Conversations at the Crossroads.

How to Stop an Avalanche

During periods of high and intense activity, it can be a quick skip from the initial state of busy-ness into a state of complete overwhelm. We arrive at that moment in which it seems any new or unexpected event would be one more than we can handle–because we are already operating at capacity–and then the events keep happening anyway.

It can feel like an avalanche.

The barrage of challenges, responsibilities, and emotional stimuli pays no mind to our wish for even a brief phase of stability or calm. Life can seem inconsiderate that way.

Sometimes our victim energy is triggered in these situations:

Why does this always happen to me?

As a result of this kind of thinking, we might feel paralyzed, unable to take any action at all, because we feel powerless to effect change.

Sometimes we react with frustration or anger:

I’ve had enough of this. I’m being pushed to my limit, and it’s time to push back!

This kind of thinking may shift us into action for a time, but action generated by anger or frustration is exhausting and hard to sustain, and the likelihood of burnout is high.

Paralysis or burnout? These options limit us. In today’s CATC, I would like to offer a new possibility for managing overwhelm. It’s called “reframing,” and it is a topic on which I have written before.

Consider this:

When we perceive that we are experiencing an “avalanche,” we are framing our situation in such a way that everything else we experience will support that story. Our perceptions create our reality. We begin to see our challenges as boulders falling from the sky. We sense the weight and sharpness of their shapes and edges, difficult to grasp and quick to cause us harm. We feel a loss of control as gravity directs their movement. We feel fragile. We feel fearful. We feel crushed.

What we tend to forget, particularly in moments of stress, is that perceiving the experience of an “avalanche” is a choice. Our perceptions create our reality… and our perceptions are a choice. So how can we choose differently, creating instead a reality in which we feel courageous, empowered and strong?

It starts when we recognize that we actually do have this power, to choose how we experience all that happens in life.

We could, for example, choose to imagine we are in a rainstorm instead of an avalanche.

Or perhaps the wind has swept up some leaves and carried them on the path along which we are walking.

When we play with these metaphors instead of the avalanche, we might note that when it comes to rain, storms always pass and are eventually followed by sun. We might see the dance of uplifted leaves as a reminder that life has a rhythm and motion, punctuated by periods of calm, and we trust that soon enough the wind will settle.

What changes when you consciously choose a new perception? What is the impact on your energy and sense of empowerment when you reframe a situation in a different light?

This week think about how you are framing your life’s experiences and consider this new possibility to reframe a challenging situation in a more powerful way.

Let me know how it goes!

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published July 14, 2014