How to Find Control in Tough Times

These days, the word “stress” can mean everything we face in our lives. It could be everything we have to do, and every problem we encounter. We, as a society, bucket everything into the word “stress.” When something is happening, we call it “stressful.” This type of thinking hinders us from fixing the external stressors in our lives. By calling everything “stress,” it becomes something we unconsciously accept as a society.

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We may believe that we’re walking through stressful situations all the time, when we’re really just walking through life. In life, a lot of things happen to us because that’s how it is. We have stuff to do and places to be. However, when we see things through a lens of stressfulness, then we see everything as stressful situations. We wear those “stress lenses” when we should be wearing clear ones, letting us see life as it is.

When we bucket everything under the word “stress,” we unintentionally imply that there can be one solution that can fix everything. We think that the tools we use to fix one thing can be used to fix something completely different. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. The more we try to fix everything with the same tools, the more we disempower ourselves to actually fix them effectively. There has to be a balance between the things we go through, and the daily capacity we have to deal with them. When we find ourselves in a burnout, it means there may be a lack of balance between the two.

Tasks, Obstacles, and Adversities

Closing the gap between our personal capacity and the external stuff we need to deal with on the daily is key to avoiding burnout. We have to change our relationship with all the things that life throws at us. The very first step is to actually stop putting all of them under the “stress” category. These external things can be categorized into 3 different categories.

First, we have tasks. These are the things we need to do. We need to check them off our lists and get them done.

Next come the obstacles. Now, we can’t just do obstacles like we do tasks. We need to find a way to solve the obstacles. Only then can we do the tasks to help solve these obstacles.

Lastly, we have adversities. There are the things that are out of our control. They are external forces that will forever change how we live our lives. We can’t really do anything about it. We have to face adversities head on in order to heal from them.

The problem is that society switches them up. We tend to glorify tasks and being busy. We intensify the feelings we put into tasks, making it seem extra stressful. At the same time, we minimize adversities. We say we’re fine when we’re really not. We can be in a very bad spot and yet we invalidate our own feelings. We set our adversities aside in order to make more space for tasks. This type of living will really eat up our daily capacity. 

So, take the time to look at everything that causes you stress. What are your tasks, obstacles, and adversities? Being clear on that will help you become more efficient with spending your capacity.

Emotions – How do You React?

A very important factor that comes into play with these 3 categories is our emotional intelligence. We have to look at how we divide our emotions among tasks, obstacles and adversities. Some of these require more emotions than others, while some don’t even need emotions at all. Effectively allotting the correct emotions to the correct category will help avoid burnout.

Tasks. Always remember that tasks are just the things we need to do. They don’t require a lot of emotion because we just have to get them done. Sometimes, we put in a lot of feelings when attempting to finish a task. We tend to worry about them and procrastinate. If we do this often, we’re actually putting more effort into accomplishing the tasks. We intensify the tasks, making it look harder to finish. Because of this, we allow these tasks to steal more of our personal capacity, leaving little to none for the other 2 categories.

Obstacles. As stated before, obstacles are the things we need to solve. So we actually need space in our capacity to figure out the solution. Once we find the solution, we also find the tasks we need to do in order to take on a certain obstacle. However, we don’t actually get to solve them because we’re too busy doing the tasks. If we’re stuck on the level of completing tasks, it’s hard to move towards solving challenges.

Some obstacles deserve more emotion, while most do not. There are obstacles we expect coming, so there’s no need to overreact when they do arrive. We have to regulate our emotions when faced with obstacles. If we put in more feelings than needed, then it gets harder to overcome the problems.

Adversities. Adversities are a whole different story. When something gut-wrenching and life-changing happens to us, we need to feel the feels. We have to let ourselves sit with these emotions. Oftentimes, we don’t have the capacity left to deal with these things because we spent so much on tasks. Too much emotion spent on tasks and obstacles can steal the bandwidth we have to heal from adversities.

When we go through adversities, we sometimes turn to tasks. We keep ourselves busy in order to avoid the emotions. However, those big challenges will catch up with us eventually. And when they do catch up, we have to have the space to process them. Often when they come, we’ve spent all our capacity avoiding the feelings, and we experience burnout. We collapse and hit rock bottom. So instead of avoiding the emotions adversities bring us, we have to avoid the eventual burnout we may find ourselves in. Adversities need to be processed when they come. We have to let ourselves feel the emotions to eventually heal from the adversities we face.

Allot the correct amount of emotion into your tasks, obstacles, and adversities. Tasks should not be causing stress. We shouldn’t put too much emotion on doing tasks. Don’t let these tasks steal your personal capacity, because you’ll need it more elsewhere. Remember to regulate your emotions because you’ll thank yourself when you stop experiencing burnouts.

Tasks, Obstacles, and Adversities Feed into Each Other

The most interesting thing about these 3 categories is that they all feed into each other. They’re all connected, and so when one is disturbed, the others are also affected.

Adversities take a big chunk from our capacity. Nobody goes looking for them, but we all find them eventually. The intensity of an adversity is also out of our control. So if you’re going through something big and gut-wrenching, your whole capacity equation will adjust accordingly. Learn about what you can actually control with what you’re given at the moment. The solution to your obstacles is the list of tasks you have to accomplish. As you increase your productivity, you have more freedom to process and deal with the adversities you face.

It is quite empowering to think that you can control your own capacity. Because the tasks, obstacles, and adversities feed into each other, you can adjust the framework so it works for you. Remember that there’s no escaping the healing. You work through life and all it has to throw at you. When you learn how to regulate your emotions, everything will be a lot easier, and a lot less stressful.

Allison Graham headshot smiling leaning against a grey wall, blue cardigan and white top

Welcome! I'm Allison Graham

Let’s face it – life is tough enough without having behaviour patterns that make life harder than it needs to be! 

That’s why I’m obsessed with finding ways to make the human experience easier by offering strategies for problem solving, dealing with chronic pain, leveraging empowering stress, and stopping patterns that create destructive stress. 

I hope you find huge value in my content. To go deeper please check out my online courses, coaching, and keynote speeches