My daughter calls and immediately lets me know she’s feeling overwhelmed. I hear her out, acknowledging she’s got a lot on her plate. I hear in her voice she’s at the edge and looking for something to help release the pressure that’s building. I ask, “Can you handle this moment?”
“Forgetting about your ‘to-do’ list for a moment, can you manage just this very moment?”
“Yes. Of course,” she says, and immediately I hear the difference in her voice. She quickly feels the difference as well. She feels calmer. As she keeps focusing on this moment, and then the next, her emotions settle, her mind stops churning and she feels better, realizing how capable she is – right here, right now. She can do this moment.
Days later when we talk about this again I ask, “Have you noticed when you feel overwhelmed there’s a tendency to pile on to whatever problem is at hand? When I’m feeling overwhelmed with my ‘to-do’ list – that’s when I start adding things like laundry (which can usually wait), and the closet that needs organizing (and has been like that for years.) Suddenly at the height of my current crisis, it all feels like it needs to be done NOW!” We laugh, acknowledging the crazy and unhelpful places our minds go when we feel overwhelmed.
Although our minds frequently go off on some kind of crazy when we’re overwhelmed (which by the way feels totally legit and righteous at the time), we actually have the ability to rein it in. We rein the mind in by realizing we are okay in just this moment. We can get through this moment. As our emotions calm and our focus shifts from the future, to right now – we somehow – moment to moment – in this breath – move through whatever is at hand.
For all the situations when I’m feeling overwhelmed by something in my life – especially those events that are bigger and scarier than a huge ‘to-do’ list – it’s helpful if I keep it simple and ask myself, “Can I handle just THIS moment – just this step – as I walk the path?”
Questions to Ponder:
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, do you ramp up your distress by adding extra problems to justify why you’re so upset? Can you simply notice you’re upset and focus on what you need to do to bring yourself back to balance, without needing to justify why you’re upset?
What messages are you telling yourself when you’re overwhelmed? Are you subtly undermining your capabilities? What happens if you shift your self-talk and start with affirming that you ARE capable – that you can handle this moment? When you are feeling balanced, is your productivity and ability to problem solve enhanced?