Written by: Michele Lyman, RYT-500
The word “overwhelmed” seems to be how most people explain how they are feeling these days. There seems to be too much to do and not enough time. Tough projects seem impossible and even knowing where to start is a challenge when there is so much on your plate. It’s all just too much. I completely get it. But what if I told you there are ways you can rethink overwhelm in order to reduce your stress? Today I’m sharing how reframing the issue can create the space you need to stop feeling overwhelmed and start being productive.
The Traditional Ways to Reduce Overwhelm
Whenever I tell someone that I’m feeling overwhelmed, they usually say, “Just do less” or “make sure you prioritize what’s important.” Sure – seems easy enough. But is it really? Because if it were that easy, none of us would feel overwhelmed.
The traditional way to deal with overwhelm looks a bit like one of the following options:
- Do less. Reduce the number of things you need to do, reschedule and make space for yourself.
- Be super productive and crank out as much as possible
- Prioritize and put less on the “must do” list
- Focus on just one thing at a time instead of all the things that have to get done
- Throw your hands in the air and just say “Forget it!” and go watch YouTube
(That last one is my favorite…)
Although these are all valid ways to reduce overwhelm, they don’t really address the real issue. The reason you are feeling overwhelmed is because you believe you are overwhelmed – it’s a mindset.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
We receive information and energy into our body from our five senses – see, smell, touch, taste and feel. With that information we then have a thought which is based on our life experiences. Unfortunately we all have a quality of consciousness that is constantly scanning for danger, working overtime to keep us alive. So, when we receive information, the thoughts we have are usually based on what could go wrong.
Although it’s a survival mechanism, the inner critic (I like to call mine “The Judge”) can really hold us back from living a happier life. Because those thoughts then become your beliefs, which then turn into your words and actions, creating habits and ultimately affecting your character and your destiny.
So when you think about feeling overwhelmed, what is it that is overwhelming to you?
Maybe you are worried that you won’t respond to the emails fast enough, or get the tasks done quick enough, which will lead you to believe you are letting other people down. Or, what if you make the wrong decision or complete it “wrong”, which could have consequences? Both of these types of situations can be seen as a threat to your inner critic. So you look at your to-do list as overwhelming because your inner critic wants to keep you safe and not even start them (or try) so that you don’t fail.
Whenever your mindset believes you are in danger, you are going to feel overwhelmed. So what can we do to change that?
Instead of focusing on the negative of a situation, see if you can switch your perspective and find something positive about what is happening. It might not be easy to do this at first, but reframing the issue can give you the space you need to help ease any tension or stress in the moment.
What if you looked at each task as an opportunity to learn and grow? What if you thought about your list as an adventure? (When things go wrong, my uncle always says, “well, this is an adventure!”) Could you possibly have fun with each task instead of letting it feel overwhelming? How can you make each item more playful?
Although these are just a few examples, I’m sure you get the idea. And, maybe you have other ideas on how to reframe your overwhelm too!
If you are struggling with overwhelm, ask yourself, “What about this feels overwhelming” and sit with that sensation for a bit. Just be with it and notice how you feel. Maybe even write it down. Then ask yourself, “can I reframe this issue in a different way?” If you can’t, that’s OK. Continue to just be with the feelings of overwhelm and notice.
But if you can rethink the issue, embrace how it feels to believe your new thought. Then ask yourself what has shifted or released? And then see how that impacts the way you approach your task going forward.
I realize this is all easier said than done. But I promise if you begin to open your mind to reframing the issue, your brain will remember to see things in a new way which will allow you to feel less overwhelmed. You’ll be ready to take on all the projects and tasks you have in front of you with ease and grace!
About Michele Lyman:
Michele Lyman is a yoga teacher with 20 years’ experience, and has owned Serenity Yoga and Wellness in South Hadley, MA since 2012.
Michele focuses on teaching beginner level students a gentle, safe and effective way to create balance and harmony both on and off the mat. Michele is able to exemplify the importance of taking the confidence and self-awareness you learn on the mat and applying it in your everyday life. She shares her enthusiasm for yoga with a down to earth teaching style that allows each student to fully access their practice. For Michele, the joy of teaching is found in watching her students’ lives become enriched as they access deeper levels of themselves through their yoga and life experiences.
In addition to the classes she teaches at Serenity, she currently offers corporate wellness programs designed to help employers inspire and support their teams through challenging and stressful times using mindfulness techniques. And, she offers individualized coaching and online programming designed to teach people that they can transform their relationship with their anxiety through mindfulness so they can feel better to be better – at home, at work and in their relationships.