Don't keep calm and carry on. The parts of you that feel broken - those are the parts that need the most love.

We barely said “hello” and she started to cry.  “I’m so sorry,” she said with a shaky voice through her tears, “I usually don’t cry so easily.”

“Most people I talk to in coaching and therapy cry at their first appointment,” I shared with her. “We as women have been ‘holding it all together’ and we ‘carry on.’  Then when we actually pause and sit with someone who is listening to us and holding space for what we’ve been carrying on with, we start to cry.  Finally!”

We paused.  She cried.  We didn’t hurry through the cries.  How rare it is for a person to actually have permission to not hurry up and get through the cries?  How rare is it to not try to keep calm and bounce back quickly?  Some deep aches righteously deserve space and time to not be hurried.  This culture of “hurry” gets carried into even into therapy where I have seen and heard about therapists going way too fast with their clients.  Slllllow it alllll downnnnnn.

“I guess I’ve just tried to be strong and carry on,” she said, “And I don’t want to do that anymore.”

That’s often what we do.  We “keep calm and carry on.”  We buck up, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, put on a calm face, and carry on.

That’s a toxic way to live.  It’s a recipe for a breakdown.

Keep calm and carry on?!

As a culture, we need to hit a big, fat “pause” button.  This week, another celebrity, Kate Spade, killed herself.  How many school shootings have there been this year?

That sadness, anxiety, depression, anger, and rage build up when we just “keep calm and carry on.”  We try to put it to the side.  We try to ignore it or numb it with food, sex, alcohol, drugs, and being busy.

Keep calm and carry on.

In our world today, that usually means carrying on ALONE. And loneliness is literally an epidemic.  So are school shootings.  So are depression and anxiety.

People who come to see me have been trying so very hard to keep calm and carry on –  in parenthood, in their professional lives, and in their relationships.  They have often put everyone else first and neglected their own self-care.  And then they feel guilty for caring for themselves.

Drop “Keep Calm and Carry On” and Acknowledge What’s Going On

Recently, my sister had emergency surgery.  I flew out to the west coast to help out.  I spent five days there making sure she was taking it easy, eating scrumptious food, and taking time to recover.   A few days after I had returned to the east coast, still feeling jet-lagged and getting back into the reality of work and home life, I got a call that my mom was in the hospital.  I spent the next three days with my mom and dad.  My brother and I have been taking turns being at their house.

When I came home for a break, I knew what I needed to do:  I needed time to assess what I needed!  Was it sleep?  Was it to talk to a friend?  See my healers?  Workout?  Write?

I took a few days to “feel into” what I needed.  I knew it was not KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

One night when we were going to bed, I turned to Brian and said, “Brian, I feel panicky.”

I had the immediate thought, “What’s the big deal?  Why can’t I handle this?”

I hear similar things from clients I work with and many of my friends.  Circumstances may look different but the totally unreasonable expectations we have of ourselves is the same.  And the B.S. of “I should be able to handle this myself” – to “keep calm and carry on” – is the same.

In that moment of starting to hold myself to the inhumane expectation to “carry on” I caught myself and said, “Girl, you’ve been through a lot.”

I knew what I needed to do.  I did what I tell my clients to do:  I called on the healers who I knew I needed to see.  I got not one but two massages by my bud, Jess.  I set up an appointment with my local somatic experiencing practitioner.  I had a session with my wise energy worker, Miri.

“You know those ‘broken’ parts of you?  The parts that feel lonely, angry, sad, or ashamed?  Those are the parts that need the most love.”  – Lisa McCrohan, Gems of Delight

You weren’t meant to do this work alone.

Years ago after a healing session, I said to my practitioner, “I feel ashamed.  I know this stuff in and out.  And yet still I can’t do it on my own.”

She said, “Lisa, we weren’t meant to do this work alone!”

Those words changed my outlook on reaching out for help.   I do not try to “keep calm and carry on.”  Instead, I try to pause, I acknowledge what’s arising, and then I get the support and help I need.

We live at a frenzied pace in a culture that prizes productivity and glamorizes money and fame.  I can’t tell you how many clients of mine share with me that they feel overwhelmed, unable to focus, and always “on.”

“Keep calm and carry on” is not a solution that truly heals our amped up nervous system, our “functional freeze,” or our deep sense of loneliness.

What can we do instead of “keep calm and carry on?”

Instead of “keep calm and carry on,” what can we do when we have faced a trying time, when we are carrying a lot, or when we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed?


Slow it down.

Acknowledge what’s here.  

Don’t carry it alone.

Don’t heal alone.

Few years ago, I was working with a client who was really stuck in old habits.  I remember saying to her, “You don’t have to live like this.  There’s another way.”

She then asked me, “Will you walk with me on that other way?”

And that’s what I did.

Slowly, not easily, she built a life around what was most sacred to her.  Yes, that meant big changes.  It meant setbacks and “failures.”  It meant trying again.  It meant showing up for coaching – a lot.  AND — she is still here!  She is alive.  She is not “carrying on.”  She built her capacity to “take in the good” and her capacity to navigate stressful situations.  She has the tools.  Her nervous system is much more regulated.  She can more easily access a sense of groundedness within her.


Dear Ones, we need one big, long exhale.  We need to press a big, fat “pause” button so our nervous systems can recoup, so we set down the heavy bags of accumulated “stuff” we’ve been carrying, and so we can heal the pace we’ve been living at and the “carrying on” we’ve been doing – possibly for decades.

We want it to be easy.  And cheap.  It’s not.  We want to do it alone so no one sees us at our most vulnerable.  That’s not what “strong” means.  We are redefining strong to mean NOT carrying on.

This is what STRONG means:

  1. Strong means sharing authentically with those we love and trust.
  2. Strong means proactively caring for ourselves, and not just finding a therapist or coach when we are in a crisis.
  3. Strong means showing up as we are and saying, “I need some help!”
  4. Strong means not going at it alone.

There are way too many angry teenage boys going around shooting children at schools, depressed girls turning inward on themselves, anxious moms putting on a smile for car line, and overwhelmed dads who are numbing out with porn (I’m just calling it how it is).  There is an epidemic of loneliness.  And it’s time to stop trying to “keep calm and carry on.”  It’s time to say, “I do not feel calm on the inside.  I need to pause.  And I need some help.”

There isn’t some cute way to say that.  It’s messy and uncomfortable.  And yet, when you learn to pause again and again, when you reach out for the care you need, it just becomes “what you do.”  You carry around less.  You deal with it as it comes, rather than decades later.  You stop feeling so burnt out and reclaim your aliveness and vibrancy.  And you’ll laugh at how crazy it is to “keep calm and carry on.”  Because now you aren’t putting on a calm and smiling face to cover over difficult feelings.  You aren’t “carrying on.”  You pause to heal so you thrive and live more fully.

National Suicide Prevent Hotline:  Call 1-800-273-8255

If you resonate with my writing and work, consider personal coaching.  Sign up for a free consult.  *Because my books are almost full with clients, please only sign up for a consult if you are seriously considering working with me in coaching (personal or professional), or in therapy (local clients only) and want to learn more about how I may be able to support you.


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