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Feeling Overwhelmed? Try to Locate Simple Joy

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling overwhelmed this week.  Here in the midwest, I was not directly affected by Hurricane Sandy, but I do have family and friends throughout the east coast.  I am still holding my breath as I wait for news, and my heart breaks with each new story of loss and tragedy.  On top of that, we are nearly at the end of this very long election season, and the barrage of negativity that surrounds us is exhausting.

So, if this sounds familiar, today’s post is for you.  Whether you feel overwhelmed by the storm and its aftermath, the election season, your struggle with illness, I am sending out good thoughts and also this suggestion.  Wherever you are right now, whatever is going on in your life, try to ask yourself this question:

What small joyful act can I engage in today?

I know that if you are in the middle of a crisis, whether it is a health crisis or a hurricane-related crisis, trying to identify something joyful may seem absurd–perhaps even overwhelming in itself.  When your life is falling apart, most of us will focus on what is stressful.  In fact, focusing on what is stressful is part of what youneed to do to survive.

But when you focus exclusively on those things that are stressful, it is easy to feel increasingly overwhelmed.  The focus on the stressful narrows your world, and can feed into a stress cycle.

That is where the small joyful act comes in.  A small joyful act isn’t about trying to change the big things going on around you.  A small joyful act can’t beat cancer, or clean up storm damage.  But that is not the point of a small joyful act.  The point of a small joyful act is to remind you that life is bigger than the crisis.  The point of a small joyful act is to connect with the things in life that are important to you.  The point of a small joyful act is to remember that you “can” have control, at least over the small stuff.

Here was my small joyful act (I’m big into practicing what I preach): I went out and found leaves on the ground.  Rather than worry about raking them up, I walked through them.  I kicked them up in the air and listened to them crunch.  I let myself enjoy the smells and sounds of fall.  And I paid attention–to the sensations in my body, to the joy that this little activity brought me.

And that’s my invitation to you.  Wherever your find yourself this week, I hope that you find and focus on some simple joy.  Do one thing (for five minutes or an hour) that reminds you to smile, to play, to focus on the fact that there is more in life than crisis. When we make those choices, we exercise our own power and our own control.



  1. Hi Ann – thanks for this reminder about small acts helping us find emotional balance and relief. Yes the negativity abt the election is getting to me. It was actually soothing to be unplugged for almost a week!

  2. Small acts of joy are emotional and spiritual imperatives. There’s always something positive going on around us. I agree about the election and the constant barrage of negativity. It’s difficult to muster the energy to decipher who’s telling the truth. I like to take deep breaths throughout the day when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I also do a mental energy check to assess whether I’m going to respond or not.

    Thanks for a lovely post, Ann :).

    1. Linda,

      Breathing is a family tool around our house. My partner’s co-workers joke that he is always telling someone to breathe. I know that I reinforce deep breathing techniques with my clients all the time. It’s such a great tool.


  3. Wonderful advice. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to follow it sometimes. Thank you for the reminder to look for the simple joys.

    1. Nancy,
      I think that we get sucked into the “busy-ness” of daily life, and that masks the simple stuff. That’s why I so often write reminders about the small things.

  4. Enjoying the small things gives me energy to deal with the big things in life. For me this week, I took time to read and to play my drum . These acts helped fuel a few tasks.

    1. JoAnn,

      Thanks to your blog pictures, I have a visual of you with your drum. I appreciate that!


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