Ever feel like you’re playing a game of whack-a-mole? It’s an arcade game where moles pop up through holes that have to be smashed down with a mallet. The highest number of hits wins. But the minute you smash one down, several more pop up until it feels like a lost cause. Too often life feels this way. We fix one issue and more pop-up from all directions- finances, health, work, family, and friends- it is never ending. Like a house of mirrors, it just goes on forever.
And the more responsibilities we have the more holes they can pop up from. Its exhausting. Talk to anyone, from a stranger to friends and family members, the worries, stressors, frustrations and anxieties are the same.
The last time I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole was when I going through a divorce, working full time in my practice, dealing with chronic pain and raising my little girl. I thought I had to do it all alone. That made it all the more frightening and overwhelming. I feared showing any vulnerability would undermine them all. I was raised with the,
“pull yourself up by your bootstrap” mentality.
A ludicrous idea since it’s a physical impossibility! And that’s the problem, setting ourselves up to fail because we don’t want to appear weak.
It took good friends and an amazing counselor at the time to help me break through all the garbage we are taught to accept and demand of ourselves.
“Never let them see you cry.”
“Never ask for help it’ll be seen as a flaw.”
“Never share, it’ll make you vulnerable.”
“Never take time for yourself.”
“Always be there for everyone.”
“Never say no.”
But learning to do all those things kept some of the moles at bay. Allowing me more time and energy to attack those that persisted.
Getting back to basics is the only way to survive.
There’s just too much happening at once. Sometimes the best answer is to temporarily shut down, take a moment to breath and then prioritize.
First, stop the insane and endless litany of how the world is ending.
Turn it off and I guarantee you the same catastrophes facing our lives will have minimally changed in a week. The advent of 24/7 media requires us to watch, tune in and follow their constant barrage of anger inducing, hate mongering, salaciousness. Even well meaning friends and family send a barrage of information daily. Keeping in touch is important, knowing who is where and what they’re doing every minute of the day, is not.
Can’t turn it off? Limit it to an hour a day. Or better yet a week. Touch base, get an update, then turn it off.
When faced with a daunting list of tasks it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, convinced none are solvable. Start with easy ones that are completely under your control, like eating healthier, starting an exercise program (even if it’s just a few minutes a day), open and get rid of unnecessary mail (nothing drains quicker than a deluge of unopened emails), clean out clutter. The feeling of accomplishment grows every time an item is scratched off a long “to-do” list. Each success builds a stronger foundation, reinforcing confidence.
Take time for you. The old adage, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first, is true. Taking time to decompress, relax and let go even if it’s just a few minutes a day can make a significant difference in how well we respond to adversity.
Ask for help. The worst thing that can happen is the answer will be no. Then move on to the next possible option. Too often were afraid to look vulnerable, weak or in need. But that’s what being human is all about. We all need each other. This horrifying period of illness, isolation and touch deprivation has bred more anger and hostility than ever before. Knowing we aren’t alone is important. A bonus- kindness and the act of giving releases feel good hormones that make everyone happier.
Learn to say no. It will expose any relationship that doesn’t care about your needs and strengthen the ones that do. A powerful word that’s incredibly empowering when used judiciously.
Turn to those who mean what they say and do what they promise. Expecting different results from those who’ve been unreliable in the past will just foster more anger and frustration.
The game never stops. But how we play it can.