By Thembe Khumalo. Photography by Eric Michael Ward.
Sometimes, you can get stuck. You don’t know what to do to fix it, and the sense of being overwhelmed is hovering uncomfortably close to your psyche—probably near the area where your screams are stored and you keep your biggest and best teardrops.
First: Take a few deep breaths—it's going to be OK. Here are five suggestions that have worked for me in moments like this:
1. Move Out of the Neighborhood
I don’t mean this literally—what I mean is that often when we are in a bad space, we find ourselves surrounded by others who are also in a bad space or people who love to comment on our bad space. That needs to stop. It's hard enough pulling yourself out of a pit without wrestling with others who are invested in pulling you back into the pit so you can keep them company. Try your best to stay out of negative communities—especially when you're already feeling stuck.
2. Take Another Look
At some point in my childhood I developed a reputation for being able to find things that were lost. Adults often couldn’t understand how I could see things where they had looked and seen nothing. The simple discovery I made: I looked more than once. I looked and kept on looking. It's a helpful tactic when you're feeling stuck, too. If you can't find a solution, look again and try looking at the problem in a new way. Then, you're more likely to find the fix.
3. Break It Down Into Pieces
If you have an enormous elephant of a crisis, attack it one bite at a time.
My childhood self also found that if I cut up the total area where something had to be found into smaller squares, I could just focus on one square at a time instead of employing sweeping glances to try and find tiny objects. It’s the same with problems. If you have an enormous elephant of a crisis, attack it one bite at a time. After each mouthful, say nice things to yourself, and then gear up for the next one. You’re likely to make more progress this way, and it also staves off that feeling of being overwhelmed.
4. Practice Gratitude
This may seem counterintuitive if you are having a truly terrible time. You’re probably thinking: I want less of what’s going on here, not more! But practicing gratitude will help. Itemize 10 things that you are grateful for, even in the midst of calamity. Write them down, and repeat this exercise daily. It seldom happens that anyone has nothing that they are thankful for—and we find plenty that we take for granted.
I never fail to feel grateful for my two incredible children, even when they aren't behaving. I am also thankful for living in a place where natural beauty is almost always just outside the door. That’s not to say Zimbabwe doesn't have its problems (it really does!), but those don’t take away from the exquisite beauty of our foliage.
5. Don't Look Where You Fell
In Africa we have a proverb that says, “Don’t look where you fell, but where you slipped.” In other words, the solution isn’t in the outcome, it's in the cause. Look for the cause of the problem instead of focusing on the effect. That's where you can start learning how to fix things.
The solution isn’t in the outcome, it's in the cause.
6. Try Something New
Finally, if you're really stuck, try something new. Try a solution you’ve never tried before—yoga, meditation, journaling. Try asking a child for advice for a new perspective (this one could really surprise you). If you’ve never tried it before, you may feel a little foolish. But if your problem is really that big then a little foolishness isn’t going to hurt too much, right? Just try it.
A version of this article originally appeared on Medium.
Thembe Khumalo is an African. Woman. Leader. Storyteller. Builder of brands. Social entrepreneur. Founder of Labour of Love, a mission-driven business using commercial marketing and branding tools to promote products made by African women artisans.
Shine is a free daily text message experience that makes it easier to live a more intentional life. Each weekday morning, Shine sends curated content and actionable tips across confidence, daily happiness, mental health and productivity. Why? Because we all need a little help to get through the day—and Shine’s got your back. To sign up, text “SHINE” to 759-85 or go to www.shinetext.com to learn more. Follow Shine on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook: @ShineText.