How To Cope When It All Gets Too Much

So a while back a client told me she was feeling pretty overwhelmed and exhausted. She’d set a whole heap of goals this year that were demanding her attention. Issues with investments, business restructuring and a partner sick and off work. Tons on her plate and nobody left to delegate it to. Trying to run her business, get the work done and deal with other stuff like raising a family.

A whole bunch of things any one of which would be a test for most people.

Most people are going to get an emotional shock when their property sale falls over. Most people are going to get emotional shock when their partner ends up bedridden. Most people are going to get emotional shock when blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And she’s going a thousand miles an hour, but at the end of the day not feeling very good looking at all the stuff she didn’t get done. Missing out on the stuff that was important to her because she didn’t have the time to scratch herself. Not even getting a rest on holiday because of all the stuff going on.

She had reached the point where it was all just too much.

As life would have it, I’d just spent half a day putting together a presentation on how to do all that kind of stuff. So I shared with her the key ingredient in how to manage the busy-ness of life.

It turns out to be your ability to compartmentalize.

So imagine you’ve got this railway train going on. It’s got all these compartments in it. One is being a mother, one is being a wife, one is being a business woman and blah, blah, blah.

But there was one compartment that’s not on her train.

Her life was this train and there was one very important compartment missing.

So I asked her to take a wild stab and tell me which one was missing. A compartment that was empty that she needed to go and sit in for a while.

In other words, it was her compartment.
Where was the ‘me’ time? Where was the revitalizing …?

And while she’d spend time by herself walking the dogs early in the morning or going to the gym, listening to meditations while she was on the move, I got the sense that she was doing that because she had to. Because she wasn’t going to fit the exercise in at any other time during week.

This was all good stuff of course.

But what she really needed was to find a beach somewhere.

To just sit and be.

The trick to handling the chaos of life is that you need some personal space. Because we can handle anything if there’s enough personal space for ourselves. If there’s enough ‘me’ time.

Take my day for example. We leave for a bootcamp tomorrow and so I got everything ready. But it’s pretty full on and can get a bit overwhelming. So in the middle of the day I grabbed my daughter Julie in the old Pontiac and we went for a drive and had a cup of coffee and just sat. Just talking about nothing because it’s very much ‘me’ time when I get the chance to connect with my daughter. I come back and I’m twice as effective.

Most people look it as selfish and most people look at ‘me’ time as if it’s taking them away from being productive. Kind of like, if I spend some ‘me’ time there’s a bunch of things I’m not going to get done.

The reality is you will be much more effective.

All the research says this, and so it’s not coming from me. All the research says that the most effective people, the people who get the most done, actually work fifty-five minutes and take five minutes off. What they do is they go hard, but then they realize you cannot go hard all day without your performance deteriorating during the day, because you get tired and all that sort of stuff. Your judgment goes off.

It’s unfortunate but it’s true that the smokers have got it right. Because what happens with the smokers is that, let’s say once an hour – it’s probably more than that – but every hour they walk outside the building, they stop and they have a cigarette – worst thing they can do.

But if you work in a building, you could follow them out of the building and instead of standing next to them, stand under a tree and recognize that you’re a child of God and that you’ve been put on this earth in a place that could only be called paradise. And then take a couple of deep breaths and enjoy just how great it is and how lucky you are and then go back to work.

Because you go back refreshed.

And you’ll achieve a lot more.

If you literally can’t find a bit of time in the middle of the day, if you’re skipping lunch and / or if you’re eating on the run, all that sort of stuff, then it’s definitely time for you to go for the fifty-five minutes on and five minutes off because you need that five minutes to regenerate otherwise you’re not going to get through the day.

But you’ve got to stop and revitalize.
Not substitute that 5 minutes with other things that keep you busy.

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So this is what I recommended to her.

Grab that five minutes, go sit under a tree or in a lounge or somewhere comfy but not where you’re going to fall asleep. Take a deep breath keep your eyes open and look around for signs that you live in paradise. That might be the look of the trees, the grass, the animals or whatever, and take some deep breaths and ask yourself if you’re okay. Bring yourself into the present moment. Take a deep breath, relax your body and recognize that this is a first- world problem because the rest of the world is struggling to eat. Bring a bit of reality to the situation and say well it’s only important because I say it’s important and realise that while things are happening basically we choose all this activity. We choose to do all this stuff because we can.

How about you take five minutes, you step into the moment.

Just ask yourself after you’ve taken a couple a couple of big breaths, ask yourself Am I okay?

What’s going to happen is that we take three deep breaths or five deep breaths or as many as you can take. The cortisone level in your blood stream is going to drop dramatically. Cortisone is the stress hormone, so it’s the culprit because what it does is cortisone gets together with adrenaline and propels you through the day. But what it does is it makes you frantic and it doesn’t really make you as effective because it doesn’t give you insight, it doesn’t help you to see the easy solution. You got to go the hard way, you got to grunt it out. You got to force the issues.

And grunt power is what we’re being told works – if you’re a good person then you push and push, and you work hard, and if you’re good honest hard working people that’s what you do. But there’s another way of doing and that’s bringing on board your ability to attract what you need. I’m not saying you stop pushing hard, man I can push as hard as anybody. I’m sixty four and I was up at 5:30 this morning paddling my board on the water but I’m not just out there getting my personal space, I’m pushing my body as hard as I can and going past people who are a lot younger because I realize the value in pushing. So I’m not saying don’t push.

What I’m saying is you got to stop pushing for five minutes so that you can get the insight and the break through. The insight, the genius is not going to surface while you’re busting your arse. The genius is going to surface while you’re just looking at the tree. During that five minutes you’ll ask yourself are you okay? Now the answer is yes but you need to ask. There are a couple of questions that can go with it. Do I have enough water, do I have enough shelter, is there enough food in the fridge, will we survive the night? That kind of stuff.

And what you’ll find is that everything actually is okay in this present moment.

Now we use this with people on their death bed because they get afraid of dying and I’ll say, “Hang on, you’re not dead yet. Are you okay at the moment?” They go, “Yeah, but there’s a lot of pain.” I go, “Yeah, but are you okay?” They go, “Yeah my body is in a lot of pain.” I go, “Okay, good so, there’s a difference between your body and you.”

What we do is we buy into the drama and the more we buy into the drama the more flat out we go trying to deal with it. If you can buy out of the drama for the five minutes, what you’ll realise is you can actually deal with the next fifty-five minutes a lot better and a lot more calmly. A lot more peacefully.

The chances are if you do that during the day you will also be better to be with at the end of the day.

What I’m saying is even if it doesn’t work, you’ll end up at the end of the day a lot happier person. You may achieve less but the thing is you’ll cope better.

And the way that your kids are going to remember you is what you were like when the shit hit the fan. If we go to your funeral, which is hopefully a long time from now, what do you want people saying? What do you want your kids to be saying? We want things like, ‘it didn’t matter how bad it was, Mum, she just stayed calm and made me more important than any of the events that were going on’. Pay attention to how your kids are and how their day was. Then that helps you rise above all the other the stuff, and it tells them that they’re more important than the stuff that’s going on.

When you’re full of drama and you just need to relax.

Just do it mindfully.

Deep breath and you can add a vodka.

After a lengthy chat, you know what she said?
She felt less overwhelmed already.

Which is funny because the reason she did is because she’d just taken some time out from the busyness.

Now that’s cool.

Just keep breathing.