Like a lot of people, I find great joy in accomplishment. Maybe this is because I’ve come to understand that as human beings, we were not created to maintain the status quo, but to eternally strive to express, to experience, and to become more. We are born to make our desires manifest – both big and small. The old adage that “all things must grow or they die” speaks to the thrilling sensation of forward progress, of how good it feels to be in motion, and to be moving with excitement and velocity toward an outcome we desire. And when motion forward is unrestrained by resistance or self-doubt, the net result is exhilaration. There is nothing more life-giving than to summon a great deal of energy through us while allowing that energy to flow unobstructed.
When our mental, emotional, and creative energy is aligned – meaning we are focused without distraction on the person in front of us or on the task at hand– we not only feel great, but it seems there is no end to how much we can accomplish. If you’ve ever had one of those days when your actions were inspired by joyful anticipation – cleaning your house in preparation for a visit from an old friend, perhaps, or mapping out the details of an upcoming celebration – you know how different the feeling of inspired action is from action that is driven by obligation or necessity. Inspired action fuels us, whereas actions taken without inspiration can easily lead to being overwhelmed.
How To Regain Your Focus When You Feel Overwhelmed
The fallacy that underlies the experience of feeling overwhelmed is that pushing harder when we find ourselves in a situation that is not unfolding in the way we’d like is the key to accomplishment. But in fact, applying more effort when we’re overwhelmed, only increases our resistance, making the outcomes we’re working toward harder to achieve.
So, the next time you become aware of the first sensation that your inspired focus is beginning to degenerate into frustration or anxiety, here are three steps you can take to dismantle that energy and stop feeling overwhelmed:
1. Take a breather
The primary reason that “overwhelm” feels so unpleasant is that it is an indication that our thoughts and emotions have gained a lot of momentum in an unwanted direction. And we simply cannot reverse that momentum in one fell swoop, in the same way that a train going 50 miles per hour cannot reverse its course in a single moment. Instead, we have to allow the momentum of that feeling to slow down and eventually stop before we can begin to encourage it in the opposite direction. Some effective ways of slowing down the momentum include taking a walk outside, stretching or moving your body, paying attention to your breath… anything that allows you to rest in the gap between whatever you are currently focused upon and your response to it.
2. Engage your imagination
Once you’ve allowed your thoughts to settle, take a moment to conjure the feeling you think you will experience once you’ve accomplished whatever it is you’re working on. Is it a feeling of relief? Of pride? Of freedom? By identifying the essence of how you want to feel once you’ve attained your goal, you refocus your energy toward that end.
3. Define next steps
Lastly, clearly identify three actions that make the most logical sense to take to move you forward. As you take them, pay attention to the sensations of your thoughts and emotions, and if you feel yourself applying too much effort, back off.
Action taken from a state of internal alignment not only produces the intended result more quickly and with greater ease; it’s also life-giving in the process. Paying attention to the way you feel is the surest way to achieve this balance.