Dear Therapist:

A few months ago, I bought out my partner who I started my business with....things have gone better than I could have ever imagined. Recently, however, I have become very overwhelmed trying to stay on top of the growth of the company. I have mentioned to some friends and family how I have been feeling and I am met with a lot of flak for complaining about something that is a positive thing. I understand that, but the fact is that I feel like I am just barely keeping my head above water and I feel that I can fall apart any minute.  I understand it is inappropriate for therapy, but I was hoping you could give me some tips on how to manage the stress better. I also wonder how I can ask for and receive the support I need without sounding ungrateful?

 

Response:

I don’t know whether your stress levels are in line with the actual stressors that you mentioned. You mentioned that your feelings are “inappropriate for therapy,” which suggests that you believe that your stress is apropos of the situation. However, you also spoke of being very overwhelmed, leading me to wonder whether you are feeling anxious. In my vernacular, this would mean having feelings of stress that are significantly more than the situation should warrant.

I also wonder why you’re receiving negative reactions from the people on whom you are relying for emotional support. For some, perhaps there is some level of jealousy. Others may simply not be able to place themselves in your shoes. It can be difficult for people to relate to a situation that they have never experienced. Also, our experience from within a situation tends to be much more emotional than that viewed from an objective standpoint—the latter of which is usually much more logically experienced. This can make it all the more difficult for someone outside of the situation to understand the anxiety that you feel from your inside perspective.

It seems that you are trying to relieve your stress by reaching out to others. This can help in various ways. In addition to simply venting feelings with someone who is receptive, discussing your emotions can help you to begin viewing them more objectively. If you also receive feedback from the other person, their external (and often more logically-based) perspective can add to your objectivity. Typically, the more logically that you approach an issue the less emotional you are about it.

I don’t know what the nature is of your conversations with others. I don’t know whether you approach the subject in the same way with everyone, or if you have different approaches depending on the person and your relationship with them. Most people experience stress of one sort or another. Therefore, almost everyone can relate to feelings of stress. Perhaps your emphasis tends to be on the minutiae of your situation. If the focus of your conversation is on the particular issues that you are facing, it can be hard for others to connect to your feelings of anxiety. In fact, they may not even recognize that you’re reaching out to them for help in dealing with your feelings. When emphasis is placed on the particulars, the assumption may be that you’re asking for help in dealing with the logistics of what is being discussed.

It is easy to assume that others understand your feelings. As discussed, your emotional experience of the situation is different from the logical experience that others have. This can make it difficult for them to recognize what it is that you’re trying to convey. Framing your thoughts in a way that clearly describes your feelings—and emphasizing that it’s these feelings (not the concrete business issues) that you want to discuss—can help the people in your life to better understand your needs.

Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

 psychotherapist in private practice

 Brooklyn, NY   |   Far Rockaway, NY

 author of Self-Esteem: A Primer

 www.ylcsw.com / 718-258-5317