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  • Posted April 30, 2018

Overwhelmed? Stop & Breathe!

Why, when we are at the edge of our limits, choose to push ourselves even harder? Perhaps because we think it’s what we have to do to cross some conceived finish line. Or perhaps it’s all we’ve ever known, or what we’ve seen others do. In my opinion, based upon personal experience, this is the worst thing we can do – because from what I’ve seen it leads us into worse choices or dead-end solutions.

I think it sounds counter-intuitive, but when you get to your “breaking point” stop. Take as much time as you need to put everything in perspective. Identify what is going wrong, and more importantly, what is going right. And don’t allow yourself to say “nothing is going right”; which will more often than not be the initial belief. Find something (it’s there, trust me) and focus on that.

From there, take an inventory of your resources. What is available to you? Of those things available to you, what can you adapt to your current situation? Write EVERYTHING down; because your emotions are going to be a roller coaster, and memory can be fickle – coloring things based upon your mood. When considering resources, include friends, family, trusted advisors, etc… Whatever  you do, DON’T continue alone.

After serving 20 years in the Navy, I’ve learned “slow is fast”. Your body and brain will be screaming at you to “take action” – don’t. This is when mistakes and poor choices are made. Think of it like a high-pressure sale – is there really anything in it for you (most often the answer is “No”). Beware of suddenly attractive solutions, especially if you never would’ve considered them when you were not under so much stress/pressure.

I’ve been to (and over) the brink and back more times than I can count. I wish I could say I’ve mastered my emotions so it doesn’t happen anymore – but that’s just not the case. But what I have done is when I’m “lucid, write out a “roadmap” for me to refer to when enough is enough. Even this wasn’t my idea, I adapted a suggestion a good friend gave me when I was on the search for a job. Her suggestion was create a list of non-negotiables.

This same list applies when I am overwhelmed and seeking solutions. Reminding myself of my non-negotiables keeps me on track, and forces me to recognize when I’m in “react” mode. This works for me, but all of you are not my clones (how freaky would that be?!).

When you are in a good space, even if your good space is something others would consider pure chaos, brainstorm what helps you feel grounded. What is it about where you are right now that makes you comfortable and happy? Write everything down, no matter how trivial it seems. Then, let it sit for a day, and go back to it. Tweak it as you need to until it “feels” right.

Most importantly, put it somewhere you will see it without having to look for it. Because when the poop hits the fan you’re not going to have the energy or bandwidth to do “one more thing” – especially something like looking for a piece of paper that is supposed to make you feel good. Maybe make it the wallpaper on your computer, or set a reminder on your phone where it pops up. Whatever works for you. But like so many other things, it ONLY works if you take action. Stay strong, you’re better than whatever life can throw at you.