7 Magnificent Steps to Liberate Yourself from Overwhelm

Hey there, you awesome manifestation of star stuff!

Do you ever get caught up in a never-ending list of to do's and feel like you're getting swallowed whole by life itself? I sure do, and I bet you can relate. We all get overwhelmed at times, and I've certainly been feeling this way in the last couple of weeks. Like any other human on this planet, I've got a stress threshold, and sometimes something's gotta give. It's a very familiar topic for me, this feeling of having bitten off more than I can chew. In fact, I've got a super special story for you from my childhood to illustrate my personal nature about getting caught up in a sense of overwhelm...

Personal Story: Sink or Swim or Get Saved by Mom

For the first four and a half years of my life, I lived with my family in a cute little pink house in Lakewood, CA. There was a park down the street, ice cream trucks I remember running to with spare change from my grandma, and a swimming pool in the backyard. It was a beautiful Southern California upbringing for a pint-sized girl with an imaginative and highly impulsive nature.

One day, my older brother and I were out by the pool, but because I was so small and had just started taking swimming lessons, I was only allowed to sit on the first step with the water about waist-level. We only had one lifejacket, which my brother was wearing, and our mother was supervising us while doing some work in the garden. So I was stuck on that boring little step watching my big bro have all the fun. It didn’t help that he was incessantly taunting me, telling me I couldn’t swim while he jumped into the pool, swam back to the wall, climbed out, and repeated that over and over just to be annoying. After a few minutes, I got as pissed off as a four-year-old can possibly get, stood up, and said, “I CAN SWIM!” … and I jumped in headfirst.

The only problem was, I couldn’t swim. I opened my eyes underwater, felt my body submerged in the cool chlorinated H20, and thought Uh-oh, what did I do? Luckily, since Mom was nearby and I was in the shallow end, she jumped in and saved me before I sank to the bottom.

I feel like this story illustrates a lot about my personal nature with getting overwhelmed. I’ve always been someone who dives into things headfirst, without really thinking things through. As long as it feels right, and it’s something I know I want to do, I just go ahead and do it, always figuring that things will work out in the end, and they usually do. But inevitably, there are always those moments where I feel totally submerged in the consequences of my big leaps of faith, and think, Well crap, what have I gotten myself into this time? And this is where I’ve been the last two weeks in building my business! All of a sudden, I’m my own boss, teaching yoga, networking with other small business owners, running my website, writing content, sharing essential oils, enrolled in B-School, studying online marketing, exploring new revenue streams, taking care of my dog, staying in touch with family and friends, organizing a yoga retreat, and I have to keep myself clean, fed, and find time for sleep?! Sometimes, all of these responsibilities just make me feel like pulling the covers over my head and hiding from the world instead of dealing with the realities of life. 

I’m sure that in this day in age, you can also relate to this feeling of overwhelm. What with work, family, personal development, relationships, hobbies, interests, kids, pets, making meals, doing laundry, handling finances, using technology, and every other thing in this modern life that demands our attention, we’re all susceptible to those moments of feeling like we’re in over our heads.

Do yourself a favor, watch this funny 5 second film, and be honest with yourself about the last time you had a day like this.

Pretty recent? Totally normal.

So what can we do when this feeling of utter chaos starts to set in? We can make choices that will help us to shift our perspective. Here are my 7 magnificent steps for liberating yourself from overwhelm in the modern world:

1.     Pause… Just. Stop. Take a few deep breaths, and gather yourself back in the present moment and take a non-judgmental self-assessment.

      Where are you right now? Literally telling yourself where you are (even if it’s, I’m in line at Starbucks about to blow my friggin’ top off because the douchemonkey in front of me can’t figure out the difference between a latte and a frappucino) is an excellent first step in getting grounded.

      How do you feel in your physical body? Notice where you’re holding your tension. Maybe it’s in your stomach, shoulders, or your head. Observe where it is now so you can work on releasing it later.

      What emotions are you experiencing? Bring awareness to what you’re feeling in that moment of overwhelm. Anxiety, fear, nervousness, excitement, anger and depression are common feelings during these times.

      How are you speaking to yourself? The quality of your internal dialogue can give you a lot of insight into how you’re feeling about the rest of the world. Notice if your self-talk is defeated, critical, or judgmental, and take note of how much pressure you’re actually putting on yourself.

      What’s the vibe you’re giving off? Get a sense of the energy you’re putting out into the world. If you’re in an overwhelmed state of being and that’s the oomph you’re putting out there, it’s what you’re going to keep getting back in return, times ten. 

Use this moment with the pause button pressed to take your own holistic temperature. The key at this step is to just notice.

2.     Just say no. So many of us big-hearted do-gooders are invited into the worlds of other big-hearted do-gooders to take part in all of those great things that big-hearted do-gooders love to do. Whether it’s a project, social gathering, favor, or task, it’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of others’ endeavors. Learn how to minimize external distractions so that you can focus your precious time and energy on the things that matter most to you. My favorite mantra for practicing the art of a gracious refusal is #ThankYouNoThankYou. Saying no is one of the greatest skills you can utilize to minimize unnecessary stress in today’s modern madness. And, don’t feel guilty about using this magic n-word. NO!

3.     Prioritize Urgent vs. Important. President Eisenhower has been credited with this simple productivity principle that helps a doer determine what work needs to be done to help the doer achieve his/her individual goals (Important), as opposed to activities that require immediate attention, but usually are in service of someone else’s goals (Urgent). But beware, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. The rule of thumb I use in employing this principle is, if it makes any of my devices beep, ping or vibrate, it falls into the Urgent category and I use my all of my willpower not to check it, and take care of it later. If it’s something that requires me to sit and concentrate in a quiet space, it’s Important, and I do that first.

4.     Create space. This is one I generally resist because I’m a natural clutter-bug. But every time I do this practice of creating space, I feel so much lighter! You can clear off your desk, piles of old newspapers sitting in corners, or even just wash the dishes that have piled up in your kitchen sink throughout the day. Figuratively clearing physical space helps you to free up valuable neurological real estate in that mind-brain noggin’ of yours. Full disclosure: in writing this blog post, I was inspired to clear out my inbox, which had accumulated a ridiculous 4,600+ unread emails, and found this incredible shortcut for deleting unread messages in Gmail in 10 seconds. I did it and Holy liberation, mama! This simple act literally made me feel LIGHT AND FREE.

5.     Use rituals. Starting and ending your days with a ritual can do wonders for helping you maintain a sense of sanity. Maybe you sit in meditation, recite prayer/mantra/affirmations, do some yoga, listen to music, journal, or light a candle. Morning rituals help set the tone for how you want to respond to the world throughout the day, and evening rituals help to release any negative energy and wind down from the stressors of waking life. It’s a beautiful way to bookend your daily experience with heightened awareness and intention.

6.     Ask for help. Thank heavens my mom was there that day to save me from drowning in our swimming pool when I was a toddler, and maybe it was my big bro that yelled to her to help me out. But whenever you feel like you’re the one drowning in a sea of endless things to do, reach out to someone – family, friends, guardian angels, and/or Spirit to lend you a helping hand. One of my favorite spiritual tools to ask for divine assistance during difficult periods is the well-known Serenity Prayer. It’s also particularly helpful in creating the necessary shift to release control, which ultimately is what asking for help is all about.

7.     Take a chill pill. Have a cup of tea. Put your legs up the wall. Get a massage. Take a bath. Breathe in some stress relieving essential oils. Give yourself permission to just chill out, relax, and trust that everything’s gonna be alright. Because as long as you’re following your heart, trust me, it will be.

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite ways for freeing yourself from overwhelm? Please share in the comments below to let the rest of the Love Club in on your tools for coping with stressful times.

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Till next time, may you be happy and free from all things overwhelming.

love & liberation xo