The Art Of Being Busy (Or Why Tornados Spin)

beingbusy

 

 

In my last post I talked about the phenomenon of the Human Tornado (Chaos Theory And The Human Tornado) – those people whose world is filled with chaos, with noise and drama.

Whose life seems to be an unrelenting pattern of lurching from one dramatic crisis to the next.

 

It’s provoked a lot of discussion from people. Most claim to know a spinner or two. Some of us are even brave enough to admit to being one, or at least to having been one at some point in our journey.

 

So, what is it that creates a Human Tornado and what sustains them?

 

We live in a world of Busy.

Busy has become the norm.

Busy has become a societal expectation.

If you are not Busy then you are not “getting anywhere.”

Busy becomes the standard by which we measure our worth.

Busy is also quite addictive…..it gives us a buzz.

 

Human Tornados take Busy up to the next level.

 

Human Tornados become addicted to Chaos.

They run on adrenaline, the thrill of the theatre of it all.

Drama injects their life with the high of playing the lead role- the attention they receive and the resultant sense of importance that comes with that.

The more chaos they create, the more important they feel.

 

Chaos becomes so important that it actually becomes part of the Human Tornado’s identity….and they feel totally lost without it.

Chaos also has another benefit….and it’s one Human Tornados are most reluctant to consider…

 

Chaos keeps us busy thinking – thinking of ways to solve our problems, thinking about how important our problems are, thinking about how to get help to solve our problems, thinking about the “what if” if we don’t solve our problems….

 

Thinking has an important function: thinking stops us from feeling.

 

Thinking overrides, thinking analyses, it searches for logic…and when we become so busy thinking there is no time or space to be with our feelings….and that’s just how Tornados like it.

That’s why Tornados panic when things start to die down.

What looms ahead is stillness and in stillness there is no outside stimulation.

Nothing to distract us.

Nothing to divert us away from ourselves.

There is nothing outside to focus our attention on….so we have to look inside…and that involves feeling…

 

Feeling can be scary.

Feeling can be confronting.

Feeling can be painful.

 

So many of us are not comfortable being with ourselves, of becoming still.

If we stop and feel we may have to acknowledge that we are actually not happy, not content.

That we yearn for more from life…

 

Feeling may also mean that we have to deal with the past- the emotions that we’ve managed to spin down, to conceal below the surface with the busy-ness of thinking.

To finally face up to the things that constant motion has kept us from.

 

Of course these things always present themselves somewhere along the line but many of us like to pretend that they won’t….

 

No wonder so many Human Tornados choose to continue to spin….

 

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Dealing With Disaster- The Power Of Editing

city on fire..

 

It’s been another big week in the world…one where the cold fingers of fear have been felt across the planet.

The ripple effect is profound- each event of carnage has a huge impact on the collective psyche.

Something that has occurred on the other side of the world can affect us greatly….

 

Living in a global world is not always easy.

Technology has made “news” instantly accessible- we are on 24/7 live-stream right into our own lounge-rooms…the place we are supposed to feel most safe.

 

Some days it seems like there is no escape from it all….

 

Human beings are strange creatures.

We have a fascination with the negative and an almost obsessive compulsion to know all of the details, no matter how distressing.

We seem to be unable at times to self- regulate incoming information, to discriminate between what is useful and what is potentially harmful to us.

We simply open ourselves up to the avalanche of incoming information and let it sweep over us in an unedited pile…

 

We are then hard-wired to try to make sense of things: to ask the question that often has no satisfactory answer…..

“Why?”……

“Why” often leads us down the garden path and right into the darkness of fear…

 

Put up your hand if you still have images in your head of things that you viewed on television years ago?

Or a vivid memory of something that you once saw on the front page of a newspaper that still disturbs you?

 

So often we allow other sources to fill our head with an emotionally toxic poison,  to immerse ourselves in it completely and then have no idea how to get it out of our system

Eventually it seeps through our entire being until we become paralysed with it- it’s called fear….

 

The media has a big part to play in the illusion of fear.

It’s generally only interested in the shock/ horror value of the “news” it selects.

“Good news doesn’t sell” is the old adage…I’d like to believe that there’s a time coming soon where that changes…

 

So, how can we protect ourselves?

 

Here are a couple of simple tips:

1. Edit Incoming Information:

How much do you really need to know?

Something terrible has happened…but how many times do you need to see the same footage over and over?

Turn the TV off. Once you know the general details that can be enough. Check in occasionally for updates but use the remote control’s off button- that’s what it’s for….

Skim read the headlines but avoid the gratuitous detail. How much suffering do you need to immerse yourself in?

Does knowing every traumatic detail make you feel better or worse? Often we keep piling the bad stuff in without even noticing the cumulative negative effect it’s having on our own wellbeing.

2.    Do A “Re- Edit:”

Bad stuff happens. It always will. But, like everything, it’s how we choose to see it that really counts.

We can view it through the eyes of fear or we can choose to see things in a different way altogether.

Sure we can see bad but if we take a different look we can also see good.

 

If the media chooses not to show us the good news we can create it ourselves based on what we already know about the human species….

Adversity often brings out the best in us!

 

The human spirit is one of the most incredible forces on this planet.

The acts of bravery, the kindness and compassion, the unconditional support and the outpouring of love that follows any tragic event is often life-changing. To watch a community, a nation, or a world, rally around those in trouble unites us all.

(The media usually gets to that part a week or so after the event, when the bad news has become old news…)

After working with so many people affected by disaster a common theme I’ve found is the overwhelming gratitude that people learn to have for those beautiful people who give so willingly of their time, their love, their money and their support.

The common feedback down the track is that something bad has been far outweighed by the good that follows it…that people’s faith in humanity is often restored in a way that they believed was not possible.

So, you have a choice about whether you see victims or whether you see heroes– what you choose will have a profound impact on how you cope.

Remember, we get what we focus on….

Just a couple of thoughts but ones that work for me! :)

Tips For Avoiding Overwhelm

can't do, can do

can’t do, can do

Right, back to the topic of overwhelm and what you can do to manage it.(Coping with Overwhelm-Controlling the Uncontrollable) 

How can you care about the world around you, be involved and productive and make a difference, yet still live and function? How do you cope with dealing with the paradox of it all? Of being happy in a world where bad things happen? Of keeping moving when it all seems too much? Of feeling that what you do or say doesn’t really make a difference in the bigger scheme of things?

Well, I have a few strategies that work well for me. Hopefully there might be something here are you too…

Tips For Avoiding Overwhelm

1. Turn off the TV/Phone/Laptop

We live in a world of information-too much (negatively-biased) information. We are bombarded by it all day long. No wonder we get stressed and overloaded. Of course, when it comes to the media there is no drama in providing good news, so most of the news we see is bad. That contributes to a feeling of hopelessness. We become overloaded with bad stuff.

So, turn off the TV or, at least, turn off the news. Skip reading the papers- buy a personal interest magazine instead. Read a good book or listen to music. It’s amazing the difference it makes. Try it for a week and you’ll see what I mean…

2. Take your “Important List” and make it as tangible as possible.

E.g. it is not physically possible for me to be saving the rainforest in Borneo (after all, someone has to stay home and feed the dog!) but I can plant trees for my local Bush Care group and I can pick up rubbish off the beach each week or volunteer at the Animal Rescue Centre.

Then choose a couple of bigger picture “causes” that you feel passionate about (e.g. Save the Whales or Cancer Research-something that has meaning for you ) and support those with donations/ e-mail campaigns etc., knowing that there are other people as dedicated and passionate as you out there supporting the other things you care about. Trust that they have it covered…

3. Break it down into baby steps.

Overwhelm makes us powerless to act and keeps us stuck in our thinking. Sometimes the issue seems so big that we don’t know where to start. That’s when we need to bring our attention right in and focus on one specific thing. “My life is a mess!” So, decide to start by sweeping the kitchen floor… then do the dishes…Or write one letter, or pay one bill or clean one cupboard…Focus on the things you can do rather than on what you can’t.

Just make it one simple thing at a time, which leads us to…

4. Take Action, Keep Moving, Start!

Override your head (which is busy telling you all the reasons why it can’t happen/ won’t happen/ won’t matter if you do/ is not worth the effort) and simply stand up and do one thing! Quite often this unblocks the flow. One of the biggest problems we have is our inability to get off our bum and actually start to do something. (Knowing vs. Doing)

5. Yes or No?

Sometimes it’s the little things that tip us over the edge and into overwhelm. Say no to anything that depletes you, overloads you (or makes you silently groan inside!)

On the other hand, say yes to anything that lightens you, empowers you or allows you to grow.

6. Be realistic, gentle and focus on the good things.

Care for others starts with you. Nurture yourself and be realistic in your own expectations of yourself. It’s not your job or my job to save the world but, if we all focus on our little bit, it’s a job we can do together. Imagine what we could accomplish if each of us was willing to just do a tiny part…

Search out the good news stories of others who make a difference. There are plenty of websites/blogs/forums/facebook sites dedicated to those who make a difference, each in their own way. Join them and fill your mind with good news. It starts to change how you see the world. Read inspirational biographies or watch “feel-good” movies.

Remember to take good care of yourself- (We need people like you!) Good self-care has a huge impact on our ability to cope and to thrive.

Hope these are helpful for you and love to hear some ways that you deal with overwhelm!

Telene

Coping With Overwhelm- Controlling the Uncontrollable

journey 1000miles

In the last month or so I have repeatedly heard people speaking about being overwhelmed – (by life, the universe and everything….) Not just people in my community but people interstate and overseas – from friends and colleagues to strangers I’ve chatted to in airports and coffee shops. It’s a theme that keeps reappearing….. Possibly because I’ve been feeling a bit the same way! (Funny how that happens don’t you think….:)

Recently I wrote about putting aside the urgent things and focusing on the important things. (Urgent vs.Important) If you look at my list from then you’ll notice that all of the things on there are well within my control – I can do them all quite simply if I so choose. (Even though I may make excuses about why I “can’t”!)

Important Things: (My list)

Doing things I love like:

  • Hanging out with my family and friends
  • Spending time in my garden and growing my own food
  • Creating stuff
  • Writing every day
  • Laughing ‘til it hurts- often
  • Learning new things- investing in me
  • Being outdoors- fresh air and exercise
  • Camping and going bush

But what happens if those important things, those things that really matter to you, are big things that are out of your control?

If my list contained things like:

  • world peace
  • protecting my community from mining
  • stopping unsustainable fishing practices
  • preventing animal cruelty
  • eliminating child abuse…

Phew. Different sort of list, different sort of feeling…One list makes me feel good….and one doesn’t.

Now, all of these things on the second list are important to me but if they were the things I focused on in my personal “important things” list, then I am immediately in trouble. My feeling when looking at my list is one of overwhelm and powerlessness. These are all issues that I can definitely have an input into, but in the big scheme of things they are, in all probability, pretty much out of my personal control.

When our attention moves from those tangible things we can directly influence to the big picture issues (and there are more and more of them each day) one of the dangers for us is that we can become swamped with the crush of overwhelm and we are stopped in our tracks. Overwhelm robs us of our momentum, our motivation and our resilience. It robs us of the ability to function in a way that serves us well. Overwhelm is the lead weight that sits on your shoulders or the helpless feeling that makes you want to retreat to the Bat Cave and pull the covers over your head… Overwhelm can contribute to anxiety and depression-both of which seem to be out of control in modern society.

Two other side-effects of overwhelm are ignorance and apathy-the inability or reluctance to “see” and the unwillingness to take action-and, if you check out the world around you, you will notice that it has become an all-pervasive issue. We live in a world of “It’s all just too hard…..pass me the bottle/smoke/pills/remote/chocolate ice cream…”

Now, I’ll admit, having a global or “big picture” preference in my thinking style, overwhelm and the feeling of hopelessness that accompanies it, are something I have encountered. (The more abstract and generalised thinking becomes the harder it becomes to take action- ie: lots of “thinking” taking place and not so much “doing”! :)).

Also, if you care about people and issues, if you have compassion and empathy, a desire to do good, to save, help and assist the world and its inhabitants (and I hope that is most of us to some degree) then you’re pretty much a sitting duck when it comes to overwhelm. You look around and see so much that is broken, so much that doesn’t seem to be working effectively, so much that needs to be fixed-that you don’t know where to start, so you don’t.…

So, what can you do about it?

In my next post I will share some of the strategies that work well for me and for some of the people I have worked with.

Telene

Bushfire Update

A quick bushfire update:

The fire was declared “contained” over the weekend and some cooler weather and even a few light showers have helped to calm things down again. It has been a busy time though (well, that’s my excuse for not posting sooner!)

I noticed a lot of cars driving around all week filled to the brim with all of “the important stuff.” There were lots of conversations about what people had selected to take and why.

Some people made practical choices, including basic food supplies and clothing. Others did the sentimental thing with a car stuffed full of memories. Still others took almost nothing because they were simply unable to decide in the stress of the moment. Everyone I talked to took their pets. One friend told me she had run back to her house and grabbed the two new dresses she’d recently bought –she was damned if they were going to be burnt before she’d had a chance to wear them! Most said they’ll make some different choices next time- some quite profound, some minor.

I guess on a practical level it’s given us all yet another practice run to prepare for next time.

When I re-read my last post I realised I’d actually forgotten to include the original positive learning that had prompted me to write the post so I’ll share it now.

It came from a lovely lady who lost everything she owned in the 2005 bushfire. When I talked to her soon after she said:

“I used to have all of these nice things- things that were too special to use. Things like family heirloom crystal, expensive sheets that I used for special guests and lovely collectible things that were locked away in cupboards so that they didn’t get broken. I had art materials that were too nice to use and “good” clothes that I saved for special occasions. Now I have nothing. If I had one piece of advice it would be to use your nice things- take them out and use them every day. Wear the things that make you feel good and enjoy what you have- every single day.”

It was a great piece of advice and one that had a profound influence on the choices I make.

As for her, she has thrived and actually considers that event a major positive turning point –she is loving life!

So, break out that precious stuff and enjoy what you have.

After all, that’s what it’s for..

Bushfire-What Would You Save?

Have you ever done the hypothetical “If there was a fire, what would I save?”

Well I live in a bushfire zone and yesterday was given a “catastrophic” fire rating by the fire authorities due to high temperatures, strong winds and the possibility of lightning strikes. Unfortunately, by mid-morning, the worst happened and soon a large bushfire was raging out of control-our fifth large one within the last seven years or so.

So, there I was, following my bushfire action plan and preparing myself to evacuate. After grabbing my survival box and rounding up a bewildered dog and a very grumpy duck I stood there and asked myself the question I always ask: “What should I take with me?” I had in my hands my three standard no-brainers: my laptop, my camera and my ukulele. As I looked around I saw lots of things that are important to me-mainly family things, some favourite artworks, childhood photos, presents from friends, childhood collections… Lots of things that I love and that have great meaning to me. But it felt okay to close the door and walk away.

I used to be a person who was very attached to my “stuff”. As I sat in my car in the heat and watched the billowing clouds of smoke over the hill I had time to think about the impact that living in a bushfire zone has had on me.

Obviously a lot of the impact has been negative (and that is something I may talk about at some time) but there have also been a lot of positive things that have come from the fires. I thought I might share some of those. They are things that I have learned from my own fire experiences and from the courageous and inspirational people I have worked with. I have watched those who have coped, those who have not coped and those who have thrived.

These are some of the things I have learned:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s nothing like a catastrophe to give you some perspective. How much of our time do we spend worrying about the piddly stuff? All of the unimportant, trivial things? Sometimes it is only when we get a huge fright, a wake-up call, that we remember what’s important.
  • “Stuff” and “things” are not important. So many of us seem to dedicate our lives to getting “things”. “Things” can disappear in an instant. They come and they go. People are the most important things.
  • Live every day as if it is your last. Life is unpredictable-and that is a good thing! It reminds us to be present, to live in the now, to make good use of our time and to enjoy life.
  • Each of us is stronger than we think. It is not until we are tested that we remember how courageous, how brave and how resilient we can be. It is often in adversity that we are reminded of just how amazing we actually are.
  • The majority of people are good people. It is in a crisis that we often see the best in people. It is when we pull together, when we give and when we show that we care. It is when people show a generosity of spirit and a willingness to do whatever they can. It is when people volunteer their time, their expertise, their money and their compassion.
  • Everything will be okay in the end. No matter how unlikely that seems at times there is always a way through and there is something better down the track. Trust and have faith that things will work out.
  • Take time to appreciate what you have. Be grateful every day for those around you and take care not to take things for granted. Tell those close to you that you love and appreciate them-often.
  • Remember to focus on the important things. The things that really matter. Make time and do it. Don’t wait, do it now….. don’t wait for a bushfire to remind you :)