It Is What It Is Tips for Getting Unstuck and Overcoming Overwhelm: A Two-Part Series
Amanda Kirk, MS
Funny story. Kinda…
The other day, I was talking to a friend who was feeling discouraged after some pretty immediate goals had not been met. I reminded her of multiple unexpected challenges she had faced during that time. Then, I encouraged her to focus on what she had accomplished, to give herself grace, and to do small, manageable tasks as she had the mental and emotional bandwidth to do them.
“You’re right. Thanks.” she sighed. “So what are you doing?”
“Err… I’m, uh, procrastinating on finishing a blog post about not getting stuck by unmet expectations and finding manageable ways to move forward because I, um, got stuck and didn’t meet my own expectations…”
Clearly, it’s a lesson many of us need to learn over and over again. Sometimes in big, important ways – as was the case for my friend, and sometimes in fairly minor ways – like for me (this time). It’s a lesson that can be translated to all kinds of scenarios in all seasons of life in which we need to make an honest evaluation of what is needed, what we can offer, and then what to do with what’s left.
And it’s a lesson that can start with a common, simple phrase:
“It is what it is.”
This is a tricky phrase that requires a deliberate definition of tone. I’ve heard it used flippantly, passive aggressively, despondently…none of which depict how I’m meaning it here.
Instead, this is all about acceptance. Real, intentional, courageous, determined acceptance.
Y’all. We are spending So. Much. Energy. on feeling badly about ourselves for not meeting our own (or someone else’s) expectations. Or bemoaning circumstances that may be largely out of our control – or are within our control, but leave us feeling overwhelmed, and thus, stuck in inaction.
The next time you feel stuck and overwhelmed by a circumstance in your life, what would it be like if you took a deep breath, squared your shoulders, then said to yourself, “It is what it is. This is the circumstance I’m in. I can’t change that it happened, but I can do something right now to handle it.” This is acceptance. Acceptance anchored in resolve.
Maybe you’re at home with cranky kids.
Take a deep breath, put your shoulders back, say to yourself, “It is what it is. My kids are cranky. I feel overwhelmed. But I can handle this.” And then you decide what you’ll do next: turn on some music, take the kids for a walk, make a snack, play a game, or give everybody hugs. And then you decide what to do next. And then next.
Maybe someone you love is sick and you can’t be with them.
Take a deep breath, put your shoulders back, say to yourself, “It is what it is. My loved one is sick and I feel sad and scared that I can’t be with them. But I can handle this.” And then you decide what you’ll do next: write them a card, send them a special meal, do a task for them they can’t do for themselves, pray, cry (sometimes our struggle to accept causes us to keep our emotions pent up, which is hard on us emotionally and physically). And then decide what to do next. And next.
Maybe you need to finish a project but nothing is coming together and you’re doubting your abilities.
Take a deep breath, put your shoulders back, say to yourself, “It is what it is. I’m struggling and doubting myself, but I can handle this.” And then decide what you’ll do next: take a break, pray, remind yourself of why you started, make a list, find the most doable part of the project and complete it first. And then decide what to do next. And next.
Maybe all the news headlines have left you feeling depressed and anxious about the future.
Take a deep breath, put your shoulders back, say to yourself, “It is what it is. There are a lot of bad things happening around me, but I can do something to handle this.” And then decide what you’ll do next: pray, log off social media, do something kind for someone, contribute to a worthy cause (one idea: get connected with Care Portal to meet specific needs for families in your area – contact Patrick Henry Family Services to learn more!). And then decide what to do next. And next.
And so, the phrase “It is what it is” doesn’t solve anything all by itself. But it does get us started. It puts us in a mind frame to accept what is so we can get on to the business of whatever is at hand, rather than staying stuck, unproductively ruminating on the stress we’re currently facing.
Let me be clear here – this is not a tactic to avoid the emotional weight of a particular stress by jumping straight to action. We need to process the things that are happening to and around us. That’s actually why this can be so effective – rather than getting stuck in judging ourselves, denial, or in a sense of hopelessness, we intentionally move into the very next thing we need to do in order to process it well.
Perhaps it’s changing your environment for the next 10 minutes, scheduling an appointment with a therapist, having a good old-fashioned cry, reaching to a loved one for a hug, texting a friend, doing something for another person, going to bed early, turning your attention to something else for a while, or something else. And then deciding what to do next. And next.
Accepting that something IS is not the same thing as accepting that something always will BE. And it’s certainly not agreeing that it is as it SHOULD be. The type of courageous acceptance I’m advocating for – and forever learning to put into practice for myself – has the potential to prompt action that is good for our minds, bodies, families, and communities.
Life isn’t easy right now – that is what it is. But we can handle it – and that’s what we’re gonna do.