If you are feeling overwhelmed, if you are feeling
anxious, cannot sleep, are feeling burnout or if you just have too many thoughts in your head, one
of the best things that you can do is to simplify. Your mind, space or responsibilities
might feel exhausting and cluttered. Whenever I am feeling like this, one of the best
things that I can do is to resort to minimalism. And that is exactly how I have
been feeling these past weeks, and that is what I needed to do, I needed
to minimize and simplify things. So today, I want to share with you some of the
things that we can do to achieve this.
Let me give you a tiny bit of context: I
have been having insomnia again, partially because I cannot stop the flow of thoughts
in my head, and I stay awake for long hours. And on the next day, I just wake up later,
feeling tired, already being hard on myself for not waking up early enough, and over all I see
a decrease in my capability of achieving things, which then leads to more questioning and
overthinking during the night.
And that is why I think it is quite a vicious cycle.
I have also been bombarding myself with different information, I have been doing
some heavy research since I am trying to figure out my next professional and
personal steps, so I have been looking at other countries and other future career paths.
That has led me to listen to a lot of experiences and video references of other people. So overall,
I have spent almost everyday with my phone playing a video in the background, no matter
what I was doing. Not only was I multitasking, because I was listening to the videos or podcasts
while doing other things, but I was constantly reminding myself about the decision that I will
inevitably have to encounter at some point. And seriously my head just felt like a big mess
of ideas, unfulfilled to-do lists, self criticism, and overall just a cluttered space.
So when feeling like this, one thing that we can do is to try to reduce
decision fatigue as much as possible. We have a limited attention span, that only allows
us to pay attention and focus on a certain amount of things.
But sometimes, we can feel overwhelmed
when there is just too much going on in our heads. So to diminish my decision fatigue, I
basically tried to prevent myself from constantly having to choose things. Since I
was feeling overwhelmed, my to do list felt unachievable. Instead of panicking, I
decided to prevent myself from the fatigue of constantly deciding what to do next.
I allocated some specific tasks on specific days, so that I could forget about them until it was
time to complete them. Don’t you ever feel that certain tasks are constantly and frequently
in your head spiking your anxiety? Well this certainly happens to me. That is partially why I
like to write things down and make to-do lists, so that I don’t have to go through the constant
low key anxiety of uncompleted things in my head. Other things that you can do to minimize decision
fatigue are planning your meals ahead of time, which is also a bonus if you are trying
to be more intentional with food. I also planned my outfits, super simple
ones, let me tell you.
But that had a little tiny effect on me, since I did not have to
make that decision first thing in the morning. I have heard many times that
successful people like Steve Jobs tried to minimize decision
fatigue as much as possible, since it allowed them to use their attention
on more important things. And I feel that it makes complete sense, taking into account
that our attentional resources are limited. Now before we move to the next segment, make
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My second point is to keep a simple schedule, Simplify your complicated routines
and prioritize your important tasks. Sometimes we have days or even weeks where we
just cannot do much. And when feeling anxious, you can start to be unable to complete
certain tasks or follow certain routines. So one thing you can do is to take it easy.
Simplify your routine as much as you can, and don’t set super high expectations,
on the contrary, be realistic. Prioritize the really important tasks from
the accessory, or less important tasks.
Focus on the first ones. We all need to give
ourselves a break from time to time. For instance, if for a couple days you cannot
follow your workouts, or you are not eating super healthily, don’t be harsh on yourself. Because
that will probably create more self criticism, and you will end up more overwhelmed.
It is just becomes a vicious circle. When dealing with routines or to-do lists
on days like this, I like to remind myself that I need to simplify things, to go back to
the basics, and focus on the things that have more priority. I am someone that overcomplicates
things, and that is why, from time to time, I have to put more intention and more
effort into simplifying. So I take some time to declutter my to-do lists and simplify my
routines so that they have the minimum necessary amount of things that I have to get done.
You can try this by making a super simple list with only a couple items, which is something that
I totally recommend.
Only writing a few things down might make you feel less productive
and you might fear not getting much done, but in reality, if you overwhelm
yourself by making a big list then you won’t probably complete anything at
all. So I think that it is better to focus on only a couple things rather than
not being able to do much at all.
Another thing you can do, is to
give yourself a break from thinking, and put things on hold for some time.
I have a hard time making decisions, just because I love to be informed and spend lots
of time doing research. But the fact that I am trying to gather as much information as possible
can sometimes become overwhelming. Because, to be honest, there’s no limit to the amount
of information you can get about a topic, especially when it comes to other people's
So I think that setting some healthy boundaries in this aspect can be
good. And when dealing with overthinking or before you make a big decision, one good thing you
can do is to just give yourself some free days, where you can just process the information,
instead of stuffing yourself with more input. Personally, I am not going to be searching
for more information for a while, until I can sort of digest all that
I have read and listened to already. Also I think that when making major decisions, you
can actually use your gut feeling.
I have learned, during my studies in psychology, that the role
that emotions play in decision making is crucial, so I don’t know why we sometimes try to make such
rational decisions, when we can instead allow my gut feeling to guide us a bit. I was actually
just trying to gather as much information as possible to make my decision totally rational,
but maybe I just have to let it rest for a bit and wait some time. The same goes for searching
for my next career path. Maybe putting this on hold for a couple weeks will give me a bit of
a break, and I will then be able to access all of these decisions with a lot more clarity.
Because as for me, I have enough information, but I trick myself into thinking that I have
to search for more stuff, just because I don’t really want to make that decision, since it
is so big and so, potentially, life-changing. Of course, we cannot take a break from some
things or decisions, but we can also allow ourselves to take a break from others.
all depends on the personal circumstance.
Now, another of my points is to
take a break from social media I feel that nowadays, social media can be a bit
overwhelming. I personally feel overstimulated at times, and when I am feeling sad I tend to resort
to social media to escape my reality in a way. But this just creates a loop because I tend to overuse
it, and then I feel guilt, and consequently I feel more overwhelmed. So, I try to make a big
effort to disconnect myself from technology, which helps me to stop the inflow of information.
As you already know, I was listening to videos and podcasts so much that I did not find time in
silence! I was filling any gaps with more input. And this leads me to my next point, which
is to take some grounding time in solitude. I think that nowadays we don’t allow ourselves to
have proper time alone.
Some of us are spending a lot more time than usual with our families,
since we are in the same living space, some of us are having online classes or maybe
doing some research, studying and we sometimes do not find a quiet time for ourselves.
And the funny thing is, that most times, whenever we actually find some time like this,
we tend to fill it with more ideas, with the decisions that we need to make, or our unfulfilled
tasks. So even if we have time in solitude, it is not a real silence, or a kind, calm and mindful
time, but we are being chased by our thoughts. If you are living with other people and also you
are using a lot of technology, maybe you are not getting enough time in solitude. And having
some can allow you to think about yourself, to be calm and to disconnect for a bit.
I have been really enjoying walking outside, where I do not take my phone.
It is just me
and the trees. It is quite nice and gives me a bit of space and time of solitude,
away from the stimuli and from my family. I kind of suggest you find some time to do an
activity that does not require electronics or other people, and that helps you to be present.
I like the definition of stress as the pendulum that moves through the past, present and future
and is not centered and quiet in the present. I understand that thinking about the future is
important, and reflecting about the past is as well, but lately I have been feeling that I am
overthinking about the future, and I am not fully enjoying the present. So going for a walk helps
me to keep that pendulum a bit more quiet. You can actually choose whatever grounds you, it can be
painting, walking on nature, cooking, you name it. Last but not least, one thing you can
do is to put your thoughts on paper. When my mind feels cluttered, writing things
down always helps me to simplify my thoughts. This also helps me to list down the really
important things and to find out where they stand in the hierarchy.
This is really powerful,
because writing means that you have to digest your thoughts and put them on paper. And most times my
head is completely messy, but it becomes filtered and tidied up when I write things down. That is
definitely something that I always do when I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed, or when my head
cannot really stop thinking. I sometimes feel that we are becoming more and more lazy to write, but
it is something that our species has been doing for a long time. I find it really terapehutic, but
I know that some people find it time consuming. If you do, maybe you can see it as an
investment on yourself and your wellbeing.
So yeah, overall, this week I am focusing on
resetting things, I’m simplifying them, I’m just trying to be present and to reduce anxiety a bit.
I do think that minimalism and simplifying is a great tool for that. And if you are feeling
any of this, I recommend you try it out. I was also quite hesitant to use the word
minimalism, because I have been trying to detach myself from labels. But I think that today it is
appropriate to use the term, since all I want to do is find the essential things, and eliminate
the excess, which is driving me a bit crazy.
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Until next time, and please stay simple!.