Wow. How long is it been since our last blog post? Too long.
The cause for our delay is a common ailment most of us are plagued with daily.
You know the one: waking after a too-short night of restless sleep, beginning our day with a to-do list longer humanly possible to accomplish, then praying that nothing unexpected gets thrown onto our daunting pile.
With that last one, we knock on the wood of our breakfast table as we sip our double espresso, hoping to ward off any bad juju in the off chance someone can hear our thoughts.
Because the unexpected always happens, right? A catalclismic weather event, a heart-pounding family emergency, a five-alarm business fire, a debilitating injury.
Or maybe that’s just our household.
And of course, our gargantuan to-do list is always unattainable. Which means disappointment settles in when we don’t quite get halfway through.
(Stone then gently teases me, calling me an overachiever.)
And maybe therein lies the solution. A dose of humor, making light of reality and gauging what any one person is really capable of doing any given day or with an unexpected set of circumstances.
Why do we get overwhelmed?
Perhaps it’s because we lose focus on the specific task in front of us. Because truly, were we to block out everything else, we would be in a state of mindfulness and most efficient with our thoughts and actions. Getting overwhelmed happens when our mind expands outside of the realm of what is in the here and now into every other thing we have on our plate that day, that week, or maybe even that month with the dominoes that would fall if we don’t get all our tasks done.
Adrenaline starts to kick in, a tornado of helplessness follows, chaotic thoughts of trying to order the most important things to be done, maybe chest tightness from the pressure of tensed muscles, dizziness from the shallow breathing, and quite likely a headache from elevated blood pressure.
What have we learned to do when we get overwhelmed?
Stone: *whispers* Be a little like Spock…
We take a deep calming breath (or a few) and break down the bigger picture from a place of logic. Here are some helpful tips we discovered:
1. Remind ourselves that we are human—most of the overwhelmed feeling that we have is coming from a place of emotion—and give ourselves permission to feel the emotion, whether it’s anger, frustration, helplessness, or disappointment.
2. Make a written list of the tasks we want to accomplish today. Place a star beside the three that are most important. Which one do you want to do next? Depending on your level of energy after the “overwhelmed” breakdown, you may choose the easiest. However some may choose the most difficult, feeling if they can get that hurdle over with, it will be a downhill glide from there. Mark a number “1” beside that next task, then rank the others as numbers “2” and “3”.
3. Rely on the list, get out of our heads, and into accomplishing each task, one at a time.
4. If our minds wander back to the dozens of things we had on our original to-do list, as our darned brains tend to do, forgive the transgression and redirect your focus back to the one thing you’re currently working on.
5. Sometimes the overwhelmed feeling is really a worry about one or more of the things on our list, or the consequences of what happens if we fail. Worry is a tricky thing, one we struggle with every day, but in the context of pulling ourselves out of the “overwhelmed”, the best thing to do is decide whether or not there is any actionable thing we can do in that immediate moment about that worry. If so, we should do whatever we can right then and there, then return back to the task that the worry had interrupted. If there is nothing that can be done, then we need to recognize that the worry is defeating our ability to accomplish our tasks. And move on.
6. Stop making such long to-do lists! No seriously, we should be kind to ourselves about what we can accomplish in a given timeframe. And forgive ourselves for not being machines.
7. Take a ten-minute break. Lay down if you can, claim a section of carpet in your office behind your desk, lie on top of your bed, or find a park bench or wide planter edge that will let you lie prone, close your eyes, and focus on your breaths while clearing your mind. That ten-minute break will go a long way as an investment into accomplishing those tasks on the list.
8. Find ways to ease the burden of the tasks on your list. Software programs, shared carpools for kids activities, outsourcing skills to others better suited to the task while we focus on those activities we’re strongest in.
Did you see what I did there? The above is a solution-based list, stemming from logic.
Not only that, one of the things that overwhelmed me personally has been an ongoing hand injury that has been slow to heal. After repeated urging from Stone, I finally heeded his advice and enacted number “8” on the list and set up the hardware and software to utilize Dragon Naturally, a voice-recognition software program. *smiles* And this blog post is the first published fully dictated item created on Dragon.
As a final note, there’s one last, very big, cause of our stress that leads to our feeling overwhelmed: news of the world at large.
How do we deal with the outer world and learn to be at peace with our place in it?
Simple. Turn off the news and focus on our list.
Do you have any suggestions to add? Any tips or hints on how you deal with pulling yourself out of helplessness? We’d all love to hear from you as we search together for a Zenful Life.
Just a couple of Zenful Lifers,
~ Kat & Stone
© 2017 by Kat Bastion and Stone Bastion