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When life overwhelms, focus on one task at a time

When life overwhelms, focus on one task at a time

by Christian Michael

January 06, 2014


A good friend of mine is in a transition stage and is having a somewhat rough go of it. All of her responsible plans are being upturned over and over again and, understandably, it's driving her bonkers.

I think most of us can say we've had similar experiences. We're trying to move or take a trip and cars break down, help backs out, well laid plans of mice and all that. It gets to you, especially if these problems strike emotional nerves from similar previous experiences.

I love my friend, and so I tried giving her a bit of tough and tender love. Tough to push her through the seeming wall of impossibility to a new perspective that removes her emotional sensitivity from disparate circumstances -- no easy task for anyone, myself included -- and tender because she isn't there yet and like the rest of us is "in progress."

What in your life seems overwhelming? Just seems to be crashing down ontop of you with no easy sign of escape? A cascade of events that just seem unavoidable and emotionally stressing?

My recommendation to her -- as to others facing similar situations (ESPECIALLY STUDENTS WITH HEAVY WORKLOADS), is not to look at the cascade. Focus on one task at a time. You aren't strong enough to deal with all the events at once, few are, but all of these events are tameable. They can be accomplished. They seem more easily accomplished when standalone events and they seem part of a terrible chain of emotionally hurtful events, but more often than not, are no more difficult than they are before.

The key is to remember that fact and to let go of our responsibility to handle the whole thing. Just tackle one item at a time. Bills coming due, surprise changes to memberships or accounts, constant hiccups in accomplishing necessary tasks ... just press on and focus on one small thing at a time.

You can make the call to restart your cell phone when some idiot at the company didn't re-up your account like he was supposed to. You can call friends waiting on you to let them know you need more time before you can arrive. You can go buy that fourth pair of gloves this month your child seems determined to lose at every turn. Don't worry about all of them.

It doesn't mean you can't prioritize. Pay those bills, take care of your kid, handle others who are expectant on your time. It won't make it easy-peasy, but you can begin the healthy habit of divorcing your emotional stability from the circumstances of life.

Press onward. Focus on one thing at a time and don't let worry prevent you from the simple focus of tasks. Before you know it, your problems will have diminished and while we're never truly free of difficulties, it will seem less threatening, and the next time this happens, you'll be more confident in your ability to handle it.

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