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E4: Addressing Being Over-worked, Over scheduled and Overwhelmed with Mindfulness


Overextension Emotional Mapping
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Overextension Worksheet
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Jacob Derossett

Today's episode is about how to contend with feeling overextended and overwhelmed, and also how to take a moment to notice and redirect yourself--during moments of stress and overwhelm using mindfulness.


Sarah Vallely

We get into these situations in our life, where we just feel like we're overextended. We might be working too much, feel like our schedule is too full, we might be overwhelmed. It doesn't even have to mean that we have a typical job scenario. We might be working three jobs to make ends meet, we might have multiple children, and it's just the way it is. So that's one scenario. Another scenario is we've created this life of being overworked and over scheduled because of our own patterns We can use mindfulness to address both of those scenarios.


A little review of what mindfulness is--it's a practice of either single pointed focus, open awareness or combination of the two. Single pointed focus is focusing on a stimulus such as the sounds in your environment, the physical sensations in your body, the breath, which is a combination of sounds and physical sensations. Or if you're practicing with your eyes open looking at an object. I always suggest an object from nature.


Incorporating open awareness into your practice is helpful, which is being aware and open to whatever comes into your experience. Is it a sound that comes into your awareness? A thought? Is it a physical sensation that comes up and just noticing that. Jacob, you're so good at asking me questions about why does it work? This section is dedicated to you and your love of understanding. You keep going until you really understand it.



What happens when you practice mindfulness is it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn, soothes your sympathetic nervous system--soothes those feelings of fight or flight. And the way it does that is it releases a hormone that reduces your heart rate. That might sound like a little thing, but it has a big impact on your mental, physical and emotional being. Our sympathetic nervous system, which is that fight or flight, gets conditioned, over a period of time. If we have a triggered reaction to a threat in our environment, and we have that repeat, then every time that happens, you're going to get triggered. There are studies that show that mindfulness will un-condition the sympathetic nervous system. The best way to do that is every time you feel that trigger, take about five minutes and practice mindfulness. Let your nervous system know everything's okay, we're going to make it through this. Do that on a dedicated basis for a period of time, and eventually, your system will be unconditioned.


Jacob Derossett

So mindfulness does activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and it does re-condition the sympathetic nervous system, why does it do that? Is it a specific practice? Or could it be any amount of just sitting down and paying attention?


Sarah Vallely

The studies that I read are usually teach the participants how to follow their breath. They're using single pointed focus and/or open awareness. And the reason that it works is simply because releasing that hormone that reduces your heart rate. This lets your system know, everything's okay. We're not in a threatening situation.


Jacob Derossett

I love that because that's an easy sell to someone. I feel some people are a little hesitant about meditation as an Eastern philosophy and the spirituality world and kombucha and avocado. A lot of people I talk to are very skeptical about stepping into a world that is deemed as odd. But this to me is very scientific. It could even be recommended by a doctor.


Sarah Vallely

It's that simple. But that doesn't mean it's easy. That's why we have meditation teachers out there to help support your practice and help you move through those frustrating times and teach tips and techniques for moving into that space of concentration, surrender, noticing and awareness.


The other reason mindfulness practice helps support you to feel less overwhelmed is because mindfulness changes the structure of your brain. Specifically, what it does is it increases gray matter in your hippocampus, which is related to spatial processing, navigation and memory. It also increases the anterior insula, which is associated with emotional experience, especially feelings of happiness and sadness--we feel less stressed because being sad can cause stress. And lastly, a mindfulness practice increases the cerebral cortex, which is very important. The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain. And it's responsible for consciousness, thought, emotions, reasoning, language and memory. Your memory, attention and clarity in thinking improve, which leads you to be able to handle a stressful situation better. Such as, feeling overworked, over scheduled and overwhelmed. They say if you practice for as little as 20 minutes a day, for six months, the structures in your brain show change.


Jacob Derossett

The minimum effective dose of meditation is 20 minutes a day for six months.


Sarah Vallely

That's the minimum dosage to change your brain. You can experience positive effects in less than that.


Jacob Derossett

I asked my wife after I was meditating very consistently, if she noticed a lot of change in me. She told me, “I can tell when you're being very consistent. And when you're not .” People around you can be very good judge as well.


Sarah Vallely

Yeah, they'll tell you. My clients expereince a shift with doing a five minute exercise once a day. I use assessments to find out exactly what their challenges are and give them an exercise that specifically addresses that challenge. So if they do that exercise five minutes a day, they will experience some shifts in their stress level.

The other reason mindfulness helps us reduce our feelings of overworked, over scheduled and overwhelmed is how mindfulness affects our thinking. What if you could for 20 minutes, not get wrapped up in the thoughts that are stressing you out? Burnout syndrome is a real thing. It results from chronic work stress. If you don't address your work stress over time, you're likely to have burnout syndrome. And that basically means you're shut down, feel depressed, lose interest in your job and feel exhausted.


Another way to use mindfulness to address this type of stress is we can notice our patterns that lead us to the stressful situation. And this is a good opportunity to go to our The Aware Mind Podcast blog and download the PDF that goes with this section of the episode. Find the blog post that is associated with episode 4. Our patterns that push us to manifest this life of being overscheduled is driven by four factors: having a sense of responsibility, fear, compulsion, and aspiration. All of these can be helpful, make us successful, but they also all can push us to a point where it's too much. And that's when the mindfulness comes in. During the day we have awareness of our thoughts or actions. And we can realize when our sense of responsibility or fear or compulsion or aspiration is pushing us over the top and pushing us into a stressful situation.


A sense of responsibility can be due to pressures that you put on yourself, pressure other people put on you, or could be due to pressure your culture puts on you. For me, personally, I fall on the self pressure. I have this sense of responsibility because of my own doing. It's because of things like perfectionism and imposter syndrome. Personally, I've noticed that if I have two mediocre coaching sessions back-to-back, my imposter syndrome is triggered. Imposter syndrome is, you believe that you've gotten to where you've gotten just out of luck, you don't really have the qualifications, you don't really have the expertise. It's just kind of lucky. And one of these days people are going to figure out that you're not really qualified. And so that kicks in for me when in that type of situation. However, since I'm mindful of that pattern, then I say, “Oh, this is my pattern. I really don't need to go off the deep end here.”


Jacob Derossett

I started feeling a lot of pressure once I got married to provide for my family. If something happens and my wife loses her job or wants to stop working,I want her to have the capability of not feeling like she has to do something she doesn't want to do. Meditation really helped me to sit and decipher, “Okay, I can break this down into very tangible steps, I just need to make sure I get insurance, I need to make sure we have savings, I need to make sure we're attacking our debt, I need to make smart investments.” It allowed me to not just feel fear and feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility that I have to do everything for the family. And then when I just started looking at it, it realized if we were just a little bit smarter with our money we will be alright. And that was 100% because I was able to sit and examine what the contraction was around that experience.


I was thinking about the imposter syndrome. I do believe that I'm just lucky that I'm very interested in exercise. And I just study it all the time, just because I'm curious about it. So I never feel guilty on the front end about how I've gotten my work. But when I do get a client who acts like they don't want to work with me, then I get very nervous. I'll kind of behave differently, and I'll try to keep someone on, when in reality that relationship may not work out. And that's okay. meditation has helped a lot with realizing it's okay if people don't want to train with me--some people won't--it's not the end of the world. it doesn't mean I'm a bad trainer, it just means that, it's just not working out for one reason or another. It's helped a lot with seeing those patterns and realizing that I have contractions around these areas, and then I can soothe those with sitting.


Sarah Vallely

So what helps is to be able to identify particular circumstances that trigger this. You had mentioned, if a client doesn't seem to want to continue with you is one. What might be another circumstance that triggers that?


Jacob Derossett

Someone shows up and they just seem a little bit less motivated over a course of a couple of visits. I tend to get very stressed out and wonder, “Why did they not like me. What's going on with me, what's wrong?” And then that will cause me to behave differently.


Sarah Vallely

That sequence of events triggers the stress, which then triggers you to create more work for yourself. Do you find that happens?


Jacob Derossett

Yes, because if I have two bad sessions back to back, I fear these people are going to quit. I think I need to get more clients. Yeah, that that definitely has happened. I go on an accumulation phase of trying to get as many people as I can, and then I get a bunch of people, and then I become very overworked. I was stressed because of the potential for lack of demand, then I was stressed out because I had given myself too much demand. What I've learned is that if I show up and do my job, to the best of my ability, and really try to hear people and provide for their needs, then the work comes.


Sarah Vallely

My Imposter Syndrome causes me to feel incompetent. It actually triggers me to give myself more work. So it's clear as day that my own inner workings, which can be addressed with mindfulness, are causing me to become overwhelmed.


Fear is also another motivating factor for a lot of people. Fear of physical survival, fear of your reputation not surviving or your ego not surviving. And then also fear of your emotional and/or mental survival. I have a fear of getting depressed. If I look at my schedule, and I have free time, there's a part of me that gets worried that I'm going to become a depressed because I'm not busy enough. And I will schedule more activities. And then what ends up happening a lot is I get over scheduled, and it becomes stressful. I can use mindfulness to instead address the depression or the fear of depression, instead of finding a solution by overscheduling myself.


Jacob Derossett

I used to struggle with the fear of the ego. I used to be worried that people would think I was a bad trainer--lazy for example. I just didn't want to be perceived as being bad, when in reality, if you let go of that idea and just focus on what can I control, what can I improve on right now then it all takes care of itself. I can see those patterns of wanting to be regarded as a great trainer.


Sarah Vallely

That part of you that gets worried about how you're doing as a personal trainer is the reason you are a good personal trainer. So that's the hard part about this is that pattern can bring us lots of success. But what's important is to use mindfulness to be able to pinpoint when it goes too far and pushes you into these uncomfortable places.


Aspiration is another driving force. That might be someone having great purpose, tremendous amount of creativity or feeling purposeful and driven on a metaphysical level. For me, I feel that my work is a calling. I'm very devoted, and it pushes me to feel like I need to do more--work more and create more, and I have to watch out for that. Aspiration is wonderful, right? But even aspiration can push us to the point where it's unhealthy. And I have to be aware of that and notice when I'm approaching that point. I will sit and be mindful about this. I can get myself really worked up in a tizzy about my calling to be a mindfulness teacher. But really, when it comes down to it, my true purpose is to take a breath.


Jacob Derossett

I don’t remember what podcast this was on, but she was explaining that people talk about purpose and drive and all the time. And she suggested to use your two eyes and look around you and see what can you can do in front of you right now to improve the world. This bomb goes off in your head when you realize, “Oh, I'll use my interest to help other people. You're in front of me, I'm going to help you.


Sarah Vallely

One of the most inspirational talks I've heard was given by a gentleman in Asheville who runs Hood Huggers, a nonprofit that takes people on tours around Asheville to the landmarks that mean a lot to the black community. This is in response to the gentrification that's going on in Asheville and the neighborhoods that are being destroyed. He said, the basis of his nonprofit is that “We're doing just what we can do right in front of us.” As a result, he's built an amazing organization that has had a huge impact on Asheville.


Within the scope of aspiration is creativity. And for some of us who are extremely creative, sometimes that creativity can be debilitating. We have so many creative ideas coming through that it's actually difficult to function.


The last item here that drives us to become overworked and overwhelmed is compulsion. And that can be broken down into just feeling out of control, addiction and being ritualistic. Having feelings of out of control can look like unconscious action or rigid thinking. Being addicted can be getting a rush--some of us actually get a rush from being overworked. Or being avoidant, we are in our addiction because we're avoiding something else. And then being ritualistic can look like fear of breaking a streak, habitual patterns, or seeing what we're doing has symbolic meaning.


Jacob Derossett

If you would have asked me before we started, if this would be the one that I probably struggled with the most, I would never have thought that. But I've read so much about discipline and consistency. I feel like I have to wake up an hour and a half early every single morning, I have to meditate, I have to journal, I need to get sun exposure, I need to do cold exposure. Those burn me out quicker than anything else that I do. I listen to this brilliant strength coach, Brett Jones, he had this podcast recently. And he was saying how he always goes with the flow every single session every day. He just decides based on how his body's feeling how he's going to train that day. And he said, a lot of people get anxiety by that idea. If you've been rigid for years, and miserable and hurt and not feeling good, maybe you should try going with the flow. And if you've been going with the flow, and you've not been training, because the flow tells you most days to not do something because you don't feel like it, maybe you should try to be more consistent. That blew my mind. This is something I've just heard in the past couple of months. I will abuse myself with ritualistic behavior. Yeah, that one's huge. For me, I am very compulsive, I have to keep a close watch on that.


Sarah Vallely

And if you can identify how that compulsive or ritual behavior leads to more work--putting pressure on yourself to do more work--that's a really great moment to be mindful of during the day and giving yourself some slack.


On the blog, there are two documents. One is a document that helps you identify these driving forces. And the second document is a log for tracking when you have these patterns develop in your day. That's the final piece. It doesn't really completely work unless you take a moment out of your day and notice you're in the pattern and then redirect. And you can redirect by taking two minutes to practice mindfulness. Another example of redirecting is taking 15 minutes to go outside and take a walk. Something that shifts your behavior so you can break that cycle and that pattern. Over time, if you stay dedicated to it, your behaviors will change.

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