Have you ever been under so much pressure that you thought the top of your head was going to explode?
Have you ever been so stressed that it felt as if you were in a room where the walls were closing in around you and there was no way out?
Have you ever faced a challenge so big and so daunting that sleepless nights became your norm, and on those rare moments when you did manage to fall asleep, you woke up soaking wet and filled with dread at the thought of what the day might bring?
These thoughts and feelings have been shared with me by several clients over the past few weeks. As I listened to their stories I was easily able to identify with their emotions as the feelings they were describing had been part of my daily life when I was wrestling with an unrelenting respiratory disease which kept me out of the workplace, and largely non-functioning, for close on five years.
I remembered only too well those feelings of despair and hopelessness and mostly I remembered the extreme anger I felt which was brought about by my frustration at my seeming inability to do anything to change my situation.
But there was one difference between my experience in those days and theirs in these.
Each of these folks told me that on more than one occasion they contemplated ending their lives as a means of getting rid of the pressure, stress and seemingly insurmountable challenges they are facing.
On my worst days, back in those days, when walking a block required several pauses to catch my breath and the constant pain in my chest felt like a giant railway spike was being hammered through my ribs, I never once considered ending my life as a means of ending my challenges to be even a remote possibility.
I so clearly understand, and can relate to, the intense pain and never-ending anxiety these folks were describing and can easily comprehend the pathway their thinking had taken to even consider these possibilities, but if you have ever considered the long-term solution called death to be the answer to what invariably will prove to be a short-term problem, please allow me to share with you the thoughts that I forced into my mind during those long years of illness and uncertainty.
One afternoon a friend treated me to a movie. I do not recall the title of the movie, but I do remember escaping into it and laughing from the moment the first scene flashed on the screen until the end when the credits began rolling.
My entire focus was captured by that movie and my full attention was devoted to that focus.
As soon as I left the movie theatre I instantly re-entered my present day, every day reality of pain, shortness of breath and the incumbent stress that an income-less lifestyle brings.
The little later that evening a thought flashed through my mind that has forever changed my life.
It dawned on me that during the entire time I was watching the movie, the daily challenges of my life were still present and yet, because my focus was entirely on my immersion in the movie, my emotions were wrapped up in that experience and my everyday trials disappeared from my conscious awareness.
They returned the moment I left the theatre as my focus reverted to my life’s difficulties.
The lesson I learned that day was this: the complete quality of our life is wrapped up in the entirety of what we are focusing on right now. What is occupying our focus right now represents our life in this moment and our focal point triggers our emotional state.
The old saying, energy flows to where our attention goes, became resoundingly clear to me, and from that moment of realization on, until the day a skilled surgeon gave me a new lease on life, and indeed, still to this day, I constantly ask myself if what I’m focusing on, and consequently, how I feel in the moment, is moving me in the direction I wish to move. If the answer is a resounding no, it simply means I need to change my focus.
Our feelings are what determine the quality of our lives and our feelings are driven by the thoughts going through our heads.
It was several years from the time of seeing that movie to the day of having surgery and I know, without any doubt whatsoever, that I most likely would not have survived that long, pain filled, desperate and uncertain time had I not learned that it was the thoughts in my head, not the pain in my chest, that was responsible for my emotional well-being. While I had little to no control over what was happening inside my lungs, I had full, complete ownership and control of every thought in my head and the resulting emotions.
I shared this story with those clients of mine who are going through frightening and desperate times and while I am unable to help them resolve the specific challenges they’ve all reported back that their ability to manage their stress and anxiety has grown by leaps and bounds by simply learning to direct their focus and energy away from their plight and instead focus on other things.
Of course, I have somewhat oversimplified the process here and realize that there is degree of both practice and additional knowledge required to be able to redirect our focus, but, simply remembering to ask ourselves the question, “is what I’m focusing on now moving me toward where I want to be,” will go a long way to converting feelings of anxiety into more desirable emotions.
And the better we feel the more resourceful we become in facing head-on, and overcoming, those nasty curves life tends to throw our way.
And that certainly has to be a better solution than the other option we discussed earlier.
Of course it is.
Till we read again.