Feeling Overwhelmed? You are in Good Company
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
This is an encore presentation from November 11, 2014...a slightly edited version. I hope you will find it useful.
Overwhelm. Many of us are feeling it more and more frequently, and it is affecting us more and more every day. We are clearly overwhelmed with information on a daily basis. News on multiple television channels is delivered to us 24 hours 7 days a week. We have the Internet that is both a servant and a master for some of us. I don’t know about you, but I could easily spend hours a day following threads of discussion on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and other forms of social media. Researchers are constantly coming up with new findings, and it seems that many times the reports are contradictory. Who do we believe? How do we know what advice we should accept and what we should ignore? It is hard to keep up…and some of us simply shut down from a sense of it just being too much.
Depending on what you do for a living and your personal circumstances at home, you may be bombarded with overwhelming stimuli at both work and home. Our employers expect more and more from us as resources dwindle but productivity goes up. If you happen to be a young mother with small children at home, you are constantly juggling your needs with those of your children and your husband. If you are a young dad, you have the pressure of providing for your family in times that are economically challenged, and you also need to be a fabulous husband and a great father. No wonder some of us are feeling so frazzled!
In a series of newsletters that you received earlier, you learned the seven things that you can do right away to help yourself to be more resilient in the face of all the various things that tend to create stress in your life. Drinking enough water, eating well, getting adequate sleep, exercising, learning to breathe properly, meditating or praying, and having fun through a hobby or past time are some daily practices that can help you deal with stress more effectively. There are other things you can also do. However, that can help you to reduce or eliminate the source of stress in your life, so for the next few weeks, I plan to offer some additional thoughts, ideas, and strategies for you to consider. Some of these suggestions may not resonate with you at all. If they don’t, simply disregard them. If some of them land for you as something that might be helpful, however, I hope you will consider implementing them.
The first suggestion I have to offer is eliminated from your life all of the “petty annoyances” that may have culminated over time and have become those things known only to you that are creating a source of tension and stress. Poet and writer, Robert W. Service wrote, “Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out - it's the grain of sand in your shoe.”
So, what is a petty annoyance? Well, how long has it been since you balanced your checkbook? How many items of clothing are lying around missing buttons or needing to have a hem repaired? How many pairs of shoes need to be taken to the shoe repair store or just need polishing before you can wear them again? When was the last time you cleaned the closet or sorted your bureau drawers? When was the last time you tidied up the utility drawer in your kitchen? When was the last time you went through the junk drawer to eliminate the “stuff” you know you will never use again? Are you a pack rat? Is it time to call in reinforcements to help you clean out and take the things you know you will never use again to Good Will or the Salvation Army?
It might help to make a list of the things that are popping into your mind right now while you read this. Then, as you take care of individual items on the list, check them off. Check in with yourself at how relieved you feel and the sense of accomplishment that you experience when you have checked an item off on the list.
Why is this an important step in reducing your sense of overwhelm? Because while you are tolerating these petty annoyances, you are more than probably experiencing the feeling of being blocked in ways you may not have even considered. The reason for taking care of these types of issues is to free you to pursue more worthwhile tasks and accomplishments.
As you make your list and look over it, you may find that some of the petty annoyances aren’t so petty after all, and they may not be so easily dispensed with as sewing on a button or taking the dirty laundry to the cleaners. If that is the case for you, and you find that something you wrote down is something that is outside your immediate control or beyond your realm of control. If so, mark it off your list and forget about it. You are only responsible for those things that you can control or impact. The first thing you must do, however, makes the list. You may be surprised by what comes to mind and what has been bugging you that you weren’t aware of before making the list. Once you have written your list, decide which items can be easily dispatched and which ones may take more time. Don’t let the list stress you out…but let it serve as a tool for getting rid of the petty annoyances that may be draining you of energy or may be blocking you from being more productive.
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