Tuesday, August 27, 2013
As I write this article, I am surrounded by boxes, items to be packed, lists of things to do and phone calls to be made for the closing of the sale of our house in two weeks. I also have laundry to be washed, groceries to be bought, and dishes waiting in the sink. Not to mention the many projects that I am working on at The Awakening Center. To say the least, I am feeling OVERWHELMED!!!
In the support group, many times the women complain that they are feeling overwhelmed. And I wonder, what contributes to this feeling, and what can we do to take care of ourselves when this feeling strikes.
I think back to several months ago when my husband and I first talked with a Realtor about what we needed to do to put our house on the market. “Joe” excitedly talked on and on about home repairs, listings, showings, inspections, surveys, insurance, contracts, mortgage preapprovals, closings, etc., etc., etc. I started thinking, “I’ll never get all this done all by myself. I can’t do it.” My heart started beating quickly, my breathing was shallow and rapid, and I just wanted to get up and leave. “Joe” looked at me and stopped, and then calmly said the exact words I needed to hear at that time: “Just do one thing a day towards your goal.” Without knowing it, he gave me a gift that I have used many times in the past months.
“Just do one thing a day towards your goal.” Why were those words so magical? First it was very reassuring that someone realized that I was feeling overwhelmed. I wasn’t shamed for these feelings, nor was I made to think I was somehow abnormal. It’s normal and human to feel overwhelmed at times in our lives. (Sometimes Life really knows how to dish it out!) Secondly, his words also said to me, “You are capable and competent and you can do this.” But I didn’t have to do it alone. I wasn’t selling this house by myself, my husband was part of this deal too. It was OK for me to ask for help, not because I was weak or incompetent or not good enough, but because I was human. Humans don’t know everything, and there are many other people who know a lot about these subjects who could be called on for their expertise. Thirdly, it reminded me of some basic time management skills I already had but in the moment had forgotten, another normal human thing to do. Skills such as setting goals, breaking goals down into small but manageable steps, and putting the steps in order by priority can be invaluable when feeling overwhelmed. (If you are unfamiliar with time management skills you may want to read: “How To Get Control of Your Time and Your Life” by Alan LaKein, the guru of time management.)
Fourth, it also said to me I didn’t have to do everything at once. All I had to do is one thing a day. One thing. I could do that. So for these past months whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would repeat “Joe’s” words to myself like a mantra: “Just do one thing a day towards your goal.”
Its easier to do one thing towards your goal when there are definite steps, like selling a house. Many times though, our goal is vague and the steps are undefined. So we first need to define our goal. What is your goal? Is it to find a fulfilling career? Is it to feel confident and competent? Is it to eat in tune with your body signals for hunger and fullness? Is it to have healthy relationships?
Then, write down a series of steps towards that goal. Writing them down and putting the steps in a prominent place reminds us of what we can do to achieve our goal. It really doesn’t matter what the steps are, anything is better than nothing. (We are so quick to discount ourselves by saying something isn’t good enough. Remember, “Progress, Not Perfection”.)
Some steps you will be able to do by yourself, but for other steps you will need help. Are there friends or family members who are safe and supportive to help you with some of the steps? You could also seek out a support group or class. What professionals have expertise in these kinds of goals? Setting priority for the steps sometimes keeps us from getting bogged down and frustrated because we haven’t done some of the preliminary work first. For example, when I called about the mortgage preapproval, I hadn’t looked up my past tax records. Therefore, I couldn’t answer their questions. I didn’t “fail” at the step, I just had to backtrack and do another step first. But if you spend a lot of time worrying about what “should” be done first, second, third, then maybe its best to pick a step, any step, and “just do it”.
Many times after I did my one thing, I would be on a roll and continue to do more things. But there were other days that I only had the emotional or physical energy to do one small thing, and I even skipped some days entirely. (I had to be kind and gentle with myself, remembering I’m only human.) But as it became easier and easier to see progress, those days were less and less often.
I also recommend having a sense of humor while working towards your goal. Go rent the video, “What About Bob?” and laugh at Bill Murray as he babysteps his way towards progress.
Make it part of your morning ritual to say to yourself, “What one thing will I do towards my goal today?” Then at the end of the day it is rewarding to reflect back on our progress. Remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.