Overwhelmed By Life? Start By Looking at Your Momentum
Are you feeling overwhelmed with outcomes but as if you are incapable of changing your life?
Creating healthy changes in your life can be difficult. Even if you are sure that you want to change something and see the benefits that doing so might offer, there are times when the tasks seem too large and you feel too overwhelmed to do anything other than keep up with where you are.
It can feel really hopeless to look at what you truly want and think you will never get there. It can seem much easier to just keep doing what you have always done. The problem with this is that if you only do what you have always done, you will only be where you have always been. If life feels like a wheel that is spinning too fast and you can barely keep up with it, then doing only what you need to do to keep up will just maintain the spin.
In order to get out of this cycle a change needs to be introduced, but how do you do this if you can barely keep up with what you have? It often feels like an impossible quandary, and this is one of the reasons it is so easy to resist change. Even though it might seem like it, it isn’t impossible to create changes in your life.
If doing things that you have always done leads to the same results that means changing things (even if it is just one or two little things) can change the result. This is a key to freedom and it is crucial because the life you have right now is only the result of the momentum created by previous choices. If you start to make new choice then in time you will create new momentum and end up with a new life.
To understand this better, we can explore the concept of momentum. Momentum is a current of energy that moves in a certain direction. If you are in a cycle of overwhelm then you are in a momentum that perpetuates the feeling of being overwhelmed. You will likely work until you wear yourself out and in the exhaustion not have any time or energy left to do things that will prevent future chaos. The result is that you will create more obstacles in the future which will lead to greater overwhelm and give you less time to take preventative or restorative action. This will lead to more overwhelm and so on.
Momentum is basically a description of the pattern that we carry out if we let things continue as they are. It can be envisioned like a river or snowball moving downhill. Usually, the current starts off slow, but as it continues the pattern gains speed and strength and it becomes more difficult to stop or re-direct.
Another way of thinking about momentum is to view it as a habit. When you initiate a new habit it takes a lot of energy and focus. It will be slow and difficult at first and you will have to deliberately choose to partake in it over and over again. It might feel like climbing up hill or going against the current (because that is what you are doing). However, the longer you engage in a habit, the easier it becomes. At a certain point it comes to feel nearly effortless and requires little thought or effort to carry that action out—it is just something you naturally do. This is how your brain works to save energy by promoting efficiency and when you have built habits that are aligned to your true desires and highest good, this can be a great tool for building positive momentum.
However, momentum can also be difficult because it can inhibit change. If we have created a strong enough current for our lives it can be very challenging to reverse or re-direct it. Unfortunately, many of us develop momentum that does not feel good to us unconsciously. We do this when we are not aware of what momentum is or how it works. Since we don’t this concept, we do not recognize when we are making choices that are building up a momentum that leads us away from what we want and traps us in what we do not want.
On top of this, many of the thoughts, behaviors, and energy habits that become our momentum are formed in childhood based on our experiences growing up and often these are created as an effort to escape from a form of fear, pain, or other undesirable outcome. Since the momentum is created without us realizing it we don’t really take ownership of it or realize that we can choose where we want the momentum to carry us. Instead we ride out reactions to past pain by using coping mechanisms and don’t realize until much later that instead of taking us where we want to go, the habits we have built into our lives are actually keeping us stuck on a path of avoidance and fear.
It is understandable that this happens and so there is no reason to judge or criticize ourselves for developing habits that lead us into lives that we do not feel good living. However, continuing these momentums regardless of when or how they started can create a cycle of ongoing, reoccurring, and increasingly high-costing problems over time. It is a lot like having a car but not wanting to spend money on maintenance. When you realize how costly it is to get routine repairs your reaction might be to avoid or procrastinate the repairs for as long as possible in order to avoid having to pay for them. This seems to work at first, so you keep doing it and it becomes a habit to ignore the maintenance light and warning signs. Eventually, your car breaks down and you are forced to get it repaired. Since you didn’t get the repair earlier, extensive damage has been done and the cost is much higher now. Begrudgingly you create a payment plan to pay for this repair and eventually go back to your life. However, now you have less money available as you pay for the previous repairs so when it is time for routine maintenance you feel more tension about spending what little you have and you put it off. The same pattern ensues and again you end up with car breaking down and huge bill (plus loss of work and other inconveniences). Now you have even less disposable income and the idea of maintaining the car becomes even more overwhelming because there is less money to draw from. The cycle continues until you realize that the cost of refusing to maintain the car is not worth it and even if you have to cut back other areas of spending or dip into your savings you make maintaining your care a priority. If you never make that choice, though, then you keep having an unreliable car with costly repairs until it dies and you start again with a new one. You get the idea.
The momentum reinforces itself and each time it does the cost of staying in an unhealthy cycle gets higher and simultaneously causes it to feel harder to break out and change the momentum. When this happens, it can seem like all of the world is against you. It can feel like every time you try to make a change it gets shut down and you are re-directed towards that same current that you have always been in. This is not actually what is happening though. It is just that the current of momentum has so much power that it will now take consistent effort and deliberate focus to slow it down and reverse it.
When you are in a strong current, expecting yourself to immediately reverse everything is like expecting yourself to stop and reverse a speeding train in one motion. Instead of trying to turn everything around immediately and expecting fast results, you can focus on slowing down the current momentum. You aren’t going to be able to get to the top of the hill while the current is still pulling you downhill. This means that you don’t have to expect yourself to turn everything around or accomplish huge tasks right away. Don’t beat yourself up if the momentum is hard to counter at first, understand that it is there because of decisions in the past but each time you make a different type of decision you are slowing it down and simultaneously creating momentum in a different direction.
Each time you chose to do something that creates momentum towards something you want instead of something you don’t want you are creating change and learning to use momentum as a tool instead of a weapon. This is because you know that habits become easier and more ingrained over time, so if you set yourself up with new habits that take you in the direction you want to go it will become easier to follow through on those habits. If you create enough momentum in the direction that you want to move in, instead of riding the unconscious momentum that you already have in place, it will start to carry you in the direction you want to go. From here momentum will be working for you instead of against you. It won’t feel like the universe is stopping you from getting to where you want to go, it will feel like it is working with you to take you exactly where you want to be because you are working with the natural flow of energy in yourself and the world in general to go where you want to go instead of fighting against yourself.
Now you have an understanding of the basic concept of momentum and how it can impact your life, but how to do you slow down and stop momentums that you do not like and replace them with those that are beneficial for you?
The specifics will relate to your specific goal, but here are some steps you can take to start identifying and slowing down the current stream of momentum you do not want to keep in your life:
1. First learn to identify what the pattern of momentum that you are finding disruptive is and which beliefs, actions (remember thoughts are also actions), and in-actions are contributing to that momentum. To do this ask yourself some questions about what is making you unhappy with your life right now. Think about what you believe will make you happier than you are now and what you feel is stopping you from moving towards this happiness. See if you can find a theme or focal point around which the unhappiness and feelings of stuckness are centered. As you go through the day observe the things you think and do. Ask yourself how what you are thinking or doing reinforces where you currently are and prevents you from moving in the direction you want to go. You might want to set some alarms throughout the day to remind yourself to stop and look at your thoughts and actions in that moment and see how they are contributing to or preventing you from doing what will make you happy.
2. Once you have identified what you are having trouble changing in your life and some of the things that are contributing to the momentum of that particular energy, write down as many things as you can think of that would have the opposite effect. If you notice that you are snacking on potato chips every time you are stressed out and this is preventing you from maintaining your health you could right down things like not buying chips or things that would reduce stress. If you are finding that you are constantly thinking about all the ways you won’t be successful and this is destroying your motivation to take a necessary risk you can write down thoughts that would make you feel more confident in yourself or you could right down ideas to mitigate or reduce the effects of the risk that you are scared to take.
3. Once you have a list of things that would help you to reverse your current momentum pick only one- three things on that list. Make sure that they are things you can easily do on a daily basis. Don’t worry about the long term effects, for the next month just make sure that whatever else happens you do those things every day or as often as they come up. Choose things that are doable for you. If, for example, you are overwhelmed because you do not have a lot of time due to working at a job you hate but aren’t able to quit then you don’t have to start with adding school to your schedule. Instead you could start by reducing the amount of hatred you feel towards your current job by thinking of three things every day that you like about your current situation, or you could use the way you feel to think about what you do want by thinking of three things that you would like to do in the future (this can eventually build to fun activities and accomplishments to work towards once the work slows down). Even better, commit to saying no to additional shift requests or outside commitments that you do not want to do. This is a practice of giving yourself more time instead of filling up your time with obligations. The most important thing is to do something (even if it seems tiny at first) that is different from what you typically do and commit to doing it consistently. This will get you in the habit of feeling that change. After awhile this new habit will become second nature and require almost no effort. At that point you can add another small change. When the added change becomes almost effortless you can add another. Over time the old habits are being replaced with new ones, but since you are only adding new habits as previous changes become normal they are not as overwhelming as trying to change everything all at once.
4. Set yourself up for success (check out the next blog for an in-depth look at how to use set-ups to promote success and wellbeing). We have tendency to look at things and notice only the highlights—the really painful or really joyful times or what we consider endings. We sum up a lot of our lives based only on these highlights and fail to notice all the steps leading up to them. Creating a set up for success means that you look at how the steps you are take before a highlight leads to certain results and taking responsibility for setting those steps up in line with what you want instead of what you don’t. Set-ups often create and enhance momentum and they can be crucial points for introducing change to long running habits.
5. Remind yourself that you are making changes, even if they are small and hard to see. Give yourself the encouragement you need to stick with it and not give up. When you see the outcome of previous momentum continuing even though you have made changes remind yourself that it is the result of previous momentum, but every step you take in the opposite direction is a step towards slowing that momentum and preventing a repeat in the future. It can be incredibly easy to feel discouraged when you try to create change and see more of the results of the previous momentum but remember that slowing momentum is incremental. It isn’t going to turn around immediately, but if you keep moving towards what you want you will be creating a momentum that works with you and every step closer is a step closer.
6. Surround yourself with people, words, and objects that inspire you to move towards what you want and encourage your progress. None of us are in this world alone and no matter how overwhelming the previous momentum we created is it can be slowed and you can change course. It is easier to do this when you feel supported. If you have people in your life that are able to support you through these changes reach out to them, tell them what you are working on and how, and ask them to encourage you. If you do not have people that you feel would understand or support you then you can start to create a new support network by writing down phrases or sayings that inspire you or thinking about other people that have overcome the odds and made changes in their own lives. You can also gather objects such as photographs or mementos that you find encouraging to look at when you feel discouraged. As you change the momentum in your life and start carrying out new habits you will likely find new people showing up to help you. This is part of the new momentum and the universe supporting you as you go. At first it can be difficult to foster these changes in yourself but the more you do it, the more you will see the help that has always been there waiting for you to find it. Also, if you would like to book a coaching session with me, please use the contact page to reach out or check out the about page for more information. It can help to have an objective person help you to look at patterns and momentum and walk with you through some of the changes or fears of change.
7. Be kind to yourself. Change is not easy. You did not get into a momentum that you dislike out of malice or because you are wrong or bad. You have done the best you could and survived through all kinds of challenges in life. Now you are reaching a point where you are ready to notice how these survival strategies have played out and are ready to stop and re-direct some of them. This is a courageous act and it takes practice and effort, especially at the start. Be proud of your ability to recognize that you want to make a change and the courage you have to step into that change. Even if you struggle at first and don’t keep the commitment the first time you make it, do not beat yourself up for it. Instead, honor how difficult it is and how strong you are for choosing to confront it and when you are ready try again—maybe with a different commitment. Even a step that stops after one try is a step towards slowing the momentum—it just becomes much more effective and visible when repeated with strong intention. So don’t give up even if it takes many attempts, be understanding and kind to yourself. Recognize the strength and courage you possess with each step and be proud of yourself for that recognition. I am proud of you.