You need these four simple strategies to kiss overwhelm good-bye
“I'm doing well, just so busy.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard myself say that. And there I was again, in the grocery store.
Ran into a friend, doing the regular catch up in a few sentences, and that came out of my mouth.
Ok, I know it sounds innocent. I mean, I was doing “well” so that’s good, right? But why did I have to add in the busy? Why was that necessary?
It’s a slippery slope from there…
“I have SO much to do.”
“My to-do list is so long.”
“It’s just been so crazy.” (I mean, after a point, if you keep saying this, isn’t crazy just your normal and why do you have to point it out?)
I can start going on and on about all the things I have going on. Until I’ve slid down that proverbial rabbit hole into OVERWHELM.
It’s just a short jaunt from those statements to feeling flustered, feeling my heart beat faster, and being all-around more harried in the day.
Yep, it’s just a short trip to OVERWHELM becoming my state of mind.
Ever feel that way?
Like days on end can mesh into feeling completely overwhelmed with the amount of what needs to get done, what needs to happen, the darn list of things with little open squares next to them that never get checked? (Why I insist on still drawing those squares I’m not sure. It’s a habit I can’t seem to break. Kind of one of those childhood things that is supposed to be a “comfort” move but really feels like torture!)
Anyway, my point is that I don’t think I’m alone. I think overwhelm rules over many of us. And I hear most of my friends responding to me as well with similar statements. And if we have even more than a few minutes in the produce aisle, I’ll hear more of that panicky feeling that lies underneath my friends’ voices.
So, I’m going to tell you how I manage this state of mind. And I’m not kidding you, it goes COMPLETELY away when I do this. (and not because I check those boxes because I rarely, rarely get to those and that my friend, is the truth of all of our human existence. You will actually never get all the boxes checked.)
1. First of all, it’s super helpful to realize that OVERWHELM is a state of MIND.
It’s not a tsunami that rolls in and takes over your life. It’s not some dastardly villain that has come to torture you.
It’s a state of YOUR mind.
YOU create overwhelm. And only YOU can dispose of it.
Alright, I could seriously stop right here. (But I won’t ‘cause I promised you four strategies.)
This one is just the most important one. It’s the mindset shift that has to happen for you to take action.
You have a choice in every moment to squash overwhelm.
Power comes from awareness and if you can’t get on board with me on #1, we’re not getting anywhere, sistah!
Sure, maybe you’ve put too many things on that checkbox list and that’s one source. (That’s usually my problem for sure.) And we could pretend like I’m some kind of organizational, life boundary coach and I’m telling you that you chose those things and you need to simplify. That’s all true, I won’t lie.
But that’s not my point here. My point is that your mind is playing tricks on you and it’s time for you to put that trickster in its place.
YOU HAVE TO DECIDE TODAY TO STOP BEING OVERWHELMED.
So simple but so true.
2. Use your language for good.
Stop saying those slippery statements above. Sure, sometimes they have their appropriate place in conversation. But when we’re using them as often as “I’m doing well, how about you?” something’s wrong.
When my children were younger and I had three under the age of 5, I was amazed at how many strangers would stop while opening a door for us and say “Wow, your hands are full.”
Not sure if they were being judgmental or kind, but since they were helping with the door, I took it for the latter.
And I would always respond, “Better full than empty.” And EVERY time, they would get a glimmer in their eye that conveyed a sort of “touche” response.
Now that was language that my cells heard as gratitude and abundance instead of this speak I use daily now like “I’m good, but so busy.”
Why not say, “I’m good,” period or “I’m good and have so many great things going on.” (Disclaimer, I’m actively working on all this so if you see me in the produce aisle and I revert to my default and you see me wince, it’s because it’s so damn hard for me!)
If your mind is going to talk to you, talk back!
What we say matters.
Our cells are listening.
And when we tell them we are overwhelmed, they feel overwhelm. That’s on us.
Start changing your language, that’s how you start to get one up on that trickster mind of yours.
3. And your best Jedi trick: Stay here, right now.
Yep, it’s that darn mindfulness to the present moment thing again. But it works. And it works like nothing else.
Let’s face it. You feel overwhelmed because you’re mostly churning in your mind about past worry or future anxiety.
But right HERE, right NOW, there isn’t actually any overwhelm. None. Just stop and I’ll prove it to you.
Stop for a sec, take a deep breath, follow it in and out. And then come back to me.
For that moment, that cycle of breath, there was no overwhelm.
Get back HERE as much as possible.
Now, what I hear, especially from my over-acheiver resident docs that I teach, is “But Tanmeet, I need to get those things done. If I’m just breathing or mediating, I can’t get it done.” Don’t you love when students are so sassy, these millennials can drive me batty! (Disclamer, ok, yes, I’m an over-acheiver of the same ilk, I just have some years on them so my sassy factor towards wisdom is notched down :)
I’m not saying not to get stuff done for God’s sake. What I’m saying is that you’re almost guaranteed to be running through your day layering on the worry of the future onto the already full list you have. Trust me, take notice and I promise you, it’s happening.
So, all I’m saying is that when you’re feeling that overwhelm, come back to your breath for a few cycles, feel your body against the chair or on the ground, any way that you can come back to HERE.
And THEN complete one small task at hand. Or if you’re in the middle of your day and not even able to complete tasks but just worried about them, (See, I’m human, I know how this works) do that breath and then realize this overwhelm isn’t serving you right now. It’s NOT going to help your situation. (go back to the mindset shift #1)
Get your mind and body in the same place as fast as you possibly can.
Because the secret is NOTHING gets done in future la-la land. Nope, nothing. And that’s when overwhelm wins.
You’ve got to stay HERE to get anything done HERE. (Ok, that sounds like a tweet-able!)
4. Reclaim your energy so you can get the shit done.
Alright, time for some tough love here.
When we’re in a state of overwhelm (That YOU created, I’ve got to get that in there) we are scattering our energy.
Everything, every single thing, in this universe is made of energy. You, me, every thing.
And our energy is finite. (Ok, people tell me I have super-hero energy but that’s not true, I just harness it well and you can too!)
When we’re in a state of overwhelm: Harried, flustered, worried, panicked, jittery (just writing those words makes my fingers twitch a little!)…
When we’re in that state, we are scattering and wasting our energy.
Reclaim your energy! Reclaim your power to get shit done.
Come back to that breath, shift your mind, reframe your language. Bring that energy back! Visualize harnessing it back with a lasso if you need to or if you’re into that cowboy kind of stuff. But bring it back.
You’ll get more done if you stop right now with the overwhelm. It’s just your mind blabbering.
Take it as a message that you need to do less or that you need to take a breath or that you need to give your cells a better pep talk. But take it as just a message and don’t let it rule you.
Ok, sorry, I get kind of passionate and energetic when I’m talking about this stuff!
I hope those tools resonate with you. I hope you try them out. And most of all, I hope you let me know what works for you.
May we all have less overwhelm…