March 5, 2013

How to End Overwhelm & Frustration.

A reader writes:

Hi Eric,

In today’s fast multitasking media overloaded society how can I prioritize and choose my path—daily, weekly, yearly etc. I have sooo many things that need to be accomplished I feel overwhelmed.

I have broken my goals down into categories; I’ve visioned, I’ve planned. I even ask myself, “What are the three things that must get done on a daily basis?” Everything else just gets left behind and then, at the end of the day, there’s more piled on. I will never finish the To Do List!

Not being disciplined and feeling totally overwhelmed, I never feel as if I have accomplished anything! Frustrating to say the least! What can I do?


Hi S,

First let me say—thank you for writing and…I can totally relate.

Like you, I’m familiar with the “I-will-never-get-it-done” mind. In fact, today after spending three hours on the phone with insurance companies…I can definitely relate.

For me, this state arises as a whole body sensation—like electrical needles pricking me up and down my arms, down my back and across my chest. Along with this, my breathing becomes shallow and speedy.

Then a buzzing sound starts ringing in my ears.

As pictures of incomplete tasks flash in my minds eye, a high-pitched anxious voice repeats, “You must move faster. You’ll never get it done. You must move faster. You’ll never get it done.”

Not the most productive state to greet the day, I’m sure you’ll agree.

When the search for a way to be more productive is driven by this never-enough-must-go-faster mind, the result will be more chaos.

The first step in moving forward is to stop.

Stop perpetuating the pattern of overwhelm and frustration.

Okay, but what is the pattern?

As my description above suggested, the pattern that creates the experience of overwhelm and frustration is a combination of body sensations, mental images and internal voices.

It’s not the external situation of too much work or too many choices that creates overwhelm and frustration.

These external conditions aren’t overwhelming and frustrating in their own right. They are not objectively overwhelming and frustrating. But they are overwhelming and frustrating…for you. Or, more accurately, the external conditions act as triggers for something within your mind.

So the first step in the process is to stop and observe.

Why is observing the first step?

Because until they are observed—those patterns of sensation, images, and voices—will continue to create overwhelm and frustration.

It’s an irony.

The very pattern that cries out for relief from overwhelm and frustration is what perpetuates overwhelm and frustration.

No matter what action I take—as long as it is driven by the unobserved inner pattern—will always result in more overwhelm and frustration.

There’s nothing I can do when I’m in the thrall of this pattern to reduce overwhelm and frustration.

Until the pattern—of sensations/images/voices—changes, I will be unable to change my experience. That’s why observing is so essential; observing is the first step (not the last) to freedom.

Until you can observe the arising of overwhelm and frustration—without getting overwhelmed or frustrated—all of your actions will bring you back to the place you began.

Freedom begins with observing.

But here’s where it gets tricky: because while it’s easy to say, “observe,” in the heat of the moment, it’s not always easy to do. When the trigger arises in the environment, the internal reaction kicks in.

And the gap between the external trigger and the internal reaction is easy—for the untrained mind – to miss.

Note the key word: untrained. It takes a certain kind of inner training to develop your capacity to observe—thinking about patterns isn’t enough. Reading books about spirituality won’t do it.

What works is combining meditation & action into a single equation.

An equation that produces freedom and creativity so you can be trigger-free and live with greater joy, purpose…and yes…productivity.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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