Little by Little

I wonder if there is anyone who can relate to feeling almost too overwhelmed to start? Some things in life feel so big that they seem nearly impossible. Maybe the list feels too long or too hard. We are paralyzed when we can’t even begin.

When problems seem too big to conquer

I frequently have a ritual of tidying the various areas of our home. Setting shoes on the stairs for my four kids to take up to their rooms, folding the throws on the couch and perking up the pillows, going through cycles of washing dishes and running the dishwasher then putting away clean dishes, or running a load of laundry. In some ways it is a continual process of never ending chores. Then a fresh perspective came to me. Maybe it is a way of finding a daily rhythm. Bringing order. Welcoming some calm.

As I look at the piles of papers to be sorted, they seem to multiply. You can get rid of a dozen pieces of junk mail, but there are always the “I should review this at some point or file this somewhere” piles that grow day after day. Email inboxes can be filled in an instant with potentially good or important things that don’t feel helpful when they come in like a flood. How can we feel like we ever make progress when there is always more? Sometimes life can make you feel like you’re drowning, just trying to keep up.

And what if the things we wrestle with, the things that threaten to pull us out of the game, are things way bigger than these? It could be your broken marriage, your toddlers or teenagers, your stack of bills or the chains of your addiction.

Choose one thing and keep moving forward

When life feels overwhelming to me, I try to stop for a moment and breathe. Create space to pause, regroup, refocus. Daily rhythms bring stability. Even if I just choose one thing to take the first step. That one thing helps us move forward.

It might be making an appointment to see a therapist to get some help. It might be meeting a friend for coffee and asking for support. Maybe it’s putting on your shoes to take a walk or opening a book to read a few paragraphs. Or, maybe it’s picking up one bill, one paper to be sorted or one thing that needs tidied that is out of place.

What is that one thing for you? Because one thing, one step, leads to the next thing. Slowly, it moves us into forward motion and progress. Do the next right thing.

Tackling life’s bigger challenges

Imagine this. Choosing one step and moving forward also applies to “way bigger” life challenges as well. For your marriage, it might be working on making dinner together or talking while you wash dishes. For your kids, it might be having a window of time with them as you drive them to school or tuck them in at night. For your bills that are endless, you set aside a moment to check in with your finances, and pay one bill and then the next. Start somewhere, but at least start. All of these steps lead to another…and another. Then you’ll see things slowly start to change.

How to re-group and change your focus

We can get stuck when we think this problem is too big, and it becomes easier to just avoid, dodge, distract or deny. All of those lead to unhealthy habits or addiction. Ironically, those unhealthy coping mechanisms actually make the problems bigger and our relationships weaker. I would rather regroup and change my focus. I have some mottos that have helped me. They ground me, which means they help me plant two feet on the floor and feel more solid on the inside. One is “Little by Little. I can’t do everything, but I can do something.” The other is “Everything I do helps.” I look at how far I’ve come, rather than how much more I have to do. I invite you to try them on for size or develop one of your own.

That big thing you have to do? Break it down. Little by little. Press on.

Julie Richards MS LPC



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