December sanity: day 6

Are you back in your office, or at school? Are you going to parties and holiday gatherings, just like in the before times?

What will you find at all of those places, once you start venturing out?

People.

Maybe they’re the same people you saw, off and on, for the past 22 months. But maybe (and this is likely) you’re now seeing people in real life whom you haven’t seen in real life on a regular basis for a while. And if that’s the case, then it probably feels a little weird, yes?

But also, seeing people, in real life, after the off-again/on-again relative solitude of the past two years might amplify the feelings you feel when you’re with those people. One of the feelings you might feel, especially now, is overwhelmed.

Whether it’s a demanding co-worker or a young child who needs extra attention, the result might be the same. Or maybe it’s a close friend who inadvertently elicits this feeling just by asking questions about how and what you’re doing.

In the halcyon pre-pandemic days, Harvard Business Review offered tips for managing a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. The situations described in that October 2019 piece seem, in retrospect, pretty easy to deal with. Now, on top of all that normal stress, the long slog of COVID-related constant pressure, task-switching, and general uncertainty has left everyone a bit raw in general. Challenging encounters that we once could brush off – say, a demanding colleague or family member needing extra attention – may now feel unmanageable.

So, for today, the sixth day of December, take a minute and think about one person, just one, who makes you feel overwhelmed. Write that name down. Then take another minute, or more, and consider what about that person feels so overwhelming. Write that down, too. If you can identify it, then you might actually be able to do something about it. You might be able to say, for instance, something like: “When you do (or say) X, I feel overwhelmed because ….”

Or, you might write that name, and that note, and then burn the piece of paper to destroy the evidence. Your call.

In either case, writing it down might help you acknowledge something that’s easier, but possibly harmful, to ignore.

It’s two minutes and a piece of paper. Low stakes; potential high reward. Why not give it a try?

If you haven’t downloaded and printed the whole set of prompts, here’s the link to the original post.

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