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Navigate the Overwhelm

Is it me, or have you also noticed that 'exhaustion' and 'overwhelmed' have become status symbols? Our egos inflate when someone says we seem exhausted or overwhelmed.

I have a cousin who is amazing.

I love him dearly, but anytime I ask how he’s doing, he replies ‘exhausted.' The word rolls off his tongue with a sing-song cadence that -- to the naked ear -- sounds like he's describing euphoria.

Or in another instance, I’ll be speaking to someone and drop a hint that they sound overwhelmed. They reply with an orgasmic sigh, like I've just gifted them with the greatest of compliments.

Why? Is it the implication that they are busy and selfless and burning the candle at both ends? Is it the sweet taste of self-inflicted "martyrdom?"

As far as our feelings go, overwhelm is nothing more than an absence of calm and direction. It is, luckily, something that gratitude can cure with ease.

We’re right at the beginning of a beautiful, brand new year. So many of us will take this new, arbitrary "starting point" to reexamine where we are and review priorities and goals.

If your 2019 must-have habits list doesn't mention a gratitude journal, I pray that you add it immediately.

And, if you can muster it, bring it to the top of your list. Nothing can adjust your attitude like a focus on gratitude. There is a slew of a case studies floating around -- each of which shows the positive effects of gratitude.

If it seems overwhelming to you to add one more thing to your daily tasks list:

1) You really need to include gratitude to your day.

2) You may not yet realize how simple it is to do it. It is the simplest, most life-affirming thing you can do for yourself this year.

Get yourself a brand new journal. Every night before you go to bed, take 5 minutes to jot down a list of everything you were grateful for that happened throughout the day. Just five things. You'll most likely find that you can't stop once you get started.

Once you focus on the good, the sudden burst of insight will surprise you. I always like to leave 2 or 3 items on my evening list for what I want and am grateful for in advance. That's because I know more gratitude is on the way. Sit back and see how powerful advance gratitude can be. God is always finding opportunities to over-deliver. Sometimes we’re not paying attention.

Another cure for this feeling of overwhelm is shifting your perspective. Andrew Bernstein said “Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” It’s important that you mind your perspective, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed. That feeling of overwhelm is subtle, but it's common to notice and start paying close attention to it. Then it builds on itself.

It’s like a panic attack. Have you ever experienced one of those doozies? You could swear you’re having a heart attack! And then the fear feeds into the physical symptoms. Your heart starts beating noticeably faster until, eventually, it feels like it’s going to beat out of your chest.

Then, because that’s happening, you start experiencing shortness of breath which causes more shortness of breath. Before you know it, you’re looking for a napkin somewhere so that you can jot down your last will and testament. During a really bad panic attack, you are certain that you're at death's door.

Well, overwhelm can be that way too. You're buried in a problem or situation and, without meaning to, you've created a mountain out of this molehill. Voila! The overwhelm takes over and builds on itself much like a panic attack would.

Don’t feed into it. Shift your perspective and learn to look at it from a different point of view. Step out of the situation for just 5 minutes. Call someone who can give you a different point of view. Do whatever you can to take a step back.

You’ll discover that what you were seeing was not how it actually is.

Most failures reveal themselves as the greatest opportunities for success. Remember what Og Mandino said: “Failure is the highway to success.”

Take that to heart and you’ll see every "negative" incident in a new light -- a small stumbling block on the path to success.

Here are three suggestions to help you see things differently and shift your perspective. They're easy to remember and relatively simple to implement:

Read, read, read.

I read 37 books last year. Not bad by some standards, but I want to really smoke last year's number in 2019. My goal this time around is to read at least 50 books. It’s the way I feed my soul and keep my perspective in check. Finally, the very best way to overcome the overwhelm is tofocus on the good.

It’s so easy for us to focus on the bad. Society has programmed us to default to the negative. Do you want to know why it's so? When Time Magazine first began, they had wonderful things on the cover of their magazines, as did most other magazines. They were writing about triumphant, soul-feeding things going on around the world. Their readership began to fall a bit, so in their desperation, they experimented with writing negative, fear-inducing articles. Their covers followed suit.

Much to their delight, their sales skyrocketed. They kept doing it. Media competitors caught wind of the incredible power of negativity so they started doing the same thing.

Sex may sell, but shit sells better.

Every airport, every doctor’s office, and just about every public place you go they’re playing what on a huge screen?

CNN. Of all things, CNN.

The big pharma execs love it -- every year depression and anxiety medication sales follow the steady curve of fear-mongering and negativity in the media. If you want to stop feeling overwhelmed and stressed almost immediately, stop watching the news. I haven’t watched in years.

Some people ask me, "How will you know when something happens?"

If it's important enough to know, I'll find out.

I heard a great story about a high school PE coach who took his varsity players on a white water rafting trip every summer. The liability must have been a concern -- that's a pretty dangerous activity.

To the date of his story, he’d never had an incident, and he attributed it to a very simple rule he gave the kids before they headed out. He told them that if there was a tree or a rock or something they needed to avoid in the river, he was never going to point at it.

He would only point them in the direction of where he wanted them to go to avoid the potential hazards. He did that because he knew that if he pointed at the obstacle or where he didn’t want them to go, they would inevitably be lead to go there because that’s just how the brain works.

His point was that you always focus on where you want to go, not on where youdon’twant to go. This is one of the best examples I've found of what we're doing wrong.

We focus on the money problems, or problems on the job, or on the problems in our family... all that instead of focusing on what can go right and all the great things going on around us. It's no wonder we feel miserable. LR Knost said “Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living, heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

It's time to make those positive changes you know you need to make in 2019. It's time to achieve what you're destined for. If you focus on the good, mind your perspective, and live with an attitude of gratitude, your life will begin to improve immediately.

I wish you a year full of health, wealth, happiness, and above all an abundance of blessings.

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