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How To Transform Overwhelm Into Ease

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Photo by Rilind Modigliani

Do you feel like you are permanently living in a state of overwhelm? That nagging feeling of always being behind, overworked, and unable to find even a few minutes for yourself? There’s simply too much to do, not enough time to do it, and too many real consequences if you don’t.

Or if you do get a moment to yourself you can’t even really enjoy it because you’re wracked with guilt - you’re letting people down, screwing up other people’s lives, sabotaging your livelihood, being irresponsible, etc.

So you just get right back on the hamster wheel and continue to live with that overwhelm, frustration, or dissatisfaction while you tell yourself that this is just how it’s gonna be. You’ve been telling yourself that for so long it’s become background noise. You barely pay attention to it as you keep on trucking along. You might even describe your life as “okay”, “fine”, “not too bad,” and yet you can’t remember the last time you’ve answered the simple question of “how are you?” with the words “great!” “amazing!” or “phenomenal!”

I’m going to stop here and ask you the same question I asked myself not too long ago. Why on earth are you putting up with anything less than “phenomenal?” When did “great!” and “amazing!” become just a pipe dream or something that’s just not in the cards for you?

Let me tell you something you need to hear. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. It doesn’t matter what your job is, how many kids you have, how many papers you have to grade… it doesn’t have to be this way.

BUT… it does require you to take a step back and begin to cultivate a life of ease, and that means clearing out the clutter. Starting with the literal.

Before we even get into the mental stuff, take a look around at your environment because whether you connect the dots or not, your ambiance has a huge impact on your sense of ease.

In yoga philosophy, there is a concept that illustrates this perfectly. It’s called Saucha. Saucha is one of the 5 “Niyamas” which are kind of like recommended habits for achieving a liberated state of existence. Saucha means “purity” or “cleanliness,” and that includes of the mind, body and surroundings. When you look at the space around you, are you observing saucha? Or do you have papers all over your desk, dirty dishes in the sink, boxes you’ve never unpacked from your move, things that just have no place of their own so they get moved from room to room depending on the space you need, etc?

It’s no wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed if your physical space is creating more work for your eyes and brain to process.

I recently decided to hire someone to clean my house once a week. This wasn’t an easy decision to make because I grew up in a household where the phrase “pick up after yourself, there’s no maid here” was said often. It surprisingly took a lot of emotional work for me to get past the belief that maids are only something rich or spoiled people can have. I never pictured myself as someone who has a maid (do they even still call them maids? Is cleaning person more PC?).

Anyways, I made this decision out of knowing that I was doing too much and needed help with something. Anything. It made the most sense to outsource the work I least wanted to do, and for which I didn’t need to train someone. Retrospectively it has made a huge and very positive impact on my relationship with money… but that’s a whole other topic!

The most incredible transformation that it has created in my life is the sense of peace, joy, concentration, productivity, motivation, and inspiration I feel when my house is sparkling clean. It’s not just helping me to enjoy my job more but also impacts things like how well I eat (Saucha of the body). It’s so much more inspiring to cook a good, nourishing meal for myself when my kitchen is clean.

I’m not saying your solution has to be hiring a maid. However, I am encouraging you to start outsourcing things you don’t have to do which are just making you feel overwhelmed. The investment WILL come back to you. There are people, for example, whose life passion is organizing and I’m positive would LOVE to find the perfect place for all your nick-nacks. Or maybe it’s not even necessary to hire someone but just go buy yourself the damn shelf you’ve been saying you need for all those books that are just strewn about. You’re not just buying a shelf, you’re buying your peace of mind (Damn, maybe in my next life I should work in advertising 😆).

Investing in your peace of mind, brings me to an important question: how about investing in comfort for your body? For example, I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize that I’ve been putting up with sitting in the most uncomfortable chair at my desk. It really shouldn’t be such a shock that I loathe working in front of my computer if my body is unhappy. Tasks that are essential for my business such as editing my yoga videos where I need to spend quite a bit of time in front of my screen have become annoying and take me twice as long as they should because of all the breaks I take or things I distract myself with to make it more enjoyable. It makes me laugh now that I realize the solution was as simple as buying a comfy chair.

Once I started to see all the ways I was making my life more difficult and unconsciously contributing to my sense of overwhelm and dissatisfaction, all of the little improvements I could make started to become embarrassingly obvious. Like why haven’t I replaced my broken camera tripod and instead spend precious minutes attaching my phone to it, lowering my vibe with the incessant frustration I feel when the whole thing falls apart 3 times before I can start filming? Great start to a yoga class, Veronika.

I never would have started making these improvements if I hadn’t taken a step back to notice how I feel with each thing I’m doing and how those tiny moments affect my mood.

The biggest obstacle to transforming overwhelm into ease is complacency in autopilot mode. This notion that this is just how things are going to be so this is just how I’m going to feel. Or that the only way out is by making some drastic change such as quitting your job, changing your profession, or running away and living out the rest of your life meditating on some mountain top, which I’m sure are all possibilities that have run through your head at one moment or another.

My question to you is can you slow down for just enough time to become aware of your surroundings and break the habits that are not serving your sense of ease?

Once you observe Saucha in your environment there is no doubt it will affect Saucha in your mind. Like I said, start with the literal. That’s the easiest place to begin and since we’re talking about building more ease into your life, why overcomplicate things? There is nothing wrong with starting externally. Indeed you cannot buy your way to happiness… a new chair, tripod, or even a maid are not going to solve your deeply-rooted negative emotions, but they can help you to feel lighter and get you on the path towards the inner work.

When you’re ready to tackle the internal and clear out the mind clutter, start paying attention to your thoughts and beliefs. Do you believe you have to keep everyone happy? Do you believe you’ll be letting someone down or messing up someone’s whole life if you don’t do all that you’re supposed to? Do you believe people will stop liking you? That no one will appreciate you? That you’re not doing enough? Or that you’re not good enough?

Transforming overwhelm into ease can be as simple as recognizing that some of these perspectives are simply not true. Bring a little Saucha to your mental space. Clear out those perspectives that are not serving you, and replace them with something lighter and kinder towards yourself. You ARE liked. You ARE good enough. And you certainly are not responsible for anyone’s happiness but your own.

Continue to keep it light by starting to simply appreciate ease in any area of your life. Focusing on ease will create more momentum for ease. Focusing on effort and sludging through things will create more momentum for efforting and sludging. Make it a game to pause throughout your day and just notice what was easy. Maybe even jot it down in a journal and whenever you lose sight of this sense of ease, read back over your notes to remind yourself that not EVERYTHING is overwhelming. This can calm the sympathetic nervous system which kicks into action every time we feel stressed and lead to those cognitive distortions such as "Everything in my life is hard!”

You now have several tools for transforming overwhelm into ease using the yogic concept of Saucha, or purity and cleanliness of the mind, body, and surroundings. Clear out the clutter in your space, mind and body and I guarantee that ease will become a closer and more constant companion.

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Transforming 'Overwhelm"

When I was in my early 20's I became obsessed with the question "What is the purpose of Life?" (Is there even a purpose??!). One day in biology class I was intrigued by the statement

"Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny". This means that the evolution of the individual repeats (recapitulates) the evolution of the species. We start out as single cell creatures, and evolve through stages of having tails, gills etc. I realized that the course of our individual life recapitulates human evolution from the most primitive, ruled entirely by emotions to enlightenment. Our purpose is TO EVOLVE. For those who are fortunate enough to fathom that and to undertake the work, all negativity, adversity,'overwhelm' etc can be 'transformed' …

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