What do you do when life throws too much at you all at once?
Do the wheels come off, sending you careening off the road and landing you in the ditch? Do you smash head first into the nearest tree? Or even worse, do you veer straight into oncoming traffic, taking out a few other people in the process?
I’ve been down those roads myself, so I know how easy it is for any of those scenarios to unfold. And I can attest to how miserable they are, to say the least, and to how absolutely, impossibly destructive they are. So what do you do instead? Well, the trick is to find a detour so you can get off those roads as soon as possible.
The first and most important step is to STOP.
Just stop whatever you’re doing, however you’re feeling, whatever your reaction, just stop.
Stop reacting — fretting — freaking out. And definitely stop taking it out on innocent bystanders. Take a big, deep breath in, count to five, and let it out very slo-o-o-owly.
Once you’ve done a few of these and you’re not tearing off heads or acting like a crazy person, start changing your thoughts. “I can’t!” you shout. “I have no control over what goes on in my head!” you add in frustration.
Oh, but you are wrong about that. There are few things in life that we can actually control and your thoughts are definitely at the top of the list.
“I don’t know how!” you pout, a tad petulantly or perhaps even resentfully.
Okay, well, you’re about to learn how to do it and it’s really quite simple. You do it one thought at a time.
Wait! Before you throw rocks at my house, let’s back up a bit and start at the beginning.
Chances are that when the wheels come off, you’re thinking about all the worst things that could happen, all the what-ifs, or the if-onlys.
Such thoughts produce anxiety, fear, and depression. They can leave you feeling hopeless. The result? You’re overwhelmed and feeling like it’s all too much. It’s pretty tough to find answers or solutions in such a state as that. And nearly impossible to find good ones.
What you’re feeling is always going to be directly related to what you’re thinking. If you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings. And it can happen very quickly, and the more often you practice, the more quickly it happens.
You might want to argue at this point and tell me that you have legitimate worries and reasons to be stressing. I would argue back that you have legitimate issues that need to be handled, but you’ve always got the choice to feel stressed—or not. Stress is not the events and circumstances of your life. Stress is your response to them. You can choose to respond with frantic, anxious, pressured thoughts, which will definitely send you into a state of feeling stressed and anxious.
Or you can choose to tell yourself that sure, you’ve got a lot on your plate, but you’ll tackle everything one situation at a time and you know you’ll figure it out. Now, isn’t that a whole different energy?
So in truth, stress is only a perception.
It does not have to be part of your reality unless you choose it. A simple shift in your perspective can take you from feeling stressed and overwhelmed, to feeling calm and in control. If you believe you’re stressed, you’re stressed. If you believe you can cope, you will cope. And you’ll do it feeling a whole lot more relaxed, comfortable and at ease.
A simple but powerful tool that can help you in virtually any difficult situation is to practice mindfulness.
To be mindful is to focus on this moment right here, right now.
Staying in the present keeps you from worrying about the past or the future.
The past exists only in your mind.
The future never comes because we’re always in the present.
Close your eyes.
Focus only on your breath and on what you notice in your body and in your environment.
As soon as any other thoughts enter your head, just acknowledge them and let them go, just as if they drift out an open window in your mind.
Refocus your attention on what you can feel, hear, or smell in this moment. You cannot turn off thoughts, so don’t beat yourself up for having them or you’ll just create more. Simply keep letting go of them and refocusing.
It’s kind of like walking down a road with a small child who keeps wandering off the path and into the grassy meadows on each side. You just have to keep gently bringing that child back to the path and continuing to move ahead one step at a time.
This isn’t difficult; it just takes some practice. Once you get the hang of it, you can use this fantastic little tool any time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. The more you do it, the easier and more beneficial it becomes.
Don’t forget to make time to nurture yourself.
Long walks, hot baths, favourite books, naps, lunch with a friend. Do whatever feeds your soul. It will help to restore balance and harmony amidst the bumpy bits of life. And it’ll keep you from trashing relationships right along with your reputation.
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