What I Do When I Feel Overwhelmed

Surprise! No, actually it's no surprise

Hello friend!

I took a little break from my newsletter, and even though it only lasted two weeks, I must say, I feel a little rusty.

I think that’s to be expected, as I haven’t been at this for even six months.

This is the 21st issue of Inward Ventures (!), my weekly share of what I’m working on and fiddling around with. I share thoughts and ideas I come across in my continuing quest for self-improvement, productivity, and education for myself and my coaching clients. I strive to excel in my writing, creativity, and, well… LIFE. Thanks for being here. Ok, let’s get down to brass tacks.

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As I sat down in the middle of the week and fired up my laptop, fully intending to write this issue, I instead :

  • Screwed around with my Google calendar

  • Organized my new work desk

  • Added some items to my running grocery list (I Google Keep checklists!)

  • Searched for new YouTube music* to play in the background,

  • Refilled my essential oil diffuser

  • Did some standing yoga stretches for my back

*save this link to play in the background next time you have focused work to do ~ please share your results with me!*

EVERYTHING but writing.

After about 20 minutes of these active but unproductive movements, a faint voice in my head whispered, “pssst, you’re doing it again.”

What is IT?

In the past, this voice would have yelled and berated me for procrastinating for doing “busy” work instead of “productive” work. With all of my studying and deep dives into self-compassion meditation and mindset, this voice has become soft and subdued ~ a gentle nudge instead of a swift verbal kick upside the head. #selfawareness

The IT I was doing again? Busy work. Shadow movement. I just made that up; I don’t know if that’s a thing, “Shadow Movement,” but I am claiming it, similar to my “This is a moment of Suck.”

I was procrastinating; yes, that’s the symptom, observed by fidgeting and fussing about my environment.

The reason I was procrastinating? I felt overwhelmed.

I initially typed, “I WAS overwhelmed” and then thought better of it. ~I/me/Aileen~ am not overwhelmed, I FEEL that way. Big difference! That little tweak is important. #imho

I was unsure of what to write about, overly tired from several consecutive nights of poor sleep and plain ole out-of-sorts, as Mom would say. Let’s put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea.

I sat there for a bit, trying to THINK my way out of the fog, known as a Top-Down approach, from the brain --> body.

What can I write about? became What can I do? Instead of ruminating, attempting to BRAIN my way out of overwhelm, I was doing BODY things to change my physical state and surroundings in hopes of changing my mental state.

Once I recognized that I was doing these auto-pilot “busy-work” activities, light bulbs flashed.

I’m NOT overwhelmed.

I am tired. I don’t feel clear about what I want to write. My back feels stiff. No wonder I’m futzing around like this.

Immediately I knew. There’s one thing that remedies all of this: going for a walk.

These boots are made for walkin’.

How nice that instead of kickin’ myself in the ass for procrastinating yet AGAIN on this issue, I recognized my feeble attempts at changing my state:

  • making my workspace less cluttered, this always helps me. A workspace is not a place for storing things; it is a place for getting sh!t done.

  • diffuser going, I like writing with lavender or citrus scents.

  • stretching to relieve my lower back tightness.

They were little water pistols, and I knew I needed a giant cannon = go for a walk!

No headphones or dogs, no hitting “start” on my Garmin.

This Bottom-Up approach is powerful for me. I can change how I feel physically and that in turn changes how I’m feeling emotionally.

Yes, walking can energizes you. I’m not talking about power-walking 4 miles. If you’re tired, try it! You don’t have to walk fast or far, just move. It works, I swear. Especially if you have severe chronic back pain like I do, walking helps.

I came back from a ten-minute walk feeling energized, focused; lumbar area calmed down, and more ideas to share that I do when feeling overwhelmed:

  • I write down the next five steps I have to take, then do the first one and stop there.

  • Talk it out, even if it’s out loud to myself! Sometimes just HEARING data has a different effect than SEEING it and can break a blockage.

  • Delegate, does this task need to be done by ME?

  • Confess, coming clean to someone is good for the soul, even if they’re not on the project.

  • Laugh, at the absurdity of my first-world problems 😂

  • Make a tech commitment, I message an accountability partner with a promise to keep by the day’s end. I hate disappointing people!

I want to emphasize that it's ok to feel overwhelmed.

This is part of being human. We get sidetracked, feel buried. Totally normal but I always feel taken aback when I experience it, LOL. It's simply another aspect of life and a chance for me to regroup and grow.

I want to emphasize that it’s NOT ok to beat ourselves up. Negative reinforcement, much as we might like to think it works FOR us, doesn’t work. #sorry

What does work instead

😂 But seriously…

In the past, I would’ve thrown in the towel and tried another day again. This time, I saw that I was on the struggle bus, and rather than give up/give in with a whimper, I put my whole ASS into it and went for a walk. I clocked out.

I changed my environment and my physical state. I diminished my back pain, came up with some ideas, and felt lightness in my step. My body and brain were ready to engage; I no longer felt overwhelmed. I clocked back in.

Now I hand it over to you, dear reader. What’s giving you the Overwhelms?

  • New project at work/home

  • Long ass road trip to plan *if this is your problem, tell me, and I’ll help you. I love road trips*

  • Work deadlines

  • Home renovations

  • Buying/Selling a home

  • Deciding on school

  • Starting a diet

  • Filing your taxes

  • Heavy client/caseload

  • Creating a course, presentation

Whatever it is, you’re finding yourself doing everything BUT the actual work. Please take a look at what you’re doing instead, and let that give you clues as to what you need to do.

And maybe, just maybe, think about clocking out for ten minutes. No phone, no distractions.

Ok, ten minutes is impossible as you’re home with two toddlers, Gaby. I gotchu. Make it five minutes, do some dancing, film it while you’re at it, and then bam! You’re refocused AND created content!

I realize not everyone can drop everything and power out the door. Hell, pretty soon, Houston’s weather will start resembling the surface of the sun, and I will NOT be taking any mid-day walks. I love the heat, but Houston is next level with humidity. #killmenow

But I will take a tip from my buddy Mark and snag moments between Zoom clients to bust out some air squats and jumping jacks.

I’ve generally tried to think my way out of overwhelm and this little lightbulb moment of moving through it was powerful for me. Try it and let me know what you found out!

Whatcha got for me? Please hit reply or comment below; I’ll gladly respond in more detail. As always, I promise I will do whatever I can to be there for you and to support you. HIT.ME.UP. I mean it! 🙌

Need an accountability partner? Writing (or working out or WHATEVER?) lemme know 😍 I trade daily word counts; it’s quick, fun, and motivating, I promise!

Thanks for sharing and forwarding my posts. I LOVE getting your emails with questions and little wins ~ you guys are the best! Keep the mail comin’! 💪🏼