My mind likes to scroll through an imaginary Rolodex of worries in my head and randomly select an item to worry about, on occasion. I’ve worked really hard to not let these negative thoughts become words…then actions…then habits…you know how the saying goes. When I started doing yoga three years ago, the instructor would tell us to let those negative thoughts float to the surface in a bubble and then pop – essentially we were supposed to free them instead of holding them inside; acknowledge them but not hang on to them. It worked a little bit.

But for the bigger worries – such as relationship struggles, financial concerns – or the ones that are chronic – body image, work stress – I needed a stronger weapon to fight with.

For many of us, our instinct when faced with life’s big stresses is to defend ourselves with reasons why things are happening to us – I’m struggling financially because rent is too high around here; my relationship is suffering because of the other person’s faults; I’m not happy with my weight because society’s standards are too high; I’m stressed at work because other people are making my job difficult. But does that ever actually make us feel better? And does it ever lead to a solution?

What if the first step to a solution was to take the blame for everything we are worried about? The thought occurred to me when having a conversation with a college track and field teammate about staying in shape. “We’re never going to look like we did in college, we just have to accept that!” we both agreed. The truth is, we compare ourselves to what we looked like 10 years ago when we had few responsibilities and worked out 7-10 times a week! We can’t really complain that we don’t look like that anymore unless we are still working out 7-10 times a week at the same level of intensity!

That reality check actually made me relax a bit and give myself a break. Was I willing to work out as much as I did in college? No! Not anymore. Been there, done that. I have other things in my life now – things that I want to spend time on as well, such as my family, my career, my friends, traveling. There were many things I had to say ‘no’ to as an athlete in order to stick to my workout regimen. I’m more free now; if I’m a little softer too, so be it.

Those close to me know that I’m almost always a little stressed about work. Running your own business means you don’t get to take vacation days, sick days or maternity leave. At least not without losing money. I have a hard time turning down work, so I end up filling up my plate just a little bit more than I can comfortably handle. So if a project ends up taking longer than I anticipated, there I am struggling to not drop the plate. At this point, I have to just laugh! I do this to myself. I’m the one agreeing to all the work; if I end up being overwhelmed, I have no one to blame but myself.

Ahhh, relationships. The other person is always the jerk, right? The other person doesn’t understand how YOU feel, is neglecting YOU, is mistreating YOU. That means you’re the good guy/gal, so you should sleep well right? Yet you don’t.

It took me a while, as in years, but once I was able to recognize the areas in which I was lacking or failing, I realized why things got to where they were. Two people contributed to the ups AND the downs, in their own way. Recognizing that actually made me feel BETTER about myself and the situation. I had been having a pity party telling myself this story that I had been the perfect partner and STILL wasn’t enough for him. I felt like such a failure. Once I was able to take some blame for the road we went down, I realized I hadn’t always been at my best. And that took the weight off my shoulders of feeling like I just wasn’t capable of being enough.

The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, angry, attacked, sad, or stressed, try taking a look at how you got to that place. Are there things you could have said or not said, done or not done, to improve the situation? This isn’t to excuse everyone else involved, but what was your part? You’ll be surprised at how good taking responsibility feels.

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