Kamilah Majied shares her advice for staying afloat when you feel like you’re drowning. From the May 2020 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine.
Question: I’m overwhelmed. Things are stressful on the home front and no less stressful at work. With so much coming at me at once, it feels like I’m drowning. I’ve tried pretending things are okay, but that doesn’t help. How can I cope?
Kamilah Majied: It’s a natural impulse to turn away from difficulties and try to make trouble go away by ignoring it. However, there is another option. We can turn toward difficulty with curiosity, even a sense of adventure, based on our desire to learn from suffering and grow.
Granted, family problems, health problems, work problems, and such do not feel like interesting adventures when we encounter them. But it is precisely because they feel threatening that they are worthy of investigation. Often a problem at home or at work isn’t just troubling because of the surface issue that the problem is about. It’s what the problem makes us feel and think about ourselves that is disturbing. Taking the time to examine those feelings and thoughts using our meditative practices often shows us that we have some internal hook by which the external challenge has grabbed us.
I am growing stronger and wiser as I navigate challenges like these.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to surface the feelings your situation is bringing up for you and consider whether you are making factual connections. For example, if your partner says he’s feeling unhappy in the relationship, does your fear of abandonment from childhood have to get glommed onto this situation? Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy practices such as contemplative writing, positive self-talk, and affirmations help us approach problems from a relaxed, nonclinging, optimistic, and growth oriented attitude.
Try answering this self-exploratory journal question: “What is the difference between the actual problem posed by my situation and my perception of and feelings about my situation?” Be aware that you have resources that could help you grow from your current difficulties. To help you focus on them, you can use this prompt for positive inner dialogue: “I am still okay despite this problem because…”
Finally, consider using this affirmation or something similar: “I am growing stronger and wiser as I navigate challenges like these.” Doing these practices reiteratively helps us maintain a positive outlook in tough times.