As a therapist, I’ve talked to many clients in my practice in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area who have struggled with mental health problems as they try to manage anxiety, depression, or stress. Or, they have developed a chronic illness or had a physical injury that takes time to adjust to. They might come in for counseling and have a lot of insight into why they struggle. They may even have the information to cope better; yet they are still stuck. They have listened to every mental health podcast, read a billon self-help books, are in 5 different online support groups, watch Oprah and Dr. Phil religiously, and may have been to a few therapists for counseling and quit prematurely. What is going on here? What is this about?
I believe that one of the reasons for these folks staying stuck in their mental health struggles is because they are consuming, but not doing. It’s easy to talk the talk, discuss general mental health tips and provide “therapy” to your friends, but man is it something different to walk the talk and take your own therapeutic advice. If you find yourself in this space, then you are probably a “consumption addict.” If you don’t know if you are a consumption addict, I’ve listed a few of the “symptoms” that might indicate why you are consuming but not doing.
The Symptoms of Consumption Addiction:
You notice the following thoughts plaguing your mind: I can’t do it, I can’t keep it up, I’ll fail, If I read enough I’ll naturally start doing it, I don’t have time, If I can’t do it perfectly it won’t work. Fear is your friend and also your enemy: it motivates you to learn about your mental health, but keeps you from doing your own “therapy.”
Every book, course, podcast, newsletter, freebie, Instagram post, etc. seems like it’s the golden ticket to feeling better. If you just had that particular information, you’ll be good to go and you too will feel better overnight in just 5 easy steps!
You want instant gratification. You’re tired of thinking, analyzing, talking, worrying, etc. I get it. Managing what your mind says to you and how your heart feels can be exhausting. So, you buy into the myth that many self-help books are trying to sell: the myth that “everyone can by happy all the time” or that “you have the power to control everything if you apply these 4 easy tips.” It’s not easy for you, but you buy into the false belief that it’s suppose to be easy so you head to the self-help section of Barns and Noble, but find yourself only apply ¼ of what you read.
“Lack of progress”
You feel like you are working so hard to do life better and improve your mental health, but you just find yourself spinning your wheels. You are thinking, dreaming, listening, hoping, reading, praying, crying, talking and then thinking again. All the “counseling” you did for yourself that day to feel better didn’t produce any real, or lasting changes in your mental health, mind, heart, or relationships.
- Start something and stick to one thing. Our inner world can be complex. We have fears and sadness that comes from the past, present, and worries about the future. If we try to understand and fix all those things at once, whether you are in counseling with a therapist, or doing your own self-help counseling stuff, you’ll likely stay stuck. So…pick one thing to work on (responding calmer to my kids, finishing one task at a time, improving my sleep, learning to slow down before I respond, etc.). We can learn a lot from the business practice of focusing on just one thing. Check out this great book that focuses on the concept of doing one thing at a time.
- Time block. As part of The One Thing, the authors talk about the concept of time blocking. Time blocking is a system of setting appointments with yourself every single day so you can focus your energy on achieving what you want. Here is a great blog by a man who went through Time Blocking mastery training. He offers some great insights and resources in his post. How can you translate this time blocking concept into coping better with your mental health? Can you set an “therapy” appointment with yourself daily to journal, practice mindfulness, pray, talk with your spouse, do something creative, or go on a walk? Whatever you choose, make it, and yourself, a priority.
- Chunk tasks into palatable-size bites: If you don’t break your large mental health goals into smaller goals you won’t know what to spend your time on. You will quickly feel overwhelmed and risk falling into “analysis paralysis.” Psychologists want to know what your goals for therapy are and they will help you figure out which ones are most important to work on first In my practice, I frequently ask people at the end of a counseling session what one or two things they will the commit to doing that week to help them focus.
To wrap up, I encourage you to notice how you are spending your time and energy. After reading this, would you say you’re a consumption addict? Are you consuming more mental health tips than you are actually putting into practice? Are you not really doing anything about what you’ve read or listened to? If so, take a moment to pick just one thing that you can start doing and do that one thing consistently for a few weeks or months. Prioritize yourself by blocking out time for yourself to work on that one thing, and break your goals into bite-sized pieces. When you do these things, you are more likely to stick to your plans, feel more confident in your efforts do cope with life better, and you’ll actually start to see results in your mental health.
Dr. Leedy is a clinical psychologist. She owns and operates Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Her practice is conveniently located for easy access from Tulsa, Bixby, Jenks, Sand Springs, Coweta, and Owasso. She specializes in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic illness/injury. She too, struggles with “doing” and has adopted the question to help her stay focused: “what is the author (or speaker) urging me to do in this chapter/talk?”