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Feeling overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed
A couple of interesting conversations with clients this week about feeling overwhelmed with to do lists, action plans and whatever else. Equally fascinating is that everybody seems to have a different strategy for dealing with situations like this. The common denominator is that individual strategies focus on “switching off” and however momentary this is, somehow the “thing” that was on the face of it the cause of feeling overwhelmed, somehow seems to change during this process.

But is this what is really happening? When you think about it, the to do list hasn’t changed during the process of “switching off”, only our thinking about it. This makes sense, when you notice that two people can be having a completely different experience with the same situation in exactly the same moment.

For example, I have already lost count this week of how many conversations people have had with me about the weather. It’s a national obsession to talk about the weather and if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed the same weather forecast will have a different impact upon somebody else who isn’t feeling overwhelmed. In other words we tend to put our experiences through the filter of the mood that we are in;

Experience / mood = the way we feel about the experience

But what if this was wrong and what if, as with so many things in life, we look at the situation from the exact opposite perspective?

Most of the strategies that we develop or learn to cope and deal with experiences are based on the presupposition that we experience what is going on around us; the weather, our to do lists, our business problems and challenges for example and therefore we can use techniques ranging from positive thinking through to alcohol to deal with it them.

But if the presupposition is accurate , and we experience our to do lists, then the exact same to do list wouldn’t be able to have an different effect upon us from one moment to the next. Therefore, for the exact same to do list to have a different effect upon us, the presupposition must be flawed. Therefore we don’t experience our to do lists, we experience our thinking about our to do lists. We don’t experience the weather, we experience our thinking about the weather and so on. And given that we have the infinite capacity for new thought in any moment, we are are only one thought away from a completely different experience in any moment, whatever the situation. Sometimes we encourage this with our “switching off” strategies, but the effect is the same;

New thought produces new perspective = same “thing” with a new experience of it

So, is this just some kind of happy clappy new idea? No, because it’s certainly not a new idea and I don’t claim to own it or have invented it. It’s just an observation about how we tend to have taught ourselves to think over time (we experience what is going on around us) which in turn is the exact opposite to the way our thinking is designed to work (we experience our thinking of what is going on around us).

The reality is that patients need to be seen, white space needs to be filled, taxes need to be paid and loans need to be serviced. But, the best place to deal with the realities of running a dental practice is from clear thinking, not from feeling overwhelmed.

As a client said to me this week after a similar discussion to this;

“So I am not overwhelmed with my to do list, I only think that I am!”

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Showing 3 comments
  • Matt Clover

    Great little piece, Kevin. Perfectly sums up the emotional response I have to my “To do” list! I will change my attitude straight away!

  • Richard hellen

    Spot on Kevin

    What you’re describing goes back millennia and is manifested everywhere.

    The way we react to anything is massively influenced by our state of Being. If we’re angry, hurting, stressed, were more likely to Snap and bite back. If we’re floating round in a zenned out state of transcendental bliss, we simply absorb the blows and respond, eventually, in a dare I say it more loving way?

    The key, as you say, is finding a way to alter your perception. FWIW I find meditation fantastically liberating.



    • Jan Clarke

      A pertinent comment Richard, glad you liked the blog post.

      Meditation is such an excellent way to quieten the mind, not everyone’s cup of tea but certainly works for me too.

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