A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear at least one person say during a counseling session: “I can’t do this anymore.” Now the “this” might be about a variety of different things but the statement is still said collectively often enough that I think it’s worth spending more time pondering over.

I think those words, “I can’t do this anymore” are powerful and should serve as an early warning system that change in some form or fashion is probably on the horizon or should be. I think overload on emotional capacity is the reason people get to the point where they feel that they can’t continue either staying a certain relationship, at the same place of employment, in a one-sided friendship, struggling with financial pressures, trying to meet unrealistic family obligations or whatever else might be at the core of a “I can’t do this anymore” statement. Emotional capacity. We all have it in vary degrees and it influences our ability to continue down a path that isn’t best suited for us.

I think our emotional capacity, say for anxiety or stress, is greatly influenced by our past experiences of these draining emotions. Lets say we grew up in a chaotic home and were chronically dealing with stress and waves of anxiety, our capacity for those emotions later down the road as adults might be less because, well, we have been there done that and our nervous system is crying out NO MORE! If we have been in an abusive or even toxic romantic relationship, our patience for such nonsense will be limited (as it should be actually) and we might find ourselves coming to the end of our ability to deal with dysfunction quicker than say someone who might be fresher in the game, if you will.

I don’t think getting to the point of feeling like we can’t continue doing something is necessarily a bad thing. I have repeatedly watched amazingly strong men and women make some significant and needed life changes after they were able to get to their own couldn’t do it anymore point. I think the challenge is knowing if we have really arrived a point of no return and change will come eventually or are we just having a wave of disappointment or frustration and we honestly really can do it more? I tell clients to never make any permanent decisions without feeling consistently convinced of the decision for at least a few months. If their mood fluctuates within that time frame and they have good days and think they can continue with the relationship, job or other area of  life, then they do have more in the emotional capacity tank and they are not ready to change things. Regret is a very heavy load to carry around and I always advise clients to stay clear of it when at all possible.

The other side of this coin though is that if someone consistently feels that they can’t continue as things are, then they owe it to themselves to make the changes needed to lower their anxiety and stress levels, no matter how complicated it might seem in the beginning to pull away from the status quo. Just because we can force ourselves to continue down a certain path does not mean our nervous system or physical health will be ok with it. I strongly believe in a mind/body connection and if we continue doing “this” when we know we shouldn’t continue doing “this”, our well-being will suffer at some point. It’s inevitable.

Is there an area of your life that you’ve felt like you can’t do anymore? If so, how long have you consistently felt this way? If it’s been some time, what’s holding you back from taking baby steps in the right direction? It’s scary, I know.