Turning a nervous breakdown into a personal breakthrough

Q. I've been in a stressful industry for a long time and am very successful. However, lately I find myself exhausted, bored and irritable about even small problems. Many people have commented that I'm not acting like myself. I wonder if I'm cracking up. Do you think prolonged stress is making me have a nervous breakdown?

A. If you're truly worried about your mental health, it never hurts to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. However, most folks I see with your symptoms are not cracking up -- they're cracking open to a better way of functioning.

Think of it like this: When we are young and have abundant energy, we can afford to throw away our energy by being foolish. When we are older and tired, we either get wise or we burn out.

Because you have been in a stressful job, you probably have put up with a lot of bad behavior from others. You probably told yourself that putting up with it is what you had to do to succeed.

Now that you are older and more exhausted, you have an opportunity to evaluate better ways to approach your old problems. You can afford to take risks to become more streamlined in how you do your job.

When we first join the world of work, we're so anxious about getting and keeping any position that we run as fast as we can. We rarely consider whether the direction we are running is optimal for our long-term success.

As we mature, we trade the raw energy of youth for a more "elegant" orientation -- elegant in the mathematical sense of finding the simplest way to solve an equation. Consider that right now you have the incentive to find ways to work smart, not merely hard.

People can feel like they are losing their minds when they are being challenged to change. The truth is that we aren't losing who we really are, we are losing who we thought we "should" be.

Yes, people around you will find it disconcerting that you are bolder, less tolerant, and a better negotiator for what you want. The people who will like you the least right now are the ones who are accustomed to using your need for approval to make you do what is not in your best interests.

You can't crack out of your former box of behavior without cracking into your inner world. As you start to explore who is really in there, you'll find inner space is one of the last great frontiers. Your dreams, your depths and your creativity can be quite boundless if you are willing to listen.

As you let go of the familiar shores where you are burning out, you'll feel both invigorated and nervous about the open sea of new possibilities. You'll experiment, make mistakes, and learn that burning out is usually a refusal to make necessary changes.

The last word(s)

Q. There a guy in my office who is obnoxious, opinionated and loud. He loves making points around me that force me to argue with him. Is there a way to get him to stop?

A. Yes, quit joining every power struggle he throws your way. A fight is only fun if two people are willing to play!

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)

(c) 2014 INTERPERSONAL EDGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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