Don’t carry the mountain — climb it!

“It’s not the work that tires me out — it’s all this drama, negativity and the sheer exhaustion that comes from the anxiety of it all”

Sound familiar?

Hello darkness, my old friend

At work or in life, there are probably very few situations that can put us in physical danger or subject us to back-breaking exhaustion and yet, most of us are drained from a full day’s work, trying to keep our heads above water more often that we’d like to admit.

The burdens that we carry are all in the mind and unlike physical burdens; we can’t always unload, rest and pick the load back up again when we get our strength back. This just exacerbates the problem and renders us incapable of handling additional loads and slowly wears us out — before we know it, we’re headed towards burnout.

I’ve OD’d on meditation, yoga, Netflix, sugary beverages and many other things just to find even a little respite from the burgeoning load of thoughts that I find myself holding on to each day. While these fixes worked temporarily, I came to realize that I needed to re-write a few fundamental rules to make the effects last. Without aligning the baseline awareness, any attempt to move from a state of anxiety to a state of peace would only serve as a temporary distraction. And no matter how powerful a distraction is, it is just that — a distraction from something that is inescapable.

During the course of re-wiring the ‘baseline’ awareness, I stumbled upon 5 ‘rules’ to put things in perspective when things got ‘heavy’.

  1. Take the high road: Make no mistake, there will be situations where you will be tempted to offer up that scathing comeback, to do something in retaliation to unpleasant things you were put through — whether in life or at work. And every time you give in to that impulse, you start a chain of events that will only increase your load and the amount of unpleasantness in your life — sometimes dropping the ball instead of throwing it back for another smack is far better. Take a deep breath and let it go.

“When in doubt about which way you should be going, always take the high road”

2. Separate what you can and can’t control: So much of our anxiety comes from stressing about things that we don’t fully control. Because we’re responsible for something or because something means a great deal to us, doesn’t me we own the outcome. We can only control our efforts and our intentions, but the end result is never in our hands. Vague anxiety is of no use — filter out exactly what is bothering you and determine what you can do to eliminate it by taking action.

“Focus on what you control”

3. Take action even if you don’t have all the answers: Once you separate what you can and can’t control, taking action on what you do control is a very liberating experience because it gets you out of your head and into your body real quick — even simple things like whipping out your pen and writing up an action plan for something you can do is far better than hyperventilating about not knowing what the next move should be. The mind is good at building castles in the air, and it’s equally adept at building haunted mansions too — but neither of them can compete against something built in the real word, even if it is just a sand castle. Act now. Even if your action plan turns out to be wrong, you’re still moving forward, it’s a win-win when you take action.

“Go forth and take action”

4. Do the 5 year test: Think back to 5 years ago to the present day — what did you have and what didn’t you have in your life? In most cases, the problems you had back then and were extremely stressed about didn’t ever warrant the amount of anxiety you had about them when you were going through that phase. This exercise will also fill you with a new found admiration for all the things that you do have in your life but take for granted. Gratitude is a powerful antidote against anxiety.

“Take a step back and appreciate where you are today”

5. Help a fellow soldier out: A bit counter-intuitive, though looking out for someone and giving someone else a pep talk even though you aren’t completely okay will help you appreciate that no one is immune from pain. Putting someone else’s mind at ease can help put your own mind at ease and renew your faith in getting through whatever it is that’s got you in a spot of bother. Empathy is a powerful reminder that no matter what it seems like, you will never really be alone in your struggles. We all suffer through the same things at various points in our lives — and we all make it through in the end. So hang tight and make a few friends on the ride.

“Outstretch your hand to help others and to seek help — we’re all in this together though it doesn’t always seem like it”

Agree? Disagree? Let me know your views in the comments section.

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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