How to Work with Stress and Overwhelm
This pandemic has created new ways of working and living together. It has also created enormous tension and stress.
Stress can be defined as, “What we feel when we are facing too many demands and fear we may not live up to it.” Many families are facing another year of demands, working from home, and children home schooled, to name just a few. This stress may continue to rise to the level of overwhelm, with simply too much on your plate.
There is no panacea for how to work with this pandemic stress. We would, however, like to offer a simple way to work with it that comes from the 3rd Vital Question: “What actions are you taking?” We call it the 3-step dance and goes like this:
- What do you want?
- What do you have?
- What’s next?
The difference between what you say you want, and your current reality, is “the gap.” In this gap there is an energetic force we call Dynamic Tension. The term is borrowed from physics and describes a vigorous force that actively pulls in opposite directions between two opposing poles.
Doesn’t that perfectly describe life today? We want something different from what we actually have, and those two polar opposites are pulling us apart, causing stress and overwhelm.
The 3-step dance is designed to leverage the tension in the gap to work for you, not against you. If you can learn to recognize this invisible force in the gap, you can leverage it as a source of positive energy. Easier said than done, we know, but let us explain how this 3-step dance can support you.
Here are two metaphors to illustrate our point. A kite cannot fly unless wind is blowing in its face to thrust it upward. A sailboat is dead in the water if there’s not wind in its sail, propelling it forward. Both the kite and sailboat use dynamic tension to propel them forward.
When you declare what you want, there is an energetic force that pulls you in that direction, while your current reality pulls you in the opposite direction. This invisible power in the gap can be overwhelming if you do not know how to use the energy.
The secret is to relax into the tension and recognize the power as a creative force that works for you, not against you.
Once you acknowledge this creative force, you are ready to begin the 3-step dance by clarifying what you want. You may need to whittle down to the bare bones your top priority right now and learn to say “no” to everything else.
The next step is to tell yourself the truth about the current reality, without either minimizing or catastrophizing. Because human beings lean toward interpreting a situation with personal stories and previous experiences, blame and judgment is common. You gotta let go of blame—it will quickly get you off the dance floor and into more overwhelm. Instead of blame, ask more reflective questions:
- What is true that I am not yet facing?
- Is there anything I am avoiding?
The dynamic tension is now set with the first two steps pulling in opposite direction. The third step is to take just one Baby Step, which relieves the tension and moves you closer to what you want. Getting into action reduces stress and overwhelm. Read more about the magic of Baby Steps here.
The power in the 3-step dance is to leverage the energy in the two points between what you say you want and what you really have and then take just one step. You don’t have to have it all figured out! Be kind to yourself as you dance the 3-step dance—during this difficult time and beyond.