February 23, 2015

When Life is Overwhelming, Take Smaller Bites.

Becky Wetherington/Flickr

Do you crawl into bed at night, your mind spinning with things you still have to do?

Is your only “break” your five-minute shower away from your kids?

Has your body rebelled by getting sick or hurt, forcing you to take a break?

Is your battle cry, “Coffee, oh Dear God, please coffee!”

Is life a tad overwhelming?

Truth: Sometimes life gets hard.

And no, I’m not going to tell you to suck it up, or sit with it, or put a fake smile on your face.

The solution is found in this true short story:

 One day a dad told his four-year-old son to clean his room. The child sauntered upstairs only to return 30 minutes later.

 “Is your room clean?” the father asked.

 The little boy began to cry. “I can’t do it,” he said, a tear rolling down his cheek, “there’s too much.”

 The father hugged him.“Okay, how about you go upstairs and put all your stuffed animals on the bed. Then come back. Can you do that for me?”

 The little boy nodded as he rubbed his red eyes.

He returned five minutes later and the father gave him a new task. “Okay, now can you take your bedspread and pull it over your bed and make the bed as nice as you can?”

 The little boy nodded and within minutes he was back.

 “I’m going to ask you to do a few more things for me okay? Can you take all your clothes on the floor and just put them in the laundry basket?”

 The little boy ambled back up the stairs. 

Each time the boy came down the father asked him to do one more, simple task.

In 30 minutes the room was clean.

I love this story because of its irony.

The first time the little boy went up to his room he spent 30 minutes staring at the utter chaos, doing nothing, not able to begin.

It wasn’t until his father broke up the huge task into tiny tasks, that the little boy felt as though he could finally do something.

In the same amount of time that he’d spent feeling overwhelmed to the point of tears, he’d cleaned his entire room.

There are times in the whirlwind of our lives when the pressures of life, our long to do list, taking care of kids by ourselves, our jobs or financial troubles, can cause us to feel paralyzed.

The solution to this paralysis is to pick things apart into smaller pieces the way the father did with his son.

It’s the natural way we deal with children. We wouldn’t shove a whole apple into a child’s mouth. We’d cut it up into smaller pieces so they could pick it up with their fingers and chew on the little pieces.

Even though we’re adults, we still carry our kid-selves around, the ones that got overwhelmed easily, or cried at daunting tasks.

As adults, our co-workers may not find us at our desks sobbing into our keyboards, but we all know the feeling of emotional collapse.

We’ve all lain mentally paralyzed under the heaps of our lives.

But how might life be different if we approached ourselves as children who needed to be fed a piece at a time?

When we separate each task from the huge lump of stuff, it’s easy to “place the stuffed animals on the bed,” or “put all the clothes into the laundry basket” or eat “one small sliver of apple.”

When I think of all the time I’ve wasted having mental temper tantrums or procrastinating the work, I could have already been finished with it.

Treat the kid inside you with kindness. Break things into delicious, little bites.

Then we can focus on enjoying that one sliver of apple instead of shoving the whole thing down our throats. In this way, the whole apple gets eaten peacefully and no one visits the hospital or gets the Heimlich.

Food for thought:

1. What’s the sliver of apple that you can focus on today?

2. Take a large, daunting task and break it into its pieces. Start with one small piece.

You can do this! You’re awesome and capable of great things!



10 Ways to Beat Stress.


Author: Z Zoccolante

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May

Photo: Becky Wetherington/Flickr

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