You’re losing sleep because you can’t stop thinking.
Overthinking feeds your anxiety. Your heart races when you think about what it is that you have to do.
It’s almost like you can’t breathe sometimes, because the overwhelming feelings of to-do, to-think-about, to-handle, to-deal-with, are closing in on you.
Time is flying, and yet your progress hasn’t moved an inch.
Your mind is saying, “this may not work”. It’s saying, “I’m not sure this is for you”.
Your thoughts are looping in your head but with no real solution —just the same worry over and over.
We often use words or phrases like overwhelm, anxiety, or, I can’t, this feels like too much, and maybe I’m not ready.
This is how we describe what’s going on in our world. And the more we think it, the words get louder and louder in our heads. So much so, that we lose sleep, procrastinate by eating, or lose our appetite altogether. Maybe we avoid. Maybe we stall. Maybe we quit.
This is real life, and it’s not only you.
It’s also NOT the real story.
Your mind is LYING to you.
And before I tell you how to overcome it, I’ve gotta tell you why it’s happening.
In order to be able to overcome it, you have to be able to recognize it.
Why do we feel scared when we try new things?
Fear and emotional overwhelm are emotions that produce feelings like self-doubt, that hold us back from moving closer to our dreams and goals. This often happens when we encounter a new project, a big decision, or a lofty goal.
As humans, we’re programmed to be on the lookout for things that are new, uncertain, or feel uncomfortable. It’s how we learned to recognize what animals would eat us, which plants would kill us, and when we should RUNNNN!
Those responses are how one part of our brain, our amygdala, has helped us succeed and evolve into the human species we are today.
And, as we all know (and have experienced), the thoughts and emotions from our brain that are driven by fear can be very LOUD when they want to.
**Side note: the amygdala plays a role in our fear response (fight or flight) but it also contributes to other emotions and behavioral responses.
But thanks to the frontal lobes of our brain, they override the protective amygdala with more reasonable thoughts, methodical planning, and decision-making. The frontal lobes help the amygdala not get so ‘worked-up’, and help our brains see that the danger is actually pretty low..
One way to start overcoming fear responses like self-doubt and anxiety is, by recognizing that your brain is being overprotective, over-cautious, and kinda telling you lies to make you stop. Your brain is trying to protect you, but it’s your job to discern if that level of protection is warranted.
Your body responds by creating emotions, and it’s our reaction to those emotions that either give them strength or take away their power.
What to do when you feel overwhelmed
Being overwhelmed is a feeling, not a state of being. It’s something we feel, and without us assigning it meaning, it carries no weight.
What I’m saying is, we can choose how we deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed. While the feeling of overwhelm feels like it could swallow you up, the ‘feeling’ itself only has power if you allow it to.
1. Recognize that your brain is telling you lies
Acknowledge when it’s just your overprotective amygdala talking or when it’s something you really need to be on the lookout for. Let your brain speak loudly when you’re in a dark alley, but when you’re <insert your experience here > filling out your medical school application, tell the fear chatter “thank you for worrying but I got this”.
When the brain’s telling you, your new goal is going to take a lot of work, say “you’re right, all good things do”.
2. Prioritize your to-do/goal list
Lists, lists! We all have lists. Lists are good but when they’re not managed, they themselves can cause you to feel overwhelmed.
Choose the one thing you could do to keep you moving forward to your goal.
For the ONE thing, you want to accomplish, write down the steps it takes to get there. Start with your end goal and work backward. Highlight what needs to be done first before moving to the next thing. Prioritize what the next right move is, the ONE that will keep you moving forward.
3. Work on things throughout your day in 1-2 hour increments
Know your end goal but don’t obsess over it. It takes a ton of little steps to get there so there’s no sense in overlooking them. Focus on what’s in front of you, and work on it for 1-2 hours at a time.
It’s ok to make that forever-long list, but know that it’ll never truly be complete because things keep getting added to it. So, consider it your goal to focus on only ONE thing at a time for 1-2 hours at a time.
Try not to multi-task. It only leads to half-completed tasks.
4. Give yourself grace
When a baby falls when they’re learning to walk, what do we do? We get in our sweetest, high-pitched voice, and cheer them on. So be kind to yourself like would a friend or a baby who’s working so hard to get it right.
…You see the finish line for them (even if it’s far down the road) but you know if you’re friend or baby keeps at it, they’ll get there. Treat yourself the same way. Cheer yourself on.
Life is so busy. And there are many priorities. A little each day gets you closer to the finish.
5. Enjoy the process
Take a moment to enjoy each step because when you reach your goal, there’s a 98% chance there’s a new goal lined up right after that.
Enjoy the journey. It’s what makes the outcome so worth it. Plus, if you rush through it all, before you know it, time flew and you realize you weren’t there for it all because you weren’t present.
When you accept that ‘it’ (your thing, whatever that may be) is a process versus expecting immediate results or expecting to be at the finish line when you’ve just barely started, you’ll see the beauty in every step.
6. Celebrate your wins along the way
Every single thing you do gets you one step closer. You have to crawl before you walk, so celebrate the crawl. It got you where you are today. Every move counts and should be recognized.
Each tiny thing you do makes an impact on your grander goal.
How can we overcome self-doubt?
Everything you’ve done in life was new at one point. And the things you’re really good at it took practice and repetition.
And, it just so happens, that as we get better at things, our goals get even loftier. But is that a problem? No, it’s a symbol of your greatness. It’s a sign that you have what it takes.
The thing is, self-doubt is the hater of the group. It’s the person who tries to bring you down. It’s the negative thought that lets you compare yourself to others to make you not feel that great. It’s a judgy thought who has no idea (nor does it care) what you’re capable of.
Self-doubt does not serve you. It’s not protecting you. It’s lying to you.
How is it that everyone around you can tell you “you’ve got this” but when self-doubt speaks up on your behalf, you listen to IT?
Self-doubt is not there to support you so it’s time to let it go. And here’s how you take away its power…
- Be aware of your thoughts. When self-doubt pops up, knock it down and think the exact opposite.
- Look at how far you’ve come and all that you’ve achieved — literally, write it down.
- Do not compare yourself to others. We don’t know everyone’s story, the level of assistance they receive, or their challenges. Run your own race. You are not them. Hunker down and do you boo.
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