The feeling of being pulled in different directions is usually a result of over-commitment, difficulty setting boundaries, and procrastination about decision-making. Many people think indecisiveness has to do with thinking the grass is greener on the other side. I disagree. It’s more a case of feeling afraid of making the wrong decision. In short, it’s a confidence issue.
From feeling unworthy of an opportunity to having difficulty setting boundaries, closing one door to open another can feel like torture if you’re unsure about the direction you should take. Having an abundance of options may not seem like a problem but if you’ve gotten comfortable with your life, it can feel uncomfortable to think about letting something it go. Why? Well, because you’re taking a risk.
Not all of us are able to tolerate risk. So, how can we deal with our feelings of discomfort, vulnerability, and anxiety about change in a world where everything is always changing? Generally, focusing on how your body and mind react is central to learning how to manage these situations. Turning inwards and listening to yourself is just as important as considering the outside factors.
Here are 10 things you can do now to stop feeling pulled in different directions, eliminate feelings of overwhelm and doubt, and make good decisions about your life.
- Use breathing exercises. First things first, let’s talk about anxiety. Feeling overwhelmed and anxious is natural when you’re burdened with too many options. Using deep breathing techniques can be useful for managing those feelings when things get to be too much. It also gives you a moment of calm and reflection about what’s happening. This technique can give you clarity and bring you back to the present moment too.
- Set clear limits. Learning to say no and setting limits is challenging. It’s also essential to eliminating things that aren’t part of what you want in life. Saying no to anything that falls out of the bounds of your priorities can help you regain your focus. It can also help you manage your energy by learning to avoid time wasters and energy suckers. This can apply to people who drain you as well by setting expectations so high it’s impossible to step down the pedestal they build you.
- Make a choice to take back control. I’ve heard many people say “I don’t have a choice” when I suggest they eliminate something from their daily schedule. The truth is that you always have a choice. The choice is to do it and feel upset, stressed, and overwhelmed, or not do it and face a consequence of some kind. The question is, does the consequence seem tolerable or not? When faced with a choice between two negative outcomes, it becomes clear why many people avoid making a decision or taking action. Fear of loss, punishment, or failure are actively working their way into your subconscious mind. Ask yourself three questions: Which of the two (or more) options is the least appealing to me? How did I get here? Is there some way I can adjust my direction in life?
- Identify and eliminate distractions. When we feel overwhelmed or unable to make a decision, procrastination seeps in and we can start to spend more time doing things like watching Netflix, surfing our Facebook feed, or Tweeting about, well…everything. Taking breaks from tech is important. When these kinds of habits become an escape, it’s time to re-evaluate before this leads to even more. I like to create a 3-point list once a day. I start my day by focusing on these things, giving myself a break in between each. Afterwards, I take time for me. If I still feel motivated to work, I may add a few items to the list that I’ve been putting off. Projects around the house, tidying up, or doing those errands I’ve been putting off. Granted, I work from home. Having this kind of routine can make you feel productive and move the needle towards the end of your never-ending list of tasks.
- Be honest. If you reflect on the tasks you need to accomplish, often you’ll know by the feelings that come up which ones you enjoy and look forward to, and which you wish you could eliminate. Being honest with yourself and others about not being able to complete a task or get involve with something new takes practice. It also involves listening to your intuition. Ultimately, if you don’t absolutely need to do something, why are you? I’m not suggesting you drop everything that you find difficult or stressful or unpleasant. What I’m saying is, have you asked yourself the question? These activities are likely to be one of the sources of stress in your life. They can take you away from more important things, the things you care about.
- Deal with conflicting commitments. Let’s be honest. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, at some point you made the decision to say yes to too many things or to the wrong things. Maybe things got away from you and you lost your balance. The overlap multiple projects can take in terms of your time may not have been something you anticipated. You may have underestimated the commitment that was actually needed. Whether this is because you didn’t know what you were getting into, or you weren’t able to say no and set clear boundaries, it’s probably time to take action. Rather than allowing things to pull you in different directions, determine where you need to take them. Dropping one or two things on your list will help bring down the pressure and stress to a level where you can see things more clearly. It’s hard to do 10 things well, and easier to make a mistake like forgetting an appointment or failing to meet an expectation. It’s easier to choose five or six things and do them really well. What 6 things can you absolutely not live without? Make those your priority.
- Make your work-life balance central. Don’t wait for burn out before you act or react to problems. We’ve already talked about taking breaks and setting boundaries. But, is your life well balanced? Do you make time for work, yourself, and spending time with the people you care about? Most people don’t. Don’t beat yourself up if the answer is no. Are you constantly telling yourself and others you’ll do be there but never having the time to go? You’ll do this or that when you retire. But, let’s get real for a minute. If not now, then when? Your health and mental wellbeing are essential to your quality of life. The longer you wait, the less time you’ll be able to enjoy your life. Establishing a balance between your work and your personal life means taking a day to rest every now and then. When you’re feeling drained or anxious, respond to those feelings by re-adjusting that balance. Taking time away from work requires delegation skills. It also means being skilled at doing nothing.
- Do something to relax. My mother used to say to me that she considered relaxation a job. It felt difficult to her, unatural even. She wasn’t able to disconnect from her work and would feel like she was wasting her time. I think this is something she never learned to do. It doesn’t mean you can’t teach yourself over time. Relaxation and self-care can help you recharge and re-energize after being highly productive. This is especially true for people who never relax or take time for themselves. It doesn’t have to be all yoga, smoothies, and meditation. Think about what energizes you (no not work!). It is it nature? Is it reading a good book or watching a movie? Is it spending time with friends and family around the dinner table? Do you have hobbies bring you happiness? Think of these activities as essential to your week. Build them into your schedule and make them a priority. Living without joy becomes tedious and repetition very quickly. What brings you hope? What gives you joy? Isn’t that why you’re here, to enjoy life?
- Stop trying to meet others’ expectations. People pleasers are notorious for doing too much. If you hope to learn how to focus on your own priorities, you first need to stop trying to meet unrealistic demands from others. This is not to say that you should entirely pull back from your life. Some people, whether at work or in your personal life may be asking for more than you can give them. These are usually the people who leave you feeling drained of energy and time. Start spending time with the people who energize, support you, and leave you feeling like to gained something by spending time with them. At the end of the day, we become similar to the five people closest to us. So, who are you really?
- Let go of the need to control time. Have you ever forgotten about time while you were working on a project? This is the feeling of allowing life to carry and guide you rather than trying to control and maximize every minute of you time. When you set unrealistic deadlines and task lists, you’re bound to feel unable to meet these self-imposed requirements. Of course, it may be possible that the deadlines aren’t self-imposed and are the product of a restrictive and pressure-filled workplace. Generally speaking though, we feel the most anxious or stressed when we can’t meet time-based expectations. We become overwhelmed when we fill each and every minute of our day with something and there’s no room left for the unexpected. Allow yourself options rather than restricting them from coming in. I know what you’re thinking. More choice? I’ve already got too much. What I’m saying here is that rather than accumulate things, move towards the things you want and learn to let go of those that no longer serve you. At the same time, if the timing isn’t right, it’s okay to say no. But, if you fill up every moment of your schedule, if will be difficult to say yes. Having strong but flexible boundaries will not only help you manage time but also help you stay open to new things.
Deciding between two things means learning to silence the inner and outer critics. The question is: What do YOU want? Most people never really stop to think about that. It may be that you’re trying to avoid conflict in your life. The people around you may be comfortable with the old you when you’ve outgrown that part of yourself. Finally, what is your gut telling you about each situation? We sometimes confuse our intuition with other things. The messages we’ve grown up with are not our intuition. The inner voice we hear if we stop to listen, that is our authentic self, our gut.
“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” – Steve Maraboli
As a final thought, learning to let go of the need to control everything is an important step towards your happier self.
Copyright Michelle Thompson 2021. Copyright Authentic World Inc 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Michelle. I have over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator, zen meditator, and public educator. I’ve helped thousands of people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated dozens of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work and learned how to get out of my own way and create an authentic meaningful life for myself. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for learning these important life skills.
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