What to Do When You Reach a Breaking Point

It’s not what happens to us but what we do with it that matters.

Posted Jun 30, 2020

How many times have you thought — or said to yourself — “I can’t take this any longer?”

We all face a breaking point from time to time. Successful people do, too. No one is immune to continuous stress or anxiety. However, learning how to overcome a breaking point is crucial to your success.

Breaking points test us. And with courage and resilience, we can turn them into defining moments for the better.

Breaking Points Don’t Happen Overnight

“Each man has a breaking point, no matter how strong his spirit. Somewhere, deep inside him, there is a flaw that only the fickle cruelty of fate can find.”

– David Gemmell

Everyone has a breaking point. Denying it can be dangerous; the earlier you recognize the signs, the earlier you can do something about it.

Most people crack up when their stress levels become unbearable. A breaking point is not an isolated incident but the culmination of an internal process; tension and stress often build over time until we have enough. Even though fatigue builds up, we continue pushing and want to stay the course. We fail to pay attention to the mind that’s telling us to stop. Until it’s too late.

Everyone experiences breaking points in distinct ways.

Some people resist being under pressure, and they immediately turn off. Others ignore the symptoms, letting stress build up until, all of a sudden, they explode. Many individuals overreact to situations that might feel normal to anyone else.

Chronic stress is like hearing a dripping faucet, according to Deepak Chopra, “First, you notice it, then you get irritated and finally, you can’t stand it anymore. By the time you get to Stage 3, it’s time to fix the drip.”

Stress affects us one drop at-a-time until we can’t tolerate it any longer. Your brain is triggered to respond — it releases stress hormones that throw you out of balance.

Deepak Chopra identifies three stages that turn the dripping faucet into a make-or-break situation.

Stage 1: You are aware of being under pressure, but still feel centered.

Stage 2: Stress clouds your judgment, and you start to lose control. You have to make a conscious effort not to respond with anger, anxiety, or impatience.

Stage 3: You can’t cope any longer, and you explode — you release your tension momentarily but feel embarrassed and regretful.

Stress is cumulative; don’t miss the signs.

How to Deal With Breaking Points

A breaking point is a moment of greatest strain. Interestingly enough, the breaking points are the moments in which we need to stay calmer. Research shows that trying to control every event increases our stress.

Columbia University’s George Bonanno coined the term “PTE” (Potentially Traumatic Event) — an event is not traumatic unless we experience it as such. You can turn an adverse moment into a breaking point or not.

Always adapt, never react

Fighting what we don’t know or can’t control it’s inherently human. Our brain loves being in charge. That’s why we feel anxious when facing breaking points  —  we want to be in control of every situation.

Take time to acknowledge your emotions. Are you angry? Sad? Disappointed?

Self-awareness is critical to pause and reflect  —  connect with your emotions but don’t react. Learn to acknowledge and observe your thoughts rather than through them. Don’t let your emotions cloud your vision.

Resilience requires practice

Recovering from a breaking point takes time and practice. Resilience is a skill that you develop through time  —  be patient and willing to put the effort.

Remind yourself of similar past situations that you were able to overcome: “I’ve been there, done that. I can do it again.”

Send a message to the world

When you are against the ropes, saving a break point boosts more than your self-confidence  —  you are saying that you are alive and kicking.

Treat your breaking points as a match. Don’t let your "opponent" win  —  stay focused and balanced. What’s your message to the world?

Turn your mind into an ally

Routine, distractions, and busyness debilitate our mind — we feel like living on autopilot. Meditation and other mindful practices can turn your mind into your best ally.

Practice strengthening your mind — become familiar with yourself so that you can deal better with unexpected events. Embracing your own vulnerability will make you stronger.

Utilize social support

You don’t need to fight your breaking point alone. We are as strong as the strength of our relationships. Who do you trust? Who can provide a calm space to help you clear your mind?

Having a success partner makes it easier to deal with life’s challenges. Check out this simple exercise to start building yours.