How To Deal With Overwhelm
When working with our clients, even before the coronavirus crisis began, the primary theme that tends to show up over and over again is:
Life's challenging enough, right? But when cancer shows up, there's so much confusing and conflicting information on the internet, pressure to make the right treatment decisions, a ton of unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and relatives, lots of new terminology, new diet, new everything...
It's not like we're trying to decide which color car to buy. We're needing to make super important life-and-death decisions about our health and well-being.
It can just seem like too much...
But, guess what? There are empowering ways to deal with it! I wanted to write about how to deal with overwhelm to share some of the tools that have worked for us to minimize overwhelm and anxiety, hoping they will also work for you. So read on...
DOES THE MONKEY CHATTER IN YOUR MIND SOUND SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
I don't know how to start.
I'm not doing enough.
I'm not sure what to do next.
There's too much to do.
I can't do it all.
I feel so stuck.
Sound familiar? If so, that's a CLUE right there.
Take a moment to notice that a lot of our overwhelm comes from... what we're thinking; the habitual, scary and annoying thoughts that tend to go round and round in our minds.
We're so used to it, that we don't separate WHO we are from the thoughts we think! We tend allow those thoughts to have power over us, as if we didn't have a choice.
Well... we do. We do have a choice. To listen to them or not.
So the first step, as simple as it may seem, is:
1. BECOME AWARE OF WHAT YOU'RE THINKING.
Most of us believe that our thoughts are who we are. We're not. We're the ones LISTENING to our thoughts. Those annoying thoughts are just bad habits we've allowed to occur. UNTIL NOW.
Our brain is doing its best to try to protect us. "What if this happens, what if that..." That's its job. And we can be grateful to it for a lot of things. Not for this, though. YOU need to become the MASTER of your thoughts, not the other way around.
So, if you feel anxious, worried, stressed or overwhelmed, STOP. Then, ask yourself: What am I thinking?
You'll likely discover the root of the challenging emotion.
2. Here's the thing: you can't get rid of the thought. You can only REPLACE THE SCARY THOUGHT WITH A PRODUCTIVE ONE.
What does that mean? You can retrain your brain to start thinking in more productive or positive ways. How?
As soon as you notice a thought that's causing you PAIN, replace it with another one that causes you PEACE. Then, keep repeating THAT thought until it becomes truer than the other one.
You'll be creating a new, healthier pattern. It takes some time, but it's very possible. Be patient as you try this new habit. When you do, this tool will take you far in your healing process and in your life!
For example, a thought like: "I'm not doing enough" becomes "I trust that I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing right now."
Read both of those thoughts out loud right now, please. Which feels better?
Does the second thought neutralize the other one and make you feel more peaceful? If so, write it down on an index card or a Post-It note, and place it in a very visible place. Keep saying it out loud to yourself over and over.
If that new "antidote" doesn't quite do the trick, find another short phrase that makes you feel peaceful inside.
Those two simple steps have the power to change your life and completely shift your healing journey.
Here's the thing: on top of everything else we're dealing with physically related to cancer, this mental and emotional anguish you put yourself through can add a crushing and debilitating sense of overwhelm to the already stressful situation.
Do you think that helps your immune system in any way? Ah.... no.
It's so important to do all we can to minimize any type of stress during our healing journey. ANY stress. This particular type of mental and emotional anguish can really take a toll and be detrimental to our healing process.
We gotta LOVE ourselves to heal. And loving ourselves includes being mindful of the negative thoughts that bring us down, and replacing them with more loving thoughts that build our strength.
HERE'S ANOTHER STRATEGY YOU CAN USE
Joseph and I made up this simple trick in the midst of THE most stressful and scary time we've gone through together, during a particularly challenging phase of chemo side effects, back in 2014.
For a period of about 4-6 weeks, I developed a sort of mini-seizures, triggered by loud noises or anything fast moving past me. Even a fly zooming by! The only way to make it stop was to cover my ears, shut my eyes, and literally hide under a blanket.
So, in order to avoid any of those stimuli, we spent a lot of quiet time, on the sofa, just watching the clouds moving slowly past the window. Time. Seemed. Endless.
And, when anxiety would creep in with thoughts like "When is this going to end? What if this never goes away? What if I stay like this forever"? Joseph started saying: Right now, we're just two guys sitting on the couch watching the clouds pass by....
And, he was right! At that moment, we were fine, calm, even happy. The overwhelm and anxiety only happened when I started worrying that this would never end, in some imagined future.
So, we incorporated "Right now, we're just...." from then onward. And it has helped us get through MANY challenging times ever since.
I invite you to try this as well. It's something that you can practice all day long, along with the above "antidote" suggestions, or instead of.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:
The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, STOP for 2 seconds. Then notice what you're doing. Then, say out loud: right now, I'm just... and then say what you're doing.
Right now, I'm just reading emails.
Right now, I'm just taking a shower.
Right now, I'm just washing the dishes.
Right now, I'm just sitting on the couch with my dog.
Right now, I'm just at my desk researching with Dr. Google.
Just an ordinary moment.
There's a lot to be said about being present to the ordinary moments in our lives. It's very easy to OBSESS and be all about cancer 24 hours a day. Yet, it's so essential to be able to maintain balance and remember we are a WHOLE person.
Part of the healing process includes taking many breaks from "the cancer thing". Remember to do other things you Love. Talk with people who make you feel happy. Be present with the people in your life who're there with you, right now. Watch funny videos, start a new creative project.
This practice will be really helpful in bringing you back to the present moment. Because, though I know you KNOW this, THIS moment, right now, is all there is. The overwhelm tends to happen in our head when thoughts start swirling around out of control about what we IMAGINE might happen in the future.
This simple practice brings you back to RIGHT NOW. The Present. And, that's all any of us has.
When you play this game, the feeling of overwhelm will lift.
I know you probably have a lot going on. Trust in yourself. You got this. You can figure things out. One. Step. At. A. Time.
When we're overwhelmed, the best thing to do is to break things down into small, doable, baby steps. One thing at a time. And notice, this very moment.
Notice what's right in front of you.
And remember to BREATHE.
How beautiful is that, yes?
WANNA TAKE THIS ONE STEP FURTHER?
Since we're on a roll, let's do this! You can add 2 simple bonus steps:
1. Add saying: that you're grateful for it, and 2. why.
"Right now, I'm just sitting on the couch with my dog. I'm grateful for it because it means I'm giving myself a chance to rest with this beautiful being that loves me unconditionally."
Ahhh... the joy!
Yes, things can sometimes get scary and complicated. Not minimizing that. Things can often happen outside of our control. Emotions run high and we get stuck or confused about how to move forward.
A state of Gratitude is the highest vibration there is, besides Love. Even in the midst of the chaos, there are plenty of things you can be grateful about. Notice them. What you focus on expands in your life. Notice the good. The parts that are healthy, working well.
You can do this. If it feels like too much:
1. Notice what you're thinking and turn it around.
2. Bring yourself to "Right now, I'm just..."
3. What are you grateful for and why?
Be kind to yourself, and remember that whatever it is, it's temporary. It will pass.
We hope you'll find these tips helpful. If you need support with ANY of this, we're here for you. We have a lot of tools and strategies at our disposal to help you on your healing journey.
We invite you to take advantage of a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION if you need some support. We don't bite. And there's a lot we can do to help you. Click the link above, select a date and time, and that's it. We'll be chatting in no time.
PLEASE SHARE in the comments below what you think of these ideas or if there are other tools that YOU have found helpful in dealing with overwhelm.
We're all in this together, yes?
Love, Eli + Joseph