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What we can learn from a river when we feel flooded

Flooded area

We often pass by being mindful of our capacity. This happens because we either aren’t patient enough, or we just have too many priorities on top of our list. Usually, it also turns out that those top priorities aren’t for ourselves, but for others. After all, have we not been taught that it is wrong to be selfish?

Self-care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have. The gift I was put on earth to offer to others. — Parker Palmer

Self-care includes setting boundaries. Knowing what and when things getting too much for you to handle is crucial for yourself and for others you wish to support. If you’re down, then how do you want to be available to someone else?

The same way humanity has learned from nature to construct an aircraft, we also can gain knowledge from a river on how to live our lives. While there are many things we can learn from it, one of the most important lessons a river teaches us is to be flexible but staying within the riverbed. When a river overflows, chaos and destruction happen. The same happens whenever we don’t respect our own riverbed.

There are moments when we become bogged down by the objectives that we have set to ourselves but which remain unfulfilled. Things feel pointless and we just want to let fall off everything.

First sign we encounter when things getting too much is feeling overwhelmed. We lose the overview of everything on our plate. A chain-reaction of emotions settles in, starting with being unsatisfied with ourselves, becoming restless, feeling worthless, losing control, perhaps ending up in a panic attack in the worse case.

There’s no reason to be submitted to these emotions. Nothing that happened gives reason to believe that you are of no value. It only was you ceasing to follow the course of your riverbed and it caused a flood. It happens. But you can step out of it quite fast.

When you realize that feeling of being overwhelmed, take a step back and write down everything on your plate. If you have it already somewhere, just take it and look at it. Assess your tasks once more.

But before doing so, it is important you introduce a “Me time” task right now. Since you’re already overwhelmed, your assessment won’t go easy.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” — Anne Lamott

Become mindful about the flood in you. Go for a walk or have a cup of tea, whatever you define to be a quality time with yourself. Direct your attention to your breath and reconnect to the here and now, since that is the only place where you can find yourself again.

Only once you feel how the pressure within you has released, sit down with your tasks and start reassessing them. Ask yourself questions like: Is this really necessary? Do I really want to do this? Does it help me or someone else? Can I postpone this? Refine your list following your values and the necessity or urgency of it. But make sure that these are inline with your values. Saying “No” to someone doesn’t put you off-field. You still can make time for it when you have it.

Perhaps all of your tasks are relevant and inline with your values and you just need to set achievable goals to get there. Michelle from "Beyond little thoughts", wrote a nice article on how to set achievable targets following a technique named “S.M.A.R.T. Goals”. Read more about it here: Setting goals for my health part one. I’m using it now as well, since I’m a master of taking way too much on my shoulders :)

Beside the fact that we feel like failure, it allows us to indulge in the moment and the opportunity to connect to our true-self. Because we naturally let fall off resistance, and that’s what hinders us from staying connected.

Enjoy the moment.

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