Don’t Push Through It!

Bouncing back ain’t what it used to be

Has it been taking you longer to recover lately, from…literally everything? In the past few years, a lot more of us have used up our bandwidth, yet we expect to be able to “push through” in the same way we used to. It may be that the pushing through itself was always bad for us, but we didn’t feel the effects until we used up everything we had. We hear a lot about resilience, but the fact is, we live in a culture that glorifies crunch and encourages pushing through to the detriment of physical and mental health, and it’s killing us. While there are certainly ways to increase resilience, we are finite. There are already enough external things killing us; we need to stop the self-destruction and learn to treat ourselves sustainably.

What does “pushing through” mean?

“Pushing through” is forcing yourself to function past your physical or emotional limits, past capacity: Staying up all night to finish a task. Working week after week without a day off until you feel numb. Exercising until you throw up. Prioritizing others’ feelings and keeping silent when your own heart is breaking. Ignoring hunger, thirst, or the need to go to the bathroom for just another hour and then another hour. Staying in an intolerable situation and telling yourself you “should” just be able to tolerate it. Often needing caffeine, aspirin, or alcohol to tolerate the situation. Do any of those sound familiar?

Consequences of pushing through

Here’s the thing. Any time you push through your limits–physical or emotional–you are borrowing from your future self. You are eating your seed corn. You are going in debt to your own physical and mental health. You are spending resources you don’t have! The discomfort is there for a reason. It tells you when you have reached your limit, when to stop spending yourself, when you are tapped out and used up. The discomfort is the sign to stop.

When people say “listen to your body,” what that means is if it hurts, stop doing it. If you are tired, rest. If you are sad, cry. If you are hungry, eat. This sounds simplistic, but many of us have been conditioned since childhood to ignore or “push through” our limits. We may have a high tolerance for physical and emotional discomfort. Well, guess what? That’s often harmful. It may be lifesaving in a situation of desperate crisis, but it’s not sustainable. You can tolerate the situations causing the discomfort for the short term, but you are spending yourself to do so. You are spending your future self for today’s emergency. Burning out is the direct result of pushing through too many times. It means the future self you spent is today’s self.

Why do we overspend ourselves?

Many of us have been taught that we are expendable, and that discomfort is always something to be ignored as we push through it to a goal. We learn that spending ourselves recklessly is okay or even admirable as long as it’s in service of a worthy goal. Sometimes it’s a goal we want to reach, but often it’s a goal others have set for us, a social expectation, a “should.”

You may be fighting to not feel your reactions to a given situation, when what really needs to happen is for you to leave or change the situation. The reactions you’re experiencing are an important indicator of how the situation is affecting you, rather than a distraction to be ignored or suppressed.

Learning to respect your own limits

Before you can set limits, you need to know what your limits are. When you push through, what is it you are pushing through? Is it exhaustion? Fatigue is a sign you need to rest. Pain? Pain is a sign that something may be injuring you. Is it fear? Fear is a sign that something may hurt you. Is it resentment? Resentment is a sign that you are giving more than you can afford to give. These are important indicators of how you are being affected.

What if you don’t know your limits? In particular, survivors of abuse or neglect are vulnerable to not having well-developed boundaries, that is: knowing your limits. That’s because in an important part of your development, you were taught that how you felt about things was not important. You were not allowed to develop boundaries or learn your limits, so you developed a high tolerance for discomfort. Too high, in fact! As a result, what often happens is you don’t realize that your limits have been reached until they are surpassed, and then you are utterly overwhelmed.

Therefore, your task in adulthood is to lower your tolerance for discomfort. We want you to learn to stop what you’re doing before the discomfort gets to the point of overwhelm, by reducing your threshold of tolerance for discomfort. Notice which feelings indicate things are too much for you. (Exhaustion? Pain? Fear? Resentment?) The goal is to start noticing and paying actual attention to discomforts when they are still small, taking them seriously while they are still small. Initially this will feel selfish or silly or spoiled. You will feel guilty! But in fact it is solid progress.

Does this mean we should strive to never feel discomfort? Of course not. Discomfort is an integral part of being human, part of progressing, part of growing and living with others. But we can learn to discern between the discomfort of healthy growth, and discomfort that is an indicator that we aren’t taking care of ourselves or are actively being harmed. There is no need to valorize discomfort for the sake of discomfort.

Is it ever okay to push through?

There are exceptions where it’s okay to intentionally, consciously push your limits or overspend yourself. Maybe you’re doing physical therapy to recover from a surgery and the exercises hurt. This is for a very specific recovery goal and it’s under the supervision of an expert; the point is not to just do something very hard that hurts, it’s to heal. Or maybe you have a phobia and you know a particular fear is irrational and you want to overcome it. But again, this is a very specific exception and you can engage carefully knowing that you’re actually safe; the point is not to just ignore fear.

Maybe you intentionally incur short-term temporary debts to your future self: you occasionally stay up to finish a paper or meet a work deadline, you’re training for a special sports event that you enjoy, you’re taking care of a loved one who is ill. In those cases you support your well-being, you plan how to “pay it back” to yourself immediately by taking a few days to catch up on sleep, do stretches, feed yourself well, socialize, do your journaling, relax. Then you’ve repaid yourself and repaired your body and emotions. And in each case, these are goals that you have chosen because you value them yourself.

But all too often, what we’re doing is not one of these exceptions. Instead, we’re relying on emergency spending as a way of life. We are pushing through important warnings to stop!

Spend yourself less and pay yourself back more

Learn your limits. What tires you out? What hurts physically? What interactions leave you emotionally derailed or spent? There was a point where the discomfort began–did you notice it then, or not until it became overwhelming?

Choose your goals. Spend yourself intentionally on the things that really matter to you, instead of habitually overspending yourself on things that don’t help you survive or make you happy.

Respect your limits. Stop doing the things that always lead to those feelings! Either stop doing them entirely, or stop doing them while the discomfort is still mild. Stop when you only feel a little tired, not when you’re already exhausted. Or stop when you’re just a little sore, not when you can’t stand because you overworked your muscles. Or end a phone conversation when you’re only a little antsy, instead of staying on the line until you feel resentful.

Pay yourself back. This sounds so simple, yet it’s not easy. Rest, eat, comfort and entertain yourself after spending yourself. Restore yourself! You cannot simply jump back into routine without restoring whatever you have overspent, or you’ll be running at a deficit. Do not allow a self-care deficit to become chronic–that leads to illness.

What if I just can’t

In some cases, there are times we know we are beyond capacity, but we are running ourselves ragged just to make ends meet or keep our lives holding together. This unfortunately and unfairly contributes to illness and even shorter lifespan for those in marginalized groups: racialized groups, those who are poor, and disabled people, for example.

In that situation, I encourage you to let go of tasks that are not an absolute necessity. Do what you must and do what you want, but let go of doing what you “should.” By this I mean, prioritize the tasks that will get your bills paid, and prioritize the things that will help you stay functioning (make you happy or relax you). However, let go of things you’re doing because it’s a “should” instead of a need or a want. De-prioritize things that you’re mainly doing because of the judgments, habits, or opinions of others.

You are a finite resource

A big part of increasing resilience is learning what our limits are and respecting them, instead of pushing through them. Learn to stop when discomfort is small, not after it becomes overwhelming. Some goals may be worth temporarily overspending ourselves, but we must choose those goals carefully and with intention, and then make sure to pay ourselves back. Do not let a deficit become chronic: you are borrowing from your future self. Stop pushing through the warnings. You are a finite resource. You are irreplaceable.

Become sustainable. ❤️

We offer remote therapy sessions anywhere within Pennsylvania. Most people qualify for a sliding-scale discount; use the calculator to instantly see what your fee would be. Email to schedule a session.

Letting Go of “Unlikeability”

You Have Been Good Enough All Along – by @tlkateart
You may have recently seen some discussions about a post online stating that trauma survivors are “fundamentally unlikeable.” I hope it has not been too derailing to your healing.
If it has been derailing or activating to you, it may help if you can step back mentally and see the statement for what it is: a cognitive distortion arising from PTSD. It is also an expression of internalized ableism.
Remember, when you have feelings of depression or anxiety, your feelings are understandable and deserve compassion. AND–you also do not have to buy into the cognitions or judgments that arise from these feelings!
In Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach talks about the “trance of unworthiness” that is engendered by trauma. This is also called “SHAME.” This kind of shame is the deep sense that one is fundamentally unworthy of love. (It is different from guilt, which is a pain from hurting someone and a motivator to do better next time.)
In my experience as a clinician and also as a trauma survivor, shame is pretty well universal among trauma survivors and it is easy to get sucked into. But you can remember not to buy into it. You do not have to buy into internalized ableism.
If someone dislikes you because you have trauma symptoms, that has more to do with who they are than who you are. If you feel unlikeable because of your trauma, that has more to do with trauma symptoms than with your actual likeability.
Another important aspect of this is that you do not owe anyone a performance of likeability. You yourself may want or need to be liked, for your own reasons: psychological, social, practical, or safety reasons. But likeability is not something you owe to others. You don’t have to be likeable for the sake of others’ comfort.
You are not a burden, you are carrying a burden
You are not a burden, we are lucky to have you
You Are Not a Burden by @tlkateart
You might also find it useful to listen to the following meditation from Tara Brach*: Healing Shame

(Note: Dr. Brach uses “toxic shame” vs. “healthy shame” to refer to what I would call “shame” vs. “guilt.”)


You are already fundamentally likeable, just as you are. ❤️


Pauline Zimmerman: Survivor Journey from the Lancaster Plain Community

Safe Communities Survivor Voices Series:                                                                                                 Thursday February 18th, Pauline Zimmerman, author

I Heard and I Saw Before I Knew


Interviewer: Linda Crockett, Director of Safe Communities

Register for the webinar at Safe Communities. ❤️

“May Her Memory Be a Revolution”

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”




Centering Marginalized Voices as Spiritual Practice

Image: Jennifer Hosler for Messenger

From Pastor Belita Mitchell and team, Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren:

Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren ‘Black Lives Matter’ Statement

 As followers of Jesus we stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters enduring racial violence and systemic oppression. We denounce anti-black racism resulting in police brutality, mass incarceration, and unjust legal systems that disproportionately harm black and brown people. We denounce the evil “principalities and powers” at work in our world that seek to kill, steal, and destroy people made in the image of God. 

As a congregation we commit to doing justice and peacemaking in the way of Jesus. For the times we as a church have been complacent about the suffering of others, we confess our complicity. By God’s grace we repent and courageously align ourselves with the Spirit’s activity and the Messiah’s reign on earth. And in obedience to God we seek to set things right where every valley is lifted up and every mountain is made low. Jesus teaches us how to struggle against oppression through his example of standing in solidarity with those who were considered ‘the least’ and ‘the last’ in his society. And because Jesus affirmed that poor people’s lives mattered, that Samaritans lives mattered, and the lives of those crucified by Rome mattered, we affirm that black and brown lives matter too, and are precious to God. 

As a congregation we commit to deepening our faithfulness to Jesus through holy listening, through intentional learning, and through discerning congregational public action. As a congregation we commit to creating intentional inter-generational space where the stories of our black and brown brothers and sisters are received with love. In line with God’s upside-down kingdom, we will encourage marginalized stories to be centered while inviting those in the dominant culture to step back and be slow to speak and quick to listen. Specifically, we will make space for this congregational practice immediately after we return to worshiping together in our building.

  • As a congregation we commit to deepening our understanding of the history and present systems of racism in the United States, as well as the complicity of the western church in the legacy of white supremacy. We will study the history, our present society, and the theological implications of racism and its ties to the church. Specifically, our congregation will begin with Jemar Tisby’s “Color of Compromise” video series. We will follow that up with ongoing learning. 
  • We will grow in our understanding of what it means to be an intentionally and actively anti-racist church. Finally, we commit to taking public action because we are called to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Just as Jesus spent most of his time out in the streets of Galilee serving and living in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable we too seek to take action that makes the Jesus story visible to those who have their backs against the wall.
  • Specifically, we commit to ongoing discernment as a congregation about what public actions, community partnerships, and organizing efforts in our neighborhood we will participate. We know that faith without works is dead and discipleship requires a love willing to respond to the suffering of others. We pray for a prophetic witness that pleases God and participates in seeing justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. 

Harrisburg First Discernment Team & Pastor Belita Mitchell 

(Harrisburg First CoB is located on Hummel St in Harrisburg’s South Allison Hill neighborhood which is comprised of the largest concentration of low-income families between Philadelphia & Pittsburgh.) ~

You can watch Jemar Tisby’s “The Color of Compromise” series too!


“When we truly know justice, we will truly know peace.” ❤️



*Installments of the peace-building series can be found here:

Belita Mitchell

AntiRacism Links and Resources from Workshop

Includes videos we watched in the workshop, book lists, recommendations for action, materials for youth, and much more! Thank you all!


The emotional impact of watching white people wake up to racism:

Medical professionals bias tiktok:

“Dear fellow White ladies” video:

White progressive backlash:

“This google doc was thoughtfully put together for white people and white parents. Read, teach your children, others, and more importantly yourselves. Do NOT rest on the laurels of black people and expect them to continue to do the work for you.”:

DC physician’s Detroit childhood Girl Scouts experience:

How to show support to Black colleagues:

For White academics:

Your Black colleagues aren’t okay:

“Dear White People: this is what we want you to do”:

“White folks wanting to help? Here’s your one freebie”:

Thread of reading list recommendations from Victoria Alexander:

The Anti-racist book list:

Book recommendations to share with young readers from Kathie MacIsaac:

Someone said I did a racism, now what?

What to say when someone says something racist or bigoted in everyday situations:

Image credit: Andrew M. Ibrahim MD, MSc @AndrewMIbrahim
Becoming Anti-Racist: Fear Zone, Learning Zone, Growth Zone


Race Action Workshop Saturday 6/13

Saturday, 6/13, 10:00 am:

This workshop is aimed at helping White women (trans-inclusive, NB-inclusive) to understand and work on their own racism/ gain understanding of systemic racism. (Women of any race may attend, but Black and Brown women may find it remedial!)

Emphasis on movement perspective of connection, cooperation, safety, kindness, trust, and inclusion, rather than the western-masculine model of critical and exclusionary activism.

WHAT really is race?
WHY is race hard to talk about?
WHY is “White women” a charged term?
HOW does feminism fit in?
HOW can we heal racism?
WHAT can White women do to help?

Presented by Dr. Liz Yaelingh-Scoffins of Intersectional Life Counseling & Psychology

$25 (or request scholarship if needed)
BIPOC may attend for free using the code: BiPOC
20% of proceeds will be donated to the BLM cause (TBD).

Register Here:
Zoom link will be provided in a reminder e-mail prior to the workshop.




Why Should White Women Teach White Women About Racism?

(Comedian and National Treasure, Sarah Cooper)
Sometimes people–invariably White people–question why I should be the one to teach anti-racism to other White people. For the most part, I believe this is a good-faith question brought by those with good intention regarding unpacking their own racism.
However, what it usually tells me is the questioner has already not been listening to BIPoC people at all. If they had, they would have already heard the following words hundreds of times.
Not every one of the following posts is from a Black person, but many are.
Read them now and understand why.
Read every one!

Regarding those last few tweets, it’s fairly common to see White people wanting to be absolved of guilt by having the forgiveness or approval of a Black person or people.
However, this is merely placing more emotional labor and weight on those who are already suffering from oppression, to make yourself feel lighter.
Working through and unlearning our conditioning into racism is hard work, sometimes painful, and always a lifelong process. You can’t authentically work on your own psychosocial dynamics if your motive is to “look better” to someone else or gain their approval.

Furthermore, no matter how hard we work on it, no one owes you or me absolution. That’s not how this works. Become better because it’s the right thing to do and will make society better for all of us.

(And lastly, why don’t you know any Black women?)

PS: Whatever you do, resist the urge to do a “not all White People,” –no really, do not do a “not all White People.”


Know Justice, Know Peace

2020: Not Done With Us Yet

Look at this: future universities will have entire specializations in the study of the 2020s.

Turbulent times with great disparity in who is affected are likely to lead to social unrest. Medically, financially, socially, emotionally, and legally, marginalized groups have been dealt an incredibly disproportionate blow by the events of this year.

The killing of George Floyd was a tipping point. We all have a choice now. Will you contribute to peace? How are you using your voice?

How can I contribute to peace?

By contributing to justice. By combating injustice. By helping when you can help. By educating yourself. By understanding the context in which we all–not just any one of us–live. By helping others to understand as well.

Reverend Belita Mitchell (First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg) on peace-building in 2014.  First video in a series*.
“How are justice and peace related in your thinking or your experience?” (5:00)

If you are someone in a dominant social group, there is no need to burn or break anything to make yourself heard. Authorities and media attend well to peaceful protests from White people.

2020 Minneapolis Anabaptists

In fact, you don’t even need to take to the streets. Just speaking up when you hear unjust or racist words spoken is incredibly helpful. (Here is a very helpful and practical list of ways to speak up against bigotry in many settings.)

When we truly know justice, we will truly know peace. ❤️

*Additional installments of this series can be found here:

Belita Mitchell

Are You Old Enough to Remember the Idealism?

I’ve heard that a number of you played roles in or watched Godspell as a musical number at your youth groups or summer camps. I never did. But I did see the movie as a child and we had the vinyl album at home, which I’m pretty sure I wore out memorizing the songs.

At the time this movie came out it was considered very hippie and almost heretical, though by today’s standards it may seem pretty tame.

Have you ever really listened to the words, though? Do you get them?

When wilt thou save the people,
Oh, God of Mercy, when?
The people, Lord, the people,
Not thrones and crowns but men!
Flowers of thy heart, O God, are they.
Let them not pass, like weeds, away.
Their heritage a sunless day,
God save the people!
Shall crime bring crime forever,
Strength aiding still the strong?
Is it thy will, O Father,
That men shall toil for wrong?
‘NO!’ say thy mountains,
‘NO!’ say thy skies.
Man’s clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.
God save the people!
When wilt thou save the people,
Oh, God of Mercy, when?
The people, Lord, the people,
Not thrones and crowns but men!
God save the people, for thine they are,
Thy children, as thy…