Silently says to self…
“Why can’t I ever catch a break!”
“This is stressful!”
“Why is there always so much to do, it’s so overwhelming!”
“Crap, what if I mess it up?!”
“I have to get this right!”
“Is there something wrong with me?”
We have anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day, and MY OH MY do these thoughts know how to influence how we experience life.
Like: how we interact with friends, intimacy with a partner, how we perceive our boss and treat colleagues or strangers.
More than anything and anyone else though, your thoughts impact you. They impact how you view your worth, your success, your failures, your strengths and your weaknesses. They directly impact how you feel… and when there are thousands of thoughts passing through your mind like the ones opening this article, it’s hard not to feel stressed out and worried.
Often times, people feel out of control of their thoughts. With the more recent mindfulness movement, there is a lot of talk about “controlling” our thoughts. The twist with the logic of controlling one’s thoughts to feel better, is that trying to control all of your thoughts will, without a doubt, create a tug of war in your mind and lead you to feel worse.
I love mindfulness; I practice it daily. However, mindfulness is not about controlling all of your thoughts. Mindfulness is about acceptance and intentional focus of attention.
Too many people get wrapped up in trying to control their thoughts, and they wind up coming to me with even more worry, resentment, stress and anxiety.
There’s no shame in this attempt to control. I, for sure, have done the same thing before! The thing is, these attempts to control are amassing in our world, and it’s all adding to our stress, our worries, our overwhelm…
Have you noticed?
We are raised in a society where outcomes are cherished more than the journey, where (impossible) perfection is strived for at the expense of perseverance being rewarded, where standardization is used as a measurement for inappropriate standards, where immediate gratification has nullified patience, and where facades of ourselves are plastered for the world to see on social media, as our avatar-selves interact while our human anxieties and loneliness grows on the other side of the screen.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful upsides to social media. For example, as I’ve grown my coaching business in the online realm, I’ve developed amazing friendships with people from other countries, that I would not have gotten a chance to know otherwise. However, even those I’ve met in other countries are faced with the challenge of presenting oneself online, while struggling emotionally, feeling overly stressed and fearing failure.
We are all more stressed, more worried, more overwhelmed and more burnt out…
What is both interesting and startling, is that approximately 85% of what we spend our time and energy worrying about, does not actually happen.
Let that sink in a moment.
Consider the time, effort and energy you’ve spent worrying, even just within the past week. Consider the amount of money you spent trying to numb that worry, with food, drinks, distractions, etc… only to have the worry come back compounded.
What about what happens when the worries get compounded?
Typically, self-doubt, the inner critic, resentment, procrastination and disconnect all get amped up. Opportunities for joy and feel good moments get missed because people get too preoccupied with being stuck in their heads, rather than living in their lives.
This is especially true for the deeply caring, ambitious folks.
All too often they convince themselves that they have to check all the conventional checkboxes off, in order to actually be the non-selfish, successful, competent, strong person they pride themselves on appearing to be. I know I’ve done it myself.
There’s this belief that if we just achieve all of the “shoulds” and do everything as perfectly as possible, working our buttsoff no matter what… that the stress will eventually go away, the need to achieve will dissipate, and one magical day we’d be successful, happy and stop having to work so hard all the damn time.
The truth is that this is NOT how it works.
Focusing on checking off all the conventional checkboxes, trying to present yourself perfectly, or constantly hustling- it just puts you (like it put me) and countless others, in a position to stress more. There will always be something more to do, and that constant stress keeps people worrying about that 85% of the stuff that never actually happens in our lives.
Overwhelm turns into over-judge:
Over judging yourself.
Feeling over-judged by others.
And then feeling really crappy about all the over-judging that’s going on, perpetuating a cycle of continued worry, shame and resentment.
As uncomfortable as it is to live in this high pressure, constant worry environment, there is fear about NOT living in it too!
There is fear about “being different” by stepping away from the focus on checking off the “success” checkboxes.
There is fear about being rejected or judged.
There is fear about failing.
There is fear about deciding to do it and than having to find an expert that’s actually trust-worthy and effective.
There is fear about committing time, effort and money into the intangibles that are so often avoided, like your mental, emotional and relational wellness… since by and large our society values the tangible with such high regard.
These fears can keep people paralyzed, even when the truth is that they’re spending more time, effort and money trying to silence or avoid the worry, stress and overwhelm, than the amount of time, effort and money it would cost to actually address the chronic stress head on.
I used to be in that boat.
I would buy comfort food, coffee or movies to try to avoid experiencing or dealing with the ick-feelings.
I’d invest large sums of money in more credentials, professional development, and further degrees, to ease the “not good enough”, “imposter syndrome”, “something to prove” types of thoughts.
While I don’t regret my decisions, because I’ve learned so much from my life experiences, the reality is that buying into the conventional “shoulds” of “success”, despite my not feeling aligned with them, had pervasively impacted every.single.aspect.of.my.life.
My worries grew…
…And this is what I’ve seen happening with so many others as well.
So what do you do about it, you ask?
I largely teach the opposite of what conventional wisdom often has us believe; the contrary of how many people in our society tend to be raised.
I’ve created a graphic for you
The key is to practice what brings joy rather than what enhances stress, without beating yourself up when you notice old habits wanting to creep in.
I know these aren’t easy shifts to make, but it’s very possible and it’s necessary in order to more fully enjoy a life not consumed by worry, stress and doubt.
Instead of trying to figure out who you “should” be, explore and claim your authentic self.
You absolutely can be aware of conditions and experience your emotions, without obsessing over them or being enveloped by them. You’ve likely developed habits that support an enhanced stress lifestyle; that’s okay. It just means you need to create different habits.
If you’ve already tried making these shifts on your own and it has not worked, that just means you’ll benefit from expert guidance and quality support to compassionately guide you from your current lifestyle to a more joyful and balanced one.
If you’re living in chronic stress, worry or overwhelm, therapy or wellness coaching may be the support you need to help you shift to more enjoyment and wellness in life.
Wishing you wellness,
Dr. Toni Warner, LCSW, MSW, MeD, is a transformational life & wellness coach for the ambitious seeking balance and a licensed psychotherapist in Pennsylvania. Dr. Toni is the founder of Dr. Toni Coaches, LLC, a coaching and consulting business. It’s mission is to inspire and enact positive change in the world by helping heart-centered impact makers and leaders to create balance, allowing them to more deeply and meaningfully live, love, connect and share their gifts, enhancing the lives of others. She is also the founder of Authentically Me Psychotherapy, LLC, where she supports high achieving and creative individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, burn out and disconnection, to get in touch with their core selves so they can live more fully and authentically aligned lives.
***Please note that coaching and therapy are not one in the same; they are separate services and the above mentioned are separate business entities. If you are unsure which service best fits your needs, simply reach out and ask: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.