Tag Archives: a way to stop feeling overwhelmed

Five Tips for Making Difficult Decisions

When my husband had to choose which colleges to apply to, way back before I knew him, he consulted the Barron’s Guide to Colleges and became overwhelmed–there were too many schools, too much information, and he hadn’t a clue how to narrow down the options. And so, he threw the book down the stairs in frustration.  It landed at the bottom step, splayed open to a page describing Ithaca College. And that’s the way my husband decided that he would go to Ithaca College, which is the school he graduated from.  
That’s not a process I would recommend—throwing books and trusting that fate will make them land opened to the page bearing the right answer for you. And yet, though that particular approach seems far-fetched, it’s not actually that far off from the methods many of use for deciding which path to follow. Typically, when faced with a tough decision, we talk to friends, we try to consult our intuition, we see what the universe makes happen, trusting that the cosmic breeze will make the “right choice” drift our way. Some of us consult oracles and prophets. Few of use a scientific process to arrive at a conclusion, other than maybe listing pros and cons.
And yes, there are great processes you can use to narrow your options down. If you need help getting over anxiety that arises when you confront your choices, these processes can be of enormous help. They can help you to have much more clarity about what your choices actually are. And by the way, I’m not saying there’s no place for intuition. Rather, I’m suggesting that first, get clear on what’s already in your mind and heart by using the help of some great step-by-step methods, and then, if you want to add intuition to the mix, go ahead.
Here are some pointers and practices that may be of help:
  1. Go through your own process before talking to everyone else. Women in particular tend to like to collect everybody’s opinion before making a decision. While talking it through with your loved ones can be valuable, it can also steer you away from your own wisdom. Find out what you really think before investigating what your brother, neighbor, astrologer, and boss think. Trust that you do have some wisdom buried within, your own inner radar.
  1. Enlist the help of a partner or professional coach. This suggestion may seem to contradict the first step, but it really doesn’t.  Your partner or coach should serve as a sounding board, someone you can discuss your thought processes with. This person can reflect back to you what they hear and notice as you talk about your options—which is very different from telling you their own opinion. This is where a life coach can be so helpful.. Life coaches are trained to help you to see through your mental fog to know what’s in your own mind or your own heart.
  1. Try the Wise Choice Process developed by Skip Downing. This involves first asking yourself, “What are my choices?” and writing them all out. This activity alone can help you to see options that you haven’t considered. It can also help you to recognize that you have lots of options available. The next step is to list the probable outcome of pursuing each choice. Once you have those options delineated, discuss them with your partner or coach. The next step is to decide which choice you will commit to, but you may not be ready for that yet. Try the 10-10-10 Process, below, first.
  1. Use the 10-10-10 Process created by Suzy Welch. Here, you take the options you listed in the Wise Choice process, and for each one, write what the probable outcome of choosing that option will be in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. Go through this same regimen with each option on your list.
  1. Use an Enhanced Version of the Pros and Cons System.  Here, you devote a separate page to each of the options you listed in the Wise Choice Process. For each option, list out all the pros in one column, and all the cons in another. Then, assign each item a point value between 1 and 10. Count up all the values in the pro column, and then all the values in the con column to get a sense of what holds the most advantage for you. If the “winning” choice isn’t the one that feels best to you, it might be time to go talk to your friends, your astrologer, and of course, your coach.

 Hope this helps!

     Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen works with clients by telephone, Skype, and email. She also sees Hawaii  counseling clients in person. Visit her website at www.thelifechangecoach.com

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    Waiting for News? Eight Ways to Cope

    Lately, I’ve found myself in the position of waiting for news on many fronts. Waiting for medical news, waiting for financial news, waiting for job news. I don’t even like to wait in line at the supermarket—I get terribly restless–so waiting for important and potentially disturbing news isn’t something that I do easily. But of course, that’s life. Eventually you’ll take a medical test and need to wait for the results, or you’ll take an important certification test or a final exam that won’t be graded for a week, or apply for a job or a mortgage or a loan or you’ll ask someone to marry you and they’ll want time to think it over—all waiting scenarios.

    To wait calmly and gracefully challenges everything that’s human within us. How can you cope with that in-between time, when you don’t know what you’re dying to know—yet? Here are some tips to reduce stress:

    Stay off the internet. Put that machine away. Doing research on the possible deadly illnesses you might have while waiting for the medical tests to come back won’t sway the results, and may work you up into such a frenzy that you’ll make yourself sick, even if your test results come back just fine. Researching foreclosures while waiting for the bank to review your refinance application won’t help, either, nor will going on Match.com while waiting to hear back from the person you just proposed to.

    Do NOT try to ignore the feelings you’re experiencing. Do NOT belittle yourself for feeling anxious. Your feelings are natural and universal and human and even instinctive. They are your system’s way of signaling you that it might be wise to prepare for a change.

    Create a safe space. Dedicate a particular spot in your home as your personal haven. Put objects that you love and that make you feel safe there, and then allow yourself the luxury of spending as much time as you need there.
    Stay off of caffeine. You probably have more than enough stress pumping through your system without speeding it up even more.

    Don’t try to numb yourself with narcotics. Drinking alcohol or doing drugs or overeating will make you feel lousy in the end.If you need a substance to help you relax, try valerian or melatonin, neither of which will undermine your health or linger in your system. Exercise can also help enormously with stress.

    Care for yourself like you’re a baby. You really need nurturing to help with the anxiety. Eat healthy comfort foods, get extra rest, take long baths.

    Allow yourself the indulgence of having comfort objects around you. Now may be the time to wear that special outfit, to sit on the couch with that fluffy blanket pulled up around your body, to watch your favorite movie again.

    TALK to people. Don’t isolate. Let others know what you’re going through. Ask for support.

    Practice whatever stress-reduction techniques or strategies for reducing anxiety that work for you, whether meditation, prayer, EFT, TAT, hypnosis, listening to music, calling your coach, and so on.
    What suggestions do you have for ways to reduce stress and anxiety and make it through the waiting time?

    Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life coaching by Skype or phone and in-person Hawaii counseling.

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    The Virtue in Just Giving Up

    One of my former teachers was a big fan of the idea of never giving up. No matter the challenge, no matter the odds, he said that we should just keep trying, because “there is nothing in this entire world that is irrevocably unchangeable.” It’s an incredibly inspiring philosophy, this belief that with enough effort and determination, any goal can be reached. For many years I lived by this credo, and because of it, I achieved many things that otherwise I never would have dreamed of.

    But the other day as I stood in the shower, I had a mini-epiphany of a different ilk. I had been worrying about whether a friend of mine was annoyed with me. He had been acting withdrawn, and I was trying to figure out whether I had done anything to irritate him, or if I could do anything to make him feel better. Suddenly, I had a flash of all the times in my life I had experienced similar worries. I saw a long line of anxieties and concern of a similar nature extending back years and years.

    And then I saw a million other anxieties that I had carried at various times in my life. In my mind’s eye, I perceived an endless line of concerns that I had been trying to correct or control through changing myself or modifying circumstances. I had been trying to change all those things so there would be nothing to worry about, so that everything would be good and right and virtuous. But then, in that moment, I saw that the universe has a life of its own and no matter how much I tried, the flow of the universe would continue in it’s own way, carrying me with it. Right there in the shower, I said aloud, “I give up.”

    When I said, “I give up,” I meant that I would stop fighting to patch things up, to correct reality. It was as if my entire being made a choice at that moment to completely and absolutely accept what is. I was accepting the intelligence of the universe, feeling that it was perfect, even in its imperfection. I was accepting myself, accepting that my basic nature was gifted to me at birth, and while I can strive to be the best me I can be, I’m always going to be me. Being me may involve some blunders, some clumsiness, some bad choices and even bad actions, but I realized I’m better off accepting that I’m imperfect me than desperately trying to be someone better and constantly failing. Better to just accept everything inside and outside than to constantly be in “fix-it” mode, because trying to fix things takes too much energy, and we have limited time here and limited energy with which to live our lives. Even if others don’t like me as I am, the universe seems to accept me completely, as it hasn’t booted me out of existence yet, and that’s a wonderful thing.

    I felt such a relief, as if I could breathe deeply from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. I was no longer fighting anything. I was no longer trying to hold back the dam. I was surrendering to the river of life, and it felt exhilarating, wonderful, liberating. So much of my life energy was being zapped right out of me with worries and the feeling that I needed to improve, but when I gave up, that energy was restored.

    I’m NOT saying here that it’s okay to let cruelty and injustice run wild on the planet or to act with disregard for others or to just live with terrible dysfunction. I’m also not saying we should be happy with intolerable circumstances. Rather, I’m saying we can surrender to those circumstances inwardly, so that we can then find a new calm and inner peace that allows us to make choices for change, if need be. Attacking problems head-on sometimes just creates more problems and causes so much inner strife. But accepting that you have this problem in your life, trusting that the universe has given you this problem as part of its perfection, gives you your dignity and faith back, and the clarity and serenity with which to choose a course of action.

    I do think there’s a place for the “Never give up” credo, for consciously trying to bring harmony and beauty to the world and to our own psyches, but I think surrender has to come first. I have a feeling that until we really surrender to how things are and how we are, with our eyes wide open, not pretending to be better than we are, nothing will really change. Until we accept what is, until we stop fighting reality, how can we change it? Only by embracing reality do we have any power over it, and the power that we gain by surrendering is the power of love. What greater power can there be?

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