Try This When You Are Overwhelmed by Stress

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Ever heard the phrase, “If you can’t get out of it, get into it?” It’s the motto for the experience-based outdoor education program, Outward Bound. The idea is both simple and revolutionary; if you can’t avoid an experience it, explore it. Find out more about it, what you need, and why that’s important.

This takes a lot of intention because, to be honest, most of the time, we want to get out of things. We want to get out of our uncomfortable situations, painful feelings, anxiety-addled thoughts. We want to end our imbalanced relationships and quit our stressful jobs. We want to get out of discomfort and into comfort.

We end up living lives of dread- dread of chaos, dread of pain, dread of all kinds of woe. In our attempt to keep ourselves out of discomfort, we live full-time in anticipation of it which can be pretty uncomfortable. That’s the worst part of all of it! In our effort to prepare for or avoid dis-ease, we end up living lives full of it. It seems a little counterintuitive.

Sometimes just the thought of sitting without pain or stress or discomfort sends us into a tailspin. “But I sit with it every day! I feel depressed and anxious all the time because I’m sitting with it!” people say. “If you knew how bad I felt, you wouldn’t tell me to try to ‘sit with it.’”

I get it. Life can feel like one big compound-stress heap sometimes (or a lot of the times), especially when you live in a metropolitan area. Things are more expensive, quicker-paced, more competitive, and more crowded.

I’m not simply talking about sitting with your discomfort and thinking about how uncomfortable you are. (I have a feeling you might already do that…) I’m talking about intentionality- intentional curiosity, intentional honesty, intentional exploration. It’s the opposite of stewing in your stress.

Let’s take math, for instance, any math. Remember how our teachers wanted us to show our work? Most likely, you didn’t get credit for answering a problem correctly unless you showed all of your work. They wanted us to be able to see how we arrived at the numerical destination to show that we understood everything that went into making that outcome possible. Then, we could build on our understanding and have the ability to answer increasingly challenging questions. Incidentally, some of us didn’t feel very confident in our math computation capabilities. Some days it can feel like life is one giant math problem.

I’m asking you to try breaking it down; break-down the problem or insecurity or stress to see how you arrived here and what it will take for you to be able to do what you need or want to do. Solve for x by working backwards.

If a relationship is so stressful that you are contemplating ending it, first look at some of the information you have. How did it become this stressful? How do the two of you handle conflict? If you fight, what are the fights like? (Name-calling? Swearing? Throwing things? Hitting below the belt?)

If it’s your job that you are thinking of quitting, what has convinced you that your dis-ease will dissolve once you’re at a new job? How did you come to understand it this way? What’s the worst part of it and why?

Sometimes the answer will be to end a relationship, quit a job, sometimes not. The feeling of self-assuredness we seek regarding an outcome usually comes from the sense that we have adequate information (that we understand), feel resourced in ourselves and are connected to our intention. We don’t like to feel like we’re grasping around in the dark and will take the first thing we hit. That makes us feel more scared and desperate.

When you allow yourself to sit with what makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself questions, are honest with yourself about the answers, you give yourself the most solid platform from which to launch your intentional decision.

I’m also aware that this can’t always happen. Sometimes, life calls for fast and swift action. There are situations in which the only decision we have to make is to how we will respond. Either way, I’d love to talk with you more about this. I know it can feel overwhelming.


Love and Be Loved,

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