It’s highly possible you’re crazy
Grrrr! Ahhhh (loud scream, either out-loud or in your head)! Faaark!!! My head hurts! Why is nothing easy?! Where do I even start?! Been feeling any of these thoughts recently? Well, the first thing you need to know is you’re not alone! There are plenty of other hopeless losers out there, going nowhere fast, that you have a lot in common with. Ha, don’t worry, I’m kidding - well, mostly anyway 😉
Seriously though, any of us who really care about what we’re doing, where we’re going, how we’re contributing to the world, will inevitably feel stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated at some stage. If it makes you feel any better, I will say the reason you feel this way is more likely that you’re an over-achiever, or at the very least, a high achiever, than a hopeless loser. Hopefully you can take some solace in the fact that, although you may feel crazy at times, it’s because you’re a dead-set legend, with such high standards, doing great things for mankind, that you feel that way. So keep popping those Valium like they’re smarties, maybe even swig them down with some gin and wait for the calm to wash over you and things to fall into place. No, not seriously.
From high levels of crazy to high performance
If you’re anything like me, you’ve learnt the hard way that doing too much for too many leads to unhappiness, and ultimately burn-out. You’re no good to anyone when you’re having a meltdown at your computer because Safari has frozen (“why god, why?!”). So how, when your head is spinning with possibilities, and you’re so excited about so much stuff that you’re actually overwhelmed, do you find your way forward? How do you keep moving forward when you try so hard but never seem to a) make a dent in the workload; b) satisfy anyone; c) find a way out? Firstly, you stop. Yep, actually stop. Next, breathe.
What is frustration anyway?
Now that you’ve taken a pause, it’s good to understand what’s going on. And, what is going on is fear; you’re afraid. Let’s break this down. Firstly, frustration is a form of anger (sometimes mild, sometimes intense); anger at the world, at Safari, at the useless Corolla driver at the lights in front of you, at others; but more often, at yourself. Sitting below the anger we’ll find fear; fear of failure, fear of not “being enough”, of letting ourselves or others down. The best thing we can do for ourselves when we are feeling frustrated is firstly stop and connect with how we’re feeling. “Right-o, I have a very VERY strong temptation to throw my phone at the wall after being on hold to Telstra for 10 minutes. What is actually going on here?” “I’m feeling seriously annoyed, angry at our damn national carrier for wasting my time. Ok, so I’m angry. I’m actually afraid, afraid because of this delay to my day, and my ever growing To-Do list that I’m not going to get to accomplish what I “need” to today. I’m afraid that I’ll fall behind, that I’ll never get this online program online/job application through/house cleaned, that I won’t live up to my own or others’ expectations of me”.
There it is, the biggy - expectations. We put these crazy expectations on ourselves and also think (often falsely) that others have similarly high expectations. Try, it’s very difficult, but try, not to expect. This is why Buddhist’s are such happy campers. They wake up in the morning and instead of “expecting” everything is going to go right, they don’t expect anything. When the train is late, they don’t think “fark this!” they think, “Yay, a bus turned up, that’s great”. It’s hard to live without expectations or attachments to how we think things “should” go, but awareness is a great starting point.
Now that your head has stopped spinning
To move from frustration to fabulous, from super-stressed to stress-less, there are a number of practical things you can do. Firstly, set realistic expectations for what you can achieve in a day, week, life-time and do not over-promise (if you can just do this, not over-promise, you’re away to a flying start!).
Secondly, reward yourself for every little step in the right direction, both with a metaphorical pat on the back and by treating yourself. Thirdly, ask for help and outsource where you can. There is no shame in paying a professional to help you get fit or sort out your finances, or enlisting a friend, colleague or family member to assist (especially if you are doing the lion share of things at home or in the office). No one thinks you’re a hero if you do everything and then consequently things are left undone or fall over. You can create a list of everything currently on your plate and see what really needs doing, what can be delayed, not done at all or delegated.
So, that’s it for the practical. The most important thing though, is to understand what’s going on in your head when that To-Do list gets too long or your computer dies (along with 6 months worth of work). When you are feeling frustrated, angry and fearful, the composition of hormones in your body changes and you actually start marinating in a chemical composition of your fear. So you want to get your head right, then everything else will fall into place. It all starts with awareness, breathing and putting things into perspective (will the world actually end if you can’t format that document/get there on time?!) If all else fails there’s always vodka?! Again, kidding!!