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How to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed



Nowadays, it can feel like you need to be doing ten things at once just to make it through your day. Of course, we're culturally being fed this message, but I'd like to think we'd realize that's a mental construct and nothing more. That we'd be able to see through the smoke and mirrors and determine what "success" is for ourselves.


By way of my coaching practice, it's evident people are trapped inside of this cultural conditioning and conform to what Henri Nouwen calls the three big lies:

1. I am what I have

2. I am what I do

3. I am what other people say about me.


When this is part of your operating system, I don't believe there are any options outside of feeling overwhelmed. But what if we could find a calm within the storm? Here's how I have found my peace within a culture of chaos.


Let me first start by saying I am not prone to falling into these same traps. What may be different is how I respond to it.


First, you have to know who you are apart from the three big lies. When you take away what you have, what you do, and what other people say about you, what's left? You must know this, or you're dead in the water!

When identifying your inherent goodness, be sure to avoid anything performance related, such as saying I'm kind, loving, smart, honest, creative, etc. because your virtue is more foundational than that. This strategy fundamentally solves this problem, so take your time here.


Next, when you find yourself moving urgently from one task to another, take a deep breath. If you're checking your email, then find yourself responding to a text, turning on a podcast, and making breakfast, all while trying to maintain a conversation, that's five breaths you'd be taking. Most people's brains are not very good at multi-tasking, so when we engage too many tasks at once, we stimulate the limbic system and subsequently, the stress response. Breathing has the power to maintain you inside of a parasympathetic state and the relaxation response. While using the breath to keep you grounded, observe what you're doing, and assign priorities. Think one step at a time and less is more.


Last, I suggest a deep dive into a journal. Ask yourself this question: What is the purpose of life? Is it to get your to-do list done? Is it to keep everyone happy? Is it to make a significant contribution? Is it to give and receive love? Is it to embrace your ordinariness? Only you can answer this question and discover this truth for yourself. Before journaling, understand that your answer to this question may be trying to satisfy an unmet need. Maybe you were never deeply loved by your parents, or perhaps you never felt smart or athletic enough compared to your siblings. Whatever your story is, just appreciate how this void inside you may influence your response. This is why the first strategy I shared is most important, knowing what's good about you. Otherwise, your ego will spend the rest of its' life hustling for its' worth, trying to prove itself.


There are no hard and fast answers. All transformation is process-oriented. Believe me, this is coming from a recovering overwhelmed perfectionist, people-pleaser, and procrastinator. Here's a model I've created that helped me heal from performance-based worthiness:


Behavior --> State --> Story --> Self


Behavior: Identify protective behavior (doing too many things at once)

State: Recognize which emotions are driving your behavior

Story: Appreciate the stories you're telling yourself, facilitating your emotional state

Self: Verify which "self" you're in alignment with: True or false.


The false self invariably is behind all challenges, and once you connect those dots, the strategy is not one of effort, but one of surrender.



"Calmness is the cradle of power." Josiah Gilbert Holland

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