Stepping Back: The Key to Self-Care

There are millions of articles and blog-posts telling us the signs of stress, how to know when your stressed, and why we are often stressed. We get it. We are stressed. We live in a stressful world, with stressful stuff, and we’ve learned to cope and deal with stress by accepting our stressful lifestyles are never going to be less stressful and by learning to survive in our swamp of stress.We drink lots of coffee to help with this, occasionally get a full 6 and a half hours of sleep, and if we’re lucky, we manage to eat 3 healthy meals in the same day.

*Raise your hand if this is you*

Basically, in today’s world, Life = Stress. We feel you…. There is just no way around the stress in the world, and guess what…. it’s probably not going to get better. The world we live in is probably not going to become less stressful. So instead of accepting defeat and allowing stress to rule over the kingdom of our lives, it’s time to take a stand by stepping back.

The Moment I Stepped Back 

I had woken up super groggy, didn’t have a good sleep, and was nursing a migraine. I missed breakfast, was already late for work, and I was definitely not feeling like a superstar that day. I was alone in the car driving to work when the thoughts came rushing in:

Are you happy with your life? What are you even doing? Is this really what you want? Why are you waiting to have children so that you can teach them how to live? Why not just listen to yourself? It’s not too late, you know? Are you really living a life worth living? Does your lifestyle promote any source of usefulness to the world and those living in it? Are you using that college degree you worked for? Are you making the “difference” you wanted to make in the world? Do you really matter? If your life is so stressful, then why do you feel unaccomplished? Why do you feel useless? Wait… are you useless? No? Then, what are you doing? Why are thinking these things? BAM!

After the thoughts rushed in (as they like to do when I’m least expecting them and totally not in the mood to deal with them) I had a moment with myself. I stepped back and said, “Whoa, wait a minute.”

Sidebar: I don’t know if me taking this moment is related to 7 years of studying psychology and human behavior, or if it was truly a natural thing that we all do. Sometimes, I forget to step back, and it can lead to a bit of anxiety. Most of the time though, I manage to get my thoughts to just knock it off. I take it in stride and face them with an “I’m in charge here!” mentality. (Try it… Just push your thoughts around sometimes. It feels good.)

Anyways going back to my moment, I stepped back. I got myself out of my head, and I kinda looked myself in the face. I recognized what was happening, that my thoughts were overtaking my mind, and I acknowledged that only about half of these thoughts are relevant. I started going through them 1 by 1 and picking off the ones that I’ve already answered. Then, the questions that needed more attention, I dealt with them.

It’s not always easy to step back, and this is why 40 million adults in America are dealing with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders. This is probably why  more than 1 in 10 adults between the ages of 18-44 are taking anti-depressants. This is why we, as a community, are completely falling apart. We simply are not taking care of ourselves. That is the one thing in our life that is 100% our responsibility. We care for so many other things that we can’t control and are not responsible for, but we fail to take care of ourselves.

I want to encourage you to STEP BACK when your thoughts rush in. Visualize yourself, stepping out of your head and taking control. Maybe in your visualization, you want to hug yourself a little. Do it, no one’s watching… Maybe you want to kick yourself in the butt… That’s okay too. In the end, refocus and center yourself. Deal with the thoughts that are relevant and dismiss the ones that are not.


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