“I think my spouse is depressed. How do I support them?”

“I’m single and depressed. Will I ever find love?”

“My relationship is unhealthy and it’s taking a toll. What should I do?”

These are just a few of the questions we hear regularly at First Things First about mental health concerns and intimate relationships. Which leads us to ask an even bigger question– how and why do intimate relationships affect mental health?

In 2021, the research journal Social Science and Medicine | Population Health published a study to examine the association between relationship status and mental well-being at four different life stages. Researchers tracked and followed up with the same cohort of men and women over 30 years.

In summary, compared to marriage, being single or divorced/widowed was associated with depressive symptoms at every age in men. For women, being single – but not divorced/widowed – was associated with depressive symptoms. 

Among men, being single or divorced/widowed was also associated with lower self-esteem at ages 32, 42, and 52. In women, an association was found between lower self-esteem and being single at age 32 only. 

Several sound theories about the positive effects of intimate relationships on mental health can be made from this and correlated studies with similar results and findings. Here are a few researcher’s suggestions: 

Simultaneously, several studies have revealed the negative effects unhealthy or insecure intimate relationships can have on individuals’ mental health. Here are a few findings from cumulative studies:

Frequently, research backs up what we already know from common sense. As human beings, we have a deep desire for connection and secure, intimate relationships. We are more likely to thrive when this need is met. When this need is unmet or is met inadequately, we suffer in all areas of our lives. Our mental health is a large part of the equation. It can’t be ignored.

May this be a catalyst to focus on positive mental health practices and healthy relationship practices for yourself and the one you care about the most. 

Craving meaningful relationships? We all are. According to the Journal of Marriage and Family Review, there are six essential relationship habits: appreciation/affection, commitment, positive communication, time together, strong coping skills, and spiritual well-being. 

We’ve looked at the principles behind these relationship habits and explored practical ways to cultivate these habits with your family. And now we’ll look at the final relationship habit– spiritual well-being.

Why is spiritual well-being important?

Medical and mental health associations acknowledge spiritual well-being as a critical part of one’s overall health. Physicians and psychologists recognize the fundamental connection between our body, mind, and spirit. All three influence and impact each other. Holistic approaches to healthcare are the norm.

Research has accumulated across many disciplines demonstrating the physical and mental health benefits of cultivating the spiritual dimension of life. Positive spiritual experiences can activate the same reward centers in the brain as other pleasurable activities and deactivate the effects of stress and anxiety.

What does spiritual well-being look like?

When most people describe spiritual well-being, they refer to something that helps them feel whole, centered, and grounded in their lives. It gives them the ability to be positive and peaceful when their mind is full of anxiety and doubt. Spiritual experiences tap into an intangible, almost inexpressible dimension of life that invokes awe, inspires growth, and instills hope.

For some people, spirituality is found in religious institutions and organized worship communities. Spirituality can be intensely personal and private for many people. Some experience it through religious customs. Others may experience it on a nature walk, while volunteering, or reading an inspirational book. 

“Spirituality” doesn’t have a single, universally accepted definition. (PRO TIP: Ask your family what “spirituality” and “spiritual well-being” mean to them.)

Ways To Improve Spiritual Well-Being

If you want to explore and improve your spiritual well-being, try a few of the following ideas. Remember that everyone is different. The spiritual practices that work for others may not work for you. Learn what is comfortable for you and your family members.

  • Explore how your family could be more involved in your current faith community.
  • Visit a worship service, then talk about it.
  • Have a family prayer time or time to express gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Learn breathwork or guided breathing exercises together.
  • Work on meditation or mindfulness and discuss the results as a family.
  • Have some quiet time uninterrupted by technology or other distractions.
  • Brainstorm a way to serve your community.
  • Spend time in nature, individually and as a family.
  • Do yoga together.

Even though it may be difficult to define, spiritual well-being helps you be optimistic, compassionate, patient, and joyful. It may not heal you when you’re sick, but it can make you feel better and can support you during suffering and loss. 

Identify the things in your life that give you a sense of inner peace, comfort, strength, love, and connection. Spiritual well-being can be seen as a journey. What does that journey look like for your family?

Work/life balance is not a new topic. You can scour the internet for five minutes and find numerous guides, videos, and research topics covering the matter. Headlines such as Practice More Self Care, Wake Up Early to Find Balance, and The Secret to Using All of Your Vacation Time provide “solutions” for creating the desirable balance workers crave.

Being a working mom with a toddler and another baby on the way, I feel the heavy weight of trying to do it all, be it all and balance it all. As a CEO with a staff of 13 employees, I also feel the need to demonstrate some type of balance in order for my employees to feel comfortable doing the same. 

The problem is there’s a big misconception surrounding work/life balance. Many feel it’s achievable, but it’s not. Work/life balance is a journey, not a destination.

Two journalists, Ioana Lupu and Mayra Ruiz-Castro, from The Harvard Business Review, conducted 200 in-depth interviews with working parents in highly demanding positions. Through their research, they uncovered a fresh look at work/life balance. 

The big takeaway? It’s not something you can achieve with a one-time fix. It requires a perpetual cycle of self-awareness that must be consistently revisited and readjusted for your current circumstances and priorities.

In the summary of their findings, Lupu and Ruiz-Castro determined that when employees find themselves feeling overly worked with no margin, they swing the pendulum to the other side and spend a season highly focused on life outside of work. Eventually, they begin to feel like they’re falling behind at work. They go back to putting in overtime and having fewer boundaries to protect their personal lives. For many, this cycle continues on and off for years. 

The truth is, this cycle isn’t entirely bad. It puts two very important elements of mental health into practice: 1) capacity for reflexivity– the questioning of your assumptions to reach deeper self-awareness, and 2) intentional role redefinition– the capacity to create new roles with joint responsibility. (Example: “Working Parent” is the joint effort of fulfilling the role of an employee and a parent at the same time. The definition of this role shares dual responsibilities that do not compete with each other but are all-encompassing to the individual as a whole.)

The danger of this cycle is most people do not reach the next phase until their mental state is in panic or peril. To keep from getting to a breaking point, Lupu and Ruiz-Castro suggest using these 5 steps on an ongoing basis:

  1. Stop and reflect. Ask yourself these questions: What is currently causing me stress, unbalance, or dissatisfaction? What am I prioritizing? What am I sacrificing? Only after you take a mental pause and acknowledge these factors can you begin to tackle them.
  1. Give your emotions the attention they deserve. Once you’ve increased your awareness of your current situation, examine how that situation makes you feel. Ask yourself, do I feel energized, fulfilled, satisfied? Or do I feel angry, resentful, or sad? Being aware of how your logical decisions make you feel will give you more insight into what’s really most important to you.
  1. Commit to making shifts as needed. It’s one thing to be aware of the need for change; it’s another thing to put those changes into action. Steps one and two provide the tools to shift and rearrange priorities before your mental health is affected. Make a commitment to problem-solve for yourself.
  1. Consider alternatives. Before determining solutions, consider options at home or work to help you better align your priorities. How flexible can your work hours be? Can you use a calendar-blocking technique to ensure you follow through with intentional time with friends and family? Look at your life as a whole instead of numerous roles and responsibilities to fulfill.
  1. Make your changes public. Tell friends, family, co-workers, bosses, etc., about your desires. Give them permission to hold you accountable, and ask if they’d like you to hold them accountable, too.

While these steps and insights can help create the life you desire, keep the journey toward balance in mind. You won’t always get it right, and sometimes you’ll have to bend around your own boundaries. Putting them in place can guide your perspective and protect your overall mental state.

Do you ever find yourself in a season of high stress? The kids have sports and after-school programs. You and your spouse have increased work demands. The extended family wants time with you, and friends want to hang out. You are overwhelmed with busyness. 

Increased stress levels, when not managed, can lead to burnout. 

Burnout happens when you are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted from prolonged stress. 

There are three dimensions to burnout: exhaustion, feelings of cynicism, and detachment. We’re all in danger of suffering from burnout if we don’t take steps to manage stress.

A typical response when suffering from burnout is to practice self-care. Self-care is anything you do regularly to maintain physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

But while self-care is essential, is it the solution?

Psychologist Justin D. Henderson, Ph.D., suggests that self-care is not the solution to burnout. “Self-care should certainly be an individual’s priority but not to solely address burnout,” says Henderson. 

Self-care is valuable for enhancing mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional health. We should partake in self-care proactively, not solely as a reaction to high stress. Self-care should move us toward our goals. When we utilize self-care to relieve stress, it’s only being used defensively.

Self-care should be more than a solution when stressed out. Practicing self-care regularly helps us build a solid foundation for our life and well-being. 

So, if self-care isn’t the solution to burnout, what is?

Here are a few steps you can take to help resolve burnout.

1. Get to the source.

Let’s start with a self-evaluation. What is causing the stress in your life? 

These are a few options to begin with:

  • Issues at work
  • An overloaded schedule
  • Caretaking (for a child or someone who’s ill)
  • Relationship problems

2. Identify changes you can make immediately.

What can you do now to lighten the load? A small step is still a step in the right direction.

Looking at the examples above, here are some small steps.

  • Have a conversation with your employer about your workload or schedule. 
  • Hold a family meeting to discuss what everyone has going on. Awareness is the first step in reigning in overloaded schedules.
  • Ask a loved one or friend to watch your child for a little bit so you can step away.
  • Ask yourself if you’ve set and communicated clear expectations.

3. Confide in someone.

Feeling burned out is a significant burden to carry alone. Choose someone you trust and take them out for coffee. Ask them if you can share what’s going on.

4. Set boundaries.

Your time is your most valuable resource. Protect it. Set limits on how much of your time you give away. This means you must say no to some things in your life.

5. Be compassionate with yourself.

Burnout can bring on feelings of failure. Treat yourself the way you would treat a loved one experiencing burnout. Show love, compassion, and support. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come, but don’t dwell on them. You are capable of choosing a different reaction. And if you don’t feel like you can, see number seven below.

6. Take care of yourself.

This is where self-care does come in. But it needs to be done as a foundation for a healthier you. 

7. Talk to a professional.

Sometimes you need to speak to a counselor or a coach to help you work through issues. That’s ok. Get the help you need to restore your hope and health.

We’re all susceptible to burnout because stress is an aspect of daily life. Unfortunately, it’s not going anywhere. But we can take these steps to help us manage it and thrive.


Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 15(2), 103–111.

Understanding the Stress Response

Self-Care is Not the Solution to Burnout

Why Self-Care Is Not Enough to Beat Burnout

Burnout Recovery: 11 Strategies to Help You Reset

Other blogs by First Things First:

Can Self-Care Become Selfish?

Signs of Parental Burnout

Can Self-Care Become Selfish?

Learn more about the difference between self-care and self-comfort.

Personally, I’m all about a good, professional massage. Karen, my massage therapist, magically melts away the stress that makes its home in my muscles. Oh my, your shoulders are angry! Yes, they are, Karen. Yes. They. Are

Self-care is all the rage. Extra attention to mind, body, and spirit has become a treasured commodity in a stressful, anxious world. But is there a point where self-care becomes just plain selfish? Does visiting Karen for my angry shoulders make me self-centered and egotistical? Or, does self-care go beyond the self? 

Consider the clichéd parable of the oxygen mask on an airplane. When the masks drop, put yours on before helping someone else with theirs. (Because, as you know, you can’t help others if you’re passed out in the aisle.) 

Self-care works in the same way. 

Keep yourself healthy, and you’re more effective at caring for those around you and being an all-around better person. 

And the research backs this up. We know that when parents are stressed and anxious, it impacts the parenting relationship and the kids’ mental health.1 Marriages are more prone to communication problems and infidelity when spouses experience mental health issues.2,3 And self-care is shown to prevent these kinds of problems and more.4

But, believe it or not, self-care can become selfish if you’re not careful. I think it’s helpful to distinguish some terms here. 

True self-care is anything you do regularly to maintain physical, mental, and emotional well-being.5 And the three big pillars of regular self-care (memorize these!) are sleep, diet, and activity. 

The key here is consistency. Eating veggies does a body (and mind) good, but not if it’s only on Tuesday. With this in mind, it’s hard to self-care too much. 

But then there is the idea of self-comfort. (Some folks call this self-soothing.

These are isolated activities we do to de-stress, decompress, and detox from the stress of life. 

Crazy week? Relax tonight with a chocolate chip cookie and a good Netflix show. 

Is your brain mush from your work project? Walk a couple of laps around the block. 

Stress got your shoulder muscles all jammed up? Go visit Karen – she’s great! 

Self-comfort isn’t a bad thing, either. Often, it’s just what you need to take the edge off the day. 

But… (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) … self-comfort can become too much of a good thing. 

A cookie and Netflix can be great for your well-being… unless it turns into a dozen cookies and 14 hours of binge-watching. An occasional visit to Karen can do wonders for stress. But a massage Every. Single. Day. (as wonderful as it sounds) would have a terrible impact on my family and work responsibilities (not to mention my bank account). 

So how do you know when self-comfort is creeping into the realm of selfishness? 

Here are some clues:

  1. You’re using self-comfort to avoid situations rather than temporarily de-stressing from them.
  2. Self-comfort hinders family or work responsibilities.
  3. What you do for self-comfort is harmful to yourself or others.
  4. Self-comfort activities become an addiction.
  5. Self-comfort is done at the extreme detriment of the three pillars: sleep, diet, or activity.

Inherent in all good things is an element of moderation. So don’t fret about enjoying a bowl of ice cream or buying yourself a new outfit because it’s been that kind of week. That’s not selfish. Simply keep yourself in check so that your self-comfort doesn’t work against your self-care. 

One last thing to note: I would add to the three pillars a fourth – a healthy support system. Supportive family and friends are essential to your well-being and help keep you accountable. Plus, there’s nothing like sharing a time of self-comfort with a confidant. 

Be sure to take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep. Confide in a friend. Take a regular walk. And if Karen has any openings in her client schedule, pay her a visit. Your angry muscles will thank you for it.  


1Burstein, M., Ginsburg, G. S., & Tein, J. Y. (2010). Parental anxiety and child symptomatology: an examination of additive and interactive effects of parent psychopathology. [corrected]. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 38(7), 897–909. 

2McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1997). Personality Trait Structure as a Human Universal. The American Psychologist, 52(5), 509–516. 

3Altgelt, E. E., Reyes, M. A., French, J. E., Meltzer, A. L., & McNulty, J. K. (2018). Who is sexually faithful? Own and partner personality traits as predictors of infidelity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(4), 600–614. 

4Ayala, E. E., Winseman, J. S., Johnsen, R. D., & Mason, H. (2018). U.S. medical students who engage in self-care report less stress and higher quality of life. BMC medical education, 18(1), 189. 

5Mills, J., Wand, T., & Fraser, J. A. (2018). Exploring the meaning and practice of self-care among palliative care nurses and doctors: a qualitative study. BMC palliative care, 17(1), 63. 

Other blogs:

8 Ways To Care for Your Spouse’s Mental Health

Why Spending Time Alone Is Good for Your Marriage

How to Stay Positive When Everything Seems to Be Falling Apart

My wife and I have been together since high school, and she was just offered a new position at work. Yay!! We’re so excited. But there was only one catch: the offer required that she take and pass a standardized test. Three things trigger her anxiety more than anything else: doctors, spiders, and tests. When any of these three is a possibility, she can’t sleep and loses her appetite. We’ve always known this was an issue for her, but we work through it. One step at a time.

Her anxiety before these events made me curious. Is this normal or is it a sign of something more? Is she ok? I mean, I get anxious about some things, but not to that extent. So, I did a little digging. In the process, I came across some interesting articles and research regarding something called “anticipatory anxiety.”

What is anticipatory anxiety?

It sounds clinical, but anticipatory anxiety comes from fear or worries about things that could happen — situations, events, or experiences that may lie ahead. It can stem from past experiences, but it doesn’t always. My wife’s anxiety with tests or spiders doesn’t stem from past trauma. The anxiety with doctors? Now that’s a different story. 

Some symptoms may include things like hyperventilating, chest pain, difficulty concentrating and feeling apprehensive. It can also show up as sleep issues, loss of appetite, emotional numbness, and trouble managing emotions. 

Aren’t we all a little anxious about the future?

Sure! It’s normal for all of us to feel anxious about the future from time to time. Tests, moving, big trips, new jobs, and major medical procedures are just a few examples of things that cause anxiety. It’s not unusual to worry over these things, but there’s a BIG difference between being worried and having anticipatory anxiety.

Let’s take a look at some differences. A 2015 study looked at “phasic fear” (fear that precedes a threat you can predict) and anticipatory anxiety. Phasic fear lasts for a short time. On the other hand, anticipatory anxiety lasts longer and is a reaction to an unpredictable threat. Each fear activates different parts of the brain. The researchers found that we all experience different levels of anticipatory anxiety. BUT if a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, anticipatory anxiety can go well beyond what most people experience. Anticipatory anxiety can be life-limiting for those who suffer from panic disorder, PTSD, or a phobia.

An American Psychological Association survey in March 2021 found that 50% of participants reported anxiety in the current reentry phase of the pandemic. We’re probably all a little anxious right now as the world reopens and kids return to school (in some areas of the country for the first time since March 2020). We might even worry about a COVID recurrence or future pandemics.

So, how do we cope with anticipatory anxiety?

Anticipatory anxiety can put stress on personal relationships because you’re distracted by what-ifs. It can be life-limiting as you try to avoid things you’re afraid of. But you can cope with anticipatory anxiety and work to overcome it. 

We can also help others cope by paying attention to their actions and emotions. Maybe you have a loved one with anticipatory anxiety. If so, you can encourage them to use the coping mechanisms listed below. A strong support system that offers love, grace, and encouragement can make a world of difference.

Here are some methods to help you cope:

Practicing a relaxation response: Deep breathing, guided imagery, or meditation are a few examples. Find something that calms you.

Self-talk: Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend who’s having a similar experience. Self-compassion can make you more mindful. It can also motivate you to recognize and face your fears.

Healthy distractions: Take a walk, listen to music, engage in your favorite hobby, or exercise.

Challenge your anxious thoughts: Ask yourself if you’re being realistic. If you aren’t, challenge those thoughts with realistic ones.

Take action: Sometimes, the best solution is to confront whatever makes you anxious. This may mean taking small steps toward conquering your fears. You don’t have to tackle it all at once.

So, my wife faced her test anxiety. She studied diligently. The kids and I cheered her on and offered words of support and encouragement. We created an environment at home to lessen her anxiety as the time to take her test got closer. And she passed her test. With that, the fear is gone… until the next test. But, when it comes to spiders, we’ve got a long road ahead. [Read How To Help Your Spouse Deal With Anxiety]

Overcoming anticipatory anxiety takes work. But, reining in your fears will be helpful for you and your family. If you think your anticipatory anxiety could be a sign of something more, consult with a therapist or counselor for guidance. 







Grief is a response to loss. It’s characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, depression, numbness, anger, and guilt. The goal of successful grief resolution is to reestablish emotional balance. Not everyone grieves the same things or expresses their grief in the same way. And then there’s what we call “disenfranchised grief.” (You probably know what it is, and you may have even felt it, but you might not know what to call it.)

Recognizing that loss comes in many forms has been one positive thing we’ve taken away from the pandemic. For example, loss of:

  • A prom or graduation
  • A dream wedding
  • Funeral attendance
  • Vacations
  • Family reunions
  • Other gatherings

People are more aware of “disenfranchised grief” now. Still, it’s helpful for us to think beyond the pandemic to other commonly overlooked losses. That way, we can support those suffering from them.

Understanding Disenfranchised Grief: 

  1. Grief that isn’t typically recognized by societal norms and/or lacks cultural expression.
  2. Grief that is often minimized, invalidated, stigmatized, marginalized, or misunderstood.

Disenfranchised grief (DG) leaves individuals to process their loss on their own or in secret. They lack the supportive benefits available to people whose losses are more socially accepted, expected, acknowledged, or understood. Often, people tell those in distress, “You didn’t even know them that well,” or “Move on,” or “Get over it.”

Even if we don’t understand it or agree with it, it doesn’t make the pain any less. The pain is REAL. 

Examples of losses that are frequently disenfranchised include:

  • death of an “ex,” an absent sibling or parent
  • loss of someone who was not a “blood relative”
  • loss of a co-worker or pet
  • an adoption that fell through
  • loss of possessions, loss of location due to a relocation or move
  • loss of mobility or health, loss of a body part
  • infertility, miscarriage, stillborn child
  • incarceration of a friend or family member
  • deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, suicide*, or overdose
  • loss of personality due to dementia, etc.

Frequently, the loss itself may not be disenfranchised, but the manner in which an individual grieves may be. 

Those around them may criticize the length of their grieving process or the form their grief takes. Societies and cultures can have “unwritten rules” when it comes to grief. People often question, criticize, or invalidate expressions outside those “rules.” These things can complicate the grieving process. 

For many circumstances that individuals experience, there is no “race for the cure,” support group, lapel ribbon, hotline, celebrity fundraiser, foundation, or “public awareness” campaign. There may not even be a Hallmark card for it. This doesn’t mean that feelings of grief are invalid or illegitimate.

Often, people don’t even know they are experiencing DG, let alone know how to work through it. 

Instead, people have a tendency to minimize or invalidate their loss by comparing it to what a person (or society) believes is a “legitimate” loss.

Disenfranchised Grief. They say if you can name it, you can tame it. It might begin by being honest with yourself, admitting you’re grieving, and not feeling guilty about it. 

Stop faking smiles. Then find some support. The people around you are probably more than willing to help you. They just might not recognize your “outside the box” loss.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help or to utilize resources like The Grief Recovery Method.

For those of us who may know someone experiencing DG, support might begin by expanding our definitions of “loss” and “grief.” We can follow up by making ourselves available to those who are hurting and grieving. We can listen and empathetically validate their sense of loss. 

About 2.5 million people die in the United States each year. They all leave an average of five grieving people behind. Not all those grieving people grieve the same.

If we can expand our perspective on grief, we can expand our support to those who are grieving. People are hurting, and we can help.

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


How to Help Your Child Deal With Grief

6 Things You Can Do to Help a Child Who Is Grieving the Death of a Parent

4 Ways You Can Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Loved One

How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Spouse

Is Overthinking Killing Your Relationships?

Get tips for what you can do about it.

I hit the road every Saturday morning. Usually, I’m gone for an hour or two. Saturday is my long run day. The time commitment of training for a half marathon is significant. As I walk out the door, my little ones are wide awake and active. They hit me with the questions… “Where are you going, Dad?” “When will you be back?” “Why will you be gone for so long?” “Can you stay with us?”

Up to a few months ago, I felt guilty for leaving them. I felt like I was being selfish. I questioned if I was neglecting my wife and kids to do something I wanted to do, which took so much time and energy. This was me overthinking, being flooded with negative self-talk. They didn’t tell me I was being selfish. They were my biggest cheerleaders. But my overthinking was affecting reality.

Have you been there? Are you an overthinker, too?

What is overthinking?

In his latest book, Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking, Jon Acuff offers us a simple definition of overthinking. He says, “Overthinking is when what you think gets in the way of what you want.” 

When I think I’m neglecting my family to go on long runs one day a week, I’m listening to negative self-talk. Acuff calls these soundtracks. They are symptoms of overthinking that get you nowhere. We are just wasting resources on dead-end thoughts. He refers to overthinking as “the greatest thief of all. It steals time, creativity, productivity, hope.”

We can all be subject to overthinking as a spouse, a parent, a boss, an employee, or a friend. In any scenario, overthinking can be detrimental to furthering our relationships.

So, how do I stop overthinking?

Jon Acuff suggests we retire our broken soundtracks, replace them with new ones, and then repeat the new ones so often that they become the predominant thoughts you hear. The soundtracks we listen to are associated with an action. A broken soundtrack leads to inaction. It doesn’t take us anywhere, and doesn’t motivate us to push toward our goals. 

Let me give you a real-life example. Training for a half-marathon takes anywhere from 4-6 hours a week for 12-18 weeks. This is time I would normally spend with my family. My negative self-talk led me to believe I was neglecting them and that I needed to spend that time with them, having fun. This made my training difficult because I felt guilty. That’s my broken soundtrack—all in my head.

My wife told me, “We are so proud of you. You are setting goals and doing what you love.” She helped me see that even though I was giving up some family time, I showed my kids what it looks like to set goals and take steps to achieve them. And there’s a bonus: they’re getting some weekend trips to races that they are super excited about.

I retired my broken soundtrack, replaced it with a new one, and it’s playing on repeat.

To stop overthinking, we have to identify a broken soundtrack. But, how do we do that?

Jon Acuff gives us a simple way to figure it out. Write down something you want to do. Doesn’t have to be anything significant. Maybe it’s, “I want to have a weekly date night.” Then, listen to the first thought you have. What is your first reaction? If you immediately start saying, We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, or we can’t afford a babysitter, you’re overthinking.

Congrats, you just found a broken soundtrack. Now ask three simple questions about that thought:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it helpful? (Does it move me forward or hold me back?)
  3. Is it kind?

You don’t have to ask these questions about every thought, but ask about the big ones. Question the thoughts that seem to be holding you back the most. You might be surprised at how many broken soundtracks are playing in your mind.

Overthinking doesn’t have to kill your relationships. If you are an overthinker, evaluate those thoughts. Identify if they are true, helpful, or kind. And if those thoughts are hurting your relationships, it’s time to release, reshape and repeat new ones. You can choose what you think. Tell yourself, “I have the permission and the ability to choose what I think during the day to lead me to action I will take.”

Other helpful blogs:

Are You Setting a Good Example of Self-Care for Your Family?

How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship

Why Spending Time Alone Is Good for Your Marriage

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time