Emotional Wellbeing


Mental Health

Ainsley Lawrence

Strategies for Sustaining Your Identity Amidst Life’s Pressures

Strategies for Sustaining Your Identity Amidst Life's Pressures

Whatever life throws at you, you rise to the challenge. However, overwhelming pressures at work, in your relationship, and at home can derail how you feel about yourself. After all, those are large portions of your daily routine. Luckily, you can navigate tumultuous times and still sustain a sense of identity. Learn how to anchor yourself during a storm and find solace.

How Life’s Stressors Can Affect Your Sense of Self

Chaotic situations, societal norms, and expectations you put on yourself can make you lose sight of what truly matters. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body if left unchecked. Your brain perceives a situation as stressful and decides what to do next, whether that’s cope or become overwhelmed. Both of these are natural reactions to life’s stressors, but you should understand how they affect your identity long-term.

If you’re often stressed, this can overload your mind and senses, leading to foggy thinking, poor decision-making, and mental health issues like mood swings and anxiety. That’s why you may not “feel like yourself.” You’re going about the world differently than the person you know yourself to be when you aren’t coping well with stressful events. Plus, you may be dealing with chronic pain that derails your ability to be active and present. You could also develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that aren’t aligned with your morals and values.

However, the brain has remarkable plasticity, meaning that you can reshape the way you respond to life events. Knowing who you are and what you stand for can boost your resilience in tough situations.

Why It’s Important To Maintain Your Identity

Happiness seems like an end goal or a destination you could reach if you just had a little more money, time, or luck. In reality, the secrets to a happy life are held within your day-to-day journey. Feeling good about yourself in the present is much more conducive to satisfaction than looking down on your progress as not good enough. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to be better — you should just appreciate yourself and your journey to building your identity.

Fostering a Positive Work-Life Balance

Many people find a sense of identity in their careers. However, even if you have a dream job, it’s important to balance work and life. You can balance hobbies outside of work that are for pure enjoyment, giving yourself downtime to forget about workplace stress. This is crucial to let your mind and body rest and rejuvenate. Try assessing your values and prioritizing tasks by order of importance. You should also allow yourself to say “no” from time to time without feeling guilty. If you’re still struggling to find time for hobbies, try integrating a couple of different activities into one — like biking to work instead of driving.

Burnout can happen whether you’re working overtime downtown or while isolated in a remote home office. To mitigate the negative effects of work stress, strive for a work environment that feels good to your nervous system. Look for flexible work options like hybrid work. Make sure to check in with yourself and how your job makes you feel. If you have no sense of identity outside of work, adjust your schedule — even if that means finding a company that has better policies or working for yourself.

Practicing Self-Care

Self-care looks different for everyone. Once you strike that work-life balance, figure out what activities can help you destress and reconnect with yourself and your loved ones. Some ideas include reading a book, journaling, or exercising. It’s also a great idea to unplug and spend time with family by spending time outdoors watching the stars or playing games together. In addition to being relaxing, this is a great way to connect with your partner and your children.

It’s important to incorporate these types of soothing activities into your routines. You’re showing yourself that you care about your well-being, and your body and mind will calm down naturally.

Setting Boundaries

When your source of stress is coming from external pressures, work on creating boundaries. This might mean that you have to have some tough conversations. Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, you shouldn’t feel like you are being asked to forgo your sense of self to make someone else happy or get something done.

Firm boundaries can feel scary at first, but setting them can ensure that you don’t overwhelm yourself and cause unnecessary stress that doesn’t allow you to show up completely. If it helps, explain this to your friends, family, and co-workers to let them understand that you can perform better if these boundaries are in place.

Seeking Support

Support systems are essential to lean on when times can get tough, and you can seek help from friends, family, support groups, or mental health professionals. It’s often helpful to have an objective opinion or place to vent. Surround yourself with people you trust and who have your best interests in mind. This way, your sense of self can have space to grow and flourish.

Moving Forward

Think of your identity as a perennial plant that, while persistent, needs to be checked up on and nurtured to grow to its full potential. When life gets heavy, take some time to look inward and see what you can do to lighten the load and bring yourself back to what feels right — this can change every aspect of your life for the better.

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