If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Stressed Out?

Flickr Creative Commons Livin' Spoonful
Flickr Creative Commons Livin’ Spoonful

You’re stressed out. Freaking out. Tired out. And washed out. 

Are you ignoring your own needs? Not taking care of yourself?

You’re smart. Shouldn’t you know better?

Not necessarily.

True or false:

1. Everyone’s needs come before mine.

2. I have to be busy or I’m not worthy.

3. Look at all of the suffering on the planet. Who am I to get a massage?

4. Therapy is self-indulgent navel-gazing.

5. I’m smart so I shouldn’t need exercise.

6. Meditation is so last year.

7. If I take care of myself, I’ll be just like my narcissistic mother.

8. If I were really gifted, I wouldn’t get anxious and wouldn’t need time to unwind.

9. It’s a sign of weakness to take time to relax.

Flickr Creative Commons Leonardo Ferraguzzi
Flickr Creative Commons Leonardo Ferraguzzi

10. I prefer donuts to broccoli.

11. If I took time for myself, I’d feel guilty.

12. If I took time for myself, my kids would suffer.

13. If I took time for myself, I might like it and then the whole family would fall apart because I’d escape to a tropical island and read novels all day and all night.

14. I don’t have needs.

15. Needs are for sissies.

16. If I took care of myself, I might be happy and that would be weird.


Now you know the reasons you avoid self-care. Those reasons aren’t good enough.

You need to do the things that nourish you and relax you and heal you so that you can be the person you’re meant to be. Don’t waste any more time. You can’t be your authentic powerful purposeful self without nourishing your heart, your mind, your body, your soul and your spirit.

Don’t wait any longer.


To my bloggEEs: How do you take care of yourself? What do you do to self-soothe or to nourish your heart, mind, body, soul and spirit? And, as always, I want to know what you’re wondering about. Tell us in the comments.

This post is part of a blog hop at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org on self-care for gifted kids and adults. Click on the first link to select more posts from the website. Click on the Next Blog button to go directly to the next blog in the hop.


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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

23 responses to “If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Stressed Out?”

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  1. For Gifted Kids And Their Teachers — Strategies For Success | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] ways to nourish yourself. Attend conferences like this […]

  2. Erin Avatar

    Paula, I’m really loving your blog. Thank you. When I read this self-care post I’d just come from having a facial and realizing I felt totally unapologetic about it. Then I got your blog. Being in a “clear spot” allowed me a realization: there’s a feeling of total balance when we care for ourselves well…and it’s a feeling most of us have never had. So we feel suspicious about it. Where are the pulls and pushes, the extremes, the intensity, the battles, the reactions?

    My sense is that the balanced part of ourselves is always present. We just don’t see it as one of the committee members sitting around the conference table of our inner life. We’re distracted by the ones that bluster and pound the table and miss the quiet one, that is until we calm ourselves long enough to sense it.

    Thanks again….

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Well said, Erin. Do you know about Internal Family Systems therapy? The theory is very similar to what you describe here. The balanced always-present part can be called our Self, our Essence, our Authentic Self. And the blustering ones in this model are called the subpersonalities. If you haven’t heard of it you might find it fascinating. Richard Schwartz designed the model. There’s a good book that describes it for non-therapists called Self Therapy by Jay Earley. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Lisa Avatar

    I can relate to more of those excuses than I care to admit! Recently my go-to way to care for myself is to plan (that”s important, because if I don’t plan for it, it doesn’t happen) for time to READ–not the books I have to read for work or even good non-fiction, but fiction that I can lose myself in, stories that leave me feeling as though I’ve made a long journey somewhere. I will do more of that in November.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Getting lost in a story. Sounds like great self-care. Thanks, Lisa.

  4. patchworkpoppies Avatar

    Sometimes I feel the guilt of not being able to help or take care of things. For example, my husband doing his share of helping with the kids. He would offer then I would get so anxious that he was being too stressed out or over worked. I would jump in and take over and then I would burn myself out. I’ve learned to let go and realize it’s OK for others to help as well. There needs to be balance. We can’t let our guilt, anxieties and perfectionism consume us. I’ll admit I was afraid he wasn’t doing a good enough job as well so I’d jump in or leave my time early to take over. No longer am I like this. I realize we all need time for ourselves to unwind and regroup.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Balance is probably the key word. It’s hard not to get anxious, especially if you’re highly sensitive. And then, like you say, it can be hard to let someone else do the work if the quality won’t be up to your standards. It’s complicated! Thank you for sharing.

  5. byamtich Avatar

    I used to think self-care just meant “fun”, but I have learned more about needs for rest and balance. #2 leads towards “earning mattering.” I have so much I want to accomplish! Perfect timing for this reminder.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Interesting, Bob. Self-care is essential for sure. Thanks, by the way, for your re-tweets. I appreciate your spreading the word.

  6. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, Such a well-written list of the many excuses we all may use to avoid taking care of ourselves. Thanks.

  7. CA Avatar

    Paula hey! 🙂 and thanks for another great post, I don’t know how you know me so well…yes well I was so in love with your post because I am learning about looking after me and that it is a strength not a weakness to be about you and heal yourself and you what’s weird but good is I have more energy for me and and I can help me and everybody else because I am not giving from an empty plate! I will say this to all of us gifteds both far and near weakness and stupidity were calling cards and means and ends of people who hurt us, me anyway…not us! and Lightness and wonder and good are my birthright! 🙂 oh and therapy can kick major A! When it helps and it helps me! Way worth it way 🙂

  8. laneypoye Avatar

    Amazing post as always, Paula! I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog via Red White and Grew Crew. 🙂 It’s a balance to be driven and gifted and still allow yourself to be human.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’m glad you found me, too! Thank you.

  9. Ro Avatar

    Thank you Paula. After 7 months of living hell, I visited a therapist this week. I didn’t want to show any weakness or ‘give in’ – and I considered it a waste to spend money on therapy for myself. Prior to that I got some self help e-books. It was a tiny Thich Nhat Hanh book that I started with though; ‘Be free where you are’. I highly recommend it. After reading different things & still trying to fix myself, I finally realised I couldn’t just think my way out of this mess. In fact, I see now that I thought my way into a heap of denial over the years. I basically treated myself psychologically, like a prisoner of war – somehow thinking the self flagellation would get me through everything. All I needed was to toughen up & not allow myself to have genuine feelings. Now things are more scary & painful, but there is hope for change. The danger I was in has improved, which is important. I think we can put ourselves in danger by using all our life force attempting to jam the lid on things that need to bubble over & come to light. Though I am mortified by what I have now allowed myself to ‘see’; somehow, I feel better about the situation overall. My husband, daughter and I are going to attend a mindfulness course soon. Think it could really benefit the entire family. Each of us have our individual anxieties & struggles etc. I’d like to thank you for being here and for your patience & kindness that radiates from your writings. It’s a big one of the reasons that after all this time I felt safer to seek help.

    I have learned that though I am intelligent, like to be self sufficient and not depend on others…
    there are people out there who have much wisdom to share. There are people who can help. Truly. They won’t even think badly of the mirror maze that is my mind.

    Intelligence isn’t an excuse to not seek help. I thought intelligence & creativity of thought would always work in my favour; but as I mentioned above, I think there are some ways it has been working against me – for decades now. A creative, intelligent mind can build many complex layers of denial.

    I choose not to live in denial any more because I deserve more than that.

    Best wishes Paula!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’m so glad you’re allowing yourself to seek help, Ro. Mindfulness can be such a great tool, too. Thanks for the book suggestion. I love your statement: “A creative, intelligent mind can build many complex layers of denial.” So true. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    2. holbart Avatar

      Ro. I feel touched by your words. Each of our stories are unique, but your words feel familiar to me, especially the self-flagellation you mention and the whole using your life force to “jam the lid on things”. I like how you put that.

      Peace to you on your journey into therapy. I hope your therapist can meet you in the nooks and crannies of your pain with the solace of acceptance.

  10. telperion1214 Avatar

    Sometimes the path to health is counter-intuitive. 🙂 I love the app idea. I don’t have a device but I want that app anyway. LOL

  11. Robin Avatar

    Thank you!! I really needed this today. Funny how we can “know” so much and yet take so long to really integrate it!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’m happy to help, Robin.

  12. Re-Inventing Vintage Avatar
    Re-Inventing Vintage

    Does this message come with the ‘reach out through the screen and slap me into submission’ app that I haven’t invented yet? If so, please add it. I tend to need a slap a in the face every so often. Otherwise I don’t pay attention. (I assume you’re hearing the humor in what I’m saying?).

    Ok, ok… I HEAR you! I hear me. I hear my mind, body and spirit crying out for deserved attention. Unfortunately I hear the other cries louder and think, ‘there’s always tomorrow’ – and I KNOW what the retort is. I’d be saying it to someone else if I heard them say this to me.

    I don’t know what’s it gonna take for me. A heart attack? A ‘come to Jesus meeting’? I don’t know, but something’s gotta give. Oh, right. That would be me. I’ve gotta start giving TO ME.

    Ugh, I just can’t stand how selfish that sounds. ME, Me, me! But I am listening – and at least considering.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Hm…an app for that…someone ought to invent one. And, by the way, self-care IS NOT SELFISH! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. astoryfrom1986 Avatar

    True false test rocked my world. Thanks!! 🙂 I needed that this morning. Hell, I needed that this year! (Or the past 20 years)

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes! Good! Take care of your sweet self!!

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