It might be that they are struggling with depression or anxiety. Maybe they are having trouble in their relationships with a spouse or partner. Sometimes they are coping with some sort of crisis or tragedy. Or maybe they are haunted by something that has happened to them in their past. Nonetheless, the common theme with all of these life situations is that they are feeling overwhelmed and not sure how or even begin to know how to cope with it all.
The analogy I like to use is having to clean out the garage…
I am not sure if this ever happens to you or not, but my garage gets kind of out of hand at times.
My garage, in addition to being where we park the cars at my house is also the place where we store things. All the Christmas decorations, extra paint, tools, bicycles, camping gear, extra blankets, and all sorts of storage boxes full of books, etc. are stored in the garage. And somehow we just keep adding to it. Over time it just gets out of hand and becomes hard to get in and out of the cars. Then the next thing we know, we just can’t get anything else in there and the cars are parked outside! To even think about getting it organized again just seems overwhelming. It somehow feels too much!
Most people’s problems are complicated. If they were not complicated, they would have figured out how to solve the problem(s) already. Besides that, the last thing in the world they would want to do is come talk to a perfect stranger about something so personal.
So where does one start, how do you begin to tackle a problem as big as, as complicated as, and as overwhelming as cleaning out the garage?!
“The only way to even to begin to tackle life’s most difficult of problems is to break them down into the smallest possible pieces.”
Well the answer is simple and the task is…, well… difficult… The only way to even to begin to tackle life’s most difficult of problems is to break them down into the smallest possible pieces. Then, by tackling those smaller things, you end up “cleaning out the garage”…one thing at a time…
So to clean out the garage, the best tactic I know of, is to begin in just one place and start taking everything out, one thing at a time. Then once you have everything out, you start looking at the different pieces and then deciding what is the best thing to do with the individual pieces. Do I continue to keep it? Do I give it away? Do I sell it? Or do I simply throw it away?
You see it’s much easier to decide what to do by taking one piece at a time rather than trying to decide what to do with the whole garage all at once.
Life’s problems are the much the same way when we are overwhelmed emotionally. By breaking things down into smaller pieces and then focusing on what you can do something about, makes things a little easier to tackle.
The other key to tackling life’s problems is to recognize when what you are doing now just isn’t working.
…doing the same things over and over again, the same old way, expecting a different result (Einstein’s definition of insanity…).
You see, we human beings have this crazy way of doing the same things over and over again, the same old way, expecting a different result (Einstein’s definition of insanity…). When you can recognize what you are doing now that is not working and at the same time, admitting to yourself that the current efforts to change the situation, other people or even yourself is NOT working, then you can find other ways to approach the problems you are having.
The other very important thing to realize (this is not a “news flash” for anyone!)is that the only person you can really change is yourself. Most of the time we put a whole lot of energy into trying to get other people to change or do things differently. And sometimes we can influence others. But ultimately, you can only change yourself… So by focusing on making changes to and for yourself (cleaning out your own garage), you are much more likely to get to the changes you want in your life…
As I mentioned before, it is a simple concept, but a difficult task… However, by taking things one thing at a time… you can make significant changes that will allow you to be less overwhelmed and more content and happy in life.
Post by L. Gordon Brewer, Jr., MEd, LMFT