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  • Writer's pictureDr Ruth Briant-Jones

This Too Shall Pass

I don't think I've met anyone who's not had times in their life when they've felt overwhelmed by the circumstances they find themselves in - whether that's for an hour, a day, a month or even a year. We've all had times that have been hard to handle, for whatever reason. If this is where you're at now, read on. Actually, scrap that - wherever you're at now, read on!

I recently had a week from hell. It was a week that forced me to take a good hard look at myself, and it made me re-evaluate what truly matters. There were sleepless nights, anger, confusion, and a sense that my world had just irrevocably changed, for the worse. I withdrew into myself, stopped working, stopped eating (there's a first time for everything), stopped being able to manage, full stop. I switched to autopilot and stopped engaging in any kind of real way with the world around me. For a while I was consumed by my emotions and could see no way out of it. It was hard, and it was painful, and had it been the first time I'd felt that way, I have no idea how long it would have lasted. But it wasn't my first rodeo. I've been there before in various guises; in break-ups, through change, and after being knocked back either professionally or personally. What I've learned over the years is that there is a way to escape this horrible place - it's actually a simple process of gaining perspective, of looking at the situation in a different way. Of course, 'simple' doesn't translate to 'easy' though... 

When stuck in a hole of self-pity, or overwhelm, instead of identifying it as 'me' in this mess, it is 'me' who steps back and leads the situation. I force my leadership hat on, and give myself permission to be in control again. With this mindset (which takes a bit of practise and determination to get in to, at a time when wallowing feels right), I look at the situation objectively, and ask myself the kind of questions you might ask if presented a problem at work:

What's going on here? Why has this situation happened? What can I change? What can't I change? What can I realistically do to move forwards?

Just by asking those questions, I feel as if I'm doing something, rather than being done to. I can force my focus away from the horrible mess inside, and take a wider view. This shifts the focus from feeling helpless and consumed by the situation, to something else; a problem-solving approach - one that is hopeful and that puts the onus on me to solve the issue. The issue isn't always solvable, of course (unrequited love, anyone?). There are times when we can't change things. But, by asking the question, we can objectively realise that that is the conclusion, and then move forwards, beginning a process of acceptance, or movement away from the situation if we are able. In these situations, adding in the mantra 'this too shall pass' can help. This is such a powerful phrase, passed down the ages across many cultures. It's a reminder that all things are temporary, and when we find ourselves in situations that feel overwhelmingly hard or that we are unable to resolve, it reminds us that we have hope, and this in itself is a comfort and support in dark times.

I meet many clients who feel this overwhelm, and who see no way out of it. Some have felt this way for weeks, months, even years. Everybody is different; our life experiences shape us so individually, that one approach doesn't fit everyone, but the constant between everyone that I've met and worked with is that stepping out is important; regaining a wider or longer perspective is key.

In my hell week, I finally reached the point of realising that this was a 'this too shall pass' situation. Reaching that point was empowering in itself, and it gave me the opportunity to think forwards, to what might lie beyond the circumstances I found myself in. By doing so, I found some room for hope, and that was enough to pull me out of the hole. It gave me enough to channel my energies in other ways; positive ways that moved me towards other goals. Change, rejection, heartbreak, negative feedback - these are all things that hurt and that can knock us off for a while - and it's almost inevitable that these will happen to every one of us at some stage. Having a way to get through that pain, or at least knowing that you've done it in the past, is a hugely valuable tool. And when changing the situation is not an option, you can remind yourself, as our forefathers reminded themselves, that eventually the situation will change itself - for it too, shall pass.


Would you like to explore ways out of the overwhelm, to find some breathing space again? I can help you with this. Book a free coaching consultation today.

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