Move The Mole Hill Not The Mountain

February 28, 2024

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? When you see problems everywhere and the solutions are hidden from your awareness? There is no visible light at the end of the tunnel and you feel caged without options. How did you experience overwhelm and what happened next? Did you discover the key to your release into the light, or are you still sitting beneath the umbrella of overwhelm, wondering if the rain will ever stop?

It's time to step into the light and reduce that mountain back into the mole hill that it really is.

Let’s begin today’s thinking by offering a definition of overwhelm. Keeping it simple, as we like simple, overwhelm is when you focus on the big picture and apply the problems and challenges of one thing to everything.

The path from one thing to everything is, generally speaking, an unconscious journey and the conscious result is the feeling of being overwhelmed, like it is impossible for you to cope because the vast battery of problems life is presenting you is too big for you to handle. Once in the state of overwhelm, your daily functioning is affected because the thought of everything that you perceive is in need of fixing is just too much, your brain chemistry changes and you end up in a kind of ‘mental fog’, through which it is impossible to find focus. So, you end up doing nothing. Overwhelm is a sure-fire route to the sofa and the box sets! Procrastination! Does this sound familiar at all? You can’t possibly do it all, so you do nothing. Paralysis by over-analysis.

Let’s look to NLP to discover what can you do about it? Firstly, you need to be able to identify that what you are feeling is indeed overwhelm. You can do this easily by listening to the language that you are using, both within your internal dialogue and out loud when you speak to those who are willing to listen. The words you use are the labels you choose to describe your internal experience to the external world. Here’s a couple of everyday examples that I’m sure you will recognise:

Friend: “What’s wrong?”

You: “Everything, nothing is going right for me at the moment. My life is falling apart.”

Friend: “What’s wrong?”

You: “Everyone is against me at the moment, nobody wants to help.”

Friend: “What’s wrong?”

You: “I can’t possibly do everything, my whole life is a mess.”

Notice there are some key words here that indicate you are thinking in a state of overwhelm; everything, nothing, everyone, nobody, whole life. These simple words have great power in that they transform one thing to everything in an instant. Once you have accepted these linguistic labels, then your internal representations and emotions will support the labels, you go into a state of overwhelm.

If any of these conversations resonate with you, then you have been overwhelmed. When you apply one problem to your whole life experience, you create panic, anxiety and emotional storms which end up in total paralysis and zero action. Emotional storms are made up of meta emotions (a piece of NLP jargon). Simply put, these are feelings about feelings. Here’s an example of how an emotional storm can bubble up at the unconscious level:

You experience something and you feel frustrated by it, then you get angry at yourself for feeling frustrated, then you feel guilty that you feel angry, then you feel sad about feeling guilty and you get overwhelmed. Some storms can circle around for days, like a hurricane sucking up every part of life!

Overwhelm occurs when your thinking becomes too ‘chunked up’ (more NLP terminology). You apply one thing to everything, you think about everything that needs to be done and everything is too much.  

How do you break out of the storm and return to the sun? The solution is a simple one. To get out of overwhelm the answer is to ‘chunk down’, reverse the process and take your psychology from everything to one thing. In NLP, we call this deductive thinking.

To move your thinking from everything to something more manageable, ask yourself, “what specifically?” or “who specifically?” or “what specifically is important here?” and move your thinking from everything to one thing and then that one thing becomes the focal point of your thinking and you can take action towards a solution. One thing is far easier to solve than everything.

As a first step to breaking free of the burden of overwhelm, make a simple list of ‘everything’ and be as specific as possible. Now, rank that list in order of priority. Now, starting with the problem that you have deemed most important to you right now, deal with one item at a time and forget about the rest until it’s time to think about them again. You can work easily to solve the small chunks of life which make up the big chunks without having to get stuck in the big picture. Now you are moving forward again. You will also discover with utmost delight, that the solution to one small problem, often contributes to the solution of the next small problem and the next and the next…

So, next time you feel overwhelmed, think about chunking down the specifics of your perceived problems and deal with the mole hill rather than the mountain! Turn it into a fun game, solution finding can be creative and fun and when you solve one thing, the whole will feel amazing in your achievement.

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