When you are feeling overwhelmed with life and what is happening in your personal or professional world, experiencing anxiety and stress is natural. There is uncertainty in everything that you think or see around you. The mind starts questioning even the smallest decision you make.
So, even if you are wealthier than billions around the world, your life feels miserable. The good thing is you can fairly quickly and successfully overcome the pain and uncertainty in your overwhelm.
What triggers overwhelm in modern life?
Modern life gives you options for every single thing you need or want. Computers and technological advances have changed life and lifestyles dramatically. Our aspirations from life have gone up exponentially high. The pace of change has grown multifold in the last 3 to 4 decades. It has created several challenging situations in our lives. Let us explore the triggers behind your anxiety and uncertainty.
1. In this day and age, everything is available at the click of a button. We expect everything that we want, to happen almost instantly. So our patience levels have gone down. We can see this happening to ourselves and especially in the children a lot more. This hampers our joy and positive energy in a big way.
2. Options in everything we need or want means, we now need to make decisions constantly throughout the day. This continuous decision-making takes its own toll on our willpower. Our willpower is a finite daily resource. We ideally want it for the most important things in our life and work. However, this constant drain on our willpower can take away a ton of our mental energy very subtly.
When you combine these 2 factors, you can immediately imagine why many of us are feeling overwhelmed with life! We find ourselves in a tough spot even in the simplest daily things that need a bit of focus and energy. Both of these factors together are creating enormous stress and tiredness. The irony is, modern life has become hectic even if it is comfortable beyond the imagination of our elders.
3. Let us combine the third big contributor to this overwhelm in modern life. It is social media that is always on and giving us dopamine hits with those likes and shares. These social media channels create a constant feeling of lack in our minds. Whatever you do, achieve, or experience, there seems to be someone who has done better than you. So the doubt of “Am I good enough?” starts showing its head frequently.
4. Let’s look at the latest trigger for the global pandemic of overwhelm – It is the other global pandemic of Covid 19. Suddenly many of us had dramatically changed our lifestyle. Many of our plans got curtailed. Your finances took a hit. The social life got disrupted. For many of us, it took us in a completely new direction.
5. Finally, there can be some personal or professional matter which has created uncertainty. It can be the process of changing the job or appraisals in the current organization or issues in the workplace. It can also be something happening in your family or marital relationship or health situations that tend to trigger nervousness in your mind.
Before we dive into a framework to handle your uncertainty let us look at what to do for the state of your mind.
How to set a powerful mindset and positive emotions while facing uncertainty?
Our logic is always driven by our emotions. You will see that you were at your best when you were feeling good about yourself. Facing uncertainty becomes more challenging when you are under the spell of overwhelm. You are feeling down in dumps. You tend to feel that there is too much on your plate and you are confused about where to start.
Even if you think of starting in any specific direction it seems to be a part towards some failure. It is a kind of negative spiral where every negative thought hampers your willpower, then your energy/motivation gets hit, and finally, in this enervated state, you generate the next negative thought of worry or anxiety!
So the first step is to work on your mindset and emotions. Let us learn 5 powerful mental tools that help you to overcome your anxiety.
1. Adopt the powerful practice of “Acceptance”
All of us have a natural urge to expect things to happen the way we want them to, even if we have zero influence on some of them. When you face uncertainty in life, you are dealing with situations or scenarios or things that are outside your circle of control. When you look at the weakened state of your mind during the period of overwhelm, the uncertainty may trigger the survival mode of your thinking.
You will think “why me?” or “this cannot happen to me”. You will try resisting the reality of the situation. You may try creating fanciful imaginations which tend to bring thoughts of miraculous revival by some unknown mythical forces. This all however is simply wishful thinking and no strategy. Wishful thinking often leads to results you don’t want. Then again the same thought and same poor results. You can see the negative spiral here!
Here is the good news for you if you are stuck in this mode of thinking. You can “choose” to put yourself into the “expansion mode”. It is a mode in which you start treating everything around you as a platform for your growth.
Acceptance requires you to first accept the reality as it is, howmuchever brutal it may seem to you right now. In other words you want to start practicing acceptance. You start looking at your strengths and weaknesses as they are with more objective mind. You say to yourself, it is ok to be what you are and you can always grow in the direction you want. Then you look at situation you are in and acknowledge it as it is. You also accept that you are not the only one to face such turbulent time. You accept that some things in your life will be out of your control. And finally you accept that there is always a way out!
This puts you into an objective frame of mind. You empathize with yourself and cater to your inner child with softer hands. Even in pain or frustration, you build the power of empathy. Empathy about your own self and your emotions. It is healing and it makes you look at yourself as a third-person. The slight decoupling with the stress that you experience in this state suddenly removes the grip of all the pain and confusion you are going through.
Acceptance does not mean defeat or you losing the battle. Rather, it is the birthplace of “empowering questions” like “What can I do now?” or “What is my next best step?”.
2. Know it is your perspective
We have often heard that, it is not about what happens to you, but about how you respond!
Almost everything we say or listen to is a perspective. It is your or someone else’s point of view. During times of uncertainty, when you feel anxious and confused, it is important to acknowledge that it is a matter of your perspective.
It is quite possible that many individuals may have faced the same situation you are in, but their responses could have been significantly different. This means small and simple changes in your perspective about your challenges can bring a sea of change in the way you will feel about them.
So it may be a good thing to research a bit about others who faced similar challenges.
3. Ask if you really want certainty in life
One big challenge for us is deep down somewhere we have built an illusion that there is certainty in life. Apply little logic with the things you have seen so far in your life and you will see that uncertainty is the basis of life as it is.
Right now you are thinking about the pain and you want to get out of life. This is why your thinking is driven by a desire to remove uncertainty. But in reality, there is no such thing as certainty.
Imagine, if you could predict everything in life and things happened as you always expected them to be, will it be life of fun or life of boredom? The fun and exhilaration in life come when in spite of your lack of control over many factors in life, you achieve what you deeply wanted. Most fulfilling experiences involve thought and long-term struggle. Rather, the people whom you respect most are the people who probably did the most difficult things which took long timespans of mind-numbing struggle!
So uncertainty is the birthplace of the joy in your life in a way. This is why you love sports and surprises!
When you stop looking for certainty, you are in a better place to put a plan to handle your uncertainty. You are more realistic and objective about what life has thrown at you!
4. Connect the dots and find meaning
When you look around, the individuals whom you respect or admire most are those who faced great challenges or troubles in their lives. They may or may not have tested the kind of success that you admire. But in a much deeper meaningful way of looking at success, they are your superstars! Many times these are your parents, relatives, or friends whom you have known closely. As they say that failures are your best teachers since you hardly learn anything from your successes!
So this uncertainty that you are facing now is your opportunity to explore the deeper meaning of life and your purpose. Try imagining how the current situation and life experience equips you towards your goals and dreams.
5. Focus on what you have
When the uncertainty in our life peaks, it makes us negative. Our natural focus is more on the things we don’t have. The irony is this happens to even the richest and most powerful in the world!
If you are able to find and read this article on the internet, you are most probably one of those who have sufficient money and resources to survive and thrive in this modern world. Have you imagined what may be happening with billions of people who are in poverty?
So, especially during uncertain times, it is good to focus on what you have. It gives you a reality check that you are blessed with many things in life that millions of others are deprived of. Your reasons for crying and cribbing evaporate. You feel deeply thankful within. Let it be the starting point for you to practice gratitude!
6. Use powerful affirmations and incantations
In times of stress, what you say to yourself is either your best friend or biggest enemy!
This is why positive self-talk can be a game-changer. It can bring you the kind of mental power and energy that you thought didn’t exist. Do not let the negative self-talk take you down!
These are Simple and extremely powerful affirmations –
“I am powerful person”
“I make things happen!”
“Every day, every way, I am getting stronger!”
“I love growth. Challenges bring the best out of me!”
The more you say these lines to you, the more strength will you feel within.
5 Step Framework to Handle Your Uncertainty Systematically
By now you should be feeling much more calm and stable. You have the energy and positivity to deal with the challenge at hand. So let us dive into a simple and effective step-by-step process to take on your uncertainty!
1. Find out the top 2-3 triggers behind your uncertainty
Many times these are not the challenges staring at you. The uncertainty is triggered mainly because of your emotional expectations and your insecurities. Just identifying these emotions and fears makes your mind clear. Now, you know the real monster you are dealing with. It helps you remove the distraction in your thought process of handling the challenge.
2. Think of all the possibilities arising out of the challenges
It is time to take pen and paper. Start jotting down all positive and negative outcomes that are on top of your mind.
Writing aids your clarity. It makes you calm. Writing these possibilities will create a much clear canvass of things to expect. Your mind will be less clouded.
3. Imagine what good or bad can happen with each possibility
This is like creating a balance sheet of each possible scenario that can happen.
Once you have written about what you will gain and what will your loss be, you are in a better position to deal with any of those possibilities.
This is where you practiced acceptance in a way!
4. Decide your plan of attack for each scenario
It is time to plan your moves. This is where it starts feeling like playing a game. This is very similar to how you think while playing cricket, football, chess, or any other sport.
It will take some effort and persistence to carefully consider each scenario and your plan to deal with it.
5. Imagine how it will feel to be in those future situations
None of us can keep ourselves unhappy for too long! Once we have fully accepted a future situation in our life, we will invariably find ways to be happy in it. We will find new pathways to keep going towards our ultimate life vision.
So when you carefully imagine and feel these future scenarios, you are already prepared to handle anything that you may face with clarity and control. The burden of uncertainty by now will feel lighter.
These 5 steps are the things in your control. So it is a good time to accept that you will find support from whatever you believe in while dealing with your challenge. This is especially for the things which are outside your circle of control or influence. You can think of many blessings in your life, which happened in spite of any real contribution of your own efforts. It will allay your fears.
By now, you are ready with the tools and framework to handle the uncertainty in this overwhelming phase of your life. if you want more help explore the following articles.