How to feel less overwhelmed: Quiet your inner critic

When trying to figure out how to feel less overwhelmed, it’s hard because a lot of things will seem they are not within your control. But, your mind is…

chess set, inner critic, how to feel less overwhelmed
Photo by Hassan Pasha

What makes you smart can hurt you

When things go wrong, the astute can’t help but think through what happened, identify what the options are, and weigh the options of what to do. They are good at critiquing as they are finding solutions and fixing.

But, for those who are also conscientious, the judging mind turns inward. I’ve found that when feeling under duress, smart and caring women will often jump to questions like…

  • Where did I go wrong?
  • Why did I say “yes” to this?
  • Why didn’t I see this coming?
  • How can this person do this to me?
  • How could this be happening to me?

It’s no wonder other people in your career, family, and communities rely on you. You not only get things done, but you’re also trying to do things better. And, you can’t help but gain a sense of pride knowing that you’re doing things well and helping other people.

But, at a certain point, the constant judging and critiquing is no longer helpful. Rather it feeds into perfectionistic tendencies.

I’m all too familiar with this cycle. (It takes one to know one.)

How to feel less overwhelmed

So what can you do instead?

First, ask the judge to step aside.

It is very likely that you know already know what the priorities are and what you need to do first. But, in order to get started, what helps is to stop the part of your brain that is critiquing you excessively and harshly.

Imagine the command central of your brain (similar to the one in Inside Out–which if you haven’t seen, watch it!) Tell your judge (or imagine one of the characters–Disgust, Anger, Fear, or Sadness) to simply take a back seat.

Second, take swift action

It’s hard to stop thinking. It’s easier to replace critiquing thoughts with decisive action:

  • Choose a specific activity that would help you move forward and feel less overwhelmed.
  • Set a time frame no more than 2 hours to tackle that task
  • Get to work staying focused on that task

Third, take advantage of how your brain works

Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you multitask, your brain is not working on two things at once, it is quickly switching back and forth between the two tasks wasting energy. So, focusing on one task is not only more efficient, but it allows you to focus away from the judge that is causing you more unnecessary stress.

Second, your brain is only capable of concentrated focus for short periods of time. More specifically, you only have so much “will-power” on any given day. Once you deplete it, you need to restore it.

This is why selecting shorter periods of focused time is more efficient than trying to push yourself on and on.

Finally, celebrate

My clients always feel this is frivolous when I first suggest it. But, it is critically important.

First, it helps to mark the focused time period. It gives it an end.

Second, celebrating progress is a strong motivator.

Third, it helps you feel better.

Your turn

Quiet your critic, choose something to focus on for a short period, then celebrate.

Let me know how this, or something else, helps you feel less overwhelmed.