A Breakdown Doesn’t Mean You’re Broken


“Instead of heading for a big mental breakdown, I decided to have a small breakdown every Tuesday evening.”- Graham Parke in “No Hope for Gomez!”

If you have kids or ever observed them, you’ll notice they have breakdowns all the time. Whether it’s because they’re tired, hungry, or overwhelmed, they sometimes have several breakdowns in one day.

As adults we look at breakdowns as kind of a negative thing. Truth is, it’s very common. The good news is if we equip ourselves with the tools to handle them we can turn a breakdown into a positive, life affirming experience.

After years of breakdowns, I’ve learned one important lesson, a breakdown doesn’t mean that I’m broken. In fact, it means I’m growing.

Here’s how I handle them:

A breakdown means it’s time for a change.

I take this time to listen to my inner guide and find out what I’m needing. Sometimes it means I need more down time, other times it means I need to let go of something, like an old habit.

– A lot of times a change in perspective helps. Releasing old beliefs and being open to new ones can help you deal with your emotions better.

Take the time to take care of yourself.

I know, I know, a lot of self-help gurus talk about this and you’ve probably heard it a millions times. But breakdowns are normally caused by stress and a great way to reduce stress is taking time for yourself. I like to do things I enjoy. I reduce my to-do list, focusing on what’s really important, like my clients and family. The rest can wait till I feel better.

– Make a list of what you enjoy doing and do something on your list.

Stay away from things that induce anxiety.

During this time I have to separate myself from dramatic people, t.v. shows, and situations because I feel very fragile.

– When you feel anxious about something try to walk away from it if you can. Focus on one task at a time. Multi-tasking in general is not good for your sanity. It’s especially not good for your sanity when you are overwhelmed.

Get back to the basics.

It’s difficult staying away from comfort foods and getting my butt off the couch when I feel fatigued, but I make myself eat healthier and move my body. I tell myself that I’ll give it a try and if it doesn’t make me feel better I can quit. Truth is, I always feel better.

– Try a salad or smoothie kit, it makes eating healthy easier. Reduce your sugar intake, fried foods, caffeine and alcohol. Drink lots of water. If being active seems too draining, aim for taking a walk outside, even if it’s just around the block.

Write every morning, especially if you’re not a writer.

I started this ritual over a year ago and I’ve never missed a day. I look forward to it because it brings me comfort, ideas, and a place to vent.

– Buy a notebook or a journal with a lock. It doesn’t matter what you write in, all that matters is that you consistently write every morning. Write on good days and bad. Write about your feelings or what you ate. Brainstorm ideas or dreams, what makes you smile and what makes you cry.

Rest, rest, and rest some more.

Breakdowns happen more often when we’re sleep deprived and over-worked. I embrace this time and take advantage of down time by watching funny or inspiring movies. It gives my mind a rest from negative thoughts.

– Sleep more during this time if you can and read that book you’ve been meaning to read.

When you feel better go easy on yourself. Don’t jump right back into stressful situations and get burnt out again. You’re still fragile so monitor your energy levels and rest when you need to.

Bookmark this post so when you find yourself experiencing a breakdown you can reread and follow these steps. Having a plan beforehand is one of the best things you can do.

Photo by Lau_Lau Chan

22 thoughts on “A Breakdown Doesn’t Mean You’re Broken”

  1. Hi Billie

    Thank you for sharing your insightful article.
    I believe that breakdowns offer me an opportunity to break away from (that which no longer serves me) which in turn enables breakthroughs for me ( a new way of being/ interacting with myself, others and the world I’m in.)

    1. I love it, Gilbert! That’s a very healthy way to look at it. Breakdowns not only benefit us, but also the people we interact with. When we’re aware of what’s going on within ourselves, we’re able to have deeper and healthier relationships. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    1. Thanks, Dave! I’ve been writing every morning for over a year and it has made a positive impact on my life. It’s a great tool for anxiety, motivation and accountability. Thanks for leaving a comment!

  2. Thanks for this post, Billie.

    It just sounds so accurate right now. I had a serious breakdown one month or so ago, and then I started to change, all of a sudden. The people who know me are seriously taken aback, but I am not letting this process of.

    1. Hi Vincent! When we’re in the middle of a breakdown it seems like we’ll never feel normal again, but then, one day, we do and we usually we feel better because we learned something new about ourselves. It’s like a rebirth. Thanks for commenting and sharing your story!

    1. Ride out the storm, Kavita, and go easy on yourself. See what comes up emotionally and ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

  3. writing every morning has made me realize that I can learn something new every day and
    every activity has made me to dodge things I don’t want to do …great stuff

    1. That’s great, Mabhuchi! I started writing every morning after reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Writing became a daily habit ever since and, like you, it has helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi a very informative article on how to manage breakdowns. Most of us do have breakdowns every now and then, changing our perspectives in life can really help us manage our emotions better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Good morning Billie,

    I am Sunny from Singapore. Like to share your article on Breakdown with friends who are reading my Newstart newsletter. Newstart, an acronym of 8 letters to represent each aspect of health: N – nutrition; E – exercise; W – water, S – sunshine, T – temperance, A – air; R – rest, T – Trust (in God). Newstart originates from Weimar, California, and we, in Singapore are promoting this healthy concept. Your article on overcoming breakdown is an interesting article that for a change would draw our readers mentally from their daily stress in life. It is our practice to give credit to the author. In this case, your picture will appear alongside this statement: “Reprinted with permission from Billie Gardner.” Looking forward to hearing from you soon. God Bless! Sunny Lai

  6. Thanks for sharing. Yes I will bookmark this post for times when I feel down and I shall also share with others. Great advice to follow.

  7. i loved your article. i am currently having several breakdowns and i just don’t know what to do, but reading your article makes me feel better knowing that its normal and i will overcome it. thank you

    1. Yes, you’ll overcome it and you’ll be stronger because of it. Figure out what you can learn from each breakdown and how you can apply what you’ve learned to your life. Find out what works for you and what brings you more peace, love and harmony. It can take time, but it’s well worth it. Thank you for your kind words!

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