How do you deal with the feeling of overwhelm? You know — when your to-do list is so long it hurts to even look at it…there’s a constant nagging worry that things are falling through the cracks and you’re gonna get burned big-time. Worst of all, no solution or end in sight. Reality is, few of us really deal with a surge of overwhelm. Some just keep chugging through it, some temporarily check out (escape), others totally freak out.
Before my adult ADHD diagnosis, my way of “dealing” was booze and drugs. I checked out whenever I could…and ended up a junkie. Not very effective. Post-drugs, my new way of battling overwhelm was to just work harder. More hours. More coffee. More ignoring friends and family. Not healthy.
Gradually I adopted what I call Practical Zen Brain Hacks. And as I write this blog, I’m about to head to the ADHD Coaches Organization Conference in Phoenix, where I’ll present some of my Zen Brain Hacks to ADHD coaches from around the world, among whom such natural remedies for ADD adults are an important addition to their toolbox.
Here are three of the tricks I’ll be sharing, each a simple-yet-powerful way to quiet the gut-churning, totally unnerving, emotionally disturbing state of overwhelm…
1. Check Into the Now
We’re naturally wired with a bias towards negativity. Seeing things as more “threatening” kept us from becoming lunch when wandering away from our cave. But we’re not living in caves any more.
So when you’re tempted to check out or freak out when in a state of overwhelm, step back from the edge and recognize that, right here and now, even in this moment of overwhelm and stress, there actually is no serious threat or problem – because if there were, you would already be attending to it.
In other words, if you really faced a serious issue right now, you would’t be reading this blog – you’d be dealing with that issue. Upshot: there is no problem in the Now.
In the Now, we are freed up to act more powerfully:
…to NOT be paralyzed by that intimidating to-do list.
…to NOT check/freak out.
…and instead, to think more clearly and creatively about dispatching with a to-do.
Get into the Now more often, and your to-do list can start looking – or at least feeling — a lot more like this.
2. Stop Trying to Finish
Overwhelm is made worse when we realize that finishing even a few to-do’s seems impossible. That feeling paralyzes us…so we can’t even START, let alone finish. I say, screw finishing! Forget about finishing!
The brilliant Dr. Neil Fiore says, “Keep starting – finishing will take care of itself. If you must worry, worry about starting, never worry about finishing.” I.e., never look at a big project and say, “I have to finish that dang thing”. Cuz the thought of having to finish abets procrastination: the more painful a task is perceived to be, the more we try to avoid it.
So never set out to “finish” anything. Just start it. Again. And again. You’ll be more likely to take action (and ultimately, finish).
3. Flush the Brain Toilet
Overwhelm grows out of accumulation. Things build up. Stress builds up. And our brains get backed up. Yet a healthy shot of brain Drano® is simply to do something exhilarating, or at least invigorating. E.g.:
- About once a month I have to race my motorcycle. I call it “flushing my brain toilet”. If I don’t, my brain plumbing starts to feel clogged. Seriously. Granted, that’s an extreme form of exhilaration; but you can flush your pipes with something that’s a little scary (try something new!), really beautiful (a fabulous sunset) or somehow inspiring (see an intense live performance).
- You can also do something invigorating right now. Drop and do 20 push-ups. Stand up, head outside and go around the block. I guarantee when you get back in your chair you’ll be less stressed and better able to get stuff DONE!
How do you flush your brain toilet?
What exhilaration and invigoration have in common is changing your brain chemistry: boosting your good stuff (dopamine, etc.) and repressing your bad stuff (cortisol, etc.). Super-simple. Super-effective.
Hope you can soon put these to work undercutting that overwhelm!
Flush ‘til you crush!
P.S. If you haven’t yet heard of www.CrusherTV.com, I hope you’ll check it out. Each Monday night at 10pm we “air” another episode chock full of useful productivity tips and “brain hacks”, and our Guest Experts provide more great ideas. Tons of other benefits for members, including free group coaching sessions. Hope to “see” you there! ab