Ever feel like you’re drowning in anxiety + overwhelm?
That feeling where you can hardly think clearly or breathe deeply or focus?
Anxiety + overwhelm can literally feel suffocating + claustrophobic, like our own existence doesn’t have enough room to operate beneath / amongst all of the chaos in our minds.
It can keep us not only from feeling good but also from actually getting stuff done.
With so much brain fog, scattered energy, and waves of overwhelm washing over us, it can be hard to actually make progress or effect meaningful change.
And while I certainly still experience anxiety + overwhelm, I’ve become much more sensitive / perceptive to when I feel the wave of anxiety wash over.
I used to be so disconnected to these signals (and many of my body’s other signals), but now the discomfort is pretty clear to me.
This has come from showing up + doing the work, asking for (and receiving) support, and dedicating myself to improving my well-being.
All of this has helped me to be more present + self-aware, allowing me to ‘catch myself’ going down rabbit holes much more quickly than I used to.
I shared this process with someone else today, and I wanted to share it with YOU, too!
I have a couple of things I do when I notice myself going in a downward spiral, and what process I use depends on whether I’m worrying about things within my control or not.
Here is one example of a 5 step process I would use in a situation where the anxiety is much less about imminent physical danger (i.e., a car is about to run me over… because in that case, run!) and moreso day-to-day experiences of anxiety at work + more general life stressors.
I’ll also add little notes with (*) to explain why it works so well for me + many others!
1. I notice myself going in a downward spiral of anxiety.
*This takes practice + awareness of what our usual “stories” are, the things we tell ourselves over + over again. We’re not as original as we like to think 😉
2. I pause + take a step back from what I’m doing in that moment. This often includes physically changing my physical location / posture (sit in a different chair in the room, go to another room, go outside, etc.)
*This interrupts the cycle, it forces my brain to shift out of it’s current thought pattern / mode of thinking + recognize we’re shifting the mode of operation to something else
*Some people might do something different than moving locations, like putting on a hat or touching an object on their desk / a piece of jewelry they always wear. It’s not the *what* you do, it’s just that something shifts to indicate to your brain that you’re shifting + breaking the pattern.
3. I take a couple of deep breaths
*This helps your nervous system + entire body RELAX. It helps your physical + mental resources go toward clear thinking, awareness, + presence rather than being eaten up by the hyper-vigilance of “survival mode”. Breathing has many many health benefits (which I can’t comprehensively describe here but that are most certainly worth learning about if you’re interested!)
4. I invite myself to see things differently.
*Meaning, I’ll assess the truth of what’s really going on vs. the story I’m telling myself. In these moments, I sometimes find it helpful to just write down all of the things I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed about in my head + put them on paper or a note on my phone.
*I ask myself if there is another way to view what is making me feel this way. Is this story true? Could there be a different way to look at it + approach it that is just as possible or true? What would I have to let go of or open myself up to in order for that to be possible.
5. I often find one or more things to be true. A few examples include:
(a) that it’s not as bad as I’m imagining it to be (and that it’s mostly a story in my head about what I’m saying will happen… aka “well I HAVE TO do this or this and this and this and then that will happen!!” when I actually don’t really know that it’s true and/or I don’t actually have to do any of it
(b) that there IS a lot going on, but that one thing I can do is create a plan of action to at least make a dent on the things that matter most and/or ask others to help me out when possible
(c) that there are lots of things that don’t have to get done (at least right now) or are just generally more ‘nice to have’ in this moment, not urgent or required + can go on the back burner in the meantime
(d) that I need to carve some time out of my busy + do something good for myself; after asking my body what she needs, I’ll often do something like take a nap, get support, go move my body, etc.
(e) that there are some fundamental changes that need to be made (e.g., commitments that are draining me / have a low ROI for the significant investment on my end, I have to say “no” more, I need to delegate some big “time suck” out to someone else, etc.)
And if after reading that, you’re like me (in the way I used to see this), you say or think something like “I don’t have time for this when I’m busy!”
I’m going to lovingly tell you that it’s not true.
Like I mentioned, unless you’re actually in imminent physical danger, you have a couple of minutes to spare to create some clarity for yourself.
For myself, my clients, and others I know, taking even just 5-10 minutes to create that space will almost always make you significantly more productive in the long-term AND make the process that much less stressful, perhaps even… enjoyable!
When we just keep going going going without stopping to ask ourselves what REALLY matters, what ACTUALLY needs to get done, and things of that nature, we often will find we’re wasting a lot of time on things that could be better spent doing other things (even – especially – fun or relaxing things!)
I find that as a solo entrepreneur (a solopreneur, as some like to call it), it can be super easy for me to fall into this trap of always going + a never-ending to-do list, convincing myself it needs to get done… and like… ASAP!!!
Thinking that way doesn’t get me far. What does is working smart, meaning: getting clarity, taking action, checking back in with myself + repeat…
Wishing you luck in your journey + let me know how it goes!!
PRO TIP: It can help to save this email to come back to for future occasions if now is not the time you’re needing this 😉
You’ve got this. <3
As always, feel free to share this with anyone who may find it helpful, and I look forward to hearing how it helps you.
P.S. If you need some help with this (or other related topics) and are interested in possibly working together, click the button below or hit ‘reply’, and let’s get talkin’!
***This also goes without saying, but I am not a medical professional. What I’m sharing is what has worked well for me; it is not intended to treat any conditions nor serve as a replacement for seeking care from a licensed mental health care professional or medical practitioner.***