Taking the step to focus on your mental health and emotional well-being can feel uncomfortable, especially when it’s been put on the back burner while pursuing career success. Dr. Astrid Matarrita- Chinchilla explains why true success means finding a healthy balance between personal life and work.

During a first session, I typically inquire, “What brings you here today?” While it is common for my clients to respond that everything is fine, it is important to dispel the misconception that mental health only warrants attention when significant symptoms arise. This notion perpetuates a toxic culture in which people feel pressure to appear “fine” at all times, equating success with emotional stability.

In reality, we all experience difficult emotions, and it can be challenging to navigate them. For instance, when reflecting on the underlying causes of stress, such as family, relationships, career paths, elderly parents, or loneliness, it becomes clear that even those who achieve professional success are not immune to these experiences.

When it comes to the mental health of successful executives, the constant pressure to perform at a high level can generate a positive stress that enhances performance and triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline. However, unwinding and disconnecting from work can become challenging, making it difficult to engage in simple pleasures.

Our brains learn from experiences and relate meaning to them. Thus, past experiences of constant stress, disconnection, and fight or flight mode can impact how we react to similar situations in the present, potentially hindering our ability to fully enjoy life. Recognizing this pattern is the first step to managing it, as it allows us to develop coping mechanisms and prevent it from becoming a larger issue. It is essential to understand that this challenge does not necessarily reflect on the individual’s current state, but can be a result of past experiences.

Let’s delve into four key areas of introspection that can have a profound impact on your personal life. By examining these areas, you can cultivate more positive relationships, reduce unnecessary stress, and intentionally enhance the quality of your emotional well-being.

Ain’t nobody got time for that

It’s important to find a healthy balance between work and rest. Constantly overworking ourselves can lead to burnout and negatively impact our emotional and physical health. Prioritizing rest and taking breaks when needed can actually improve our overall performance and productivity in the long run. Additionally, sometimes we use busyness as a way to avoid difficult situations or emotions, but it’s important to confront those issues and take care of our emotional well-being before problems build up.

It’s not uncommon for us to feel guilty when we are not working or anxious when trying to relax with family or friends, knowing that work-related emails and tasks are accumulating. Recognizing these emotions can help us better understand how to structure our lives in a functional manner.

The human mind is a complex system that can be prone to distracting thoughts and rumination, which can make it challenging to relax and be fully present in the moment. Engaging in mental rehearsals and planning for future events can exacerbate this issue, causing us to be mentally absent from the current moment. While compartmentalizing can be an effective coping mechanism in the short term, it requires considerable effort and is not a sustainable long-term solution.

To address this challenge, it may be beneficial to create a structured schedule that realistically divides work and leisure time. This approach provides clarity and allows for a greater sense of control, reducing the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed or consumed by work-related thoughts during leisure time. It also gives permission to prioritize and be fully present in the task at hand, whether it’s work or pleasure. In this way, we can intentionally allocate our mental resources to where they are needed most.

I can’t get no satisfaction. And I try and I try.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we may feel like something is missing or not quite right in our lives. We may be following all the supposed “right” steps, ticking off all the boxes on society’s checklist, but still feel unfulfilled or unsatisfied. It’s like we’re trying to solve a puzzle, but can’t seem to find that one missing piece. This feeling can be frustrating and confusing, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It may take some introspection, reflection, and experimentation to discover what truly brings us joy and fulfillment.

Feelings aren’t like puzzles to be solved – they simply exist, and that’s okay.

Start by identifying what are the non-negotiable aspects of your life, such as your values, beliefs, and priorities. These are the things that give you a sense of purpose and direction in life, and they should not be compromised or sacrificed for work. When you align your actions and decisions with your core values and beliefs, you will feel a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in your life. It’s also important to periodically re-evaluate your priorities and beliefs, as they may change over time due to new experiences, knowledge, or perspectives. By doing so, you can intentionally work towards a purposeful life.

Love languages 101

Connection and belonging are essential human needs and when they are absent, it can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and suffering. It’s important to prioritize your relationships and make time for meaningful connections with your loved ones. The concept of love languages can be a useful tool in understanding how to show love and receive love in a way that feels meaningful to each person. However, it’s also important to communicate and be open to the unique needs and preferences of your loved ones, as they may not always align with your own love language.

A classic scenario: You’re a busy parent with a demanding job, and you wish you could spend more time with your child. But what if, instead of focusing on the quantity of time, you shift your focus to the quality of your interactions? Maybe your child values little moments of connection, like when you ask about their day or give them a hug for a job well done. By being present in those small moments, you can still make a big impact on your child’s life and let them know how much you care. We can create connections in more than one way.

To learn more about love languages, you, your partner, and your children can take a quick online questionnaire: https://5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/ love-language

Who runs the world? Not me, according to my husband.

It’s important to remember that leadership skills don’t always translate perfectly to the home environment. While it’s natural to want to take charge and fix problems, sometimes our loved ones just want to be heard and validated. It can be frustrating when our efforts to help are met with defensiveness and criticism, but it’s important to recognize that our approach may not be effective in every situation. It’s okay to take a step back and let others take the lead, or to simply be a supportive listener. Ultimately, a strong relationship is built on mutual respect and communication, rather than asserting dominance or control.

Our loved ones don’t always share their internal struggles with us because they’re looking for solutions or insights. Sometimes, they just want to connect with us and feel understood. By taking the time to empathize, we can create a space where they feel safe to open up and share their thoughts and feelings.

Focusing on your mental health may bring up old wounds or challenges. It can be incredibly daunting to acknowledge that our experiences and past have a complex impact on who we are today. We may feel uncomfortable or resistant to the idea that our upbringing has shaped us in significant ways. However, taking the time to explore the invisible forces that drive us, in the company of a skilled and experienced therapist, is truly one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves in terms of our overall well-being.

As someone who works with busy executives, you know that time is a precious commodity. In the fast-paced world of business, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. But just like you wouldn’t ignore an urgent email or an important meeting, you can’t afford to neglect your mental health. It’s not just another box to tick off on your to-do list, it’s an essential aspect of your overall well-being. So take the time to cultivate inner peace and emotional stability, even if it means setting aside a few minutes every day. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” [C]

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Tim Burrill
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