It is not hard at all to feel overwhelmed these days. With everything going on, it’s kind of tough not to be overloaded by the sheer volume of everything going on in the world. And our collective mental health is suffering.
For instance, we have the on-again / off-again covid pandemic (or is it endemic), we have politicians tearing us apart in the name of unity, and we have a never-ending sense that the new normal won’t ever go back to the old normal.
With all this lack of stability, it’s no wonder that most folk feel a heavy weight on their shoulders as the burden of the unknown weighs heavily on most of us. Especially at work.
The good news is that in a world full of change, the one thing we can routinely depend on is creativity to help us get through. Creativity is all about making lemonade out of lemons, so that next time life throws a curveball our way, we’ll will be equipped with some tools to cope — and maybe even hit a homerun. Here are some my three favorite strategies:
1. Just stop
The ‘just stop’ tool is one of the most fantastic creativity tools in your arsenal. It allows you to take things as they come and hit the stop button whenever things become too much. This step is deeply rooted in some of antiquity’s greatest thinkers like Marcus Aurelius, who viewed worry and anxiety as constructs of the modern mind – devoid of actual usefulness.
The stoics believed that any worry was a symptom of what may happen in the future. But it was also may very well not happen too. So, if we can ‘just stop’ and focus on what is in front of us, we immediately abolish all worry as worry occurs in the future – maybe. But also maybe not. And if we can use the ‘just stop’ tool, we realize that our worry and anxiety are things that are often not fully realized items – they may or may not occur – and the things you are most worried about may be figments of your imagination. So ‘just stop .’And take issues as they come, and for what they are. Not what they could be.
2. Band of Time
Everything in life exists in a particular band of time that is never to return and never to be repeated. Philosophers such as John Locke and David Hume talked about this phenomenon often – and it’s a genuine part of the human condition. Suppose we can understand that whatever hardship we are currently enduring – from disappointment to lack of stability to anxiety to pain and desperation are only symptoms that occur in the here and now – transient in their staying power. Sure, chronic disease may be a burden, or a lack of cash flow may be a setback in your business, but these things will somehow end one day.
The only thing we can really control is how we view these things and how we choose to move forward, or not. Do we frame ourselves as a victim – and signal to others that we deserve sympathy? Or do we move forward knowing that we may have been dealt a tough hand? Of course, the strongest among us will bear their burden and do their best with what they have. I’m sure you know someone who has a less-than-ideal situation, and at that point, we have two choices. Either we let the challenge get us down, or we acknowledge the ‘band of time’ and get on with life. The choice is yours.
3. Get Another Job
We are often taught in school and in our culture that what we do is part and parcel of who we are. So, we put all our eggs in one basket – work. We look at our work as being everything to us, all the time. We want our work to be challenging. We want our work to be fulfilling. We want our work to be meaningful. And while work can occasionally be all those things – they are often not. So we get disappointed when work doesn’t offer us whole and complete happiness – and it turns out that we are looking in the wrong place.
Work can never be everything to us all the time – just like a marriage is not everything you always need. It just doesn’t exist. So instead, look outside of work for meaning. Is it a hobby that you love? Is it reading? Is it your children or family that give you meaning? Looking to your day-to-day job for fulfillment is wrong. It will never work and often makes us miserable and more prone to burnout. So instead, look outside of work for meaning and fulfillment – it’s here you’ll find what you are looking for. Not at your day job, career or business.
So it turns out that, indeed, that you can do a few things to help combat the constant overwhelming condition we find ourselves in and boost our mental health with creativity.
The three techniques and tools listed above will help you deal with the unknown, the unpredictable, and the unexpected.
And when we can deal with change and the unknown in a better, more productive way, we are then better able to contribute to the general benefit of our work to improve true meaning and happiness.