Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed? | Condé Nast Traveller India

This week has been a busy, hectic, nightmare for me. Thankfully, I’ll have a few moments to collect myself this afternoon since our evening appointment at work canceled. At a certain point, it feels like my brain just completely checks out. There is no helping myself when I get to this point. Despite everything in your body telling you to keep going, that there is so much to do, the best thing to do is actually take a moment to rest.

It’s difficult to negotiate with a tired brain. It reminds me of a toddler throwing a tantrum, impossible to reason with. The overwhelming sense of urgency and dread that consumed me in these moments is nearly impossible to ignore. All of my bodily systems are screaming out for my attention. Telling me that the world is falling apart around me and that I need to fix it somehow. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of experience with these types of brain states.

Given that our minds are the window through which we see and interpret the world around us, it’s not an easy task to override the messages our brains send us, even when logically we know they are false or exaggerated. I’ve only recently started to learn how to overcome my evening anxiety, for example.

For some reason, every evening, I have a huge spike in my anxiety levels. I start to ruminate and worry about what happened that day or what may happen the next. Problems that seemed minor in the morning, take on an eerie urgency in the evening hours. Even though this pattern has been apparent for a while now, it doesn’t make it any easier to dismiss. For some reason, when we find ourselves in these anxious states of overwhelm, it feels like life has always felt this way and it will always feel this way. Yet at the same time, there is a sense of unrest, like in some way we are supposed to address and “fix” whatever is causing this unpleasant state.

At times like these, the only thing I’ve found helpful is just reminding myself that even though I am feeling rushed and ruffled, the things I’m experiencing inside of my head are not an accurate representation of reality. We forget that our mental states aren’t solely effected by the world around us. Our moods and ability to cope with stressors are also effected by what we’ve eaten, how we slept, the time of day, hormone fluctuations, etc. Just because a situation seems overwhelming today, doesn’t mean that the same scenario won’t strike you in a completely different way tomorrow. I’m not telling you to completely disregard your feelings, but sometimes it’s enough to just notice and acknowledge them, without reacting. Perhaps try saying to yourself, “I am feeling overwhelmed right now, and that’s okay. This feeling will pass. I’m doing my best.”

Sometimes I also find it helps to make a list. There are days when it feels like I have so much to do and more tasks just keep accumulating. The fear that I may forget something important really adds to the stress. There is an immediate sense of relief once I’ve written down everything that is on my mind. Often it even seems silly how short the list looks compared to how long I imagined it would be. Getting this to-do list onto paper and out of your crowded mind makes a huge difference. It allows me to find some much needed space inside my own head.

It seems counterintuitive, but taking a moment to set aside the thoughts that are overwhelming us, is actually the kindest thing we can do for ourselves in these situations. Part of the reason the stressors seem so urgent is the false sense that things will only continue to get worse if we don’t address the issue immediately. Most of the time, this is simply an illusion. While slowing down seems like the worst possible option when you feel rushed and overwhelmed, it’s actually the most beneficial option. Taking a moment to just be, to just breathe, will allow you to step back and gain some perspective.

Dealing with chronic anxiety, I always notice myself searching for a “cause.” “I’m feeling anxious. There must be something wrong.” This is what I’m unconsciously telling myself. And in a normally functioning brain, that makes perfect sense. Our fight or flight response is there to keep us safe. Ideally it is only activated when we are in immediate danger that we need to either overcome or get away from as fast as possible. When this natural defense system is distorted however, it becomes a never-ending feedback loop. I feel anxious. I find a “cause” or something to blame my anxiety on. My anxiety is justified, reinforcing my brain’s idea that it was correct to feel anxious.

One of my favorite mantras recently is: It’s okay to feel anxious. Instinctually we try to escape from anxious states, but when you have an anxiety disorder, trying to escape only increases your anxiety. You become anxious about being anxious. The next time you notice yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious, try simply allowing yourself to experience these feelings rather than running from them. Say to yourself: I am feeling anxious/overwhelmed right now. *deep breath* It is okay to feel anxious/overwhelmed sometimes. *deep breath* I am okay. *deep breath* I am safe. *deep breath*

Everything is going to be okay. I promise. You’re doing the best you can, even if that might look different from the way “doing your best” has looked in the past, or how you expect it to look. The state you’re in right now is temporary. It will pass all on it’s own. Just breathe.

Missing the Point

I’m still rather new to the practice of setting intentions for myself. I’ve been trying to take a moment each morning to set daily intentions and then return to those intentions throughout my day in order to guide me back onto the path I want to take. Trying to set intentions so far has only really emphasized exactly how scattered I am throughout the day. It’s quite hard to focus on the energy I want to cultivate. Half the time I have completely forgotten what intention I’ve set before I even leave for work.

My experience with intention setting has still been able to serve me, albeit not in the way I thought it would. It has shown me just how often we lose sight of what really matters to us. Even though we’d all like to be kind, we can instead be very short-tempered and aggressive. Even though we’d all like to be generous, we still pass up dozens of opportunities to share our abundance each day. Even though we’d like to be closer with our family, we end up arguing over dinner instead. Even though we’d like to relax, we end up pressuring ourselves to do more.

This just goes to show why setting intentions for ourselves is so important. Rather than setting one for the entire day, at first it may be easier and more realistic to set intentions for smaller tasks. I think often we have been so pressured by society to embody goals such as productivity and progress, that we forget to ask ourselves if those goals are in alignment with what we really want for ourselves. For example, every weekend I get excited at the idea of having time to relax and unwind from a hectic work week. Yet somehow I end up being just as busy on my days off. Instead of giving myself permission to rest, I see this free time in front of me and immediately start to fill it with errands. After all, I don’t want to “waste” this time.

If you take a step back and think about it, wasting time is really a matter of perspective. What makes something a waste? Is it a waste of time to play catch with your dog instead of doing the dishes? Is it a waste to watch a movie with a friend instead of writing that essay due next week? It all depends on what you’d like to prioritize. If you want to prioritize a clean house, do the dishes. But if you’re prioritizing taking good care of your fur babies, playing with your dog is the right choice. If your schoolwork is most important to you, you’d want to take care of that right away. But if you find it more important to set aside time to bond with your friends, go ahead and watch that movie. We get to decide what the best use of our time is, not our parents, not our friends, and especially not society.

Most of the time when we do something we regret, it’s because we lost sight of what really matters to us. We say we want to be closer to our loved ones, but when we talk to them, we end up getting angry at every little thing they say, correcting them whenever we get the chance, or arguing about things that aren’t even that important to us. When emotions like anger or fear bubble up inside of us, that is a great cue to take a deep breath and try to remember our intention. What do I want to get out of this conversation? Am I trying to be right? Am I trying to be the smartest person in the room? Or am I trying to show this person I care about them and have a lighthearted chat?

I love the question: would you rather be right or happy? It’s a great model to use for whatever intention you may set for yourself. If you’re like me and you find yourself spending your only day off giving yourself more work to do, try asking: would I rather be productive today or would I rather give myself a chance to rest and recover? Usually both options are completely valid and valuable in their own unique way. It’s not about what you should be doing. It’s about what you’d like to do.

Try setting an intention for at least one small part of your day today. You might decide to set the intention to be calm and mindful on your drive home from school or work. Seems simple enough right? But notice if you still manage to become enraged when another car cuts you off or is driving too slowly. When this happens, as it likely will, gently guide yourself back to your intention. Was your goal to get home as fast as possible? Or was it to have a calm and enjoyable drive? No need to be hard on yourself for getting off track. Stay curious about your automatic reactions. Isn’t it fascinating how our minds are able to defy our best efforts? Keep practicing and it will feel even more rewarding when you notice your ability to focus become stronger and stronger.

Why do we set an intention at the beginning of a yoga class? - Yogahub

The Importance of Boredom

As a child, I remember being bored A LOT. I would follow my mom around whining, “I’m booorredd” as I’m sure many of us did. Aside from TV, which was mostly full of adult shows or reruns of cartoons I had already seen so many times I could recite the dialogue along with the characters, there wasn’t really much you could do to mindlessly pass the time. I can’t imagine what it’s like for children growing up now. There must never be even a moments rest from constant stimulation, thousands of different types of content and entertainment all desperately trying to win your attention. They probably struggle to focus on important things, let along worry about being bored.

Running around like always the other day, I paused for a moment and wondered, “when was the last time I was truly bored?” I honestly can’t remember. Since I was a teenager, it seemed like I always had something to occupy my time. I suppose at a certain point, the little boredom that could survive the rapid advancements of technology was drown in drugs and alcohol. Now as an adult, I simply don’t feel like I have time to be bored. It feels like there is always something that needs to be done. There is never a lack of tedious chores to be tended to.

In the past, boredom was something that was unavoidable. We had to find creative ways to entertain ourselves when these moments arose. It was also valuable time for our minds to rest and wander. In modern times, we don’t leave any time for “doing nothing.” Yet we know the mind is always doing something, so this time was actually worthwhile. Instead of exerting mountains of effort, focusing on completing tasks or solving problems, boredom is a chance for the mind to play. Letting the mind roam can lead to some incredible ideas! It is also a great chance for us to do some much needed self-reflection.

I used to think my memory was poor from all the marijuana I smoked as a teen/young adult. Now I wonder if it might also have something to do with how rarely I allow myself time to contemplate my day. It seems like a lot of this idle time I had as a child was spent thinking about things that had just happened, what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I hoped for, what I could do better, what I learned, what surprised me, confused me, etc. While this may have seemed like daydreaming at the time, looking back, I think it was more than that. Besides, I think wild daydreams have their own value.

Not only could the daydreams we have cultivate positive energy and emotions, they are also a wonderful way to practice our creativity. The art of imagination is being lost, I fear. It’s hard to allow ourselves to lean on our own mental creations when there are sooo many ideas already swirling around at our fingertips for us to reference. It’s much more work to take the time to come up with our own ideas. The temptation to find “inspiration” online before a creative endeavor is nearly irresistible.

There are so many books about visualization and how we can use it to benefit our lives. It seems to me like we were all practicing visualization when we would allow our minds to wander out of boredom. These moments of relaxed unguided thought were excellent ways to invite spontaneous inspiration and new ideas. It was a time for us to recenter and consider who we are, where we’re going, what we’re doing, and what our goals/dreams might be. Without these quiet moments with ourselves, many of us just continue barreling through life with not much of an intention or direction. Boredom was a chance to reevaluate and course correct.

At one time our challenge was trying to avoid boredom, it seems now it’s become the problem of how to allow ourselves to be bored. Definitely not as easy as it sounds. Although boredom is beneficial, it can also often be quite uncomfortable. Not only that, with so many different types of stimulation surrounding us at every moment, it can take a herculean effort to resist them all. More and more people seems to be setting aside time for themselves to meditate, but maybe it’s time we also try to set aside some moments in our day to be bored.

Twitter Shows Epidemic of School Boredom | The New Republic

Why I Write

I feel like I’ve been struggling to come up with anything to write about for quite a long time now. When I first started writing every day, it was something I looked forward to. Now it’s nearly become something to dread. I can’t think of anything that I want to say. Even looking up writing prompts hasn’t been much help. Today I’ve finally decided to just write about the reason I write in the first place.

I let myself get too caught up in the details. It doesn’t really matter what I decide to write about. It’s the process itself that I enjoy. Sure often a certain topic I’m passionate about in the moment makes it easier to get into that flow state, but it isn’t necessary. More than anything, I just like spending some quiet time alone with my thoughts. Writing gives my brain something specific to focus on. It’s a chance to let the rest of the world fade away for an hour or so.

I love the way it feels rapidly hitting the keys on my laptop. I love the sound they make. I love watching the words magically appear on my screen. It doesn’t matter what those words are or whether anyone will read them. There doesn’t always need to be a lofty purpose for everything that I do. Sometimes it’s nice just to do something anything, with focused attention. This is the real reason that I write. It doesn’t make a difference if I have nothing to say.

Living with anxiety for so long has taught me that most of the time those anxious feelings come from trying to live in the future. Anything that can consume your attention and ground you in the here and now is wonderfully calming. The hard part is getting yourself to sit down and focus when you’re worrying about something. I’ll often find myself desperately trying not to worry about something in the future. What would be more helpful is finding something in the present to give my full attention. I don’t spend time trying to find the most productive or important thing to focus on. I just have to pick something.

This is why intentions can be so helpful. It’s easy to lose your center as your move through your day. Today my intention is to be present and enjoy myself. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t always have to take life so seriously. It’s okay to just be happy about the little silly things like seeing those baby geese by the pond on my way to work or snuggling with my dog for a few minutes on the couch this morning. Everything is just fine. Life is beautiful and I’m grateful to be here.

You Should Be Writing Every Day. Here's Why (and How to Do It)

You Deserve to Rest

I have been feeling exceptionally tired and unmotivated these past few days. I am starting to think all the business I’ve been experiencing has finally burned me out. Thankfully I have a nice long holiday weekend coming up. I am even planning on taking a few extra days off to make it super juicy and relaxing. The only issue is that even though I am desperately needing it, I have a really hard time actually allowing myself to take breaks. It makes me so anxious and even makes me feel guilty at times.

I was watching an anime series last night and one of the characters was insisting that the others value the time they have for resting and to make sure they allow themselves to recover when they get the chance. I’ve been hearing similar sentiments a lot lately, especially online. In a society so focused on being as productive as possible in every moment, it can make resting seem like a waste of valuable time. Or even something you have to earn. But it isn’t a waste to rest. And you don’t need to do anything special to deserve it. We need to allow ourselves those slow, silent, calm moments. Resting is productive. It is essential care that we must give our bodies and minds. If you are on a long journey and break your leg, it is much more productive to rest and let it heal than try to continue and prevent your leg from ever getting better.

Even though logically I acknowledge all of these arguments, it is still hard for me to make time for resting. For example, I haven’t allowed myself to take a nap for years. Even though I have just gotten a new game for my Nintendo Switch that I paid a lot of money for, I can’t seem to allow myself any significant amount of time to sit down and actually play it. Even when I finish my to-do lists ahead of schedule, I end up tacking on more things instead of enjoying my free time.

This weekend I am going to try to actually schedule time for taking it easy. Apart from teaching yoga on Saturday morning, I am going to have five days off. I’m hoping that by planning a break for myself it will be easier for me to honor that time to myself. I want it to be something I can look forward to as I make my way through another hectic week. I’ll even plan some nice self care activities to treat myself with. One of which is going to be doing some LSD with my best friend and my sister. It has been far too long since I’ve tripped. A nice brain-reset is long overdue.

It seems like I am much better at giving advice than applying it to my own life. But I hope that even though I struggle to allow myself the rest I need, I hope that for those of you reading this that you will make time for it. You really do deserve to rest, to relax, to unwind. It isn’t a waste of time. It is an important act of self love that will benefit your physical and mental health tremendously. You are worth so much more than your productivity. You deserve to rest.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Future Worries

Last night as I was falling asleep, I couldn’t stop worrying about something that, depending on the state of the pandemic this summer, may or may not happen in July. Even though that’s nearly half a year away, I was sick with anxiety about it. I couldn’t relax.

However, in the middle of my worrying, I had a realization. Why was a worried? Presumably because I feared being anxious or uncomfortable in this future situation. Yet by pre-emptively worrying about it months ahead of time, not only would that not change the reality of the situation when it finally arrived, but would ensure I was anxious and uncomfortable in this very moment as well. Fixating on the past or the future does nothing but steal the peace we could find in the present.

This train of thought led me to also understand that there will always be a time in the future to worry about. Or a memory to miss from the past for that matter. If we don’t teach ourselves to prioritize and be mindful of the present moment, that anxiety, that sadness, will always remain.

Peace is only to be had in the present. It is always here waiting for us, waiting within us. Why waste it? Difficult times are sure to loom on the horizon. But there is nothing to be done about them until they arrive. I always feel like if I don’t worry about things before they happen, then I won’t be prepared when they do. But even I know that is ludicrous. Anxiety and worry do not make you more prepared. They just extend your suffering. To truly prepare, it would be best to stay grounded in the present. To allow myself time for peace and rest, so that I may face the future when it comes with strength and confidence and a firm connection to that peaceful place within myself. Besides, who knows who I will be, where I will be, when that future does finally arrive? I will not be the person I am today, the person I am right now. I must have faith that whoever I have become by then will be ready.

So I will let the future come in its own time. There will be plenty of time to agonize over it when it arrives if I still feel the need to. In the meantime, I am going to practice learning how to more fully enjoy the present. I am going to give my brain a new system to follow. Whenever I notice myself becoming distraught over something yet to come, I will practice pivoting away from those thoughts. I’ll ask myself: How does it feel to exist in this body right now? Do I feel heavy? Light? Is there tension in my jaw? My shoulders? Can I release it? Can I relax into this body? What is my breath like? Short and fast? Long and deep? How does it feel to breathe all the way down into my belly? How does it feel to pause between inhales and exhales? Can I feel my heart beating steadily in my chest? Can I hear it pumping away? Can I feel gratitude for these things I so often take for granted? Can I remember that the future is not guaranteed? Yet I have this precious moment in the palm of my hands. What a crime it would be to waste it.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Self-Care Week

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I’m not sure why, but I have been feeling more anxiety than usual lately. It could be the deadlines that come along with the holidays or just the lack of sunlight that always seems to make me feel blue. Whatever the cause, it has inspired me to declare this last week of November self-care week. I mean ,why wait around for Christmas when you can create your own festivities?

I plan to make this week all about soothing myself and letting myself recuperate from all the stressors in my life. I plan to practice positive and gentle self-talk this week. (Even though I’m posting this a day late and slept through all of my alarms this morning). I’m going to be extra kind to myself, because I deserve to be treated kindly. Sometimes this can be hard to remember, especially when you are suffering from anxiety and depression. It is important to slow down from time to time and just focus on your own mental, physical, and emotional health.

In order to do this I am going to give myself only the best this week. I am going to eat extra healthy. I’ve planned lots of meals of my favorite fresh veggies, fruits, and other whole foods. I’ve bought myself some special new teas to try. I will definitely be finding comfort in one of my favorites as well, which is vanilla chai tea made with a blend of water and cashew almond milk. This warm, delicious chai latte has all the pleasure of a fancy drink without the guilt of drinking your calories for the day. (Almond Breeze Cashew Milk has only 25 calories per cup!)

In addition to this I’m going to make sure I get plenty of sleep and spend the evenings relaxing with some of my favorite video games: Harvest Moon: Animal Parade and the new Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. (Surprise, surprise. The vegan loves games that involve primarily animals.) I also plan to listen to soothing ambient music, light incense, and snuggle with my sweet fur children. I’m going to make myself yummy peanut butter oats with cinnamon and do yin yoga to stretch and soothe my tired muscles and mind.

I hope that you will all join me in this wonderful journey of replenishment. Set aside some time for yourself this week to experience the love you usually reserve for someone special, because there is no one more special than you! Please let me know in the comments if you decide to come along with me on this week-long self-love extravaganza and what kinds of things you are going to do to treat yourself.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Enjoy. ♥