S.T.O.P., Collaborate, & Listen: How to Not be Overwhelmed

Life is a lot.

There is a lot to celebrate, a lot to fear, a lot to hope for, a lot to wonder about, a lot to forget, a lot to give away, a lot to resist, a lot to feel, a lot to desire, a lot to have, a lot to lose, a lot to learn, and a lot to experience.

So, naturally, the sense of being overwhelmed by life can happen.

Overwhelm does not necessarily mean a negative emotion. Often we can be overwhelmed with a profound experience of joy and gratitude when we spend time with our loved ones, rejoice for getting through a difficult feat, or witness an awe-inspiring expression of life in the splendor of nature or flavor of delicious food. These moments of overwhelm are worth savoring. These are moments when our hearts overflow with love, spilling over in blissful delight. These moments are an encounter with the ineffable magic of being alive.

Sometimes, however, overwhelm is quite a distressful experience. Instead of being overwhelmed with happiness, we can be drowned in our despair, defeated by our fears, and hopelessly floundering in unceasing worry. The to-do lists, goals, and expectations we use to manage our lives start to feel insurmountable, and our capacity to handle it all seems to vanish away. Suddenly our ideas of how life should be and how we ought to act are blatantly different from how things actually are. Thoughts may come up about how nothing you do is ever enough, you are unworthy of the dreams you have, and overall life is a complete failure. It feels powerless, and yet, when we are overwhelmed, we get stressed because there’s an unspoken standard that we should be able to control everything that’s not going right in our lives.

So here’s what to do when you feel overwhelmed (in the not feeling good way):

  1. S.T.O.P.
    1. S – Slow down. Be Still. Get Silent. Make Space for yourself to See things in greater perspective. Stop whatever you’re doing and Stay present with what’s here, right now. Forgive the past, let go of the future, and just focus on what’s possible in this moment.
    2. T – Trust yourself to do the best you can with what you have where you are. Take action one step at a Time. The Tenderness of the this Tumultuous feeling is Temporary. This Too shall pass. Turn your attention Toward what is True — That you are enough and you have all you need within.
    3. O – Open yourself to what you can learn from this experience. Why is this sense of being overwhelmed happening? It’s happening to teach you what you need to expand your awareness and grow with grace. Open your heart, your mind, and your perspective so you can see the Ocean of Opportunity available here and now.
    4. P – Practice Patience with the Process. Find a way to be Peaceful amidst the chaos. Underneath the buzzing whirr of your thoughts and the pressure of what needs to get done, there is a Spacious, Trusting, Open, Peaceful (s.t.o.p.) place in which you can seek refuge anytime. Simply close your eyes, travel on the waves of your breath to your inner sanctuary, and rest for a few moments.
  2. Collaborate
    1. Connect with others. You are not alone in your feelings of being overwhelmed. Feel the loving support and encouragement of your friends, family, and mentors and allow their presence to remind you that you have all the strength and power you need within you to rise up to this challenge.
    2. Connect with yourself by disconnecting with distraction. This means turning off so you can tune in to your needs. When we are overwhelmed, we need to simplify our life so our energy is streamlined toward what needs our attention most in this moment. Texting, social media, emails, and the Internet can wait. It will all be there for you when you’re done. This will also allow you to engage more deeply with your task and enjoy the reward of working on something with mindful presence. Any chore, errand, or assignment can be rewarding if we choose to be fully involved in dynamic experience of what we are doing.
  3. Listen
    1. Listen to your intuition. Allow your inner wisdom to guide the way. You know what to do. You are here meeting this moment because you can and you will get through it. Listen to the lesson to be learned here. When we come up against struggle and stress, there is a gem of insight within.
    2. Perhaps this time is a chance to say YES to yourself and NO to other obligations that come up. Perhaps this is a time to surprise yourself by accomplishing something you didn’t think was feasible. Perhaps this is a time to recognize your immeasurable potential. Perhaps this is a time you seek help from others and are reminded of how loved, supported, and uplifted you are. Perhaps this is a time to remember that you do enough, you have enough, and you are enough. Perhaps this very sense of overwhelming stress can turn into overwhelming gratitude. Perhaps the abundance on your to-do list can illuminate the abundance of vitality in your life. Perhaps you are not limited in how much you can handle, but you are the limitless space that embraces all experience with freedom and radiance.

Perhaps the only thing you need to control is how open you are to life, to this, to here, to now. The more open you are, the more you can receive, the more you can give, the more you can relax into your bountiful, beautiful, blissful being – you are as expansive as the sky.

Once you stop, collaborate, and listen, 😉 , allow yourself to lighten up. Lighten up your expectations and standards for yourself. Lighten up your grasp on the outcome of your goals. Let the luminous awareness of your soul light up the wondrous miracle of this moment – to be alive, to feel, to heal, to breathe.

By the way, you just took time to read a blog post inspired by a line from a terrible 90’s song. Laugh (at me or at yourself)! Love (yourself and all beings)! Live (your life with all your heart)!

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