What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed and scattered?
I used to shut down, go find a snack, watch TV or procrastinate by changing the colours on my Canva graphics 50 times.
That helped calm my mind down in the moment, but as soon as I started working on the important stuff again, I’d be right back on that train heading straight to *Overwhelm Central*.
Now, I ditch overwhelm as quick as you can say tim-buck-two using these 3 hacks.
Listen now on your fav podcast platform or read the blog below.
Hack #1: slow belly breaths
- Place your hand on your belly and another on your heart
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds feeling your belly rise
- Hold for 3-4 seconds
- Slowly breathe out through your nose for 6-8 seconds
- Hold for 2-3 seconds
- Repeat 10x
By breathing into your belly you’re activating your diaphragm rather than using your shoulders and neck to breathe and that long exhale switches your body into parasympathetic mode (aka. rest and digest mode).
This gets you out of sympathetic mode where your…
- breathing is shallow
- head is spiralling
- body is flooded with antsy cortisol which is making you feel scattered and overwhelmed.
Having that long exhale switches you back into the calming parasympathetic mode where your cortisol is lower and you have more clarity in your mind to be able to rationalise and think clearly without the haze of stress, panic and overwhelm overshadowing everything.
So have 10 long exhale belly breathes, focusing on your belly rising, to switch you into parasympathetic mode so you can feel calmer and have more clarity.
Hack #2: Distract yourself for 20 minutes
Literally, step away from your work and go distract yourself for 20 minutes . Put the washing out, make a snack, even lie on your bed.
After 20 minutes, come back to your work and you’ll notice your head is clearer, your more in control and way more productive.
This is because your brain can only handle and process information for 52 minutes before it’s at full capacity. Before your brain gets so full that it starts to feel tired and scattered and overwhelmed.
After 52 minutes, your brain will naturally start to daydream and you’ll catch yourself procrastinating with other mindless tasks or scrolling on social media. Which usually makes you feel stressed and you try to rush back into work.
After 52 minutes of working, relax for 16-20 minutes.
Go away and empty your brain, give it a breather so it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to hold on to all these different ideas at once, but it can actually stop and process what its absorbed and done in the last hour or since your last break. Once it’s processed the past 52 minutes worth of information, it’ll be clearer, calmer and you’ll be able to rationalise and think much easier – reducing your overwhelm.
The best way to do this is to set a little reminder every 90 minutes on your phone or laptop to tell you to have a break so you can get into your work and run over if you’re on a roll, but still get your 16-20 minute break in. You’ll be so much more productive, get so much more done, and your brain will feel calmer and clearer.
Hack #3: find the solution.
Brain dump every thought you currently have onto a piece of paper or a blank work document.
If you’re generally feeling overwhelmed and you’re not sure why…
- Brain dump every single thought that passes your head in a 20 minute time period. Doesn’t matter if it’s tasks you need to do, reminders you need to set or how you’re currently feeling. Jot it all down.
Or if you’re feeling overwhelmed about a specific task…
- Write down every thought and step you need to do for that task.
Basically, every single thought that pops up, write it down. Try to completely empty your head so your brain isn’t trying to hold onto all these thoughts and reminders and to-do’s. Because when you transfer the thought from your head and into written form, your brain can let go of that thought. When you keep repeating that process, your brain gets clearer and clearer.
Experts state the mind thinks between 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day.
That’s 41-55 thoughts a minute. But most of these are useless thoughts or constant reminders, so clearing out the fluff and emptying these thoughts from your mind can reduce how many thoughts you have per hour, leaving your brain less overwhelmed and scattered and full.
So get all your current thoughts written down about a specific task that’s making you feel overwhelmed or in general so that they’re physically in front of you.
Choose the thought or task that’s the most important to do right now.
My favourite way to do this is a method my coach taught me about the blocked hose analogy.
- Imagine you’ve got a hose and it’s blocked in various locations.
- You need to unblock at the end closest to the water tap so the water can progress further up the hose.
- You need to start with the task that will get the water moving the most. The one task you can do right now that will give you the most benefit and get you closer to where you want to be.
If you get this one task done, you’ll have unblocked one aspect of the hose and will be making progress and have made the biggest step in the right direction.
Rather than trying to stop the overwhelm by doing everything at once, starting 10 different jobs but only doing 5% of them and procrastinating with the easier tasks that make no difference at all.
Like changing the colour scheme on your social media posts or choosing a new font for your website.
These tasks won’t be unblocking the hose and will leave you still feeling overwhelmed and stressed with everything that needs to be done. Especially because you’re not making big progress when you alter your colours or change your fonts, even thought you will naturally gravitate towards doing them because they’re easy and mindless.
Brain dump all your thoughts, then look at everything you’ve written down and choose the one task that is the most important to do right now.
The one task that’s the first step to unblocking your hose and will allow you to make progress to achieve your big goal.