I love to travel. It is so amazing to go on the road, sight see, and have an adventure. When I was in grade school, our family packed up our car to the brim and headed down to the sunny state of Florida. We were so excited and played games and listened to music on the way. But somewhere en route, we made a wrong turn and got off course. In fact, we were totally lost! It was a very stressful moment for my mom and dad, as we navigated through the unknown. But eventually, we made it through and found our way back on track to our destination.
In life, we navigate through good and challenging times and along the way we often make a stop in "overwhelm city." Overwhelm is off the beaten path and we find ourselves there when we need to detour from whatever is going on around us. We feel overwhelm to cope, placate, or simply not deal with our reality that lies in front of us. Being overwhelmed is not bad because at that particular moment, we need to feel that feeling. The challenge is to not stay in overwhelm too long. In an overwhelmed state, we veer off course of the destination that will fulfill us and support our authenticity.
So how do you deal with overwhelm? Here are some "travel tips" when you find yourself navigating through "overwhelm city":
1. Acknowledge: When my family became lost on our trip, they acknowledged it and told us. It made us feel a little more reassured with what was going on in that moment. When you find yourself overwhelmed, acknowledge it. We often deny that we are feeling overwhelmed and push through it, causing us to feel more overwhelmed and consequently making mistakes in the process or internalizing feelings that aren't serving, like guilt, disappointment, frustration, or anger. By acknowledging overwhelm, you give yourself permission to embrace this feeling as part of the process of your journey.
2. Appreciate: During the period of time that we were lost on our trip, we appreciated it, even though it was really frustrating. We enjoyed the scenery along the way and tried to make the best of the situation. Appreciating overwhelm may seem odd, but can actually help you through the process. Instead of seeing overwhelm as detrimental, see it as a tool to regulate where you are. In that moment, you may need to slow down, re-evaluate, or even restructure what you are doing, and you would never know that if you didn't feel overwhelmed. By shifting your perspective to see overwhelm as a helpful tool in your growth, you will lessen the feelings of frustration and disappointment that often accompany it.
3. Assess: One of the first things my parents did when we became lost, was stop our car and pull out our map. They took time to see where we were and where we wanted to be, and even asked for help at a local gas station when they couldn't figure out the best route. In navigating through overwhelm, assessing where you are and where you want to be is vital. When we are consumed with overwhelm, we cannot appreciate the here and now and be present. Instead of focusing on all the tasks that need to be done, focus on what you can do in that moment. Little by little, tasks will get accomplished, making your to do list a little more manageable. Assess what is important and what you can do in the moment, rather than obsess about what needs to be done in the future.
4. Activity: To counter overwhelm, engage in an activity that you enjoy, like listening to music or taking a walk. During our family trip, we played games to keep the atmosphere light, as we were navigating our way through our lost moment. Taking yourself out of the overwhelming moment, even for 15 minutes, can refresh your spirit and may even help you gain a better perspective of the situation.
Navigating through life is like taking a trip. We stay steady on course but will get off track at times. Enjoy and appreciate those moments that make your journey unique and trust the process that you will end up at your destination. Happy travels!
Melissa E. Kirk is a life coach and teaches people how to master modern mindfulness in today's crazy world. You can catch up with her at www.melissaekirk.com or find her on Facebook for daily inspiration.