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When “Powering Through” Does Not Work

By April 8, 2017November 13th, 2018Adult Counseling, Dr. Beatriz Mann

Many of us go through life moving a mile a minute. We are so used to being busy, pushing through, and getting the job done. But what happens when you push and push, and all that pushing fails?

You may have some high expectations for yourself. Chances are, you were the star athlete, the straight A student, the high achiever. Then, somewhere along the way, you were struck with a change in motivation or energy. And you may find that your usual “go-go-go” style isn’t working as well.

You may find that others don’t seem to understand what you are going through. They may say things like, “You should be able to move past this,” “You are not trying hard enough”. Or even “I’ve been there before, I could do it and so can you.” In an effort to make you feel better, their advice may actually make you feel worse!

You might feel that this means something about you, and you might notice that you start to question yourself and your abilities. You could start having negative “self-talk,” talking down to yourself as you struggle to succeed. It is highly likely that you are trying, really hard – perhaps even harder than ever before – and you’re still struggling.

when powering through does not work

How could this be happening?

This struggle may be a sign that something more serious could be going on such as depression. Depression comes in all forms – and it doesn’t have to be you sleeping all day with the shades drawn planning on ways to end your life. It can be milder, changes in energy, irritability, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, a sense of going through life with the attitude of ‘what’s the point?’

Before this change, you could power through many circumstances and found success on the other side. With this change, this may not be the case. We would argue that the “power through” approach is not working as well for you; NOT because there is a deficit within yourself, rather because the circumstances you are in are overwhelming you. “Circumstances” could be the fact that you may have a mental illness you didn’t have before. It could be anything from increased stress at work to social or financial issues. Or, it could be a combination of all the above!

Is there really a difference?

YES! Right now, you may feel like you and your illness are one and the same. Take a moment to think of all the characteristics you and your friends like about yourself…..Now, think about the characteristics of your mental illness or since this change has occurred: how it makes you feel, how it changes your thinking, what it makes you do or not do, etc….

Chances are, there is very little overlap between how you described yourself and how you described your illness. Your illness does not define you. To put it another way, your illness is a chapter in your life, it does not make up the entire book of your life.

Why “powering through” doesn’t seem to work right now…

You may be having less success with “powering through” because you are fatigued. Your illness may be making it very difficult to operate at your usual pace. In order to feel better, you may find that you have to slow down, take a breath, and live life in the present moment. This is something that can be very difficult to do for several reasons.

  1. It can be hard to be present because we are so used to thinking about the next thing or planning for the future.
  2. Many of us have not developed skills to stay grounded in the present.
  3. Being “present” can be scary or painful, as it can sometimes mean being present when you are experiencing some of the worst aspects of your illness. In fact, your illness may love it when you try to power through because then your illness is not examined or questioned. Instead, it just sits there, pointing out your failings and making them feel like they are your fault, so you don’t notice that it is really the illness.

How can we help?

If you’re noticing that powering through does not seem to get the results you are used to, give us a call. We can schedule an appointment to help you gain a variety of skills that can help you feel better. We’ll help get you back to performing at your best. The thing to keep in mind is that millions of people experience changes like these – you are not alone. Mental health is an important cornerstone to wellness and satisfaction. Let’s work together to help you get back to your old self!

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Dr. Mann is a licensed psychologist that specializes in healthy coping, college adjustment, anxiety, personal identity, balance, and mindfulness.

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