This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 299.
Welcome back, everybody. 299, wow. That is amazing. I am so excited. I don’t know what it is about the word 99 that just makes me so joyful.
One of my favorite episodes is actually number 99, which was the only episode and the only time where I actually have a full conversation with my husband on the podcast, and we talked all about agoraphobia and panic disorder specifically related to flying. So, if you want to hear me and my husband have a good conversation about his experience, that was one of my favorite episodes of all time.
But here we are, Episode 299, 200 episodes later, and we’re still going strong. No need to slow down. If anything, let’s speed it up a little. Shall we?
Before we get started on this week’s episode, I am going to do the two segments that we do every week. First, I want to give you a little bit of a peek into where we’re going today. So, what we’re talking about is a question I get all the time, particularly when I’m talking about having a chronic illness. Specifically for those of you who have a chronic illness and have a mental illness as well, but also, this could be just for anyone because this is a human problem, this is not a mental health problem.
We’re talking about balancing exhaustion and when you have to “push through” and what do you choose? This has been a huge part of the work for me in my recovery from having postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I feel like I’ve nailed this. To be honest, this is an area that I have learned very, very well, and it has saved my life literally in terms of I would be crashing and burning with tears and a major tantrum if it weren’t for my ability to balance, rest and push through. So, let’s talk about that in a second.
First of all, we’re going to do the review of the week. This is from Carsoccer27, and they say:
“There are a lot of things that this podcast has helped me with. It’s a great toolbox in many of my anxiety triggers. I never knew where to start to help my anxiety. This podcast has helped me find my starting place and has helped me find my self-identity. Highly recommended!”
Thank you, Carsoccer27. What a beautiful thing to say. To be honest, for someone to say that I’ve helped them find their self-identity, that is an amazing compliment. That sounds amazing to me. So, I’m so happy I’ve been able to walk along you in the journey of that. That’s just so cool.
Okay. We now have an “I did a hard thing” from Anonymous. Anonymous said:
“I did an exposure exercise. I get anxiety when I’m around people. So, it was hard for me to get groceries at the store, but I conquered my fear and got the groceries. And another important one is that I graduated college dealing with what I deal with.”
Anonymous, I love this. What I love about this the most is you talk about your struggle to get the groceries while also adding graduating college. Two massive things. Two major accomplishments. And I’m so grateful for you that you shared that because I think some people have said to me like, “Groceries, everybody’s getting the groceries. I should be able to do that.” But I love that you’re celebrating how hard that was for you. We all need to do a better job of celebrating when we face a hard thing, whether bigger and small.
Okay. So, let’s get into the episode. All right. Thank you first for Carsoccer27 and Anonymous. Let’s talk about balancing this push and rest. This balance between push and rest. If you could listen to me right now, you could see me. I’m swaying back and forth like a teeter-totter or a seesaw. It is a balancing act.
So, let’s just get the truth out. Having a mental illness or a medical illness is the most exhausting thing, and people will not get it. They will not get it until they’ve been through it. They don’t understand the degree of exhaustion that you are experiencing. So, I first want to just straight up validate you. It’s okay that they don’t get it. It doesn’t mean that you’re not validated and that you aren’t as exhausted as you are, because you do have to go through it to get it. So, let’s just be real about that.
Now, even though you are exhausted, you still are going to have to have times in your life where you have to push through to get stuff done. Anonymous is a great example of this. They push through despite going through anxiety the whole time, just push through, got through college. But what we have to be careful of here is this push through mentality. I’m actually right now reading a book by Ed Mylett and it’s called Max Out Your Life. I personally love it. It’s so inspirational. And as I’m listening to it on Audible, I’m like, “Yeah, let’s max out our life.” It’s so empowering and I just want to flex my muscles until I’m like, “Wait.” The anxious workaholic in me and the perfectionist in me wants to take that literally. And in the past, I have where I’m like, “Yeah, let’s max out our life. Let’s just push through and just push and push and push.” And then as I’ve said to you in the intro, I collapse and everything goes into a big pile of mush.
So, this is where we call it balancing. It’s a great idea and yet, it’s so empowering to hear that. But it’s not healthy to take on a high percentage of push through mentality. So, if you’re hearing this on social media and you’re reading books about it, listen with a little bit of a skeptical ear. Because you are already exhausted, pushing through more is probably going to tip the scales so that the scales tip over and you don’t recover at all. You’re actually in big trouble.
What we want to do today is we actually want to really learn the art – again, I’m swinging back and forth now – the art of balancing, the push through, and then making sure there’s time to rest. So, you do a little bit of a push through, you get through the class or you get the groceries or you pick up your kids or you go to a dinner that you don’t want to go to that exhausts you. And then you balance that with rest.
Now what I mostly hear my clients say is, “But Kimberley, I shouldn’t need to rest for that one thing. Everybody else is fine. I shouldn’t need to rest.” And this is where I’ll often say-- I look at them dead in the eyes. So, imagine I’m looking you dead in the eyes right now and I’ll say, “But whether other people are exhausted or not, you are and you have to radically accept it and you have to listen to your body.” It’s completely not even a calculation we need to take into consideration on how other people are handling it. You are exhausted. That’s the fact. And so, we do need to balance this teeter-totter, this seesaw of you push a little and you rest a little, you push a lot and you rest a lot. There’ll be times where you push a little and you still have to rest a lot. And that is, you’re doing it. The way I think of it is, if I rest enough today, I’ll have more energy for tomorrow so I can push through a little tomorrow, because you do. When I say push through, I mean, just get the things you value done. I’m not saying go hard and max out when you’re already exhausted. I actually don’t think that’s super helpful. I’ve fallen into that trap way too many times.
The other thing here is, a lot of times, when we “push through,” meaning we have to. We have to show up for our kids and our partner and our boss and our parents and whatever, yourself. So, you’ve done that. And then when you go to rest, you look at Instagram and you watch some TV. There’s nothing wrong with going on Instagram and watching TV at all. I do it myself. But I want you to really just use this. Again, I love to ask questions. So, the question I’m going to ask you is, is that in fact restful? Does that actually fill your cup up, restore you? Because if you’re pushing through, you’re using up energy, you’re using up resources, you’re using up time, you’re using up your mental space. Does the resting that you’re doing actually restore you? If it’s no, I very much encourage you to take a look at what might be restorative for you.
Often people will say, “Nothing is restorative. Even when I rest, my anxiety is going through the roof.” And so, that’s where I would say, “Okay, if that’s the case, you may need to actually push through in terms of really double down with your treatment, really double down with your mindfulness, that’s the pushing through, so that you do learn how to rest.”
Often by the time a client comes to me or one of my staff, they’re already exhausted. They’re already depleted, because they’ve been trying to work through this disorder by themselves for a very long time. And so, when we say, “Buckle up, let’s get going with exposure therapy or we’re going to do mindfulness and we’re going to practice these skills,” they might be like, “Dude, I’m already exhausted. I don’t even have the capacity to do that.” And so, we’d say, “Yeah. This is an example of how we’re going to double down now, “push through” so that we can balance that exhaustion, so we can take away the thing that seems to be exhausting you.”
So, again, it’s a push and a pull. It’s a little balance game. It’s like juggling, and juggling requires a rhythm and a balance and a practice and a consistency that you’ll have to find for yourself. But I strongly encourage you to spend some time looking at this because I think we hear too much about the push through on social media in society. And then on the flip side, we also have like, “Oh, you’re exhausted. You should rest.” And that’s true. But resting alone won’t get you better. So, it’s this dialectical two opposing things happening at the same time.
So, that’s what I want you to think about. An example for me, I’ll just give you a quick example. When I was really sick and my husband was working so much, I had to push through because I had to take care of two young children. I didn’t have a choice. What I did do, though, is when I was “pushing through” and even though I was so exhausted, I then challenged. While I’m pushing through, what am I doing that makes this more exhausting and how can I make it less exhausting?
So, an example, often with clients, they’ll say, “I have this test and I have to just push through, I have to study for it.” And I’ll say, “Okay, while you push through, and while you do that hard thing,” because pushing through is another word for just saying doing the hard thing, “as you do the hard thing, is there anything you can do to lessen the stress on your body? Could you maybe not tense your neck and shoulders so much? Could you breathe a little more? Could you take some more breaks? Could you have a bottle of water? Could you take little moments to breathe and do a little mindfulness or meditation exercise?”
So, the thing here is you can also be resting while doing little intervals of pushing through or doing the hard thing. For me, that was a crucial piece. While you’re pushing through, you’re letting go of stuff that doesn’t matter just to save yourself the exhaustion of taking that story on or that rule on or that expectation. While you push through, maybe lower your expectation. That might be helpful. Maybe lean in with a large degree of self-compassion and like, “Wow, Hun, you’re pushing through, you’re doing this hard thing. I’m going to be so gentle with you while you do this hard thing.” That’s so beautiful. Such a beautiful act of kindness. And then by doing that-- or when you’re exhausted and you’re resting and you’re feeling guilty for resting, you’d say, “Hun, you’re resting and this is so hard for you and this is triggering for you. Keep going. So brave. Keep going. I’m so grateful that you’re taking this time to rest for me.” Cool, right?
All right. That’s all I have for you today, guys. Just play with this. There has to be a balance. If this is still confusing for you, put it on paper, write down how many hours a day you push through and how many hours you rest, and just say, how can I increase the rest by 15-minute increments? What would that look like for me? What would that feel like for me? What would be helpful? Where can that be possible? How can that be possible? And maybe that 15 minutes will make a world of difference. It’s better than nothing.
I’m going to take a deep breath with you. I’m going to hold my heart for you. I’m going to remind you that you’re stronger than you think, that the work you’re doing is important and amazing and inspiring, and don’t give up. Don’t give up. Keep tweaking and tweaking and taking baby steps and you will get there. You will get there.
All right, I’m going to send you so much love. Have a wonderful week. It is a beautiful day, it’s a beautiful week, it’s a beautiful month to do hard things. I’ll see you next week.