Reduce overwhelm using mind control (on yourself)
This is the last post in the series “A holistic guide to troubleshooting your overwhelm”.
The control center for your body and emotions, the mind is where it’s at when it comes to reducing overwhelm.
By understanding the mechanisms to how your brain creates and sustains overwhelm, you can take steps to recover from and prevent it.
Overwhelm is a habit
If you feel overwhelmed often, then that means that your brain has a habit of feeling overwhelmed.
Habits are essentially computer programs in your brain that turn on automatically by triggers in your life. Your brain links specific emotions to those triggers so that anytime you experience them, you automatically feel the same feelings.
When you’re unaware of these programs, they pretty much run you.
They repeat over and over anytime a trigger shows up in your life (like a person, place or situation).
They can happen so often that you start to see yourself as a person that just responds to life that way – overwhelmed. You end up confusing your brain’s programs with your personality. This further strengthens the habit, which keeps you in the same pattern of overwhelm.
Why would your brain do this to you?
This is just another manifestation of your brain trying to keep you safe from harm. Overwhelm keeps you from taking action and from doing things that are outside your routine or comfort zone.
So, if overwhelm is a habit for you, rest assured, your brain is working perfectly.
It’s just that now, it’s time for you to take charge of programming your own mind…
Let’s take a look at how this works.
Overwhelm doesn’t come from people, places or situations outside of you, it comes from how your brain processes those things.
For example, it’s not the news that overwhelms you, it’s what you make the news mean…. which might look like thinking thoughts like:
- “There’s so much bad news, I don’t know when it will end”
- “The economy/politics/society is so unstable right now”
- “I’m overwhelmed by everything”
Do you ever tell yourself those things?
How about when it comes to time, what do you tell yourself?
- “I have too much to do”?
- “I’ll never get it done”?
- “I’m so behind”?
- “It’s too much money/time/whatever right now so I won’t do it”?
If any of those thoughts are familiar to you, you might feel like they’re T.R.U.E. for you, i.e. like it’s the truth of your life that you’re just overwhelmed.
But, now you know that overwhelm is a habit – an emotion that your brain serves up for you whenever you experience certain triggers in your life.
Which means those thoughts are also just parts of the automatic program instead of being THE truth.
Thoughts create your feelings. They fire the chemical reactions in your brain that create emotion in your body. Overwhelm is an emotion, thus, your thoughts create your overwhelm.
So, the trick to deprogramming yourself is to interrupt your automatic thoughts and choose thoughts that are going to create different feelings.
And I’ll give you some tools to help you do this in Solutions to feel better section below.
- Do you have a hard time making decisions?
- Do you do the same routine, day in and day out, and have a hard time doing something new?
- Do you say “I’m overwhelmed or stuck” or “I don’t have enough time” a lot?
As I’m sure you can guess, if you said yes to any of these then chances are you have a habit of creating overwhelm for yourself.
Solutions to break the habit of overwhelm
he first step to change is to notice when you’ve engaged in the habit of overwhelm. Think about when you last felt overwhelm (it could even be right now) and ask yourself:
- Was I feeling overwhelmed?
- What thoughts was I thinking (that created that feeling of overwhelm)? Thoughts are judgements, opinions or stories that you have about something. For example, “I have too much to do” or “there was a lot going on”.
- Make a list of those thoughts on paper.
- Take a good, honest look at your list and see if it makes sense that they created the feeling overwhelm, instead of the situation. When you can see that you’re creating your own overwhelm, you gain your power over it back.
Choosing what to think, i.e. believe, is the next step. You need to choose a thought that doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed. This thought needs to feel true, it can’t be pie-in-the-sky impossible to believe. Ask yourself:
- What can I believe about this situation that feels true AND creates a more useful emotion for me? For example, instead of “I have too much to do”, choose “I can do things one at a time”.
By practicing Awareness and Belief, you can gain more agency over your mind and stop triggering the old patterns of overwhelm.
This is the path to self-empowerment.
Changing the habits of your brain is truly the secret to creating lasting change.
You can create more self-confidence, more fun in your relationships and a greater sense of ease in your life. As a coach, I help my clients make this happen for themselves. I provide the tools, support and accountability for you to make massive shifts in yourself so that you can create a life that you love.