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Free yourself from overwhelm

You don’t have to live in a state of overwhelm. You can actually free yourself from overwhelm in your daily life and claim ease, focus, and kindness for yourself.

Overwhelm happens.

Life can be a hamster wheel sometimes. I get it. It seems like every year we place greater and greater demands on ourselves. The stakes seem impossibly high. Our own standards can seem impossible to meet. Then, of course, there’s the internet. With it’s imposter syndrome, comparison traps, and decision fatigue.

Sometimes, it’s enough to make a person just want to lie down and take a nap.

But here’s a secret: self-care isn’t a temporary escape from overwhelm. It’s a set of tools we can use to free ourselves from overwhelm for good.

Let’s start with the very basics:

It’s possible to free yourself of overwhelm.

Believing that: that you are empowered in your own life is the very first step. You can be your own best advocate and you can create a framework and value system for life that isn’t mired in overwhelm. By asking yourself a few simple questions, I want to invite you to strip your life down to its essentials.

This may look like lowering your standards, but it’s really about creating clarity about what really matters – and developing greater non-attachment around what is less crucial. Of course, we’ll need to develop non-attachment around it all, at some point… But that’s another blog.

For now, start with this. See if these questions can grant you some spaciousness when it feels like the overwhelm is closing in on you.

Here are some questions to ask:

I’ve applied these questions to a huge variety of situations in my life – from professional obligations to making dinner. If you’re someone who is constantly trying to do it all – balancing a huge number of responsibilities, and feeling like you’re coming up short – this is for you.

Doing less isn’t a cop-out. It’s not a sign of weakness. Doing what you can, and doing it well, is a sign of your humanity and of how much you care. Applying your fullest attention to what matters most will actually lead to better outcomes, ultimately, than trying to put it all on your plate at once.

What is necessary?

What is a non-negotiable? What can’t you live without? I get it: there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and people who rely on you. But often, we think of things in black and white terms. I challenge you to be really honest: what in your life is strictly necessary? (Make a list, if you like.)

For your health and well-being, for your family’s safety and survival, what is it that absolutely needs to get done?

Then look at everything else on your plate. Gently acknowledge those things, but make a note that these no longer constitute an emergency. And that, perhaps, you could think about ways to gently release them from your life or reframe them so that they cause you less overwhelm.

Do what’s strictly necessary, and then go have a life.

Use this question of what is necessary to cut yourself a break. When you’ve finished with what’s necessary, take a little time to yourself or at least forgive yourself for what doesn’t happen beyond that.

What is “nice to have” and what’s a “should”?

So, maybe some of those remaining things on your schedule won’t cause the world to come tumbling down if they don’t happen.

Divide the rest of your items on your list into “nice to have” and “should.”

Now, I don’t think that all shoulds are bad. Sometimes, we have the capacity to dramatically brighten someone else’s day with a small act. It costs us little, but makes a big impact. But if your list is all shoulds, it’s time to reexamine your priorities. If you’re only doing things for others, out of obligation, it may be time (pardon me) to cut the crap.

Likewise, look at your “nice to haves.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that these are nice if they happen – and not the end of the world if they don’t. By creating a rubric of necessary, “nice to have,” and “should” you can prioritize what’s on your plate – and break it down into more manageable parts.

You can take one thing at a time, in order of importance, instead of trying to do everything with equal intensity.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re feeling overwhelmed, how can you strip it all down to its manageable parts?” username=”ChristyTending”]

What’s are the next, smallest baby steps you could take?

It’s not always about making a complicated project plan or an elaborate to do list in order to make life happen. If you want to make change, you don’t have to dream big. In fact, I’d suggest the opposite: dream really, really small. What are the actual smallest steps you could take to have more of what you want and less of what you don’t?

Some examples:

If you want to move your body more, stand up. Right now. Stretch for 60 seconds. Do some spinal twists, reach up toward the sky, reach down toward the earth. That’s it!

If you want more time for reading, read one single poem each night before bed. Again, it’s a bite-sized amount of literature.

If you want to save more money, set up an auto-transfer at your bank of $5 a week. If that’s too much, keep a change purse and collect the change you receive when you pay in cash.

Pulling ourselves out of overwhelm isn’t about massive sea change or upending our lives. It starts with small steps. Those steps help us believe that change is possible and will create momentum toward greater and greater things. This builds trust, self-respect, and integrity from the inside out. It also gives you some breathing room from the break-neck pace.

You don’t have to take giant leaps. Just take baby steps.

Where on your schedule can you leave room for dessert?

If you’re feeling totally overwhelmed, it may not be entirely your fault. It may be the season of your life that’s causing this feeling. But when you begin to take back control, you may be tempted to add more to your plate – because, see? You’re not overwhelmed anymore!

This is when my dessert metaphor comes in.

Maybe before, you were simply stuffed when you left the (metaphorical) dinner table since you were trying to clean your plate (all of your daily tasks and obligations). Now, you’ve got some room left, so you think, “I’ll take seconds.” Stop. Pause for a moment.

You don’t need to add more tasks to your plate and make yourself full again. You might actually be able to leave some room for dessert – those activities that really bring you joy. Creative pursuits, time with family, experiences in nature…

So when you feel tempted to take on more of the un-fun stuff, ask yourself if you could leave some room for dessert.

PS: Find my full resource guide here!

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