Wisdom//

Transforming Overwhelm & Burden to Something Powerful

1. When experiencing overwhelm, burden, or fear, pause and feel it.

Courtesy of Yuliya Chsherbakova/Shutterstock
Courtesy of Yuliya Chsherbakova/Shutterstock

How many of you have felt overwhelmed recently by everything you have to do?

How many of you have felt something you have to do — or everything you have to do — as a burden?

Many of us feel everything we have to do as burden, as overwhelm. It stems from how we look at the world: it’s hard, it’s difficulty to bear, and things are crashing down around us.

This is not said judgmentally, but with compassion — almost all of us see things this way. It feels like it’s programming that’s hardwired into us.

But it’s changeable. It starts by shifting how we see the world.

Instead of seeing the world as burden, can we see it as gift?

Instead of seeing the world as difficulty and struggle, can we see it as possibility and opportunity?

Instead of thinking we have too much to do, can we see the joy in each task? And see that a pile of tasks, then, is an abundance of joy and possibility?

Because yes, we have a huge amount of tasks to do, and we feel like we don’t have enough time to do them all. But we all have the same amount of time, and all we can do is one task at a time. There’s no way around this.

We can get better at choosing which tasks to do (prioritizing), but in the end there’s never any certainty that we’re doing the exact right tasks. We can expand our capabilities through automation, delegation and outsourcing, but experience tells us that even doing all of that, we still have too many tasks to do. The problem doesn’t go away with these kinds of tricks.

The amount of tasks isn’t the problem, because we’ll always have too many to do. The problem comes partly from overcommitting to too much, but even if we get better at that, we often still feel overwhelm and burden.

The only real solution is a change in mindset. To see everything we have to do as a gift, as possibility and opportunity, as an abundance of joy.

We can implement systems, get good at prioritizing, get more focused, outsource and delegate and simplify and commit to doing less … but in the end, burden and overwhelm won’t go away until we shift the mindset.

So here’s the practice:

  1. When you experiencing overwhelm, burden, or fear, pause and feel it. Let yourself be fully with it, experience it, feel it fully, and open up to it. Can you be curious about it? Can you find a way to love this feeling?
  2. See if you can see the tasks in front of you as a gift. You choose to do these because you want to. They are benefitting you and others. Do them with love, and be grateful for the gift of each one.
  3. See if you can see the possibility and opportunity in each one. What can be done with them? How are they more open and vast than you feel them to be?
  4. Can you experience the abundance of joy in your pile of tasks? If each one is a joyful gift, then isn’t there pure abundance in this pile? You can reach into the pile and pull out an opportunity for joy, growth, and giving your gift to the world.

Mindset shifts aren’t something we can just flip like a switch. They need to be consciously practiced. Can you see the possibilities in this practice?

Originally published on Zen Habits.

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