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How to Put the Brakes On

7 Ways to Navigate Self-DoubtA lot of people run through their lives going from one task to another without taking time to stop and smell the roses.

Our society is overworked, and as result, overstressed.

I know what it’s like to get so overwhelmed on something that you slowly start to lose your grip on reality. That’s just one of the many things I have to deal with while living with schizophrenia.

The point is, it’s important to put the brakes on when you start to feel overwhelmed. This is just as important for regular people as it is for people with a major mental illness. However, these two types of people don’t react to stress the same way.

Putting the brakes on is difficult. I’d venture to guess that many people out there work so hard that they’ve lost track of how exactly to go about doing it.

I think the first thing you need to remember is that whatever the task is, it can be broken into chunks. Essentially this means setting small goals for yourself. Take time out in the in-between periods, after you’ve accomplished one part but have yet to get to another.

Currently I have the major task of rewriting my first book for an agent, updating my posts here on PsychCentral and continuing to do articles for the New York Times hanging over my head. I’ve noticed that in the last few weeks, my mood has been more sour than usual. I have an increased amount of paranoia and I’m feeling a little depressed.

I as much as anybody need to be conscious of my health and that means getting a handle on my stress.

That said, what do I know about stress?

I know that I need to take it easy from time to time and my preferred way of taking it easy is going for walks and losing myself in some good music. I know that I need to do these things to maintain my stability as a person living with a mental illness and I know that sometimes I forget.

Whatever your form of stress relief is, do it. If it helps, try even scheduling your chill-out time into your calendar. That way, you don’t have to feel bad about not getting anything done.

Another major thing that helps me is rewarding myself for a job well done. This essentially ties into breaking down massive tasks into more manageable chunks. Once you do a small chunk, don’t feel guilty about letting your hair down for a little while. Celebrate the fact that you’ve made progress.

Sometimes it’s going for a walk, sometimes it’s going out for a good meal, and sometimes it’s just sitting on your couch and watching a good movie. It’s important, though.

Another good trick is looking forward to your schedule and working to relieve some of the burden that lies ahead. If you have to say no to a project for your mental health, you have to say no. Don’t be afraid to do what you need to do to lighten the load.

The main thing to remember is that stress is not a good thing to deal with. It’s easy to lose yourself in it, but taking the time and the actions you need to take in order to maintain a good level of stability is perfectly acceptable. Nobody is going to fault you for being conscious about your health.

How to Put the Brakes On

Michael Hedrick

Mike Hedrick is a writer and photographer in Boulder, CO. He has lived with schizophrenia for many years and his work has been published in Salon, Scientific American and The New York Times. His book is available here You can follow his blog on living with schizophrenia here

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2018). How to Put the Brakes On. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 29 Dec 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.