Tag Archives: overwhelmed

3 Steps to Reload When You’re Filled to Capacity

capacityOur lives are filled to capacity. Technology has encouraged us to stay connected in every moment. We rarely allow ourselves time to think, to be, to experience, to dream. We can’t make any space to allow for new things in life because we have filled every moment with something.

A solution is to learn to intentionally NOT fill the daily schedule. Having time and making space creates the opportunity for spontaneity, wonder, new perspectives and an expanded view of life. Our best ideas come from the space we allow ourselves, not from the hurried, harried, filled-to-capacity day.

Everyone in my house will raise their eyebrows when they read this because I am the master of filling each moment. My life moves from checklist to to-do lists. I think it is this way partly because I run my own business (hear the rationalization?) and partly because I like being busy (more rationalization). But I am aware and do now make the commitment to be more intentional about how I use each moment.

It is truly our choice how we fill the moments of our lives. What if we were to intentionally build time into our currently filled-to-capacity day to step away from the busy-ness? What if we were more intentional about putting time into our day to breath, dream, invent, connect, consider, imagine and relate? To consistently do this, I know I will have to make some changes – here is what I commit to doing (perhaps they will inspire you to do the same or something similar):

  1. Rethink how I start the day. I commit to starting each day with what the great writer/speaker Robin Sharma calls the “holy hour” – 20 minutes of reading, 20 minutes of meditation/stillness, 20 minutes of exercise. Get up an hour earlier (this of course adds a few more moments to the day) and use that hour wisely to set the tone, direction and pace of the day. This time reminds me to create moments to connect with my world – to be inspired by reading, to get clarity through mediation and to feel healthy though exercise. I commit to starting my day with a “holy hour.”
  2. Add “exist time” to my to-do list. I’ll admit I am just working around my incessant need to have a to-do list, but since that is the way I manage my days, I’ll add an urgent-and-important topic of “exist time” to my to-do list. “Exist time” is time allocated to wander through the yard and see what is blooming (in FL there is always something blooming), time to chat with a neighbor, time for hobbies (for me it is more time cooking), or time for just being with the people who matter in my life. I know I’ll need to set the alarm; not to remind me to get back to work, but to remind me the “exist time” isn’t over yet – to stay in the moment – to enjoy it. I commit to creating “exist time” each day.
  3. Take mini NOW (mini memory vacation) breaks. Because much of my work, when not out with clients, is at my desk, I have great mementos of life all around my workspace – the hand carved Buddha statue that was a gift from my partner, the pictures of the kids and my new sons-in-laws, the mascot bobble head of the college I teach at, the watercolor paintings by my mother, the artwork and things we collected on our travels – all things that encourage (and even beg) me to take mini NOW breaks – mini memory vacations. These help me step out of the rush to be part of a thought, feeling or emotion. This encourages me to dream, reminisce and change the pace of the day. I commit to taking mini NOW moments.

Make space – this is the antidote to a life filled to capacity. Living out loud and living full out doesn’t mean running through life at breakneck speed. Instead, living boldly includes time to get focused, have some chill time and be part of mini mental breaks or NOW moments. Each is like a deep exhaled breath – the opportunity to allow new things in, connect to what is important and feel part of your amazing life.

Getting Past Feeling Overwhelmed and Finding Focus

focusLast week seemed to be Overwhelm Week with my clients. Several were excited for their coaching to work through work and life situations that made them feel completely overwhelmed. And with feeling overwhelmed comes paralysis – they become so aware of how overwhelmed they are, that their energy focuses on them, their problems, the volume and the helplessness, they then have no energy left to get things done (to eliminate the feeling of overwhelm). They are stuck. Nothing happens.

Though getting past overwhelm requires also getting organized and building priorities (what’s urgent, what’s important and what’s both), the key to its undoing is an understanding our personal energy. Here is what I share with my clients about energy and how energy is the gateway to staying organized and getting the important things in work and life done.

Energy is catabolic (diminishing and unproductive) or anabolic (growing and productive). Feeling overwhelmed naturally brings on our lowest level of energy (catabolic) – of feeling like a victim because the situation creating the feeling of being overwhelmed, owns us. We are at the effect of these events – it may be a demanding boss and work schedule; it may be a challenging home situation or a busy kids/household schedule; it may be worn out by caring for someone who is not well or trying to get yourself out of situation that needs changing (relationship, work, etc). The more we focus on how we feel in these events, the more we use our energy to focus on how bad our situation is. We are like a dog chasing its tail – the more we think about it, the worse we feel, so the more we think about it. This now uses up all of the energy needed to make changes – including getting organized, setting priorities and getting things done. We have to free ourselves from this catabolic energy in order to redirect our energy to being productive, or we will find our situation will never change.

People who are masters at getting things done, staying organized and moving things forward are this way because they change how they look at their world. Eckhard Tolle shares in his book, A New Earth, that we should be in only one of these three awakened modalities: acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm. Notice that all of these are positive energies. The reason for this is as energy moves from negative to positive (from victim to acceptance) we start to see how to move past where we are. We now have energy to consider how we might be able to organize our space, our work or our emotions. We have the energy to start to prioritize what is around us to get in it in an order that can make things happen. We become unstuck, unfrozen untrapped, and uncaught (I know I made up a few words, but I liked the rhythm…). We move out of victim and into conscious and powerful performer. All this can happen by seeing that we are stuck and choosing to focus on opportunities to get unstuck instead of staying in victim or helpless mode.

In helping my clients, I find our starting point is reviewing the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are present in victim energy, and the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are in opportunity energy. Many times by seeing that both of these are choices in the same circumstances, those who are stuck can start to visualize a way out. They are encouraged because they can see what success looks like and feel empowered enough to work through the situations that are creating their victim thinking.

We can’t be victim and optimist at the same moment. So the more we shift our thinking out of victim to optimist, the more energy we have available to focus on solutions, opportunities and possibilities. We stop making our discontentment and feeling overwhelmed the center of our energy. We can then find ways to make things happen.

Achieving means getting things done. Go for the fuel source – the energy. It creates the power to wake up like the person in the Lunesta commercials – ready and raring to go – to face the world – to make the to-do list – to organize their space – to create the priorities – and to get things done.

5 Tips To Survive Summer Vacation With Wild Kids

3766009204_8721a00ddeThere’s a picture of my sister in our family album that has inspired a family idiom: the purple kitty face. In the photo, my sis is standing in our driveway on a summer day wearing light blue undies and holding a tiny black kitten, scooped from a litter of mates produced by our ginger cat, Selena. In her sweet and quirky four-year-old way, she had convinced herself (and probably me) that the kitty was not black, but purple.

If you look closely at my sister’s expression, you’ll notice that her lips are pursed tightly in a sort of painfully loving grimace. Her teeth are clenched, as are her two little hands that are quickly crushing purple kitty’s spindly rib cage.

If a thought bubble could appear magically above my sister’s head it would say, “You’re so cuuuuuuttteee! I love you to deeeeeaaaaath!” Fortunately, no animals were injured in the filming of that scene. At least not that we knew of, anyway. I imagine that Mom swooped toward her daughter after snapping the pic, rescued the kitten from imminent death and returned her to the cardboard box from whence she came.

There’s a psycho-medical term for this exact situation I’m sure, but nothing quite pins the tail on the donkey like purple kitty. (Though that Looney Tunes scene with Daffy Duck and the Abominable Snow Man comes close, “I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George.”)

The purple kitty is sort of like that feeling of being insanely cold. When you’re so cold that shaking is involuntary. Only when you notice that your teeth are chattering so much your jaw hurts and your thighs are sore from tightening them against the weather do you become aware of the tension and mindfully release it… only to squeeze up again with the next frigid gust. (I’m a lifelong New Englander, I know about these things.)

My children make the purple kitty face all the time. We just got a puppy and she is often the recipient of squeezey loving. But I know it’s not just a behavior reserved for my family. All kids do this. I remember one day my old boss came into work and told us that her beloved family pet, a hamster, was laid to rest in a shoe box that morning – a victim of her daughter’s loving embrace. It happens. And not just with animals.

I remember doing this with my neighbor as a kid. He was such an adorable baby. I remember hugging him a little to tight, sucking my breath in through clenched teeth, body shaking from the effort of physical love, releasing only when the little toe headed cutiepie squeaked rather than exhaled. Honestly, sometimes I notice myself doing it still. What can I say? Babies are cute.

As a parent of small children, I’ve noticed that my purple kitty face, once associated with over-loving, has become one of Holy-Shit-I-Can’t-Take-It-Anymore-You-Are-Driving-Me-Crazy-And-I-Need-You-To-Stop-Screaming-At-Each-Other-Before-My-Eyeballs-Eject-From-My-Skull. I think the more common term for this is frustration, but frustration is not a rich enough word for the exasperation, disheartened-ness, desperateness, and anger that I can feel when my kids are totally obnoxious.

So I admit it. I’ve been known to occasionally squeeze my kids. And not because they’re cute. Thanks to a committed mindfulness practice, I can typically defend them from my clenching grip, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never sent my kids off to school praying that their teachers wouldn’t roll up their sleeves and find red stripes around their biceps from where I grabbed and squeezed, imagining that my vice grip would somehow convince them to stop screaming, listen to my words, or clean up their blasted Pokemon cards.

It’s summer vacation now, and all this quality time with our unscheduled babies, as delightful as it is, provides us with endless opportunities to feel emotionally overwhelmed by their antics. So there are a couple of things I’ve done that have helped me to stop the squeezing and relax my purple kitty face, and I wanted to share them with you all.

I have three small children ages 4 through 8, and I mother each of them differently, but these five things work consistently for me with all three.

  1. Meditate. Your reaction to your babies is not about them, it’s about you. When you’re composed, no amount of nagging, screeching or spoiled-rotten-American-kid complaining will offend you.
    • A meditation practice takes time to develop, so in the meantime try this: The second you reach for that little arm, breathe into your squeezy hand and let the irritation melt like butter on plain pasta with no red sauce. Think these words: “This will be over soon, and we will be happy again.”
    • Another great mindfulness trick is the 10-10-10 rule. Ask yourself, “How will I feel about this in 10 minutes? In 10 days? In 10 years?” Probably not so great. So loosen up the tourniquet and know that this too shall pass.
  2. Make sure they’ve eaten. Hungry kids are CRAZY. We all know this, but somehow we all forget. Feed them. I always have a bag of apples and a slicer wheel nearby. It’s the perfect emergency food. But even with that, I still forget, too.
  3. Whisper or speak very softly when you’re explaining or disciplining. They’ll be like, “What? What, Mommy? What?” and they’ll stop screaming long enough to listen. Most of the time, they start modeling my volume and instantly the stress level dissipates – mine and theirs.
  4. If whispering doesn’t work, try crying. Channel your inner soap opera diva. Most likely, fake tears will not be hard to conjure, but feel free to give yourself over to real ones. There’s nothing wrong with letting your kids see you cry. They should know the effect their behavior has on others. And when you’re teetering on the edge of an emotional volcano, a sobbing mommy meltdown can be a great side effect – they stop flipping out and turn their compassionate focus on you. “I’m so sorry, Mommy. I’m so sorry,” complete with hugs and kisses and sympathy. Then they can stop being lunatics long enough for you to regain composure and control.
  5. When all else fails, put them in water. My neighbor, an experienced mother of several, taught me this and I am ever-grateful. Draw a bath, toss in a few face cloths and buckets, turn on some Mozart and leave the room – bathroom door open, of course.

We Burn Our Badges of Busyness

What are we teaching our girls?

You can be anything.
You can do anything.
You can have anything.

Now get going.

There is much to do.
So much that you will never feel like you’ve done it all.

Allow me to introduce you to your new lifetime companion
Her name is "To-Do List"

She will follow you everywhere from now on
She will be there to greet you when you wake
She will hang out near you all day long
And she will be there when you lay your head down to rest
Making sure that you don’t forget her, even as you try to sleep

You will learn to wear her as a badge of honor
This flashing symbol of busy-ness
She thrives on attention,
lives for compliments,
She seeks out acknowledgments of her busyness,
and ability to ‘get it all done’
without a sweat, and with a smile

She is not stingy
She loves to share accolades with her sister super women
Swooning and commenting on their multi-tasking feats
As if their doingness was the latest, most fabulous, all-the-rage hat

Some days you will be tired
And will want to set down the to dos
Take a break from your badge,
Whose weight you notice has become quiet heavy

You will try to unpin it
Pull it, tear it, yank it,
But no matter how hard you try
Your badge of busyness
Will not budge

Your to-do list
Doesn’t take kindly to being set down
Or Forgotten
She is fiercely intent on
Staying alive  
Remaining on center stage
Where she can always be seen

What they (we) didn’t tell you
When you accepted your to-do list as a rite of passage
And fashioned on your badge with pride
Was that try as you might
When you tire
No matter how hard you try
You can’t hide
You can’t run
You can’t even pin that relentless list on some other unsuspecting soul

But YOU can choose

Girl, woman, sister
You have a choice to NEVER pick up
This badge of busyness
You have the choice to walk away and NEVER look back
Not because you stop doing and achieving
Which I know is one of your (my) greatest, unspoken fears
But because you know that you don’t need a
Badge of busyness or a never-ending list of to-dos
To prove your worth

Stand tall
Turn on your heel now
Do not follow us
A generation of women who unknowningly ran down the aisle
To marry busy-ness
And ended up with a sense of self
Tied to ‘what I’ve accomplished and gotten done in a day"

Turn away
Run away
And change your sense of self
for the good
of us all

As you turn away
We will burn our badges
And together we will change
The decree of women forever

"Yes I can do anything."
"Yes I can be anything."
"Yes I can have anything."

BUT NO … I DON’T NEED TO DO BE AND HAVE EVERYTHING

I am valuable simply because I am
Even if I never pick up another to do
Even when I am doing nothing
Especially when I am just being
I am worthy

Because I know the truth

I am enough
Simply because I am

And so are you.

Mother.
Sister.
Daughter.
Woman.

Worth the Time: Meditating More When Our Plates Are Full

When you make time for meditation, it actually helps you get through a busier day as we are given what we need.

Ironically, when we get busy, the first thing that tends to get cut back is our meditation practice. We have less time and a lot on our plates, so it makes sense that this happens, but in the end it doesn’t really help us. Most of us know from experience that we function much better when we give ourselves time each day to sit in silence. And the more we have to do, the more we need that solitary, quiet time for the day ahead. As a result, while it may sound counterintuitive, it is during busy times that we most need to spend more time in meditation rather than less. By being quiet and listening to the universe, we will be given what we need to get through our day.

Expanding our morning meditation by just 10 minutes can make a big difference, as can the addition of short meditations into our daily schedule. The truth is, no matter how busy we are, unless we are in the midst of a crisis we always have five or 10 minutes to spare. The key is convincing ourselves that spending that time in meditation is the most fruitful choice. We could be getting our dishes done or heading into work earlier instead, so it’s important that we come to value the importance of meditation in the context of all the other things competing for attention in our lives. All we have to do to discover whether it works to meditate more when we are busy is to try it.

We can start by creating more time in the morning, either by getting up earlier or by preparing breakfast the night before and using the extra time for meditation. We can also add short meditation breaks into our schedule, from five minutes before or after lunch to a meditation at night before we go to sleep. When we come from a place of centered calm, we are more effective in handling our busy schedules and more able to keep it all in perspective. If more time in meditation means less time feeling anxious, panicky, and overwhelmed, then it’s certainly worth the extra time.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / GrungeTextures

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