It seems like half the clients I spoke with last week told me how overwhelmed they are. When I asked what was going on I heard about sick friends dying, fear of job loss, relationship break-ups, divorce dramas and financial strain.
It seems like life is always throwing something unexpected our way. Just when we get through one thing and think it’s now going to be OK, something else often comes along to disturb our peace of mind.
In exploring the pain of these situations further with my clients, they began to say things like, “I don’t think I’ll ever make more money than I do now.” “I’m afraid I’ll never meet anyone to be in a relationship with.” And, “What if I never find a new job?”
It was clear that it’s not just what is happening in our lives that causes us pain, it is all the out-of-control thoughts that our mind thinks about what is going on that makes things worse.
Our minds are so good at future-tripping and creating negative fantasies that it is a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning.
And when you take the difficult circumstances going on in our lives at any given time and couple it with the constant chaos in the world, you have a recipe for chronic low-grade overwhelm that dulls our ability to fully experience and participate in life.
So how can we deal with this better? Here’s three quick steps:
1. Be Here Now
When clients describe their overwhelm to me, it becomes clear that they are often projecting way into the future around the outcome of a situation going on now.
The fear of losing their job turns into a story about never finding a job again, losing their house and savings, becoming homeless and eventually ending up a bag-lady on the street dying alone. This is a big stretch, but the mind loves to go there and can do so in 30 seconds.
This is where it is crucial to practice some mindfulness and bring the focus into the present moment.
When we simply focus on what is right in front of us and the next step that needs to be taken, we find that we can deal a lot better with the problem at hand. By staying present and taking one step at a time, the situation works itself out and often isn’t anywhere near as bad as we initially thought.
Not only that, but sometimes there is a silver lining that appears down the road that we could never have anticipated at the time of the initial overwhelm.
2. Find a Solution
Every problem has a solution.
Once we bring our focus into the present, it is important to look for a solution and be proactive in addressing the source of our overwhelm.
One reason overwhelm is so pervasive is it often triggers us into unconscious patterns and behaviors of helplessness, martyrdom, victimhood, etc., that keep us stuck in rumination and analysis paralysis.
Sometimes the necessary solution to a problem is not easy and brings up our fear and resistance.
For example, losing the job means you need to start looking for a new one, financial strain often requires some getting sober around how you spend money and relationship break-ups call for us to take stock of our own behavior that contributed to the problems and heal so we can go on and find new love.
Once we commit to finding the solution to our overwhelm, we are often able to move past it and start to enjoy life more fully once again.
I believe there is a divine plan at work it.
It is often beyond our human understanding and reasoning and it is helpful if we can accept that we do not know why things happen the way they do. We are simply not in control over many things that happen in our lives. Our job is to respond as skillfully as possible to what is happening.
It can be helpful to think back to a time that you thought the sky was falling in, something terrible was happening that couldn’t possibly lead to anything good. How did it really end up now that you are past it? Was it as bad as you thought? Did something good come from it?
Trust that the Universe has your back.
It wants the best for you and sometimes that means things are going to be tough and not go the way you think they are supposed to go. Your mind can be a trickster and really has no idea what is in your, or anyone else’s, best interest.
However, your soul knows what it came here to do and to experience. Trust that divine reasoning is smarter than you are. Relax. Stay Present. Find a solution, as best you can, and trust it will all work out.