Your Therapy

As depression and anxiety therapists in Toronto, we counsel many clients who struggle to achieve a healthy balance between work, family and mental health. 

A generation ago, the boundaries between work and family life were fairly clear. Today, thanks to communication technologies and the evolving nature of work, those boundaries are blurred, leaving more and more people struggling to fulfill both their family and work roles. Add in 18 months of pandemic lockdowns and stress, and it’s no wonder that so many people feel overwhelmed and out of balance. 

Work-life balance isn’t just an issue affecting people with intense and demanding and demanding jobs. A recent study from the UK found that 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work. As a consequence, they reported a lack of personal development, physical and mental health problems, poor relationships and poor home life. In addition, the study also found that the more hours a person spends at work, the more hours outside of work they are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it. This finding supports something I see a lot in my practice when I talk to clients struggling with work-life balance: ruminating thoughts.

Ruminating thoughts

In therapeutic terms, “ruminating thoughts” are excessive and intrusive thoughts that play on an endless loop in your mind, as you worry about the myriad stressors in your life, such as work, kids, relationships, health worries and more. When you’re seeking a solution to a crisis, it’s natural to have ruminating thoughts for a few hours or days. But when you can’t find the “off” button, chronic ruminating thoughts can create a cascade of negative consequences, including insomnia, high blood pressure, substance abuse and eating disorders. They interfere with your attention, making you inefficient at work and distracted at home. And all this strains relationships with colleagues, family, romantic partners and friends.

Slowing the conversation

The good news is that we have many therapeutic techniques to help people struggling with out-of-control thoughts. When a client comes to me with these issues, the first step is surprisingly simple: we need to slow the conversation. Ruminating thoughts are fast and circular. When trying to express them, people tend to blurt them out like a stream of consciousness. Unlike venting negative thoughts, which can cause some relief, this keeps the cycle going, like a ball rolling down a hill. So, we’ll use techniques to help you slow down, so we can explore the feelings behind your thoughts, and why this stress is hitting you so deeply. Then it’s possible to show clients how these thoughts are causing problems, rather than helping them solve problems. The next crucial step is learning how to break the cycle by taking a break.

Take—or make—a break

When a client is struggling with out-of-control thoughts, the therapist’s job isn’t to “fix” the specific family or career issues. Instead, we give the client the tools to slow their thoughts, and manage the issue themselves.

One proven tool for this is mindfulness, which helps people fully engage in the moment, whether work or personal. We’ll also work on self-compassion. This is an idea that’s recently become trendy in the mainstream media, but it truly is a powerful tool for feeling better.

Many of us feel overworked and overstressed, but a lot of that is pressure we put on ourselves. You may feel like you can’t take a break, but this just means you have to make a break. Finding balance means learning that it’s OK to lessen expectations a little, and settle for adequate rather than perfect. Sometimes it’s OK to have pancakes for dinner. It’s fine to let the laundry sit a few days, or let the grass get a little longer. Just don’t cut out the things you do for yourself: the long walk, the gardening, going fishing or just spending an hour with a good book. 

Adopting new self-care habits takes time and practice, and conscious effort to keep it going. But learning to manage your thoughts, and keep things in perspective is a crucial step on the road to feeling better, and creating a long-term sense of balance in your life. 

Your Therapy is a safe, welcoming, counselling therapy practice in the Greater Toronto Area. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to reach out with questions about talk therapy or other mental health issues. We offer depression therapy, anxiety therapy, and more.

We Currently have Openings for Virtual Appointments: Connect with our dedicated therapists from the comfort of your own space. Day-Time In-Person Therapy: Join us during business hours for face-to-face sessions. Book your complimentary intake appointment.