A strange and different kind of year is coming to an end, and oddly, most of us are experiencing the same pre-holiday stressors as we do during any other “normal” year. For a year that was seemingly “cancelled”, we sure have a lot to get done, right? Here’s a to feel list to make the rest of the year, a more easy and joyful one for you.
What this tells us, if anything, is that feelings of overwhelm and “being swamped” are just that, feelings. Feelings may feel like facts, but they’re not. Feelings are created by our thoughts, and our thoughts – as solid as they seem – are simply our personal meaning-making practice.
We confuse our thoughts with facts and then velcro ourselves to those thoughts as though anyone in our shoes would think and consequently, feel the same way. We label ourselves and others, and move on as though the conviction of our thoughts have somehow moved to the arena of “truth”.
It is my experience that there are very few absolute “truths” in our lives. The time of day, where we work, our address, the name of our family members, and a few other facts … the list is not long. “My life sucks”, “————- is a narcissist”, “Women are better leaders”, “Time is running out”, “The holidays are stressful”, … are thoughts, not facts.
Understanding the distinction between our facts and our thoughts matters, because we don’t have control over many circumstances, but we do have control over what we make those circumstances mean and consequently, how we respond to them.
Mastering the process of objectifying our thoughts, will allow us several excellent options:
- When negative thoughts come into our mind, we can practice the art of “noticing”, and not make them mean anything more than passing clouds in the sky.
- We can question negative thoughts, and there are several masters, like Byron Katie, who teach this work, and slowly but surely, dismantle thoughts that have turned into beliefs that are not serving us.
- We can create new, more helpful thoughts on purpose.
So what does all this have to do with feelings of overwhelm and being swamped, that so many of us are complaining about, especially at this time of year?
Most professionals in the field of human behaviour will agree that our thoughts create our feelings. If I’m in conversation with a client, and she states that she is feeling apathetic, angry, or swamped, I’m going to ask questions that will allow us to understand the thoughts leading to her feelings.
This is a classic model that many coaches use, and its elegance and nuances deserve a deeper explanation and exploration than I can devote to in a short blog.
However, with this background in mind, I’d like to offer you a different way of approaching the next 6 weeks, leading to the new year. First, work with a pro to manage your calendar like a Ninja Warrior. I do this with my clients, and there are many excellent coaches that specialize in this practice.
After you get rid of your “To Do” list, because it’s now on your calendar, create a “To Feel” list.
If you are already devoted to a morning practice, you can add this small element. If you don’t yet have a morning practice, put aside just 5 minutes to sit still and write a list of all the feelings you want to experience on this day.
Don’t be surprised if you can’t think of more than a handful of emotions to even consider.