My life feels like a speeding, out-of-control train! I can’t stop it. And I can’t get off.
That’s what a practice owner said to me the other day in a one-on-one coaching session.
I think that is a perfect description of the feeling of being OVERWHELMED.
Look, running a PT business is a big job. Even under “normal” conditions, overwhelm is rampant among practice owners. These days, especially everything that’s going on in the world and in health care, it’s hard NOT to be overwhelmed.
I used to be on that speeding train. For years, as a practice owner, I kept trying to catch up with that runaway train, which was filled with all the confusion and disorganization of my work life. I’d be sitting at my desk on a Monday morning:
- trying to reconcile a discrepancy in Quickbooks (to save money by not hiring a bookkeeper)
- answering the phone (not my job, but I kept doing it anyway, all the time)
- catching up on documentation ( I hadn’t gotten to it over the weekend)
- writing a new job ad (I was always hiring, because people were always quitting)
- settling some kind of drama between employees (they seemed like good people—why couldn’t they work well together?)
- and staring at a long afternoon and evening of treating patients.
I knew it would be nothing but more of the same, the next day and the day after that.
At the end of every day, I’d feel a brief bit of relief—like, yeah, you did it. Then I’d crash into an exhausted, restless sleep and wake up to that runaway train revving up all over again.
It took an actual fire in my life—the one that burned my practice to the ground—to teach me the first and most important lesson about getting rid of overwhelm for good:
STOP FIGHTING IT.
If you’re anything like I was, you try to fight your way through feeling swamped by pushing yourself to work even harder. I had so many mantras I used to motivate myself. My inner thoughts were an endless mind loop of:
“You got this”
“Just keep going”
“Don’t give up”
“You’re tougher than the pain you’re in”
Here’s the thing. None of those things were:
B—allowing me to run a strong, functional, profitable business while actually living a rewarding life outside of work.
When the fire leveled my practice, there was nowhere left to go. The runaway train had derailed. I finally had to lift up my hands and acknowledge what had been the truth for a long time, long before those flames swept through my practice.
I was totally overwhelmed by the way I was running my business.
There were a lot of painful moments around that fire and its aftermath. But this moment of acceptance wasn’t one of them.
It was an incredible relief to just be honest, to speak the truth about my reality and how unmanageable it was. Turns out, fighting being overwhelmed only makes it worse. Denying the pain and confusion, fear and uncertainty that are all a part of being overwhelmed just feeds those emotions, and keeps us stuck in the same place. The same mindset, the same choices, the same results.
It’s only when we stop resisting and denying and trying to outrun that speeding train that we can actually move forward, find a new path, make different choices—ones where we design the train and its tracks and everything about how it will run.
My client was right about how that speeding train feels, how out of control and stressful it is. But he was wrong about not being able to get himself off. The first step, the only step that matters when you’re holding on for dear life, is to let go.
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By Jamey Schrier
PT, Founder & CEO, Practice Freedom U
August 6, 2020
5 minute read