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Mindfulness for overwhelm.

I hit a point of totally overwhelmed today, and as a result felt panicky and non-functional. My brain was racing a 100 miles an hour between the different things that I have coming up this week.

My first instinct, and instant reaction, was to indulge my cravings for comfort in this anxiety zone. I did indulge. I went to Starbucks, I told myself I’d get work done there. But I didn’t get much done. I was easily distracted and only got through part of one task.

Indulgence doesn’t fix or make the overwhelming feelings better.

This evening I went back to the techniques that I know actually give me results, writing and mindfulness.

  1. Journaling: not just any stream of consciousness, but directed journaling. I wrote out every single thing that is coming up this week that is stressing me out. Basically “I am stressed about a, b, c, d, e, and .... etc.” I let myself rant for a little bit. But I ended on a very specific note, a Kaizen question: “what is one tiny super easy step I can take towards getting the most immediate stressful task out of the way?”, and I had to answer that before I could quit.

  2. Mindfulness: I focused myself on some cleaning tasks that are easy, but that requires full attention from brain and body. This helped my brain let go of the crazy whirlwind carousel of worry thoughts for a few minutes and relax a bit. Then, I did a grounding/ centring meditation. Focusing in on my body and becoming present in the moment allowed me to refocus my energy into a more positive perspective towards my to-do list.

The basic steps that work for me when I am overwhelmed are as follows:

  1. Write out everything that is overwhelming me.

  2. Find one tiny easy baby step that I can do right now towards one task that is stressing me out.

  3. Do a mindful, fully consuming task for a few minutes. For me, this is often cleaning, but it could be colouring, going for a run, doing a few pushups, training your dog for 5 minutes, washing dishes, etc.

  4. Do a grounding or re-centring meditation to bring myself back to the present, gather my energy, and refocus on something positive. (You can access a wealth of meditation resources on the app Insight Timer.)

Usually after doing these things I can more calmly and rationally approach my to-do list and upcoming stressors.

If you try this next time you’re overwhelmed, let me know how it goes for you.