sometimes comes with drinking coffee. They can thank L-theanine for that, a compound in many teas that promotes focus and calmness. Studies have shown that L-theanine does more than just reduce anxiety, too; it seems to improve verbal fluency, executive function and sleep.

Tea is a common way to get a little L-theanine in your diet to reduce stress. But if you’re not a tea drinker — or like a bit too much sugar in your tea like me — you also can get this compound in supplement form.

3. CBD oil

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is getting a lot of attention lately. Part of that attention comes from the fact that CBD is a natural extract from cannabis, the same plant that produces marijuana. Most of the attention, however, comes from the fact that this non-hallucinogenic part of the cannabis plant has a load of health benefits — including anxiety relief.

CBD targets the endocannabinoid system, the part of the body that is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and exhilaration after a strenuous workout. So just like a runner’s high, CBD brings a sustained calmness and focus that can be a major counterbalance to stress.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Best yet, you can get this stress reliever in gummy bear form. “We sell CBD oil in a variety of forms, but the gummy bears might be the most popular,” laughs David Levitt, co-founder of CBD gummy maker bioMD+.

4.Omega-3 fatty acids

Your brain is very susceptible to inflammation, which causes anxiety and stress. One of the main drivers of inflammation are omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in cheap vegetable oils and refined carbs. A natural way to offset this is by consuming omega-3 fatty acids, which act as an anti-inflammatory agent in your brain and counteract the effects of omega-6 fatty acids. 

Omega-3s are naturally present in fish oil, so if you need a break from the stress of running a business right now, consider upping the amount of mackerel, salmon, herring or oysters you consume. If you want to avoid fish breath, consider adding omega-3 oil as a supplement. Make sure you get omega-3 supplements that come from fish oil, however, not vegetable sources. Although vegetable-based omega-3 supplements do work and are an option for vegetarians and vegans, a Harvard study showed that they aren’t nearly as effective as the fish-based variety.

5. Essential oils

Because you’re likely now working from home, another method to try for reducing anxiety is the use of essential oils while you work. There’s an entire industry built around using aromas and essential oils to relax and cut down on stress.

If you’re overwhelmed by the selection of oils out there, focus on lavender, chamomile and cedar wood, all of which are known to reduce heart rate, ease tension in the body, promote relaxation and improve sleep. You can smell these oils, burn them, diffuse them or even dab them on your skin when your stress levels start to feel like they’re getting a bit high.

6. Vitamin D

D is for de-stressing. As humans, we’ve evolved to expect a lot of sunlight. But when we work inside, we often suffer from a vitamin D deficiency that can lead to anxiety and stress. Turns out the stress you’ve been feeling the past few months might have to do with spending too much time indoors, not just the current state of the world. 

Vitamin D supplements can help, but there is some research that suggests they might not work as well as you think. A better way to get more vitamin D is the old-fashioned habit of going outside and taking a walk. You not only get a little exercise, which helps with anxiety, but also exposure to those valuable sun rays that naturally give you the vitamin D your body craves. 

You can’t really get rid of the stress from running a business during these times, but you can manage your anxiety with natural remedies. So carry on, but don’t forget to handle your stress.

Jt Ripton Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

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What Parents Need To Know About Eating Disorders In The Time Of Covid-19

In July of 2020, a new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) confirmed what many already knew: Covid-19 has contributed to a mental and behavioral health crisis. With one in four parents reporting worsening mental health, and one in seven reporting an increase in behavioral challenges for their children, this is not an isolated problem.

Families everywhere are struggling right now.

But while the study focused on families with young children, in particular, additional research has pointed to the vulnerabilities adolescents are facing right now. To include an increase in post-traumatic stress, depressive and anxiety disorders.

All of which can also be associated with an increase in eating disorder behaviors.  

The Mental Health Impact on Adolescents

Hina J. Talib, MD, is a board-certified adolescent medicine specialist known for her popular Instagram page, TeenHealthDoc. She says that one of the things she has noticed since the pandemic began is teenagers experiencing a flare in previously identified mental health conditions as well as the presentation of new mental health conditions.

“In teen health, we are calling this the second-wave of the Covid-19 crisis, and it has already arrived,” Talib recently told Forbes.

She said there are a variety of circumstances contributing to this, to include the loneliness and isolation teenagers are reporting as a result of physical distancing and stay-at-home measures.

“During this time of back-to-school, anticipatory anxiety is running high for students, teachers and families. Teens, especially pre-teens, absorb this stress.”

The Risks Teenagers Face

While we don’t yet have any data connecting an increase in eating disorders to Covid-19, experts believe there is reason to be concerned.

“Eating disorders can be triggered by an attempt to gain control,” Anna M. Lutz, MPH, RD, LDN, explained. Lutz is a certified eating disorder registered dietician who co-owns a private practice in Raleigh, NC.

“Right now, all of us, but especially children, have very little control in what we can do,” Lutz said. “Sports seasons, academics as we know them, spring break trips, summer camps and important time with friends have all been canceled—all things that are very important in the lives of teens.”

She said that focusing on weight, exercise and what one allows themselves to eat can be a way of gaining control, particularly in situations where an individual may otherwise feel out of control.

As is the case for so many in the face of our current pandemic.

“Also, there has been a lot of media focus on the potential for weight gain during the Covid–19 pandemic,” Lutz explained. “This message has been directed towards children and can trigger a teen being over-controlled or restrictive with their food.”

While unhealthy, Lutz said that eating disorder behaviors can be coping tools in times of trauma and stress.

“Many people with eating disorders have a history of trauma and the current pandemic situation can trigger this trauma. Isolation, food insecurity (real or perceived), increased time with a family member who may be abusive, grief for what is being lost/missed, and fear about getting sick or your family not having enough money can all trigger an increase in eating disorder symptoms.”

Monitoring Your Teen

All families should be aware of the increased potential for mental health struggles right now, keeping an eye on their young children and teens especially. But for parents concerned about potential eating disorder behavior, Lutz said the following can be signs to look out for:

·     Eating in secret

·     Suddenly eating differently from the rest of the family

·     Becoming extremely focused on exercise

·     Refusing to take time off exercising, even when injured or sick

·     Leaving large amounts of food uneaten

·     Self-isolating

·     Losing weight.

“These are all reasons to be concerned,” Lutz explained. “Children are supposed to be gaining weight and weight loss in children and teens needs to be further assessed.”

Talib said some things your child may be communicating can be indications of a problem as well.

You might hear a teen (or, as Talib thinks of it, the eating disorder itself) say things like:

·     “I am so fat.”

·     “If I gain weight I will be disgusting.”

·     ”My stomach is huge.”

·     “I will do an extra 200 crunches tonight.”

·     “I can say no to unhealthy food even though you can’t.”

All of these should be red flags to parents right now, and anytime really.

Addressing Concerning Behaviors

If you are worried your teenager may be exhibiting eating disorder behaviors, Lutz suggested talking to them first.

“Outside of a meal time or a time when food is around, explain to them what you have been noticing and why you are concerned.”

It’s important to give adolescents a chance to reflect on their behaviors and open up about what they may be going through in a non-judgmental way. Simply let your child know you are concerned and give them a chance to respond.

Keep in mind, plenty of teenagers will try to hide their eating disorder, even when confronted. So don’t necessarily take “nothing’s wrong” as an answer. Pay attention to your child’s body language, reaction, and your own gut feeling and go from there.

“Eating disorders are great at hiding,” Talib said. “If you suspect an eating disorder or disordered eating from anxiety or depression, it is possible it has already been present for some time and it is helpful to find an experienced care team as soon as possible.”

Now is not the time to wait, she explained. “I see so many families who have lost time due to delays in access.”

But she also wants parents to ensure they are getting their children the right kind of help. Which is why she believes they should be empowered to ask providers the following questions:

·     “How many eating disorder cases do you manage here at this practice?”

·     “How confident are you in your diagnosis?”

·     “Do you have a network of therapists, psychiatrists and dieticians that you refer to and how is your family feedback on these referrals?”

·     “If our teen needs more care than we can provide at home, what are you usual next steps in this city?”

“Do not shy away from asking where the nearest specialty care center is and for your doctor to help get you there,” Talib said. “It is not uncommon to have to travel a bit to see an eating disorder team with expertise in adolescents. However the Covid–19 pandemic opening the gates of tele-health has helped this.”

Available Resources

Talib said that parents who are concerned should start by having a conversation with their child’s pediatrician. “Even better, find an adolescent medicine specialist or physician team that is experienced with adolescent eating disorders.”

She suggested looking to AdolescentHealth.org for the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine’s list or The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) helpline (800.931.2237) if you’re having a difficult time finding a provider.

While Talib said it is always best to start with an evaluation by a professional, particularly because each situation is unique and may require tailored advice and treatment, the following resources can be helpful for families trying to better understand what they are dealing with:

·     Nationaleatingdisorders.org

·     Maudsleyparents.org

·     Feast-ed.org

·     Aedweb.org

·     Anad.org

If you’re worried about your child, it’s important to know there is help available. But ignoring eating disorder behavior does not make it go away. Now is the time to act. So if you’re concerned, pick up the phone and call your child’s pediatrician today.

It’s the first step to ensuring your teen will be able to have a healthy tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here

Leah Campbell

Leah Campbell

I’ve been working as a full-time parenting and health writer for over seven years. As a single mom by choice with a chronic health condition, parenting a child with a chronic health condition, I am passionate about ensuring all families have the health coverage they need.

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