Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, having endured the rigours, restrictions and tragic losses brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, our beloved South Africa was recently thrown into an unexpected torrent of violence, looting and destruction of property.

Most of us, already suffering from severe pandemic fatigue, feel shell-shocked and heartbroken by this tragic turn of events.  For many, mental thunder clouds, still looming from the onset of the pandemic of 2020, grew larger, darker, and more ominous.  Our fears of impending doom multiplied and became almost unbearable.  And there appears to be no rainbow in sight.

Finding the light in our minds while navigating these unprecedented events can be daunting and overwhelming.  So how do we clear the thunderclouds from our minds sufficiently enough to allow the sunlight back in?  A well-known fundamental basic need for all human beings is sunlight; without it, as with mother nature’s plant life, we wither and cannot flourish and blossom.  So, clearing the darkness in the mind is paramount to living a successful, productive, and positive life.

A natural reaction when faced with a vast number of overwhelming issues at the same time is to freeze, to become immobile and incapable of action.  Procrastination takes hold, panic sets in, self-flagellation follows, and all these responses prevent us from taking any action at all. 

Eating an Elephant – One bite at a time

A dear friend of mine once said to me that when you are overwhelmed by too many tasks, events, thoughts, and emotions, all of which require your attention, the trick is to pick one – and only one – focus on it to the exclusion of all else. Name it (identify it), assess it and take action to find a solution.  Only then can you consider moving onto the next, single issue.  Successfully addressing one issue at a time will also help to provide you with the emotional energy and confidence needed to tackle the next problem, and so on.

Identifying & assessing issues

When identifying the issues, and trying to ascertain the magnitude of the issue, ask yourself how important your current level of concern or stress will be in five minutes, five hours, five days, or five months’ time.  This will provide much needed perspective in terms of the gravity and urgency of the situation.  Also, try to establish whether the extent of the problem is real or perceived – we have a natural tendency to over-inflate the severity of certain issues, purely because we feel overwhelmed, when in reality they might be less dire.

Identifying positive outcomes

Another valuable tool in dealing with our mental thunder clouds is searching for the potential “silver linings”, in an effort to identify positive outcomes from uncomfortable situations.  We cannot change what has happened, but we can choose how we deal with these events.  A perfect example of this in relation to the recent unrest in South Africa is how many amazing citizens took to the streets and social media to help vulnerable people and those directly impacted by the events. It was so incredibly heart-warming to see people of all races, colours and creeds join together in their droves to assist with the recovery process.

We all have the capability for greatness; however, finding the strength to release that greatness from under the mental thunder clouds takes significant effort and ongoing practice.   But once we have re-wired our mental constructs to enable us to think and act with decisiveness, it becomes second nature.