For many women, the feeling of overwhelm is a familiar one. Even before the mental and emotional burdens of COVID, we felt pulled in a million different directions. We wear so many different hats and have multiple responsibilities, all of which manifest as demands on our time, our bodies and our energy, creating the perfect conditions for overwhelm.
That’s exactly where I was this past week. I found myself weighed down by a general feeling of “TOO MUCH!”. I have too much to do; too much to learn. I am surrounded by too much stuff; there are too many unknowns. My world and my responsibilities seemed to be closing in on me and as I lay awake one night running through my to do list, I felt like I was drowning.
The life saver that I needed came in the form of a meditation the next morning, titled Inspiration to Release Overwhelm. The compassionate tones of Liza Colpa encouraged me to believe that I was enough, that I knew what I needed and that all I had to do was take the next best step. This was exactly what I needed to hear. What a release, indeed. I had been so caught up in the worry of the future and the unknown, that I had forgotten that right now, I only needed to take the next step.
Ironically, I have just finished reading One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer which shares the same message. It begins with one of my favorite quotes by Tao Te Ching “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and goes on to show how you can use small steps to accomplish your goals. In my overwhelm I had forgotten this simple premise for life.
Kaizen is the perfect antidote to help free us from the paralysis of overwhelm. The low-key change that comes from taking small steps helps the brain to circumnavigate the flight or fight response that is activated when we feel like it’s all too much. Even embarrassingly small steps; a minute of exercise, putting away one thing that is out of place, are a way to get started. These small acts that your brain barely registers as change are enough to begin the process. From there, momentum builds and repetition and consistency eventually encourage greater action. In time, exercise, or tidying up, or whatever you aspire to do simply becomes part of who you are. It may not be the fastest way to change, but it is likely to generate the most sustainable results.
So, what was my kaizen/next best step this week? I refocused on my daily practice of identifying the single most important thing I needed to do that day. It's such a simple practice, and one that tends to fall off in moments like these. The one most important task went right to the top of my to do list, and if I achieved nothing else that day, I knew I had made progress. My next best step was just to tackle one task at a time. Simple. Doable. Movement.
Lingering Thought: What is one small step that you can take today to reduce the overwhelm in your life?