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How I Handle Overwhelm. {Lessons on Tending the Mental Garden.}

How to handle overwhelm + lessons on tending the mental garden


There are some days I wake up and feel completely overwhelmed for no specific reason.  It seems to happen when I have a lot of projects going on, and I don’t feel like I’m making much progress; it feels like I’m stuck in quicksand.

Even though I have a full-time job, this blog, a wonderful relationship, loving family and friends, an active social life and a healthy mind and body, I can still feel like I’m treading water and not getting anywhere.  I’m busy, but sometimes I’m just too far into the woods to see I’m surrounded by beautiful flowering trees.

Overwhelm can often come from living life fully.

The cycle of overwhelm is familiar to all of us; here’s the process I use for digging my way out.  (You have a process too but maybe these tips will help.)

1.)  My path back to solid ground starts by just acknowledging the overwhelm and giving in to it for a bit.  Rather than fighting the feelings, I wallow in it for a bit because the only way out is through; whether it’s sadness, fear, stress or anger, I swim around and let it wash over me.  It’s quite indulgent in a deliciously negative way, but in order to move on from it, I have to know what it is.

2.)  I begin to remember that the heaviness holding me down is not something I want taking root in my life.  I remind myself that overwhelm is happening because even though I feel stuck, there’s a lot of action happening in my life that is causing it.  A lot of action means that I am trying, I am taking risks and staying open.  And that’s a good thing.

3.) I continue digging myself out by mentally regrouping. I make lists and do some deep breathing. I pay attention to the part of me that really wants to grow + learn from my experiences, even when I’m feeling trapped and paralyzed.  I take a step back and have gratitude for what is good; that helps put everything into perspective.

::  I tap into the feelings of what is working in my life and make moves towards growing that area.

::  I begin to peel away the fear.  I don’t dive into things headfirst, I cautiously unwrap myself.  Gentleness and patience are my friends.

:: I look at things as they are rather than how I want them to be.

::  I set aside time to be quiet and listen to my heart.  I feel my way through the process of slowly climbing back up rather than muscling my way out. I trust my gut.

4.)  I make a mental list of how I can use these tricks for next time.  When I feel like myself again sans panic, I can step back and see what I’ve done–how I’ve untangled myself from a web of fears that probably don’t even exist to begin with.

When I take the time to slow down and reevaluate, I see that my overwhelm is usually 1/3  my imagination, 1/3 unorganization and 1/3 dread of tedious, but necessary tasks.  Picking it apart helps me see more clearly–It brings light to the darkness, levity to the heavy.  In the end, I try to appreciate my courage for moving forward and getting over that hump of overwhelm.

This process is a part of becoming more me;  just like soil that needs to be turned, the richness is under the surface.

How do you handle overwhelm when it takes over?




How I Handle Overwhelm. {Lessons on Tending the Mental Garden.}2018-03-29T20:23:24-04:00

Curious about meditation? How and why to start a practice.


“The flowering of love is meditation.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

I’m feeling a little shy to say this, but I meditate.   It started after a bad breakup; I was a bit of a hot mess and was grasping at anything to relieve the pain. Stuck on an emotional merry-go-round in my head, I couldn’t stop obsessing about where things went wrong.

A friend saw how much pain I was in and suggested I try meditation as a way to ground myself.  I wish I could say I felt instant relief, but I was so stuck that I felt like a caged animal.  My thoughts were relentless.  You know what I’m talking about: that constant ferris wheel of pain we ride on when we’re hurt?  Yeah. It’s an endless route of not being able to let go.

Desperate for change, I stuck with it.  I thought, surely all those meditators can’t be crazy.  And then a few sessions in, something clicked–It felt like I was giving myself permission to stop obsessing.  

It felt like meditation was my much needed, self-imposed time out.   I was finally loving ME and practicing compassion towards myself.

I love this video of Russell Simmons breaking it down:

I wish I could say I am a strict practitioner and regularly experience awakenings (I’m not and I don’t).  But I do always come back to it;  I keep trying because it gives me something that no form of exercise or activity has ever given me: no place to go but in.

 And when you go in, you can be who you really are.

Over the years, my practice has had an ebb and flow.  Right now I’m in a  3-4 days a week cycle of sitting for 5 minutes. (Yes! Only 5 minutes and even that can be hard to fit in some days. I have gotten up to 20 minutes so I know I can get there again.)

There are many different types of meditation and mindfulness resources, but here is a basic way to get started:

    1. Set a timer for 5 minutes.  You can increase it as you become more comfortable with sitting each time, or stay at 5 minutes!  No pressure.
    2. Sit somewhere you won’t be disturbed in whatever position that is comfortable to you, place your hands gently in your lap and close your eyes (just try to avoid lying down– that will encourage you to fall asleep).
    3. Focus on your breathing—hear your breath go in and out of your nose.
    4. When you notice a thought come up (it will), just acknowledge it and let it go. That’s totally normal!  Just let go of how you think it should feel and listen to the sound of your breath. Almost see it like a cloud floating by and let it pass.
    5. Voila!  You just meditated!

Just trying it is part of the practice.  There are thousands of thoughts running through our minds everyday.  Sometimes the inner chatter alone can be exhausting.  Other times we are totally oblivious to our thoughts (are you listening to me subconscious?)  Either way, it’s usually the mind controlling us, not us controlling the mind.  Meditation can change that.

There is no magic formula, just sit and be quiet.  Try to be consistent and schedule it in your day.  When you sit, the same thoughts may keep coming up–that’s called monkey brain and it happens to everyone.  Just keep practicing and be gentle with yourself.

Quick Facts:

  • Meditation is actually the act of trying to meditate. 
  • Meditation improves memory function and helps to identify habitual thoughts that can be self-defeating. (I felt a pang of relief when I realized that.)
  • Mediation can actually change the structure of your brain (for the better).
  • You may never feel like you are ‘great at it’; that’s why they call it a practice.  

Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else. ― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind





Curious about meditation? How and why to start a practice.2018-03-29T20:23:29-04:00
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