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What to Do When You're Overwhelmed

parenting podcast Aug 27, 2019


Today I want to talk about what to do when you are overwhelmed. Here is something most people don’t know but (when you get this) it is the secret to life. It has the power to transform almost every aspect of your life.

And here it is: All of what you are feeling comes from your thinking.  Every single feeling you have stems from your thoughts.

When we’re talking about the feeling of overwhelm, we’re really talking about the thoughts that make you feel overwhelmed.  When you are going through your day and your mind is focused on all of the things you have to do: The unanswered emails, the project due at work, the facebook post you saw of your best friend’s vacation that makes her life look so perfect, the pile of laundry that is screaming to be folded or the kids' homework. You have all of these things scrambled in your mind, racing from thing to thing to thing.  

Overwhelm is when your unmanaged thoughts in your mind cause you to focus on a million little things all at once.  This is the compulsive, conditioned and habitual thoughts that play on autopilot . These thoughts make up what I call your Inner Critic.  When your mind is unmanaged, it goes from thought to thought to thought...and you might not even be aware of where it is going. Those thoughts become as transparent as the air you breathe.  

When you are in the autopilot thoughts generated by your Inner Critic, your brain releases chemicals that coincide with the thoughts you are having that create your feelings. Thoughts that create overwhelm create feelings of anxiety because your Inner Critic sees everything as an emergency that needs to be addressed immediately.

When you have these thoughts, your brain releases chemicals that put your body in emergency mode.  You may have shallow breathing, increased heart rate, or sweaty palms. These chemicals reinforce the way you feel and your feelings reinforce the way you think. So you get into a vicious cycle of your thoughts creating your feelings and your feelings creating more thoughts. Then your body responds to the thoughts and feelings. 

And if you are lost in this habit of thinking over and over again, it becomes so routine that you think it’s normal. So life occurs as overwhelming and overwhelm becomes a habit!  

So how can you change your overwhelm for good?  You have to be willing to find out where it’s coming from. You have to be willing to break the habit of thought that creates the feeling of overwhelm.  Since your emotions never originate outside and all of your emotions come from your thoughts, if you keep going through life without examining your thoughts you will keep engaging in the same habit of thoughts that have kept you in the perpetual state of overwhelm. 

This is a really important concept to understand. When you think that your emotions are caused by your life circumstances, then you try to manage and control the world so that you avoid feeling anxious or uncomfortable. This actually stems from our DNA but it’s no longer useful in our world today. 

Emotions only originate by what we are thinking about the circumstances of our lives.  If you have been running away from feeling uncomfortable emotions for most of your life, you may be someone who has created your life to be so busy and so congested so as to buffer yourself from your emotions. But the only way to really change uncomfortable emotions like overwhelm is a willingness to examine the source of the feeling, which is always the automatic and habitual thoughts you are having. 

Changing the source of your feelings begins with the willingness to look inside.  To get quiet and still and actually see the thoughts. You have to reprogram your mind.  To learn to unwire your old thinking patterns and rewire your mind with new patterns of thought.  Over time, this is how we change who we are and how we are living our life.  

We all get frustrated sometimes. Our expectations aren’t met. Our intentions get thwarted. What we want to happen isn’t happening fast enough. We keep doing what we think will produce the best result we want but it still seems to go nowhere. What can you do about it?

We can stomp our feet in frustration, we can pull our hair out, we can throw an adult temper tantrum.  All that will get us is painful feet, thinning hair and a reputation for being immature.

Frustration that dominates our lives becomes a problem. Life is filled with circumstances and events that can be frustrating. But if we get triggered into an over-reaction when things don’t go our way, it is usually the Inner Critic that has taken over.

She is the one who makes your blood pressure rise and the one who feels angry and resentful towards whatever or whomever is blocking you.

As always, the first step in easing the frustrations we feel is observation. Noticing when we are feeling frustrated is the first signal that our Inner Critic is taking over. What is she saying now that you haven’t done?

  • Is she telling you that you are failing at what you set out to do?
  • Is she criticizing you for not reaching your goal, for not being nice, or for being less than perfect?
  • What expectations does she have that you are not meeting?

It's so easy to listen to your Inner Critic. She's the loudest voice in your mind telling you what you need to improve, where you don't measure up, and what you need to fix. Your Inner Critic tries to have control over your world. She seduces you into thinking that you can fix your life. 

She's so good at her job that we don't realize that our Inner Critic is actually controlling our lives. It's easy to get sucked into her attempt to control the feelings you're having by fixing or changing your circumstances so you can be okay. 

A quick fix for any emotion is to do a brain dump. Get out all of your concerns and thoughts on a piece of paper. (ALL of it! Get it all out--kind of like when you dump out your purse with all the pieces of old lint, lipstick, bandaids, paperclips you didn’t even know were at the bottom. ) 

Now look at your list, and see what it is that you REALLY have to do today.  Let go of the things that are occupying your mind now that don’t have to. Are there things on the brain dump that you might not even have to deal with in the next month?  

You can take your brain dump piece of paper and organize your brain dump into what you have to do today, what you have to do tomorrow and maybe the next day. The things that don’t have to get done go on a separate piece of paper called "Things I am NOT doing now".  If you practice this brain dump on a daily basis, and it takes all of 10 minutes to do, it has the power to transform your overwhelm and make life feel way more manageable for you.  

Is Your Inner Critic Keeping You From Success?

Find out what your Inner Critic is saying to sabotage your success and how you can move past her limiting beliefs. 


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