It’s all too easy to take on too much. Whether it be work or personal commitments, the more we say yes to, the harder it is to balance everything. We try to multitask, we try to increase our work-rate to get tasks ticked off – we end up getting stressed.
With deadlines looming or with people waiting on us to fulfill an obligation, it feels like we’re carrying weights around all day. Eventually we’re frazzled, fed-up, burnt out.
I’ve been there more than once. And while prioritising and preventing things getting to the overloaded level is the best course of action, sometimes it just happens. Thankfully, through experience, I’ve been able to come up with a reliable set of steps that allows me to refresh and reset when things start to get overwhelming.
Here they are, I hope they help you too!
1. Flush out
The Stoics were known to journal in the morning and the evening. To begin our refresh, we don’t need to give it a name or do it at a certain time or buy a special journal. Just write down anything and everything that pops into your head. When there’s nothing left you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off your mind.
“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”Julia Cameron
2. Create distance
You’ve already created some mental distance by writing down your thoughts. Now repeat some of these thoughts aloud very rapidly for about a minute. Doing this simple exercise will make the words start to feel meaningless and many worries may not seem so bad.
“It is not things that worry us, but our judgements about things.”Epictetus, Enchiridion 5
Here are some more cognitive distancing techniques inspired by Donald Robertson, Tim Ferriss, and James Altucher.
After clearing your head, refresh your whole body. One way is to try The Wim Hof Method. The method consists of three “pillars”: cold therapy, deep breathing, and meditation. You can learn about it here (it’s very simple!):
“The body should be treated more rigorously, that it may not be disobedient to the mind.” – Seneca the Younger
Seneca also described himself (in Moral Letter 83) as a “cold-water enthusiast, who… used to inaugurate the first of the year with a plunge into the Virgo aqueduct.”
“The soul resides within us. It is within our reach if we know where to look for it.” – @Iceman_Hof
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.59
4. Refocus with a new perspective
Now that you are suitably refreshed, it’s time to reset. Regain calm by changing your perspective.
- Life is short
- We need only focus on the things within our control
- It helps to accept that things happen as they are supposed to
For even greater perspective, try the View From Above exercise.
5. Do an act of kindness
You’ve refreshed and reset. To complete the process, help yourself by looking outside yourself. Do a good deed and tell no one, not even the person it was done for. As Seneca said, wherever there is a person, there is an opportunity for kindness.
“The reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves, for they are not practiced with a view to recompense; the wages of a good deed is to have done it.”Seneca, Epistles 81.19
Here are some ideas for anonymous acts of kindness.