Today we’re talking about HOW to manage anxiety and overwhelm like a BOSS!
So this episode was inspired by a message I received on Instagram.
I had just shared an Instagram Story about my backyard landscaping nightmare. Long story short, over the past 5 months my husband and I have dropped a considerable 5-figures on our backyard landscaping. Well…the landscaper took the last large sum payment one day and then went to France.
Well, not really. I don’t know where they went. But I can tell you they’re not in my backyard.
And not only did they leave the job half finished…they also didn’t do the first half correctly. We had an irrigation specialist and another landscaper come out and they couldn’t believe what they were looking at…basically everything needs to be torn up and we need to start from scratch.
And I was just kinda laughing about it on Stories because the whole thing is just ridiculous. Is it frustrating? Yes. Do I like to hand over several tens of thousands of dollars in cash to people who then peace out on me? Not so much.
But I just shared that I was now interviewing lawyers to handle the situation and I think I had some laughing emojis going on.
So later that day, I received a DM from Megan, who lives in Australia, responding to my story. She gave me permission to share her message here…so here it is:::
Hello! Just want to say that I’m loving the podcast and wondering if you would consider an episode on managing these types of issues? I find that when I have an area of conflict like you are having with the landscaping (particularly if it is related to my home or my close relationships), I can become quite overwhelmed with anxiety and the issue consumes all my thoughts.
This happens even though my rational brain knows that will inevitably be resolved. This is in contrast to my professional life (psychologist working as an executive coach) where my job is literally to help people manage conflict and make decisions in complex environments. Anyway, just a thought! Thanks for all the brilliant content!
So first off, thanks so much Megan for your sweet words and for listening to this little baby podcast!
I just LOVE this topic and was excited to produce this episode. And not because I don’t ever get stressed and I have all the answers.
Uh no. I hope it never comes across that way on this podcast. I have the same human struggles as anyone else out there. And I loved that when I was messaging with Megan about sharing her DM, I asked her if she wanted me to not include the fact that she’s a psychologist. And you guys…her response was so beautiful…she said that she wants people to know that even psychologists, professional mental health experts, have the same human hurdles.
We NEED to normalize these feelings and these struggles. In fact, it’s usually the people who act like everything is always perfect (perfect marriage, perfect children, perfect hair day every day) and that they just don’t have the struggles like the peasants do…they’re usually the most messed up.
Right? So that girl on Instagram that has the super curated feed…you know where all 5 of her children are wearing matching outfits and all of them are looking at the camera at the same time like it’s some sort of Vanity Fair shoot or something…yeah…she’s probably a sticky hot mess behind the scenes.
But really…my hope with this podcast is to have these conversations of the decisions we make in life and then to share some actionable tips + research and stories so that you can dominate the decisions as they come.
Because anxiety, stress, self doubt, self sabotage…those things are all normal. So it’s more about how we handle them…
Alright, let’s dive in. I have 2 tools (or you can call them strategies) that will help you dominate feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.
First up is something I learned back in graduate school. And that is, when you feel anxiety and overwhelm start to kick in…stop and ask yourself one question “What half of the brain am I sitting in right now?”
So 100 years ago when I was in graduate school, my professor drew a picture of a brain on the white board and then drew a big line right down the middle. He said, you need to imagine that the brain is divided into 2 halves.
ONE half is your rational thinking side and the other half is your emotional side.
If you’re operating on the thinking side…you are acting rational, balanced and calm. You’re looking at problems from a realistic perspective. You aren’t catastrophizing or taking things personally.
You’re kinda like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory right? It’s all about logic.
But if you’re sitting in the emotional half of your brain, oh boy. Your emotions and feelings are driving the bus. You struggle to think straight because your overwhelm or stress is so thick you can’t see through it.
And there’s going to be times when it’s healthy and normal for us to swim in the deep end of our emotional half of the brain. If you just learned that your husband has cancer. Or your home was broken into. It’s normal and healthy to FEEL natural emotions and sit with them.
The perfect example of this would be watching the news. I swear that some people watch the news JUST so that they can get fired up and emotional.
How do you feel after you watch the news lately? I asked a few of my girlfriends this question recently and their response was “I feel burned out” and “I feel angry but also I feel anxiety…like I’m kinda scared about what might happen.”
You could have been having the best day ever and then after 20 minutes of the news, you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
Another example would be social media. So many of us scroll and look at all the busy + fabulous lives of influencers and without even realizing it, we are feeling lousy about ourselves and like we’re somehow failing at life.
The point is it’s VITAL that we ask ourselves “What half of the brain am I in right now” whenever we feel anxiety or overwhelm. And if your honest answer is the emotional half of the brain, ask yourself to take a step back and look at the situation logically from the other side of your brain.
We have to look at what’s happening and almost like you were sorting through a box of rocks looking for the smooth rocks. And those smooth rocks are the things that you CAN control. That you can directly influence.
Only pull out those smooth rocks and walk away from the rest. You can’t control them…those are like the weather outside. It’s there whether or not we are there.
Now that you have your smooth rocks sorted, it’s going to be easier for you to sit in your logical half of the brain and see what small things you can do to improve the situation that’s causing you stress and overwhelm.
So for instance let’s say you’re going through a divorce or separation. There’s a lot of emotions with that type of thing. But if you can choose to just visit your logical side of the brain for a little bit, you’ll be able to make a list of reasons to be hopeful. Reasons why a year from now you’ll be looking back feeling proud of how strong you are and how you made decisions in line with your best life.
So that’s the first one…ask yourself which half of the brain am I sitting in?
And then pretend to walk to the other half and look at the situation from that perspective.
BTW, this works really great when you’re having an argument with someone. One person is usually fully on the emotional side right? Just fired up and pure emotion spewing from every pore. And the other person is trying to stay on the logical side and keeps trying to rationalize with the angry one. And that never works right? Because if you’re squatting in the emotional half of the brain…rational + logical points don’t matter.
It’s like throwing water balloons on a burning house.
So that’s why it’s always best to let the emotional person settle down so that the two of you can have a conversation later when you’re both in the logical half of the brain.
And if you notice that your partner is in the emotional half of the brain, resist the temptation to tell them that they’re nuts or “you’re operating from the emotional half of your brain right now.”
Instead, stay in your logical half while validating their emotions. So saying something like “I hear that you’re angry. I hear that I caused this when I didn’t take out the trash. I’m sorry…I don’t want to be the cause of you feeling angry or sad.”
So basically you’re using emotional words to help them feel seen and heard.
So you get the point…just as it’s super helpful for you to identify what half of the brain you’re in…it’s also very helpful when dealing with other people at home or at work.
It’s how you can win arguments in a sneaky way lol
And going back to my landscaping issue…I could allow myself to get all emotional about it, but I’ve made the decision to stay out of that half of the brain for this situation.
I’ve decided that it’s better for me and it just makes more sense to stay in the logical half of the brain. We’ve chosen to hire an attorney so at this point, there’s nothing else I can really do about it and that’s okay.
And I gotta keep perspective. No one is dying right? And when we look up at the stars at night, we realize what we are allowing us to get stressed about..it’s a pretty small issue in the grand scheme.
And sometimes that’s what it takes to just tell yourself “it’s all going to be okay.”
Alright #2! The second strategy to manage overwhelm and anxiety like a BOSS is to change your state.
Because when anxiety and overwhelm have a hold on you…it can feel like you’re drowning right? You want so badly to come up for air…but it can often feel like you just can’t get a full breath before being pulled back under.
So this strategy is a FAST way to help you take a full breath of beautiful oxygen.
When someone drinks after work all the time it’s often because they want to change their state…and that’s often because they want to feel something or they want to avoid feeling something.
But a healthy way to change your state and really process your anxiety and overwhelm would include something like going for a walk outside. Especially if it’s someplace out in nature.
People really underestimate the power of walking. In a recent study researchers found that the impact from hitting our feet on the ground while walking sends a hydraulic wave upward through our bodies. This wave is actually strong enough to send blood back up through our arteries, increasing blood flow to the brain.
Ever wonder why some people like to walk around while they’re on an important phone call? They’re activating their brain.
Back when I was practicing as a school psychologist, I would do “walk and talk therapy” sessions with my students. This is especially effective for boys and men btw…if you want your boyfriend to have a conversation about something…take him on a walk.
Working out is another incredibly effective way to change your state. And working out, I know, may feel like the last thing you want to do when feeling overwhelmed (like Marion! I am overwhelmed and don’t have time for everything else let alone a workout).
And I get it. But we make time for the things that are important to us. Your mental health gosh…is there anything more important than that? A workout is like taking medicine.
And I know this isn’t blowing your mind…like I know that we’ve all heard that working out is good for our mental health. But how many of us actually do it? And btw, yes…walking is a workout. We must do something physical each day for our own self care. So consider this to be just a little “you can do this” nudge. Even if it’s just 5 pushups in your cubicle or during every commercial break of the Bachelorette…showing up for yourself in a small way physically can turn your entire bus around.
Ok so to recap:
When you feel anxiety and overwhelm try to push yourself underwater…stop and ask yourself “What part of the brain am I sitting in?” And then decide to visit the other side of the brain and look at the big picture in a realistic, non emotional way.
And #2 — change your physical state and it will waterfall into changing your mental state. Overwhelm kicking in…go for a walk or book that Fierce 45 workout class for this evening. You just need to decide you’re going to do something….and that decision will make all the difference.
Alright you guys…thanks so much for being here. I appreciate you…and I’ll see you next time…
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