Finding Calm In The Midst Of Chaos: Moving Past Overwhelm And Into Empowerment

No one is immune to distressing events. No matter if it is a global emergency, political policy, or a professional performance report, the stress can create a ripple of havoc through your personal and professional life. Gone unchecked the mind will run wild and become the culprit of obsession and undesired reactions. Taking the time to intentionally reflect will help to uncover deeper layers of understanding of the situation, your personal connection to it, and the action you have the ability to take. Most importantly, reflection gives you the ability to conduct the symphony of your thoughts and clarifies the measures you are best suited to take. This clarity will bring greater calm and emotional sturdiness to your life, even when things are difficult. Below are some tips for addressing difficult events. I encourage you to put this article to use. To bring these solutions to life you have to engage in applying the following content. Knowledge is only power when knowledge is actively used. 

 Before you can act effectively in the world it’s important to look within and identify the specific emotions you are feeling that are connected to what is happening in your environment. Don't ignore your feelings, listen to them, work through your emotions and use them as a tool by redirecting the energy behind them in a more fruitful direction. 

 Questions you can ask yourself are:

  • What emotions am I feeling? You might find there are hidden emotions amongst the obvious ones. 
  • What is the core need behind the emotions I am feeling? Emotions are indicators that translate into tangible desires. Some needs are basic survival needs, such as safety. Other needs that span beyond survival might be things like the acknowledgment for your work or contribution to making a difference. 
  • How is this emotion helpful and how can I put it to use? Emotions can be employed for taking positive action after you have a grasp on them. It may be that the emotion is what keeps you motivated or that the emotion provides empathy.

The next step is to assess how you want to react and choose your plan of action. It is always the gray area of uncertainty that causes the most stress. One of the most valuable tools for combatting overwhelming emotions is to identify what you have the power to change and what is beyond your power. Once you clarify this, you can go about letting go of what you don’t have the power to change and take action with that which you can change. Having a plan of action releases anxiety and stress and can help break the negative loop in your head. Reinhold Niebuhr said it best, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Many people get stuck due to overwhelm. They have a hard time sorting through what to do and end up doing nothing at all or taking action based on inordinate emotions. They may choose actions that don’t result in the best solution or their efforts may peter out as their emotions subside. The goal is to create a sustainable effort. This will allow you to gain the emotional benefits of accomplishment and enable you to make a bigger impact. 

No matter the type of event, your power lies in changing your thought patterns to direct them toward a positive impact and towards allowing yourself to release what is not yours to carry. It takes practice. Repetition is essential when creating new neural pathways. Your typical tendencies are engraved pathways in your brain, similar to a ski trail that has been used over and over. It is easy and natural to follow the established path. Going off the path is difficult, and in the beginning, it is especially challenging to carve a new path. After you travel down a new route for some time, a new path begins to form. Eventually, you can go down that new path with ease. That is exactly what happens in your brain when you practice a new thought pattern or behavior. New grooves are created and soon the formerly unfamiliar way of becoming the norm.  


National and global issues are complex and there are many causes that call for support. There is no way you can solve all the world's issues. Pick one-to-three causes that matter most to you. Know your capacity and use your unique gifts to be a part of the solution. Then trust that other people will step in to cover the areas you can’t. Making a difference can come in many forms. You can ask yourself:

  • Who is being affected? What do they need? It is better not to assume what people need and ask the community, or those supporting the community, how you can best help.
  • What organizations or people are already helping and how can I support them? 
  • What resources do I have that can help? (temporary housing, clothing, money, etc.)
  • What specific skills do I have to help from afar? (fundraising, emotional support, social media awareness, etc.) 
  • Are there any hands-on ways I can help? (building structures, cooking, healthcare, etc.)
  • Who are the key influencers who can make a change with the current event and influence policies or relief in the future? (government, legal, community, etc.) How can I support them?

Remember, don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much. Stick to what you're good at and what you enjoy doing. Otherwise, your good intentions can have adverse effects on your mental health and could end up burdening the cause. 


When it comes to personal and professional challenges, there is a much deeper personalization that occurs. This requires reflection and greater sensitivity for all the parties involved, including yourself. Before reacting, pause to assess the situation and get clear on your approach. Begin with owning any errors you may have made. Admitting to errors and taking the appropriate corrections shows courage and strong character. Accountability gives you the opportunity to grow and improve. Numerous studies have shown that the benefits of taking ownership of one’s mistakes outweigh the consequences. Of course. assess the right course of action for your specific situation. 

Next is to loop in the parties involved. See if you can identify what the other person or parties' needs are and what their communication style might be. You can brainstorm alternative ways to address the situation and potential outcomes. It may also be helpful to talk through the different approaches with a couple of people you trust. 

After reflecting and reviewing your options, you can make an accountable choice for how you want to address the situation. When you take this approach, you will most likely take the best course of action. Even if the results you wanted don’t pan out, with this tactic you will be prepared for a less favorable outcome. Rather than feeling like a victim, you will feel empowered. 

Practicing accountability is courageous and places the power to shape your path in your hands. Remember, you can only do what is within your control. The other party or parties also play a role in being accountable for their actions in the situation. It is not your responsibility to shoulder unreasonable reactions. In fact, if you do, you are doing others a disservice by not allowing them to grow. Knowing what is and isn’t yours to take on is important for all parties involved. 


Being a part of the solution, no matter how big or small, is both important and helpful. Every action builds momentum, just as every drop of water creates a title wave. An added benefit to taking action is that it allows your mind to let go — leaving you feeling at ease and uplifted because you have become part of the solution.