We are all feeling a little unsure right now. As we’re waiting to battle an unseen enemy, it’s easy to feel a little lost and stuck in the current state of life. It’s easy to feel like this is our new normal and things will never move past our current state. Feeling stuck is a terrible feeling. Feeling trapped and unsure how to move forward can lead to feelings of, confusion, angst, hopelessness, insecurity and overwhelm. Sometimes we just want to throw in the towel and give up. But don’t give up just yet. Use these strategies to work though your thoughts and feelings to find peace in the eye of a storm
Take a Step Back
Your first step forward when you feel stuck, sad or overwhelmed is to take a step back. Often, we try to get unstuck by pushing forward with sheer force or just trying harder. But as Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Access a different level of thinking by assessing your current situation from a new viewpoint. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by a situation that feels out of your control, take a step back and find a new perspective. Look for the good in a situation such as more time spent with family and a greater awareness of “the little things” and just how important they are. Look for the beauty of a global community coming together.
Your Turn: Imagine you are lost in the woods. You could keep moving forward looking for your way out. You could panic and go in circles. You could head back the way you came. You could, as I learned in camp, just sit still until help arrives. Imagine instead that you could stop, take a deep breath and zoom out from your situation. Imagine you could fly above it all as if you were in a helicopter and look down at yourself among the trees.
What could you see or notice differently from this perspective – a different route, people there to support you, the way out is closer than you thought?
Another way to ‘zoom out’ is to look at your situation as a neutral observer. Imagine you’re a fly on the wall watching your life. What insights or advice would you give yourself?
It’s hard to move forward until you fully understand why you are feeling the way that you are. You have to get specific and identify what’s really going on – what in particular is overwhelming you, what specific feelings you are feeling, etc. You must name it to tame it. A great mentor of mine once said, “A well-defined problem presents its own solution”.
When you dig a little deeper to the real issue/challenge/blockage, solutions tend to present themselves. For example, there are big differences between, ‘I feel sad’ and ‘I feel sad because I’m overwhelmed with the details’ or ‘I feel overwhelmed because I’m worried what will happen.’ Once you name it, you are more likely to be able to tame it.
Your Turn: Seek to uncover the underlying issues that are getting in your way and stopping you from progressing. You can do this by journaling, talking to someone who knows you well, or simply taking the time to ask yourself these questions. Once you name it, perhaps the solution will then present and tame itself.
Reconnect to Your ‘Why’
Why did you choose to work in healthcare?? Feeling overwhelmed is often remedied by reconnecting to your why. When you’ve lost sight of your “why” it is hard to maintain the same level of commitment and drive to your work. It’s important to remember:
Why you started this work in the first place. What reasons, values or passions drove you to make this career choice. What picture do you have for yourself, and your life when this is over
By reminding yourself of your original intention and purpose, it gives you the intrinsic motivation to get back on track and move ahead rejuvenated. Connecting to your deeper ‘why’ will be the fuel that keeps you going, even through tough times and roadblocks.
Your Turn: Grab a journal and ask yourself, “Why is this work important to me?” ,”Why did I start this career path in the first place?” “What am I trying to achieve at work and why is that important to me?”
Take a Brain Break
Full disclosure, I’m stealing this strategy from my 8-year-old son’s second-grade teacher.
The other night I was helping my son with homework, he was getting super frustrated and how to solve a math problem. He was on the verge of tears when he looked up and asked, ‘Mom, can I take a brain break?’ He got up from the table, walked to his room and played with legos. When he came back a short time later, he was as happy as could be and jumped right back into his math.
We could all use a brain break when we’re stuck. A chance to shift focus gives our brains a chance for quiet; it takes the pressure off so we can come back with a fresh mind and new perspective. When we take a brain break, it refreshes our thinking and helps us discover a new outlook and to see a situation through a different lens. The brain break actually helps to incubate and process new information.
A great brain break is to do something physical that gets you in flow. Take a hike, a run, a walk around the block. Another well-known brain break is meditation – which has so many proven benefits I can’t even begin to name them all. Try it, it works.
Your Turn: What kind of brain breaks can you give yourself? Which would be most helpful? It’s not just for second graders anymore.
Know What You Need to Get a Fresh Frame of Mind
We all have a way in which we operate that is unique to us. When you understand how you’re wired, you can understand more specifically what you need to get unstuck from a frame of mind. It’s like your own personal formula for moving forward.
Your Turn: What do you need to get unstuck? Here are some common needs to change your frame of mind:
Step-by-step plan of items such as exercise, meditation, not watching the news, etc. To understand why something is important to you. Unconditional encouragement and support. To think things through and understand what really needs to be addressed in your mindset
Shift Your State
When you’re in a stuck state, it actually creates a cycle of ‘stuckness.’ Get yourself out of there! Instead of placing all your focus and energy on the problem, shift your focus and energy to another area of your life. Go do something that brings you joy; spend time with someone you love. Do anything to shift your state and mood. This will switch your downward cycle of doom and gloom into an upward cycle of hope and possibility. A great way to shift your state is to practice gratitude. Take note of all of the wonderful things to have gratitude for. A state shift brings energy, hope, and positivity into your mindset…keys to getting out of that dreaded cycle of overwhelm.
Your Turn: What always puts you in a good mood? What brings you joy, happiness or fulfillment? Do it! And make sure to practice gratitude. Try this: each morning for the next week, write down three things you are grateful.
Reach out for Help
We can all use a little help when we’re stuck. This might be talking to a good friend who knows and understands you or reaching out to anyone in the same situation. While this may seem like one of the easiest strategies, it is actually one of the hardest to do. Why? Even though we are biologically wired to help each other, many of us find it challenging to reach out. Asking for help exposes us to numerous possible social threats, which is why it’s so uncomfortable. It can feel like an admission of weakness, which lowers our status, and can be an invitation for scorn. It creates uncertainty, and invites the possibility of rejection.
Who can you reach out to ask for help right now? Not ready to reach out to someone just yet? Maybe you can try asking the universe. Some call this prayer, others spiritual guidance, others faith. Whatever you call it, reach out to someone, somewhere, somehow…now.
REMEMBER: We’re going to be okay. It won’t always be like this. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hang in there and trust the process. The breakthrough is coming.