What’s “snowballing”? It’s when you let all your worries pile in your mind until they’re tumbling down over you in drifts and you feel like you’re buried in an avalanche. Maybe they’re things that you have to do but haven’t done yet. Maybe they’re worries about the future, things that are out of your control. But whatever they are specifically, they stop you in your tracks, bury you alive, and leave you feeling frozen and helpless and beaten down.
But you don’t have to feel this way. You don’t have to feel knocked off your feet and clobbered by a series of your own thoughts overwhelming you. You can feel motivated instead. You can be free from these worries. And you can change your perspective and your heart so that your blizzard turns into rays of sunshine with birds whistling in the background.
How? Here’s five different ways.
1. Be in the moment
The moment is a precious gift that we often take for granted, as we do so many other things. But we don’t realize that the present is here for a reason. It’s here because in order to be as effective, efficient, successful, and happy as possible, we need to focus on what’s in front of us. Think about it this way: If you’re constantly reaching behind you, craning your neck to turn around or reaching in front of you, lurching forward and straining your back, how healthy, focused, or systematic are you going to be? You’re going to miss the one thing that you can do the best at, enjoy the most, savor, and kick ass with—the present. It’s right here. It’s waiting for you. And each moment, it’s here again. So exist in it. Breathe it. Let it fill your soul with peace and calm and life. Don’t eat while you drive. Take a moment to breathe and feel the air on your skin. Connect with your loved ones that are with you in the room. Reap all these gifts and realize that it feels amazing. Because each moment is a gift, and if we receive it, we’ll have a lifetime of smiles, despite whatever else we may be going through.
2. Put one foot in front of the other
It’s true, you may have a zillion things to do with work, plans, school, social, relationships, family, friends, hobbies, and side projects, along with the everyday necessities like cleaning, cooking, finances, and sleeping—the list seems to have no end. But thinking about everything on it all at once will leave you flat on your back, feeling defeated before you even start. Thinking about it all at once is exactly the definition of snowballing. So don’t. That’s like comparing paying $30,000 of student loans in one go versus spacing it in segments over the next five years. It doesn’t seem so bad when put in perspective and reality. The amount has suddenly become feasible. Sure, it still may not be something you’re excited about, but it’s manageable. You have a plan. It’s not going to kill you. So do the same with what you have to do. Don’t tell yourself there’s this mountain of things you have to do right now. No—there’s one thing, and then another. Make a list of priorities so that you get to the important ones first and feel accomplished. You’re being in the moment. You’re enjoying this journey through the day. And what if you don’t finish your list? That’s okay. You’re doing amazing, one step at a time.
3. Don’t worry yourself with “pre-worrying”
It’s easy to worry about things coming up such as: if you don’t get into that course, you might have to shuffle around your entire timetable, which would mess everything up, or when your boss goes on mat leave, the replacement might not be as understanding or give you the same work flexibility, which could be complicated, or if your roomie moves out, you’ll have to find a new one, and we all know how awful it is living with someone you don’t jive with. All these situations are possibilities, and negative ones at that. They haven’t happened, and they may very well never happen at all, or at least not the way you’re imagining. So why are you wasting precious time, energy, and thoughts on something that’s only sucking the life out of you and leaving you feeling drained and overwhelmed? Remember, we’re putting one foot in front of the other, stepping into the future as it comes, while enjoying the present. If something happens, you’ll handle it. If things go bad, it’s not going to be the end of the world. You are capable. You are strong. I promise, you’re going to get through, no matter what life throws your way. So plan for the future, prepare what you need, but don’t worry unnecessarily about things that might not even happen. Do your best and let God do the rest.
4. Don’t sweat the stuff that’s out of your control
While you have the capacity and the grit to handle whatever comes your way, it’s not part of your job description to worry about things that are out of your control. Maybe your office is going to alter their politics and you won’t be able to work from home anymore. But guess what? That’s out of your control. Maybe your mom’s going to get worse instead of better at her next doctor’s appointment. But guess what? That’s out of your control. Not to say that these things aren’t important—of course they are. But they’re out of your control, meaning that any energy you put towards worrying about the fact that you can’t change them will be nothing more than that—worrying. As a wise person once said: Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere. So instead of worrying about what you can’t change or control, why don’t you put your energy into the things that you do have control over? In terms of these things, the most prominent one is your attitude, your perspective, the light that you choose to view these circumstances under, which leads to our final point.
5. Let thankfulness brighten your perspective
No matter how bright our world is, if we’re always staring at the shadow, we won’t see the sun. Remember, the shadow proves the sunshine. No matter how many difficulties you’re going through, there are also beautiful things coexisting in your life. Maybe they’re small. Maybe they’re normal. But they’re there. Think about all the great things: a place to call home, birds flying across the sunset, waking up and realizing you don’t need to get up yet, a friend who’s there for you no matter what, your breakfast with chai tea that warms up your whole soul, a baby that smiles at you at the grocery store. Any big or small thing that brings a smile to your face is a blessing. We tend to focus on the negative because problems are what need fixing. Blessings don’t need fixing, hence they don’t need our immediate or prolonged attention, and they’re easy to forget or overlook. But they’re here for us to enjoy, to give us pleasure and freedom from the weight of the world. We have to remember to be thankful for the good things just as much as we’re concerned for the complicated things. Every time a worry runs through your mind, replace it with a blessing. Name three things you’re thankful for before eating each meal, or before you go to sleep, or when you’re sad. Because your life is full of quiet wonder. You just need to decide to see it.
These things may sound simple, but they make a huge difference, the difference between trudging through life with shoulders stooped and head down, or walking with your chest back, head held high, with eyes trained to focus on the shining, wonderful things in your life. You don’t need to worry about things that aren’t here, or that are out of your control. You don’t need to be crushed under an avalanche of your own thoughts, all piled together to drag you down and bury you. Far from it. Be for you, not against you. All you need to do is be in this moment, enjoy this precious gift, look at the sunshine, and breathe a sigh of thanks for all the good in your life. This is how you change your attitude. This is how you change your heart. This is how you stop Snowballing and start living your life.