What happens when you try to pay attention to everything all at the same time? You easily become overwhelmed. The feeling of being unable to cope with the demands that life places upon you can lead you to stop seeing the wood for the trees. Everything needs attending to right now.
Taking a step back to see the bigger picture – literally as well as figuratively – it is what you need to do on a regular basis in order to maintain a healthy perspective. This process of distancing yourself psychologically has been shown in clinical settings to reduce emotional thinking as well as the physical sensations that accompany stress, at the same time as helping to restore some calm in your logical-thinking brain. It involves asking questions in 4 ‘domains’:
• Time – how soon are you expecting things to happen? Not everything happens all at once, leaving you the time to deal with things in the likely order that they might occur.
• Scale – how big or small are the consequences of what you are worried about? Of all the things on your plate at the moment, which ones are big and meaty and which small and trifling? Put them in order of size and closeness.
• Social – how ‘in deep’, ‘out of your depth’ and ‘overwhelmed’ do you feel? Instead of being in deep, could you just ‘dip your toe in’ to begin with? Who else do you know who has experienced what you are right now? Talk to them and ask their perspective.
• Probability – what’s the likelihood of these things occurring – or not occurring at all? Your emotional, survival-thinking brain does not like uncertainty, so it handles probability as 100% or 0% likely only.