Living In The Eye Of The Hurricane: A Strategy For Coping With The Overwhelm In Your Life

by Melinda Condray

How many times have you thought about getting your life together? Dreamed about what your life could be like?

How many times have you looked back and realized that in terms of getting what you really want out of life, you are no further ahead than you were six months or six years ago? And you sit there wondering how all the plans you were so excited about fell apart so quickly?

As a Coach, I have talked to many people and have discovered that most have two things in common:

First, the issue is not in the planning. We’re great at dreaming about our future and planning to get there. It seems that in America our  #1 past time is making New Years Resolutions. Our #2 past time is breaking them.

Why can’t we keep the promises we make to ourselves? The answer is the second thing that most people have in common - life happens. Our dreams get moved to the back burner as our focus is directed to surviving our daily overwhelm.

So how do you get the overwhelm under control? Although there isn’t any one-cure-solves-all solution, the best strategy I have found is to live in the eye of the hurricane.

Life is a lot like a hurricane. There are a million things swirling around and a million choices to make. A friend of mine describes this state as “gerbil mentality.” Her daily thought process goes something like this, “now I have to remember to call George…. to make sure Sarah takes her project to school…. what if the bus is late?…. I have to be on time for that meeting and have to remember to bring my report…. what if there’s a traffic jam?… I have to remember to take my gray suit to the cleaners… etc., etc.” Our lives seem to be filled with have-tos and what-ifs.

Faced with our hurricane, we have three choices.

  • First, we can choose to ignore it. The problem is that when we ignore something it doesn’t go away. It just gets bigger and the consequences grow worse. For instance, putting off preparing for a big meeting means staying up all night to get it done. Delaying paying that bill or taking those books back to library means a late charge. Ignoring the hurricane creates stress and costs us our time and our energy.
  • Our second choice is to move into the hurricane. This is where most of us find ourselves – right in the middle of the overwhelm. In the hurricane, the hurricane controls us. We are tossed around by the hurricane and react to what is happening instead of creating the things that happen. This is where we live by chance rather than by choice.
  • Our third choice is to move into the eye of the hurricane. Profound calm and peace characterize the hurricane’s eye. In the stillness of the eye everything becomes clear. From this calm place you can focus, you can observe objectively and you can make good decisions.

The issue of overwhelm is not what is happening in our lives, but how we react to what is happening in our lives.  Living in the eye of the hurricane means staying in a calm place from which you can make the best choices for you.

So how do you move to the eye of your hurricane? There are four steps.

  • Become aware of how you react to life.
  • Decide what you need to do to get to the eye and go there. For example, you may need to physically move away from a tense situation. That’s right. Just walk away until you have had time to think things through in a calm place. If you stay, you are likely to make a snap decision or react in a way that you will later regret.
  • Practice. Like any new skill, you need to experiment and practice finding your calm place.
  • Be patient with yourself. Change takes time.

Finding the eye of your hurricane may not be easy. But you will find that the more often you can get to the eye, the longer you can stay and the easier it becomes. Amazingly, I’ve found that over time you reach a threshold where the hurricane itself starts to diminish.

Living in the eye of the hurricane will not make all of your problems go away, but it will reduce the overwhelm they create in your life. From the eye you will be able to see your life from new perspectives and calmly focus on making the choices that can change your life and make your plans and your dreams come true.

Copyright © 2005, Melinda Condray

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