One simple tool for reducing overwhelm.
Originally published January 2018
If there was one tool I wish I had been given 20 years ago, it would be this one.
Everyone knows the feeling of overwhelm, yet what many of us don't understand is that we actually have far more power over it than we realise.
For many of my working years I lived in a state of overwhelm - my mind constantly racing, flicking my eyes from one task on my to do list to another. It typically went something like this (imagine running your eyes down a long to do list):
"Oh god, I've got to do this, and that, and allllll of that... [glancing at watch]..oh sh*t look at the time! .. yet I've still got to do that and allll of that ...oh my god I'm so stressed.." Then [head explodes - BOOM] I'm so overwhelmed!!"
You see what happens here? We pile all the tasks up in our heads until we can no longer think straight, let alone get anything done with any degree of efficiency.
This is the ultimate problem with overwhelm isn't it; we get so totally muddled that we end up doing next to nothing at all.
Know the feeling? Woods for the trees and all that? Of course you do.
What I failed to understand is this - more often than not, I was creating that overwhelm and just as easily, I could prevent it from happening at all. You've heard it before but I'll say it again:
Everything you think, say or feel becomes your reality. It doesn't matter if you think it, you say it or you feel it; if you hold a thought in your conscious mind for long enough it will manifest.
Now, in the spirit of not overwhelming you, I'm going to explain the next part in steps and in as few words as possible.
One Simple Tool
Firstly, imagine that you are sitting in a big peaceful bubble, a bubble that envelopes your entire body. You are in complete control of what infiltrates this bubble and nothing comes into this bubble without your permission.
Now imagine that all the jobs you have to do today are placed outside of that bubble. To the left the emails you have to respond to, above them a little the phone calls you need to make, further around the exercise you need to do.. then the shopping, and the cleaning and the cooking.. and so on.
(Now, typically overwhelm kicks in when you let all of these cave into your bubble at the same time, but no more!)
So here's the clincher.
One by one you grab one task from the outside of your bubble and bring it inside - but there's a rule - only one task is allowed inside the bubble at any given time.
For instance, let's say you grab your emails. Decide then how much time you are going to dedicate to them. All you do for that allotted time is emails (the rest you leave OUTSIDE of the bubble).
When the emails are done, you put your hypothetical inbox back, outside of the bubble. Then you grab your next task, let's say it's your phone calls. You might decide that for the next hour you're going to make phone calls. And so on and so on.
Obviously what we are doing here is practising mindfulness by doing only one thing at a time. It so ridiculously simple, yet so very effective given WE are now in control of the flow of our day.
So off you go, build your bubble, place your tasks and get mindful.
Having a tough time? You might appreciate reading six tips for managing tough times with mindfulness. Maybe you'd like MORE tips - here's 5 more!
The only other thing left to do is let me know how you get on in the comments below, ok? Good luck - and all the peace in the world to you.