Focusing in Overwhelming Circumstances

By 18 Sep ’15Blog

Feeling overwhelmed often saps your energy and stalls your progress. I want to give you a tool to help you focus on the FACTS in overwhelming circumstances.

If you answer “yes” to any of the below questions, then keep reading.

  • Do you find yourself mentally rehearsing a difficult situation you are in?
  • Have you caught yourself mentally role-playing conversations that have happened or conversations that have not yet happened?
  • Are you finding it difficult to focus because of a plethora of unknown and overwhelming circumstances?

If this is you – read on.

What I’ve learned is that people often put more mental energy in to overthinking their circumstances than they do into actually engaging them. I want to tell you, you are not alone. I’m in it with you. I’ve been facing some crazy stuff over the past few months and I’d like to share a tool I’ve developed to help myself focus.

My mother has been battling lymphoma over the past few years and recently, her health took a nosedive. Because my mom communicates with such optimism, it was hard to know what was really going on. So I scheduled a visit. What I found was that my mom couldn’t live on her own because she was too sick and weak. Therefore, what was planned as a two week visit turned into a seven week stay and now my life being divided between California (where I live) and Tennessee (where she lives). It’s been hard to divide my time between different parts of the country, work, family and other responsibilities. But two months later—I’ve emerged with a clear focus and strong spirit. Here’s how I did it.

First off, I must say — there has been a lot of prayer and meditation. This has helped the most. There have been times where I wondered about what would happen if my mom lived or died. How will we take care of her? What about my family? What about my work? What about where I live? What about all sorts of other circumstances?

After a month of feeling overwhelmed I sat one day in a hospital waiting room and wrote down all the questions I had. Next, I sorted them according to what I knew for sure and what I didn’t yet know. Last, I reduced them down to what I could presently act on. What emerged was the FACTS model of focus for overwhelming circumstances.

F – Focus on the facts
Too often we waste energy on what we can’t control. This is why you must begin by reducing your situation down to focusing on the facts. What do you know now, for sure? For instance, all I knew a few weeks ago was that my mother couldn’t eat, drink, climb steps or get to her doctors appointments. Those were the facts. Everything else was uncertain.

A – Action

Based on what you know, what helpful action(s) can be taken right now to engage the situation? Notice I said helpful actions. Sometimes we make destructive choices out of impluse—so frame your actions in terms of what would help the situation. In my case, I knew my visit had to be extended and I needed to take over my mom’s finances, nutrition, and physical care for the immediate season until whatever came next.

C – Control
What can I control and what can’t I control? In my circumstance, I could control my ability to stay and care for my mom for a season. What I couldn’t control was whether she lived or died, what would happen to my financial situation, or how other people might engage in the situation.

T – Thoughts
Once you’ve figured out what you can’t control, take some time to write out all your thoughts about it. Face these thoughts, write them down. That’s what I did in the hospital waiting room a few months ago and it made all the difference. If helpful, talk about these thoughts with someone.

S- Schedule
Last, determine a time for you to take another look at your situation and work through the FACTS model again. For me, I’ve decided not to worry about what I don’t know yet. My mom’s current treatment seems to be producing positive results. But we won’t really know her status for a few more weeks until we have another CT scan. So my plan is to look again, at the end of this month at all my circumstances and re-assess.

What will I do during that time frame? I’ll be look at:

  1. What are the FACTS that I need to FOCUS on?
  2. What ACTIONS can then be taken? When will you take those actions?
  3. What can and can’t I CONTROL?
  4. What THOUGHTS or feelings do I need to address in writing or by talking to someone?
  5. When will I SCHEDULE a time to look at this situation again?

Following this grid has helped me focus on what I can control and put what I can’t control in a box to deal with later. Use this tool to help you focus on the facts so you can make positive movement and not waste your life worrying about things you can’t control.

If you’d like some help discerning helpful actions you can take in your overwhelming circumstance, let me know.