Mindset Shifts for Your Healing JourneySep 08, 2022
Are your beliefs getting in the way of your healing? After working with thousands of patients over the years, I have noticed common themes among busy parents and professionals. This may not apply to everyone, but so many of you struggle with these common limiting mindsets. Do you struggle with putting your needs first? Has your health taken a toll these past few years despite your best efforts? Do you continue to say that you’re going to put your health first only to break your promises with yourself a few weeks into a new plan? If this is you, consider these mindset shifts. In this post, we will discuss overcoming perfectionism, procrastination, and caregiver martyrdom.
My own struggle with overcoming perfectionism began decades ago. It all began with school. I just love school. If I could, I would indefinitely remain a student. As a student, I have always strived for good grades. I even remember getting $5 for each A on my report card when I was younger. I realize that this feedback contributed to some of my perfectionism because yes, I loved being rewarded for good behavior. Who doesn’t enjoy a good reward? But how does that translate as an adult? Those of us who are used to doing a good job and then being rewarded are left feeling quite lacking as an adult.
In your 20s, you likely spent much of that decade acquiring: the degree, the career, the partner, the car, the house. But then you reach your 30s, and perhaps you’ve added a kid or two, advancements in your career, and more… stuff. More stuff to deal with. You were accustomed to “dealing” in your 20s because you were only responsible for yourself, but add kids and a spouse and so many other commitments, responsibilities, and obligations, and you feel yourself being pulled in a thousand different directions all at once on a daily basis.
The desire to be “good” in each of those areas and to rise to the occasion can sometimes create unrealistic expectations. Nobody can be great in all of these areas! Is it just me or does it sometimes feel like it’s impossible to be a working mother and do all the things and manage to feel balanced, have energy, and still fit into your skinny jeans. Our modern culture has set us up for failure. What’s a person to do?
Mindset shift #1: Lower your expectations.
You are only one person. After the birth of my first child nearly 7 years ago, I started my career as a family nurse practitioner. I was breastfeeding, making homemade baby food, and working about 50-60 hours per week in a new career. And I was crying nearly every single day. I always felt deficient in some area, like I was constantly letting someone down or dropping the ball somewhere. I was so used to being able to “perfectly” handle everything yet I was absolutely incapable of balancing my new commitments. I finally went to see a therapist who gave me the single best advice I’ve ever heard: “Aim for 80% in every area of your life. 80% is good enough. You need to accept being good enough.”
This mindset shift was huge for me. Without realizing it, I was always aiming for 100% in every area. Simply lowering my own expectations on myself felt like a huge weight off my chest. Sometimes, I still feel those perfectionistic tendencies creeping back in, and I remind myself that “good enough” is quite simply good enough.
Now, let’s talk about procrastination. It’s a quirky little monkey on your back and it is actually rooted in fear. It’s the child of perfectionism. Let me explain how your brain behaves and you’ll understand why you procrastinate. Your brain really likes to keep you comfortable and safe. Anything new that isn’t already an ingrained habit is usually classified as uncomfortable and potentially threatening. When you choose to push yourself out of your comfort zone, by let’s say, starting a new home weight lifting program, your brain resists. Wouldn’t it be easier to just take care of the laundry or write that email instead of lift those heavy weights? And what if it doesn’t work out? What if the results aren’t perfect or ideal? What if you can’t lose weight? What if you’re really sore tomorrow? Do you see how procrastination is just the natural outcome of perfectionism?
Mindset shift #2: Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
If you anticipate that your brain will give you push back when you do new, scary things, then you are better able to recognize it and then just do the thing anyway. Everything is uncomfortable the first few times. It’s uncomfortable until it’s not. Then it becomes a habit. This goes with anything in life - starting a new job, learning a new skill, adopting a new habit.
Thankfully, addressing perfectionism can also help you stop procrastinating. Another issue with procrastination is that usually, it works out. And when it does, you are simply reinforcing the idea that you can continue procrastinating. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen is for it to not work out. There’s nothing quite like having to deal with the fallout of missing a deadline, appointment, or cutoff to light a fire and make you realize that what you’re doing isn’t working and you must change course.
How might you practically avoid procrastination? A good rule of thumb is to consider what your future self would appreciate. Your future self would likely appreciate it if you kept your promise to do this thing at this time, right? Ask yourself: would taking care of this task right now save you time later? Honor your future self by keeping your promises to yourself.
Another practical tip is to manage your time effectively. I like to utilize time blocking and only work on 1-2 projects at a time. This keeps me focused, helps me avoid delaying difficult tasks, and decreases overwhelm. I also like to strategically plan my day. If non-urgent but important tasks overwhelm you, then block out an hour each week to deal with those tasks. Plan a time to tackle emails, pay your bills, and get administrative tasks done. I have also heard of doing any task in the moment if it takes you less than 3 minutes to accomplish.
Overcoming Martyr Complex
Let’s switch gears a bit and discuss the last mindset shift: martyr complex. This occurs when you put the needs of others above yours and sacrifice yourself in the process. This one is for the caregivers. Lean in and pay close attention.
I recently heard someone say that you must pour into yourself to be able to pour out for others, and it’s so true. As a medical provider and mom of three (one with special needs), I find that if I prioritize my own self-care and needs, then everyone benefits. If people require your energy and attention, then you must attend to your own needs to make sure you have something left for them. Putting yourself last or continuously ignoring your own needs is short-sighted. When you have nothing left to give, how does that translate as a caregiver?
Mindset shift #3: Putting your needs first is actually un-selfish.
You must put the mask on yourself first. You are simply not operating from a place of strength if you continually put everyone else’s needs before your own.
How can you do this? Ask for help. Outsource what you can. Use “no” as a complete sentence when opportunities arise that don’t align with your capacity. Take moments to breathe, exercise, eat, and engage in other activities that fill your proverbial cup. Ruthlessly put your self-care needs as top priority. When your needs are fulfilled, then you can show up in a way that you’re proud of. It’s a win-win for everyone.
This is where time management comes into play again. Something occurred to me a few weeks ago. When you’re younger, you hopefully have two parents that help you put yourself first. They help you go to bed, stop watching TV, move your body, eat healthy foods. When you’re older, nobody is there to hold you accountable or look out for you. That role falls to you, but in a culture where we have so many demands, it’s easy to ignore our own. But if you are serious about serving others and showing up as the best version of yourself, then you must refill your cup.
What do you think? Have you fallen victim to one, or maybe all, of these limiting beliefs? It’s not your fault! Society trains us to be “perfect” and especially calls on women to be “helpers.” Through media and culture, we are silently (often loudly) instructed to do it all, not complain, and look good while we’re doing it. And sometimes, we just don’t have great boundaries. Unfortunately, the wheels usually need to fall off before we reach out for help with our issues.
What does this have to do with functional medicine? Well, it all begins with your beliefs. Sure, you can acknowledge that food is medicine, sleep is vital, and movement is necessary. But if you do not truly believe that you have the time, capacity, or worth to prioritize these for yourself, then we must start there. Your beliefs and thoughts lead to your actions. Your actions compound over time to create your life. If you want to improve your life and your health, then you must change your beliefs.
If you are looking for more tips on how to move from surviving to thriving, join the waitlist for the relaunch of our group program, Go With Your Gut. We address mindset, habits, and time management and help you heal your gut for good.