17/10/2013 10:44 BST | Updated 16/12/2013 05:12 GMT

How to Cope When the Wheels Come Off

What do you do when Life throws too much at you all at once? Do the wheels come off and land you in the ditch? Do you smash head first into a tree? Or even worse, into oncoming traffic, taking out a few other people in the process?

I've been down those roads myself. They're all pretty miserable, to say the least. The trick is to find a detour so you can get off them as soon as possible.

The first and most important one is to stop. Whatever you're doing, however you're feeling, whatever your reaction, just stop.

Stop reacting. Stop fretting. Stop freaking out. And definitely stop taking it out on innocent bystanders. Take a big, deep breath in, count to five, and let it out sloooowly.

Once you've done a few of these and you're not tearing heads off or acting like a crazy person, start changing your thoughts - one at a time. Chances are you were thinking about all the worst case scenarios, all the what-ifs, or if-onlys. Such thoughts produce anxiety, fear and depression. They can leave you feeling hopeless. The result? You're overwhelmed and feeling like it's all too much. It's pretty tough to find answers or solutions in such a state as that.

What you're feeling is always going to be directly related to what you're thinking. If you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings.

You might want to argue at this point and tell me that you have legitimate worries and reasons to be stressing. I would argue back that you have legitimate issues that need to be handled, but you've always got the choice to feel stressed - or not. Stress is only a perception. It does not have to be part of your reality, unless you choose it. A simple shift in your perspective can take you from feeling stressed and overwhelmed to feeling calm and in control. If you believe you're stressed, you're stressed. If you believe you can cope, you will cope.

A simple but powerful tool that can help you in virtually any difficult situation is to practice mindfulness. To be mindful is to focus on this moment right here, right now, and no other. Staying in the present keeps you from worrying about the past or the future. The past exists only in your mind. The future never comes because we're always in the present.

Close your eyes. Focus only on your breath and on what you notice in your body and in your environment. As soon as any other thoughts enter your head, just acknowledge them and let them go. Refocus your attention on what you can feel, hear or smell. You cannot turn off thoughts, so don't beat yourself up for having them or you'll just create more. Simply keep letting them go and refocusing.

This isn't difficult; it just takes some practice. Once you get the hang of it, you can use this fantastic little tool any time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. The more you do it, the easier and more beneficial it becomes.

Don't forget to make time to nurture yourself. Long walks, hot baths, favourite books, naps, lunch with a friend. Do whatever feeds your soul. It will help to restore balance and harmony amidst the bumpy bits of life. And it'll keep you from trashing relationships right along with your reputation.

Please check out my books, meditation CDs and more at, and join me on Facebook!