How to feel less overwhelmed

Jun 23, 2024

Today’s world is filled with so many demands that we often end the day feeling overloaded and disconnected.

And when we try to slow down, we tend to feel guilty for doing so. This guilt can result from "toxic productivity" culture.

That's why this week, we're talking all about the art of Micro-mindfulness as a tool to quiet the noise in our minds, and tap into the peace and wisdom that we each carry inside of ourselves.

Acts of “Micro-mindfulness” are small, quick actions that make it easier to integrate present-moment awareness into your everyday life.

What is "present-moment awareness?" That's when we intentionally pay attention to what is happening in the present moment, both internally and externally.

Research has shown that the practice of focusing our attention on the here and now comes with many benefits such as: lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression — and an improved sense of well-being, clarity, and patience

"Toxic" Productivity?

Today’s culture perpetuates a cycle of what many people refer to as “toxic productivity.”

Why is it considered toxic? Because we are pressured to keep moving, stay busy, and get things done at any cost — including the cost of our well-being. 

Alongside this pressure to be productive also comes a pressure to “take care of ourselves” which is all well and good, but given everything else on our plates… that can easily feel like yet another overwhelming task.

Sometimes meditation for even 30 minutes can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing 5 quick and “easy to start” micro-mindfulness activities

#1: Body Scan

Our first micro-invitation is to check-in with your body.

We can’t always fit in a full yoga session, so in moments of overwhelm, take 3 minutes to ask yourself: “how does my body feel right now?” and then respond!

Bring your attention to a tight area, and then stretch it while taking 3 deep breaths! Simple, micro — but if you make it into a practice it will have a huge impact.

#2: Focus on your breath

You’ve probably heard about the power of focusing on your breath a million times, but we’re saying it again for good reason.

When we focus on our breathing, it has a soothing effect on our nervous system which can help us approach stressful situations with more calm and groundedness

For 3 minutes today, try pausing and asking yourself: “how am I breathing right now?” — and then notice: is your breathing shallow? Deep? Slow? Quick? Were you holding your breath?

Now take 5 DEEP belly breaths and focus your attention on the exhale. Focusing on the exhale will emphasize to the brain that we are safe and it’s okay to relax. 

#3: Try “Mindful Eating”

This third mindfulness tip today involves eating. But not just regular eating, instead, we encourage you to try “mindful eating.” 

It’s easy to go on autopilot during something as familiar to us as eating — probably because we have been doing it multiple times a day since we were born 😅

I’m sure I'm not the only one that’s been caught taking my breakfast on the road, or eating lunch at the desk.

But research has shown that when we eat with more mindfulness, we digest our food better, which helps get more vitamins and minerals and aids in overall digestive health.

So we invite you to try slowing down during 1 meal today to notice the colors of your food, how your food tastes and smells, what the textures are like, and how you chew! This will help root you in the present moment.

#4: Partner with a Pet

This tip involves some of our furry friends at home — and don’t worry, if you don’t have a pet, there are still ways to practice mindfulness with animals.

If you have been around animals, you have probably noticed that they can be the ultimate zen masters as they have a remarkable ability to just “be” in their experience. We can glean some of this mindfulness from our animal friends by just spending some time around them

Research has shown that simply interacting with our pets relieves stress, increases oxytocin and serotonin, and reduces overall cortisol levels. All of which is helpful in allowing us to enter more present-moment awareness.

And this also applies to watching animals online! UC Berkeley Professor Dacher Keltner, an expert in the science of emotion, confirms that even short engagement with nature programs such as Planet Earth leads to significant increases in positive emotions including awe, contentedness, joy, and amusement. The study also found substantial decreases in emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, fear, stress and tiredness.

We invite you to partner with your pet to practice mindfulness by engaging your 5 senses — well, maybe not taste!. Try sitting with your pet and feeling their fur under your fingertips, notice any smells (good or bad), listen to their breathing, and get close to their face to notice any tiny details that make up their facial features. 

If you don’t have a furry friend at home, you can practice this by looking up some nature clips online, or observing nature in the wild! Try sitting by a window and watching the city fauna like squirrels and crows. It is amazing how centering this practice can be.

#5: Observe the World

Our final micro-mindfulness tip is to observe your surroundings. I like practicing this when I’m outdoors, but you can do it anywhere by simply focusing on what is happening around you

Notice the traffic. Focus on the people walking by. Notice a beautiful flower. Feel the wind in your hair. The sun on your face.

By taking a couple of minutes to pause and notice your present experience, we can transition our mind from a place of overwhelm and fog to a place of creativity, clarity, and inspiration

We invite you to try this out today by pausing what you’re doing, setting a timer for 3 minutes — so you don’t spend the whole activity worrying about how much time has passed! — and just taking stock of your surroundings

If you’re inside, try facing away from a computer or laptop, and start looking at something familiar and noticing something new about it. A pencil, a coaster, a picture frame.

If you’re outside, zoom in on a flower or plant — ask yourself “what does this remind me of?”

Final Thoughts

Life gets busy, but it doesn’t mean we need to entirely stop all self-care. In fact, by practicing mindfulness you’re better equipping yourself for those curveball days.

We hope you get a chance to try some of these practical strategies to incorporate more mindfulness into your everyday life. If you're a focused space member, I'd love to hear how these activities feel for you when you try them!

See you around some of the sessions this week,

Darya, focused space host