Feeling Overwhelmed? Try This

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If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, this episode’s for you.

What’s in store…

💋🎙 Discover the two critical factors that lead to overwhelm

💋🎙 The two questions you can ask yourself to stop overwhelm in its tracks

💋🎙 Why constraints are are the antidote to overwhelm

💋🎙 How to create constraints that expand instead of constrict

Did this episode spark a clever constraint? Share it with me in the comments.

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Alyssa Patmos 0:04

This is Make It Mentionable. I’m Alyssa Patmos and this is the show about being human in a world that encourages us to be robots. I invite you to join me as we journey through the mess, the magic and the mania in between. Because what we can talk about, we can manage. This honest conversation extravaganza includes free flowing conversations and high doses of vulnerability to remind you that you aren’t alone. No topic is off limits, and episodes are designed to leave you smarter, aka more self aware than when you came. I am so glad you’re here.

Hello, Hello. And welcome back to another episode of Make It Mentionable. I’m your host Alyssa Patmos and today we are talking about what to do when we start to feel overwhelmed and can creep in in many different ways. We can feel overwhelmed creatively, like there’s this new project in front of us. Where do we start? Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed in having so many possibilities of what to do creatively where it’s like, I don’t even know which project I want to do. We can feel overwhelmed in relationships. If we keep having the same argument over and over again, for some reason. We can feel overwhelmed choosing what to make for dinner. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed. If we look at our calendar and see all of this stuff we said yes to and maybe we actually wanted to say no to some of it. The thing about overwhelm is that when it creeps in, it kind of has a depleting effect. And we feel like we have less agency in this situation. And that can send us into a downward spiral. And so what do we do? What did we start to do when overwhelmed crepes and got a few tips for you today. So one of the most recent times where I felt overwhelmed and kind of partly where this conversation is coming from, is because Jeff and I are going to to Greece soon. And I was trying to figure out where we even wanted to go, there are a ton of islands you can visit. We’re going for like 11 days, and I wasn’t sure where where to go. I don’t know that much. I don’t know much about the area. And so I was consuming travel blog after travel blog. And eventually I consume so much information that I was like

analysis paralysis, and I did an episode recently on is our desire for knowledge, turning us into saturated sponges. And it resonated with a lot of people because we do we want to soak up so much information. And then at times though we become so saturated with information and other people’s thoughts that we’re just like a saturated sponge sloshing around dirty water instead of you know, being able to effectively clean the counter. And so we need to be wrung out in order to be effective again. And it’s at that moment where we need to be wrung out where overwhelm can creep in because we have soul we’ve we’ve absorbed so much, I find that that overwhelm can creep in when we feel like there’s too much choice available. And when we feel like there’s not enough choice available can creep in when we feel completely unbounded. And like there’s boundless terrain and when we feel restrained. And there is this magical place in the middle that helps with that. And that’s the reframe that I want to give you today. So this magical place in the middle is called constraint. And to give you the example, right off the bat, when I was looking at Greece, you know, there are tons and tons of islands, there are different areas that you can travel to and different islands that are easier to get to from another one and we wanted to go to a few different ones. So once I made the decision that we were going to be in like the channel I don’t know, I don’t know what it what it’s called, I think it starts with a C but in the channel that like has Santorini, and and Crete. And we can get there from Athens. Once I made that decision. The rest of the day, it eliminated so many other decisions. And that is the power of a constraint. And it allows us to see possibility without feeling like there’s infinite possibility. So it allows us to see possibly more possibilities so that we don’t feel restrained. I mean, I didn’t say we’re only going to Santorini, so didn’t feel constricted to One to One islanded didn’t feel restrained to one island. But I also didn’t feel like I was choosing between 57 now. And so this works across the board, you know, sometimes we we want to sit down and write. And if we feel like there’s infinite possibilities of topics that we can talk about, we can feel creatively constipated. Like, we have too much to say. And so we get writer’s block. So on the other side, we can also feel like there’s not enough choice, if we sit down to write, and it’s like, I’ve gotten nothing today, then we can feel blocked, because we restrict we feel restrained by the limited amount of of options. And so constraint becomes really important there where it’s like, okay, I know that I write about self awareness, I know that I write to, to creatives, you know, whatever, whatever the the the group is for you, we can put in a constraint that eliminates some of the other decisions, so you don’t have to worry about also writing about food or also writing about, you know, how the economy is performing.

So constraints are prompted, let me back up. So a constraint is a restriction or limitation on someone or something of restraint, on the other hand, involves holding someone or something back or keeping something or someone under control. So both are referring to limitations put on people or things, which could be another word for boundaries. But sometimes boundaries can bring up a lot of emotion. Because if we’ve had a lifetime of not having boundaries, and then people walking all over us, or likewise, if we’ve had a lifetime of having very, very rigid boundaries, talking about boundaries can feel like a lack of control. So both are different types of boundary boundaries, but the context behind them, the connotation behind them, is very, very different. So constraints are prompted by your own internal and deeply rooted standards and values, things that are important to you your desires, your wants, you know, yeah, your values. restraints, on the other hand, are caused by individuals or other people. So like, restrictions on what we’re able to do, because of laws, there’s a, there’s a freeway near here, and I want to be able to go 70, but the speed limit is 55. And so I don’t feel restraint in that sense. A constraint is used to deter an action. And a restraint is meant to hold someone back. I’m curious what you think of when you hear the word restraint. For me, I think of like my hands being tied behind my back, and not being able to totally break free. And that can feel overwhelming at times. So constraints can be super, super helpful in this land between feeling like we have no agency and then feeling like there’s absolutely infinite possibility. And so how do I even start to make a decision? When we recognize something as a constraint, and put a constraint on ourselves, it becomes a choice. And when something becomes a choice, we have more agency in the situation, when it’s not a choice, then it has more of a tendency to feel like and, and that can oftentimes be synonymous, you know, with a shirt, it’s like, Oh, you shouldn’t do that right now. You should say yes to this. And you can feel restrained by the pressure to say yes, and people please and show up for everybody all the time. Even though you know that that’s not going to feel the best to you later. So when we can recognize restraints put on us by others, it opens up some choices, we can either accept them as our own. And again, that’s when it becomes a choice. And that transitions the restraint to a constraint because it’s become a choice of our own. We can reject them entirely and just be like, No, I’m going to find a different path, or we can create a boundary around them. So an example of a positive constraint though, is taking artists for example, it there are endless mediums that an artist can paint on. Well, and that’s even just a painter you know, if you’re an artist sometimes you can also you know, dabble in graphic design or illustration. So let’s say the first constraint is like a painting. But then from there, there are tons and tons of mediums that you can paint on, you can paint on wood, you can paint on metal, you can paint on canvas, tons of different types of paper. And then on top of the surface that you’re painting on, there’s also a ton of different types of paints, or using watercolors or using acrylics. And so, if you’re having to make that decision over and over again, that can be overwhelming that can lead to overwhelm. And so an example of a positive constraint is an artist saying, you know, okay, I’m going to choose to work with watercolors on campus for this series. You know, another example of a positive constraint can be choosing to only focus on Instagram, rather than trying to be on Facebook and Tik Tok and Pinterest and all the places.

Constraints give us the opportunity to expand by eliminating some of the decisions that need to be made. And they help us wrangle ourselves without feeling restrained. So helps us dance in this continuum between feeling restrained, and then this unbounded possibility where it becomes hard to make a decision. And so if you feel overwhelmed, the first step is to look at okay, am I feeling restraint? Or am I feeling unbounded? Boundless opportunity to the point where it’s hard to make a decision for me in Greece, it was it was the latter it was there were so many choices available, like how do I narrow this down? I need to chunk this down. So that I don’t feel so overwhelmed. And, and when you recognize, okay, wait, I’m either feeling like there’s too much possibility. Or I’m feeling like, I’m restrained. So if you feel like you’re being restrained, then the next question is, is okay, do Am I accepting these restraints? And if so, if we’re actually accepting the restraint, then okay, it’s now it’s now a choice? Or do I need to reject that and see a different path? Do I need to see a different path coming up? So So step one, asking yourself, I can my feeling restrained, in which case, then it becomes time to look for other possibilities and reclaim some agency, either adopting the restraint as a choice, or looking for other areas, other possibilities in this situation? You know, if you feel stuck in a box at work, is there a way where you can ask for more responsibility? Is there a way where you can have a conversation around what your role is? And how you would like to see your role in the company evolving? On the flip side, if you recognize, oh, there are way too many possibilities available to me, then, what constraints can you put in place? How can you chunk it down? And so where are you feeling restrained? Where are you feeling? Like there’s infinite possibility? And how is that leading to overwhelm? The first I guess the first question you can ask yourself is like, where are you feeling overwhelmed? And then it becomes Okay, am I feeling restrained? Or do I have too many options? And then from there, how can you make better use of constraints, a very practical example of a constraint is a deadline. You know, a lot of people say they work best under pressure. And the pressure of a deadline gives them the constraint that they need to know when something has to be done, so that they’re not spinning their wheels, trying to perfect things. Two weeks past when it was good enough. I used to do this in grad school all the time. Like, I didn’t, I wasn’t fascinating, like, I knew I could get a paper done in a night. And that’s the difference. Like there’s, you can give yourself a constraint. And know, okay, like, I’m going to do this the night before, which is not always advised. I would, if I could go back and tell myself, I would probably do the paper like three days in advance, just so I could, you know, not have to stay up the whole night. But I gave myself that constraint. And I was like, I’m gonna get it done the night before. And I did and I usually got an A, even though it came with some additional stress. But because I gave myself the constraint of knowing I was going to do it, then I didn’t have to worry about it leading up to them. So other other constraints that can pop up. So if you start to feel overwhelmed, because you have way too many things on your calendar, and you find yourself saying, yes, far too often, but saying no is, is you don’t want to say no to everything. Then maybe you put a constraint in place. That’s only I’m only going to say guess two things after I’ve taken 30 minutes to fully consider them. So you let it sit in your body first, and act and rather than impulsively being like, Yes, I’m totally down to go get drinks with you next week, you take 30 minutes and you’re like feel into it, take a look at your calendar, see what else is there, it doesn’t have to be this impulse, impulse, yes, going forward. So give yourself that constraint.

Or maybe you feel overwhelmed. Every time you open your social media feed right now, maybe you’ve just hit in that state of overwhelm when you open Instagram, and it just starts scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. So maybe you give yourself the constraint of I’m only going to open social media once a day in tell you that having not been on it for a few months now, it has significantly decreased the amount of overwhelm, I feel, partly because I’m not absorbing as many thoughts from other people. And so it’s easier to bring myself out, I’m not reaching that saturated sponge capacity as quickly. Or maybe, you know, especially if you are working on a project where you need creativity, or you’re writing, maybe you only check your email between three to five, maybe you set the constraint of I have to sit down and write my own stuff before, I will look at anything else written by someone else. Maybe you feel overwhelmed, deciding what to do for dinner. And that’s where it’s like, are deciding what to choose for dinner. And I only use this as an example. But I find it something people struggle with more often than not where we’re just like, No, you can decide, well, sometimes giving ourselves the constraints of like, okay, well, let’s have Italian or, or I’m going to make Italian. In that case, like if I’m cooking, and I decide if I feel overwhelmed from the amount of things that I could choose to make from our fridge, then it’s like, Okay, I’m gonna make something Italian. So then I know like, I’m using basil, oregano, using garlic and using pepper. And it limits it gives me the constraint to not have to continue to make a ton of decisions about what to include. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in a relationship, and the same argument keeps coming up over and over and over again, maybe you give yourself the constraint of when you start to feel it creeping up, you start to feel that argument, the same thing happening, you ask for 10 minutes to reflect so that it doesn’t go down the same reactionary path again. And you can give yourself the space to see alternate ways of responding. Overwhelm has a tendency to happen when we feel restrained by too little choice. Or when we feel like there’s infinite amounts of choice. And putting constraints and place creative constraints in place that we come up with that are rooted in our values and our standards and our desires, gives us the space to reclaim our agency and move forward in a more powerful way. So I’m happy to report that putting, putting some constraints in place on which islands, we were going to freed it up, and we’re going to go to Crete and we’re going to go to Santorini and we’re going to go to Athens. And it became much easier than to like narrow down. Okay, where we wanted to stay, which makes me think you know, the filters in the side of of hotels.com and whatnot, you know, when you’re searching where it’s like, okay, I want four stars and above, or I want it to be like a four and a half dot rating on TripAdvisor and above, those are ways of putting constraints in place. And it’s how can we do that in our lives, so that we don’t feel overwhelmed as much. You know, when we think of user experience in searching for a hotel, it would be overwhelming if there was no way to sort through and we’re just having to look through all of them. And the same thing happens in real life. How do How can we filter down our experience in a way where it’s chosen rather than just rather than just unconsciously being filtered? What are the filters that we can put in place? How can we use constraints more effectively to reclaim our agency and not spiral into overwhelm as often? So where are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Because there’s too little choice? And if so, how can you take a few moments to examine and allow yourself to see more possibility and situation? Or are you feeling overwhelmed? Because there’s so much possibility? In which case, what constraints can you put in place to allow yourself to be able to make one decision that’s really making like three decisions for you?

Where are you feeling overwhelmed, I would love to know in the comments. And if you start to put some constraints in place, I find it can be helpful to know sometimes what constraints other people are using, because it shows us more possibilities of of how how we can filter how we can how we can put constraints in place that feel good to us, rather than feeling like restraints, because I think, you know, we naturally have a fear of being trapped in a box that we don’t want to be in. And that sometimes creeps up when we think about constraints is like, are they going to feel like restraint to us. And so sometimes seeing what other people have done can be helpful in an examining, oh, I never thought of that as a possibility. But that actually feels really good to me, I’m going to adopt it. And that came up as I was reading digital minimalism, like there were a few different ways that people talked about creating constraints around how they use social media that I had never thought of before. Like, some people only check it on the weekends, or some people only look at it from their desktop, because it’s harder to scroll that instead of looking at it on their phone. So if you have a constraint that you use, or that you’re thinking about putting into place that you want to share, hop on over to the comments at AlyssaPatmos.com/Show, and continue the conversation with me. As always, thank you so much for tuning in and I will catch you next week.

You’ve just finished listening to another episode of Make It Mentionable with me, your host, Alyssa Patmos. If you’re looking for more in between episodes, then sign up for The Peel. It’s my free newsletter that gives tips for how to navigate whatever life dishes and it’s also the place where I share the juiciest of stories. To check it out, head on over to AlyssaPatmos.com/ThePeel. Thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you next time.

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