Mindfulness When Experiencing Overwhelm

stressed professional woman

Question for you, did you read and process this title? I’ll give you another second to think about it, and if you want to listen to this short podcast episode, or at least the meditation portion, instead of reading the meditation script here, go for it!

How Words & Mindset Matter

So, I’m guessing you may have read it to simply know what the topic was going to be about, but you probably didn’t think too much in depth about it, which totally normal! It’s probably a safe bet to assume most people don’t thoroughly process everything they read especially at first glance. We read something to inform ourselves, and then we move on. So you probably saw the main key words mindfulness and overwhelm, and thought, cool, I know what this will be about, and you would be right. We are talking about mindfulness and overwhelm, but I want to show you the power of words and mindset first.

Here are 2 different versions of this title:

  1. Mindfulness for when you are overwhelmed
  2. Mindfulness when experiencing overwhelm

What’s the difference? Well, the first one’s more harsh. Mindfulness for when you are overwhelmed. If I wanted the title to have more of the wow factor I would have used that one. Which again, goes against my marketing background and it was hard for me to use that one.

So the first title choice, mindfulness for when you are overwhelmed. It attaches emotion to what you’re reading. When you say you are something, you’re more closely identifying with it. You’re saying I am this. Or I am that. But are you? Is that who you are? Are you generally an overwhelmed person? Or is it just something that you’re experiencing right now?

That leads to the 2nd title choice. Mindfulness when experiencing overwhelm. Ah yes, that feels so much better, internally to me. It’s a less definitive way to describe what is happening to you right now in this moment. It’s not defining you. It’s just this is currently what is happening.

I want you to think about this next time you’re feeling a rise of emotions. If you tell yourself I am stressed, I am angry, I am sad, are you saying it in that way so that you believe it more? So that you have justification for those feelings?

The Irish have a beautiful saying for truthfully expressing emotion. Instead of saying “I am sad” or “I am sorry”, they say “there is sadness on me”, they are experiencing sadness.

woman stressed lying on chair with notebook over face

Positive Affirmations

This is actually something I really need to work on as well. One of the things that originally got me into mindfulness and meditations was surrounding myself with positive affirmations. Positive affirmations tend to be more on the direct side where we are labeling these feelings to try and convince ourselves of something. Some websites even define positive affirmations as “I am” statements. So, I’m going to make an effort from now whenever I’m giving you a mantra or affirmation to use, I will make it one that isn’t a generalized statement that can be interpreted as defining the person as a whole. For instance, instead of saying I am happy, how about instead we say, I am happy to be here right now. It’s not identifying us as whole person, but it’s identifying us as someone experiencing something specific in this moment.

What To Do When You’re Overwhelmed

Think about when the feeling of overwhelm typically occurs in your life. Does it have to do with work, with your personal life, when schedules or tasks get derailed? Is there one specific area that stands out as causing more overwhelm than the others, or is it a combination of all of the above?

Let me tell you what happens to me. I believe from my own reflection, 90% of the time that I’m feeling overwhelmed it’s because I’m trying to multitask and I’m only half paying attention to each of the things that are frustrating me. When I’m at work and I have a bunch of tasks I’m trying to work on, while also checking my email because I hear that notification in the background, and I’m not giving my full attention to just completing the task I need to complete. So because I’m going back and forth, my mind is trying to focus on too many things at once. Ergo, overwhelm.

Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work

This also happens at home, especially, when I was working from home during quarantines, and the kid’s were stuck home from daycare. Those were the worst days of parenting, to date, because the kids are fighting for my attention and in return, I’m getting so mad that they just won’t let me finish an email. I remember I just kept saying, give me 10 minutes to finish this email and I can play with you. But of course, a 2 yr old and a 4 yr old don’t understand that. Then, the email is drawn out even longer than it needed to be, and the kids still aren’t full satisfied because I’m only half paying attention to each thing. Trigger the overwhelm.

Another trigger for many people is also sitting in traffic. Knowing you have somewhere to be, you literally cannot get there any faster, you’re feeling stuck, all the what-ifs are going through your mind, and you get angry.

The RAIN Method To Process Stress

There is a method in mindfulness for dealing with triggering situations called the RAIN method. R.A.I.N.

R – Recognition of the problem and/or trigger. That’s always the first step in mindfulness. If you don’t realize something is happening, you can’t work on it.

A – Allow for a pause – This is one of my favorite parts because it gives the power back to you. In stopping and saying, wait a minute, what is happening right now, I don’t like this, you’re taking back control of the situation, and allowing yourself to process it so you have the opportunity to create a different response that is more comfortable to you.

I – Investigating and looking inward. So this is, like, asking yourself, what support do I need right now? What am I feeling, why am I feeling it? And this is your opportunity to be non-judgmental toward yourself or someone else. Instead of justifying your emotion by placing blame, this moment is to just better understand where it’s all coming from.

N – Nurture – Nurturing is a way that you create an open-mind, a forgiving outlook, and kinder space surrounding the situation. Maybe you become present in the moment and just let it go, and say it happened, let’s move on.  Or maybe you call a friend to talk it out with someone. For me, nurturing often actually looks like humor. I love to laugh at myself and my ridiculousness sometimes and it makes me feel so much better to release that anger. Often if I can laugh, I know the situation is no longer burdening me.

Speaking of RAIN, how many of you have seen the Drew Barrymore video on social media of her expressing pure elated joy in a rain storm. If you haven’t, go look at it. Because it just further proves my point, that sometimes a little bit of RAIN, can wash your worries away.


5 Minute Meditation for Recognizing Your Needs

[Meditation Script]

Meditation in itself is an example of embracing the RAIN acronym. In listening to this podcast and participating in the meditation, you’re recognizing that you could use some mindfulness and meditation in your life. And in meditation you are allowing for the pause. You are pausing everything else in your life to focus on your breath and give your mind a break. In meditation you are investigating your inner workings. It gives you clarity into why and how you are the person you are today. And finally, meditation is nurturing. It is good for your health. It is good for your mind. It is good for your soul.

And with that thought, take in a deep breath through your nose & out through your mouth.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Allow your breath to fall back to whatever is a comfortable pace for you.

Now think about some times that you have felt overwhelmed. Try to identify what often causes that feeling. Too much work, procrastination, shutting down, then feeling guilty. There isn’t just a single feeling of overwhelm. It stems from one thing, and then it grows into a chain reaction of emotions until it’s addressed. Continue to breathe and think about this.

Now think about what you most likely would need, in those moments, to feel better about the situation. In a perfect world, how would you prefer to cope with feeling overwhelmed for the best possible outcome? Continue to breathe and think about this.

And finally, what changes do you notice about yourself when you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed? I want you to know those feelings, and triggers, deep down inside. So you can more quickly recognize them when it’s beginning to happen to you again.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Repeat this in your mind 3 times along with me:

I am happy in this moment. I appreciate this moment of peace.
I am happy in this moment. I appreciate this moment of peace.
I am happy in this moment. I appreciate this moment of peace.
And now sit quietly for a few more moments, focusing back on the breath.

Remember next time this happens, you are NOT overwhelmed. That is not who you are as a whole. You are simply experiencing overwhelm in this moment. Perception and mindset sets the tone of everything.

woman relaxing on beach
About The Author

Beth Backes

Podcast host and certified meditation teacher. Creator of the Mindful Living Made Easy stress management strategy. Meditating, tea drinking, yogi, mom.

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