Many of us feel
stress and get overwhelmed
not because we're taking on
too much, but because we are
taking on too little of what
really strengthens us.
~ Marcus Buckingham
A majority of people coming into my office these days are hoping to alleviate stress and a sense of overwhelm. They know they "should" meditate or exercise or eat better but they don't seem to have or make the time. There is always something else to do, that is more pressing, urgent or more of a priority. Often these priorities are work-related or they may get caught up in a social life that's not really very fulfilling. In response, many people end up zoning out with the internet, TV, drugs or alcohol to get away from everything.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? On the one hand, it's important to find ways to deal with circumstances that may feel stressful, as they will always present themselves to us in life; we may prefer a calm sea, but often the ocean is full of waves. Can you learn to body surf those waves, to ride them instead of letting them pull you under or cowering in fear on the shore? This is why mindfulness and meditation are so popular now; they are great tools to help us deal with what life presents us with in each and every moment.
On the other hand, if much of your life feels consistently stressful or overwhelming, maybe it is time for some things to change. What is it you need to feel less anxious and to be able to take deep breaths, to truly enjoy and appreciate life? If your job is demanding or stressful, is it also rewarding and meaningful? If not, maybe it's time to consider what work may be more fulfilling to you. If your social or family life feel more like an obligation or weigh you down, rather than make you happy, what needs to change in these relationships? If your exercise or eating patterns are not energizing, how can you revamp them? If you are often depressed or burdened by unresolved issues from the past, could it be time to see a therapist?
Consistent stress and overwhelm are signs that something isn't working in your life; they are a tap on the shoulder that it's time to evaluate your life and see what you truly desire. More time in the outdoors? New activities you have thought about but put off trying? A vacation? Going back to school? What does your heart call out for? What do you need to hear that your heart has been whispering to you? Can you listen to and honor these messages from your deeper self?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley