Feeling Overburdened? Change Your Inner Dialogue

Most adults lead hectic, structured and demanding lives. Many are beleaguered by demeaning self-talk that reduces their effectiveness and sours their mood. Is it possible to become more accomplished by feeling less hurried, stressed and exasperated?

Many people are unaware that being “too busy” is a choice – not an inevitable state of being or a proof of one’s worthiness deeming respect and adulation. It is true that life’s demands are time-consuming and energy-depleting, but they need not become exasperating and accompanied by negative self-talk. The latter is a choice that we are empowered to change. We can learn to welcome life’s challenges with equanimity, confidence and optimism.

It is common for busy people to say to themselves and others, “I have to do this today and complete another task in two weeks and I don’t know how I can possibly get it all done.” Just the wording of this plight creates self-doubt and powerlessness that often induces agitation and interferes with achieving one’s tasks. Rephrasing the burdensome mission in a more accurate way such as, “This is a challenging schedule and I trust that I can manage to get it all done well and in due time” is an emboldening, self-supportive message that can bolster our confidence and help us successfully plan for and comfortably execute our designated tasks.

Some individuals’ lament about their life’s burdens is tantamount to a subconscious plea for others’ reassurances about their competence, capabilities and time management skills. Receiving validating affirmations about their abilities does help people tackle hard tasks with greater zeal and enthusiasm and quells their dubiousness or defeatist attitude. Yet, it is wiser to learn to use self-soothing messages and not be dependent upon external assurances.

The Mayo Clinic Health Guide lists four negative self-talk practices that defeat the thinker: “1. Filtering: Magnifying negative aspects of a situation and filtering out positive input. 2. Personalizing: Assigning self-blame to oneself even when it is not supported by facts. 3. Catastrophizing: Automatically anticipating the worst. 4. Polarizing: Defining situations as either good or bad and expecting oneself to either be perfect or be viewed as a total failure.”

Barbara Hoberman Levine’s book: “Your Body Believes Every Word You Say: The Language of the Body/Mind Connection” traced common phrases such as, “that breaks my heart” to the body’s physiological responses. She associated “seed thoughts” and “core beliefs” as having great impact on one’s mind and body. The author reported that using her new awareness has been very beneficial in battling her own brain tumor.

The common recommendations for cessation of negative self-talk are not solely effective in regard to illnesses. They are essential for achieving emotional and psychological wellbeing and greater productivity.

To deal with feeling overburdened:

  • Monitor your inner dialogue.
  • Abstain from or promptly correct negative self-talk.
  • Balance your doubts with encouraging memories of your prior doubts that when rephrased culminated in successful outcomes.
  • Practice positive thinking to heal your body and mind and enjoy a better life.



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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