Anyone else feel overwhelmed right now? Or, just a little whelmed? Bad jokes aside, we find ourselves at a point of history where everything is rushing to come back to “normal.” While spending a lot of time apart, all the sudden our calendars are full and the phone is ringing off the hook.
I know for me and my family, we are feeling the squeeze. After the spring and summer of 2020 and the odd last school year, enough time passed where we got used to the “new normal”. Now the “old normal” comes charging in and wants to be in charge. With these two realities competing for attention, it is hard to adjust.
The last time I wrote for the Teen Life blog, I described a phenomenon called languishing that described so many of us. It wasn’t depression and it wasn’t elation, but something kind of in the middle. We were slogging towards something, but we really didn’t know what it was. Now I think for many of us who are school adjacent, we are experiencing less languishing and more whiplash. It’s like we have been asked to re-join pre-pandemic life, and with no time to waste.
This can feel a bit like going on a long run without stretching first. And I know if I’m feeling this way, our students are as well. In fact, so many of our school-based partners are reporting their students are struggling more than ever. Many kids haven’t been on a school campus in a year and a half, and they are being asked to re-adjust as if nothing ever happened. Talk about overwhelm!
When we feel like this, the world gets really tight. It can be hard to function or even make basic decisions. Overwhelm feels suffocating and it’s hard to achieve academically, let alone have a healthy social/emotional life. We need a different tactic.
Both my boys are baseball players and have recently experienced hitting slumps. It’s so hard to see them swing and miss over and over and feel the frustration of not being able to hit. They have well-meaning coaches who help them adjust or make tweaks, but the more coaching happens, the more they tighten up. It’s a cycle that’s hard to break out of.
But one of the really effective tactics I hear from coaches who work with elite baseball players is quite counterintuitive. They say instead of more adjustments, to go with something much more simple.
That’s right. Even elite level hitters find their way back to hitting a ball off the tee to get out of a slump. Can you imagine? When you think of a baseball tee you think about a little four year old learning to hit. But the idea is, we want to get back to what got us here to begin with.
Feeling the ball hit the bat. We swing the bat to hit the ball. It couldn’t be more simple than that. The thing is, a slumping hitter has forgotten what it feels like to do the thing they came to do – hit the ball!
With our teens, and ourselves, we need to find what it is that gets us going. With school. With family. With relationships. All of it. What is the basic joy that comes from the things we do?
When we are overwhelmed, what if we took a moment to ask ourselves: “Why am I even doing this?” or “What do I really love about this thing I’m so stressed out about?”
If we are under constant stress we could ask: “What is one thing simple I could do differently that would help with this stress?” or “What can make things just a little better with my stress?”
This seems overly simplistic, but if we are overwhelmed, adding a lot of other things to figure out the overwhelm likely will just make it worse. But if we go back to the basics, or “back to the tee,” we remember what is really important and that is what we can lean into.
So if you are pressing right now, or if it all just seems like too much, find the places in life where you can “go back to the tee.” There you will find what really matters.
Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.