Overwhelmed? Try this instead.
Hi there! (Downloadable workbook for this article HERE.)
You probably have things on your mind that you’d rather weren’t there, the fact that you’re reading this means you want to feel differently and you’re ready to do something about it.
Completing the steps in this article will help you do two things:
- Feel differently
- Do things differently
I believe in order to DO something different, you need to FEEL something different first, not the other way around. Actions flow from feelings, which flow from thoughts.
Some of these steps are very quick, requiring you just to think of and write down one sentence, some require more time…
If you have any questions about the process, drop me an EMAIL.
Grab a pen and some paper or CLICK HERE to download a ‘workbook’ version of this article you can print off and use to go through the process yourself.
Step 1 – Acknowledge there is a problem…
…and that you don’t want it anymore.
If you’re going to solve a problem you have to admit it exists.
How would you describe the feeling / scenario that you were thinking of when you decided to read this? I’ve used the word ‘overwhelm’, but if you have a word that makes more sense to you, use that. It’s important that you write it down for now.
I FEEL _____________ (Your word for overwhelmed.)
Think briefly about what would happen if you kept having this feeling in the future.
How would you feel in a couple of months or a year, how about if it continued for ten years?
(Actually take a moment to consider this… What is the cost of NOT making a change?)
Do you want to make changes to this situation to make things better?
If you’re reading this, I think you do.
Step 2 – Do this to get it out of your system.
In a moment you’re going to do a writing exercise to release the thoughts and feelings that have been troubling you. This has loads of different benefits, including making what was once intangible (thoughts whizzing around your head) tangible (ideas written on a piece of paper.)
“…as we face the page, we meet ourselves. The pages give us a place to vent and a place to dream. They are intended for no eyes but our own.”
Julia Cameron, The Miracle of Morning Pages
To do this you’ll need:
- No interruptions and a space you can be honest, where you don’t have to pretend.
- Some blank paper and a pen. (Or you can download and print the workbook.)
- A timer / stopwatch of some kind.
It’s best to handwrite and not type this, there’s something about the physical connection with the pen and the paper, and making YOUR mark, rather than choosing from what the computer lets you do.
Take a piece of paper and at the top of the page write:
“What is overwhelming me?”
You’re going to write continuously (as in, the pen doesn’t stop moving!) for a minimum of ten minutes. (You can go on longer if you have more to write.)
Don’t stop to think about what to write. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be sentences, but write in lines rather than in bullet points down the page.
If at any time you run out of steam (and you may do) immediately ask the question again, and simply write whatever you hear in your head.
You might find yourself repeating words or phrases over and over, that’s fine. You might find yourself describing thinking about the process, that’s also fine, but if you notice going off on something unrelated, bring it back to the question at the top of the page.
It’s also ok if you end up drawing, scribbling or making other marks. The point is the pen must keep moving. You’ll probably notice that as you write it some of the things that come out aren’t ‘true.’
Don’t correct spellings or grammar etc…
This is a brain dump, there’s no need to filter your thoughts, it’s for your eyes only.
Set your timer for ten mins, and let’s begin.
When you’ve finished, put the paper in a place it won’t be read by anyone else for now, and take a break. (Go for a walk, or do whatever you do to wind down.)
When you’re ready, you’ve got a few options:
- Put it away somewhere to either get rid of it or look at later.
- Burn / rip up the paper straight away. (Excellent metaphor for you letting go over the overwhelm.)
- Read through the work to see if any of the information is worth taking note of before binning.
- Read through it with reference to some kind of framework.
(eg. read each statement you wrote down and ask ‘is this true?’)
* I don’t usually bother with more than a cursory glance to see if there’s anything in there that I wasn’t already conscious of. *
The task is to get it out of your system. You don’t need to keep it in your head anymore, you’ve written it down.
Well done. Notice how it feels when you’ve finished compared to how you felt when you started writing. Write down a few observations about how you felt before, during and after the process.
It feels: ______________________________
Step 3 – DECIDE how you WANT to feel instead of the overwhelm you had.
If you want to feel better, it’s good to have a clear idea what kind of ‘better’ you’d like exactly.
Imagine you could wave a magic wand and fix the situation, how would you like to feel instead of the ‘overwhelm?’
This sentence must be phrased positively.
So that means it must take the form:
I want to… feel calm and focussed.
I want to… have more energy
I want to… be relaxed and happy
I want to NOT feel overwhelmed.
I DON’T want to feel flat and tired.
I want to STOP feeling tense and angry.
If that’s tricky, write down what the opposite of your current feelings would be.
Eg I want to NOT feel overwhelmed —-> I want to feel ON TOP OF THINGS.
(Your brain does funny things with ‘not’ sentences and we want to move towards something positive.)
I WANT TO FEEL: ______________________
Step 4 – How would you know if you had that feeling?
Grab a pen and a piece of paper again. (Or download and print the WORKBOOK for this blog.)
Here, you’re going to think about what that ‘better’ feeling would actually FEEL like if you had it right now.
You’re going to vividly imagine having the feeling you want, in as much detail as you can, noticing all the things you can see when you think about it, all the things you can hear, and all the things you can feel.
(If you don’t know the answer to any of these prompts, make it up – any answer you make up has to come from somewhere inside of you.)
Imagine a point in the future, where you have the good feeling, and things are the way you want them to be. Write down something for each of the following prompts. (… and remember you can always get the workbook here.)
- What you can see when you think about having the good feeling:
Where are you?
Who else is there?
How will you look?
What else can you see?
- Now you’ve done those things, how would you describe the ‘qualities’ of the imagery?
Are the things you can see like movies or still pictures?
Are they in colour or black and white?
Are the images large or small?
- What you can hear when you think about having the good feeling:
What can you hear around you?
If you were saying things to yourself, what kind of things would you be saying?
How would your tone of voice sound?
- Now you’ve done that, check in and see what the general qualities of the sounds are:
Are the sounds loud or soft?
Do the sounds seem to be close or far away?
Is the sound clear or muffled?
- What you feel (physically and emotionally) as you think about having the good feeling:
What can you feel physically when you think about having the good feeling?
(Can you feel a breeze / the sun’s warmth / your feet on the ground / the clothes you’re wearing / the drink in your hand?)
Where do you notice the good emotional feelings in your body? (If they had a place in your body…)
If this feeling had a colour, what colour would it be?
Are there any particular tastes or smells that come to mind, as you think about having the good feeling?
Once you’ve made some notes, take a moment to go back into that feeling / scenario and really enjoy it, notice how good it feels when you think about the details of this scene.
Using your notes or from memory, go back into this feeling at least one more time today, you can have this feeling whenever you want it. Just think about and imagine the stuff you described above. It doesn’t matter how vividly you ‘see’ things in your imagination, just get a sense that something’s there.
Step 5 – Imagine a few key events where you do things and feel differently.
Now you can generate that feeling, you’re going to imagine what having that new feeling might be like in some different situations. It’s a bit like practicing the new feeling, and the new behaviours that come from it.
Sit or lie somewhere comfortable where you can relax for a few minutes.
(After reading the instructions, you can close your eyes…)
Take 3 deep breaths.
On the breath in, say to yourself in your head, “breathing in”…
… and when you breath out, ‘breathing out.’
Notice any thoughts, just notice them, you don’t have to follow or silence them.
Bring your attention to the good feeling you created earlier. Think about the things that you could see that made you feel good.
Then what you could hear…
… and finally, how you felt the good feeling. (Where in your body, what colour it was…)
When you have a sense of that, see yourself going about your day, with this good feeling. Imagine waking up with this feeling, imagine getting out of bed and showering, eating breakfast. How are things different with this feeling?
See everything going as you want it to go.
See yourself responding to things in new ways.
See opportunities arise, see friendly conversations, fun, whatever you’d like to happen in your day.
Then, see little challenges come up, but you responding in a new way.
See that the challenges don’t have to change how you feel and respond unless you want them too. Then see things going perfectly again.
Now imagine a slightly bigger challenge, but notice that you handle it a new better way. See yourself looking calm, looking how you want to look.
You don’t need to know exactly how you’ll respond, but just know that you will respond differently, which means you’ll get different results, which means you can feel even better.
Now imagine what life could be like for you in a year.
Where could you be? What could you be doing? How could you feel? How strong could this good feeling have grown over a year?
When you’ve had a play with this, and you’re feeling good, take a deep relaxing breath and open your eyes.
Step 6 – What can you DO to make things better?
Up until now you had a fool proof system for being overwhelmed, let’s see what your fool proof system for feeling good might look like!
Now that you know how you’re going to ‘feel instead’, you can use that feeling to help come up with some ideas for what you could DO to make things better in the future.
In a moment you’re going to do another (shorter) piece of stream of consciousness writing, this time focussed on possible solutions instead of the old problems.
As before, the idea is just to keep writing.
This time it’s about possibilities, what you COULD do. Not what you’re going to do necessarily.
Be open with this. Even a little silly. You should have a few ridiculous things at the end of the 5 mins. Don’t filter out silly or bad ideas. If you’re really struggling, aim for as many bad ideas as possible.
(Things I have written down in ideas bursts have included ‘cover myself in jam and run around the park trying to get attention.’ Now obviously I’d never do that, but you want to keep the ideas coming, later you can decide what are good and bad ideas.)
This time the time pressure is really on. 5 mins non-stop on “what could I DO to make things better?”
If you get stuck, you can give yourself that hint “what might someone else do?”
Again, no filtering, write everything that comes to mind, but steer yourself towards the question if you notice being off track. The time pressure thing is important! Only 5 mins. Have the timer ticking down in front of you.
So, get your pen and paper, write the question “what could I do to make things better”, and if you like the prompt “what might someone else do” underneath, set the timer for 5 mins, and go for it.
After you’re done, take a little break before moving onto the next step.
Step 7 – Pick something!
Pick one of the things that you can imagine doing, and maybe even working from your stream of possibilities. The best thing to do is to do something NOW, immediately after thinking of it.
It helps generate momentum, if you can’t do that, commit to a time when you’re going to do it.
Then do it.
When you get comfortable doing one thing to make things better, when that seems easy, you can add another… One step at a time.
… but often, just doing one new thing sets you going in a new direction, and that’s all you need.
THANKS FOR READING
I hope this has been useful for you. You can repeat the steps as often as you like whenever you like.
The process doesn’t have to be just for overwhelm. Use this process for anything. Try it. See what changes. See which bits really work for you and do them more.
If you allow external events to dictate your feelings, they will.
Feeling good is about having a practice of feeling good.
Set up a simple routine of things that help you feel good now. Even if it’s just a walk, reading for 10 mins or a short meditation early in the morning, try stuff and notice what consistently puts you in good moods.
As you begin to notice what works really well for you, write those things down.
Now you’ve got a recipe book for your own happiness.
Commit to doing those things often.
Get in touch if you have any questions.
Here are some links to other resources you might find useful!
Printable workbook to go through this process.
Sign up to my email list and get a free copy of the guided relaxations PDF.