In my therapy practice, people often come to me with a specific issue—for example their relationship with their partner—and as they get talking, they start to share about financial strains, workplace issues, parenting woes, the loss of a loved one, in-law troubles, etc. For many, sharing in a therapy session is the first concentrated space they have to really self examine and look at problems. And as the person talks, the burden of everything seems upon them.
Have you ever felt like this when you think about or share your problems? Are you often feeling like you have a lot on the go, but no time to assess and make changes in all these areas? It is overwhelming. This is especially true when you are a parent, and tackling the day-to-day is enough of a demand on your time with meals to prepare, school drop offs and pick ups, and the list goes on.
I shudder to share this—especially since our Organization Queen, Dawn of YMC's Rebel's Rules of Order, might be reading—but since I was a kid, I tried to tackle a mess by making a bigger one. To organize a playroom, my bedroom, whatever, I would dump everything on the floor. I still have to stop myself from doing it now. I really do love systems and often want to fix it all at once. My Mom would tell me to start with one corner, but I wouldn't and chaos would ensue. Guess what would happen? I overwhelmed myself. I would be there drowning in a sea of toys despite all of my best organizational intentions. So, half way through the process I would need rescuing. It is so much better to clean a drawer or a closet or the vanity, individually, one at a time. Maybe you can relate to this within your own life—ignoring things until they build up and then you try to address everything?
A useful intervention when feeling problems are too big and too much is to separate them out. Basically, if life gives you lemons, make garnish! I don't mean hit the cocktail bar as a way to deal, but rather chop your problems into smaller pieces. By doing so, one takes the matters of the mountain away from being something unsurpassable, to a bunch of smaller piles that are easier to tackle. Compartmentalizing each of the issues can take some of the stress off and opens things up to look at everything individually; finding solutions or ways to work within each of the problems on their own.
Get a pen and write out different areas of your life—family, work, relationship with partner, relationships with others, parenting, etc.
List underneath any issues you are struggling with in each category.
Take some time away from the list—focusing on the negative is exhausting!
Once you are ready, in the true spirit of facing it all separately, address one area at a time.
Look at the presented issue and start to think about potential solutions, perspective shifts, and possibilities for acceptance
Some things might not have answers, but some will. Dealing with the things you are able to at this time in your life will take away some of the pressure and, perhaps, give you more freedom to reflect and provide energy for those tougher issues.