3 Cures for Overwhelm: Altruism, Gratitude & Agency

26 November 2022

By Linda Ferguson

Are you feeling a little scrambled and maybe more than a little tired? It’s been a strange fall and many people are feeling like they just can’t deal with one more thing. They made it through COVID and now there’s inflation and strikes and viruses everywhere.

You can watch a Raptors game or got to a concert without a mask, but you are also expected to work even when your kids are home sick (again!) or you’re worried about your parents or you’ve been fighting the same cough for three weeks. You’re looking forward to a normal holiday, but also isolating for two weeks because you don’t want to get sick and miss everything. You’re searching for children’s medicines and cough syrup.

How are you staying grounded and whole?

I know it seems like you can’t do one more thing, but there’s pretty good evidence that helping others helps us too. When you do something good for someone else, you tell yourself that the world is a little friendlier place. Maybe people are not kinder because they have better balance: maybe they have better balance because they’re kinder.

It’s not a guarantee. Gratitude helps too. There’s lots to recommend a practice of looking for what you have and what you value and saying thank you according to your beliefs. People who are grateful are reminding themselves that the world can be good, and that makes it easier to find enough optimism to keep going (and smile).

I do believe in altruism and gratitude. But here’s what also helps: agency. Focus on what you can do. You can shift your attention to notice strengths or possibilities. You can take action to make one thing a tiny bit better. You can put one foot in front of the other, and then repeat. You may think it’s not enough. But if you give it all of your attention, it will be enough while you get it done.

And if you can, phone a friend. Friendship is as much a part of our physical and mental well-being as eating well or getting enough sleep. Most of us have had days when a friend made all the difference. So be a friend or make a friend or lean on a friend.

And if you need a new friend, show up at an NLPCT event. I can guarantee you’ll meet some great people, focus on what works, and leave feeling just a little more capable of all the things you want to do next.

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