I have this particular image that comes to mind when my life starts to feel out of control. I’m on a horse galloping off through a field. I’m not sure where I’m going or if I’m coming back, the crucial thing is, I’m getting away from everything. On a horse. There are often other horses with us, a stampede of sorts, and we are getting the hell out of there. The horse is usually chestnut or black: not to be confused with a white horse or the accompanying prince, the fact that I am the only human in this fantasy is central.
When this image starts popping up, I know I’ve hit a wall. Because, while I do love horses, I don’t truly wish to leave any part of my life behind. I love my work, my life, and most definitely my prince. But sometimes it’s suddenly just all too much.
The wild horses are a consequence of the hyper-drive that I spend a lot of my time in, the escape fantasy that emerges from the desperation of not knowing how to slow down. One minute, I’m so into it. I want to be a bad, boss bitch and do all the things. I’m leaning in, I’m daring greatly, working and writing, eating, praying, and loving my heart out and then BAM! Wild horses.
Maybe the horse imagery doesn’t do it for you, but my guess is there isn’t a person reading this who can’t relate to this feeling of hands-in-the-air I give up. We live in a stressed-out, demanding, overwhelmed kind of world. A lot of these factors may be out of our control at any given time. Here’s a little four-step process I use to sort through what is:
1. Make a list.
Stress can be most pernicious when it’s a nebulous black cloud following you everywhere you go. So write down everything that is stressing you out. Maybe it won’t look as bad once you have it all down on paper, maybe it will look worse! Deep breath! That’s what the next steps are for.
2. Ask: What can you delegate?
“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” Ha! Words to die by right there. Don’t be a martyr to your own inner control freak; mine tends to reach for the wheel the more stressed out I get. Have the humility to ask for and accept help from your partner, your co-workers, your friends, whomever.
3. Ask: What can you let go of?
If you’re life feels like a closet that’s bursting at the seams with a whole lot of nothing to wear then it’s time to do some sorting. Much like those jean shorts buried in the back your closet, there’s bound to be something on your list that is neither rewarding nor necessary. If so? Toss it!
4. Cut yourself a break.
I’ve realized that this busy year ahead is the perfect time to ditch my habit of going into a downward spiral when I’m feeling stressed out. I simply don’t have time for the pouting and doubting and self-recrimination that I’m apt to go into when I get really overwhelmed. What better time to learn to be kind to myself?
How do you cope when it’s all too much?