Mindset & Confidence

The Beauty of a Breakdown

BY Ashley Girard

abbot kinney

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It’s a shame. More often than not, the word “break” is used in a negative light.

All hell break(s) loose

Break (one’s) heart, balls, back

“Ugh, tough break”

** Breaking Bad (exception to the rule: tv show = good, meth = bad)

Then there are breakups and breakdowns.


But what if you could reclaim your breakdown – find some appreciation in failures, change the “stories” you tell yourself (more on that in a minute), and even embrace discomfort?

Who doesn’t want to find themselves catapulting through personal breakthroughs, or able to more fully enjoy the present and unlock your future potential?


Bear with me.

Here’s some food for thought.

The Limit Does Not Exist

”Nervous breakdown” is a pseudo-medical term to describe a wealth of stress-related feelings and they are often made worse by the belief that there is a real phenomenom called “nervous breakdown“ states Thomas Szasz in his book Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions.

When you’re stressed about being stressed #relatable.

You may be surprised to learn there is no formal psychiatric diagnosis called “breakdown,” but it closely mirrors the DSM I-V diagnosis of “Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood (Acute),” states Dr. Eve Kellner, Attending Psychiatrist, former National President of Interns Residents & Fellows.

In general, while not a medical diagnosis per say, “breakdown” has a negative connotation and very real feelings as a result.

Ask yourself, “how are good and bad defined?”

Dr. Kellner shares, “That’s part of the beauty. You decide. You make the call. Sometimes our heads are full of our own negative thoughts and it can be difficult to get past them but remember this: You have the power to decide what a “breakdown” is going to mean to you!”

Is a breakdown a bad thing?

Casey Haight of Karmic Wellness is a Holistic Health Coach and Mindfulness Teacher. She shares, “Absolutely not!  A huge chunk of the most important decisions I've made in my life have come as a result of “breakdowns” in one form or another.

I think of them as signposts pointing me away from what's not working or feeling good in my life, and towards what's truly in alignment for me.”

Mrs. Haight continue, “In my own personal breakthrough story – I was in a place where I had chronic anxiety, felt like I was running in a race that I didn't care about winning career-wise, and was just generally detached from any sense of purpose or passion.

It was this vicious cycle of constantly focusing and seeking validation externally, instead of finding that sense of love and approval from within – which led to lots of not-so-great decisions.

Yoga taught me to quiet my mind, connect with my body, lean into resistance without running away from it, to regularly set intentions, and that everything worthwhile is built from a firm foundation – and it completely changed the way I relate to myself and the world around me.

That had a positive ripple effect throughout the rest of my life, where I became super aware of what was and wasn't in alignment for me, and continuing to live as an inauthentic version of myself made me want to crawl out of my skin. From that came a complete career and lifestyle change from the 9-5 corporate world, to my own holistic wellness biz, and I can honestly say that that old version of me would have never realized the levels of happiness and freedom I experience now were possible.” 

Perception vs Reality

Perhaps another consideration:

A “breakdown” is really a breakdown between your expectations and what had actually happened.

That’s it.

Your expectations.

And what actually happened.

It is human nature to try and rationalize behavior. To justify why something was, or was not, in your favor. Or maybe, we fail to consider the situation from the other person’s point of view.


“This self-delusion, the result of what’s called cognitive dissonance, has been demonstrated over and over by researchers who have come up with increasingly elaborate explanations for it. Psychologists have suggested we hone our skills of rationalization in order to impress others, reaffirm our “moral integrity” and protect our “self-concept” and feeling of “global self-worth.”

NY Times – Go Ahead, Rationalize. Monkeys Do It, Too.

But when we try to rationalize behavior – either our own or how we perceive others – we often make up stories (“she’s a bitch” vs. trying to understand where someone may be coming from/their intent), We also assign meaning to things that are otherwise meaningless (chasing that job/title you aren’t passionate about). Often times these “stories” are usually based in our self-righteous feeling of being wronged or to justify behaviors. As we create our emotional records of these events, we risk feeling further feel wronged or victimized.

This is very different than synchronicity – which is a concept based on your own personal interpretation of what you give meaning and symbolism to individually (11:11, see butterflies everywhere, anyone)?

3 Tips to Embrace the Discomfort & Propel You Into Your Breakthrough

  1. Shift Your Perspective – If we had to address every single discomfort over our entire lives, we wouldn’t have much time for anything else!” Dr. Kellner shares. “My personal advice is that my personal growth is directly related to how uncomfortable I make myself, and realize that I am the one making it uncomfortable.”

“We’re hardwired to avoid discomfort,” Mrs. Haight confirms “It's an outdated survival instinct designed to keep us alive – so defaulting to staying in our comfort zones is something that's innate to us. For that reason, it's been super important for me to consciously change my relationship to discomfort – so, instead of equating discomfort to pain or fear, I equate it to growth (which always feels good, at the end of the day).

Whenever I feel resistance bubble up inside, (which happens pretty much every time I do something I've never done before), I consciously choose to feel it and move through it instead of letting it stop me in my tracks. It's just like lifting weights at the gym – you can't get stronger without consciously deciding to lean into resistance and discomfort over and over again.” 

2. “Do Your Future Self a Favor” (find a mantra) – Casey Haight

“When I was taking steps to change my life/career to live from a more authentic, wellness-focused place, I created a little personal mantra that kept me in check each time I needed to make a decision, “do your future self a favor.”

So, instead of making a bad choice that would maybe feel good in the moment, but ultimately leave me feeling gross or misaligned, I'd take a sec to tune into what my body/mind/soul actually craved. For example, after a long day at work – it would be easy for me to skip my yoga class (which was literally less than a half mile down the road from the office), and go sloth around on my couch – but I knew that I'd feel infinitely better if I gave myself what I needed and went to yoga – so that's how I could do my future self a favor in that moment.

Our actions moment-to-moment shape our lives – and it's the consistent small steps forward that lead to big changes. Essentially, my mantra kept/keeps me in touch with what I need in the present and reminds me to make decisions out of intention instead of habit – and it was so impactful that I've actually made it my brand tagline, so people can borrow it if it resonates!


3. Learn Through It! Remember, there are “No Mistake, Just Happy Accidents”

    • It took James Dyson 15 years and 5,127 attempts to create the bagless vacuum.
    • Jon Hamm almost gave up acting at 36. At 42, spent years starring in minor roles while trying to become an A-list actor. According to his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt, he almost gave it all up.
    • Some of the best discoveries are failed inventions like: penicillin, post-it notes (sorry Romy), or corn flakes

Your comfort zone isn’t where the magic happens – let your breakdown lead to a breakthrough. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please reach out to a healthcare professional, or contact an anonymous depression hotline at 1-800-985-5990


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