Think Pink Instead: How to Get Out of Overwhelm
Don’t think of the color blue. No matter what…don’t think of the color blue.
What are you thinking of?
Most likely, you’re thinking of the color blue.
Picture this. My blue-eyed wonder boy is driving me nuts. Overwhelmed at the prospect of a biography poster due for homework. He’s read the biography Gifted Hands about Ben Carson. He’s got a big, fun-looking poster with lots of spaces to fill out and draw in – “Draw Three Major Events in The Person’s Life” – “Pick 5 Adjectives That Describe Your Person.” He has a breakdown list with thorough explanations of everything he needs to do. He’s even already got some notes for 3 of the 8 items on the poster. His task tonight? Just transfer the notes he has on to the poster. 10 minute job. Tops.
And he’s panicked. His stress brain has taken over and he can’t think straight. He can’t see that the task he has to do is easy because he’s focused on the enormity of the entire poster. He cites the dimensions of the poster, he sees all the boxes he’s supposed to fill out, he’s thinking about how he has never done anything like this before…boom. Stress. Overwhelm. Meltdown.
And when the stress brain (amygdala, lizard brain) takes over, it hijacks our ability to be calm, think clearly, think creatively, and even just be reasonable. We are focused on the overwhelm, and nothing else gets through.
We’ve all been there! Some of us live there every day. I used to. It took its toll. So it pains me to see him there.
When the storm has passed and the task is completed… I grab the teachable moment. He bounces up the stairs, light as air, humming.
“Hey, Ben. How do you feel now?”
“How long did it actually take you to do the work?”
Sheepishly, “Two minutes.”
“And how many minutes of stress were there before?”
“Ten.” (Felt like sixty to me, but who’s counting?)
“Hmmm, so was that a good use of your energy? The stressing?”
“So the strategy of focusing on how big and hard the project was going to be didn’t work for you. Any ideas about a different strategy you could use the next time?”
Stymied, I try a different approach.
“Ben, do me a favor, don’t think of the color blue. Whatever you do, don’t think of the color blue.”
I’m ready to deliver the aha, but he beats me to the punch.
He grins. “Okay, Mom. I won’t.” (And I get the feeling he’s actually not. ) Laughing now because he knows he’s bested me: “Hey, Mom, I’m just thinking about the color pink instead.”
In that moment, an arrow of love and surprise, relief and joy pierces my heart. He gets it already! One of life’s major lessons:
What you focus on matters.
The only way to NOT think of one thing is to focus on another thing instead.
There is huge power in this…and multiple dimensions to which it applies. Ben didn’t yet know how to apply it to his overwhelm about his project, but he knew the magic formula.
When he was fixated on the enormity of his project, he focused on how hard it was, how big it was, how stressed he was. And THE PROJECT got bigger and bigger and BIGGER.
As soon as he focused on the one small action step he could take, the enormity of THE PROJECT dissipated. One step at a time. He copied the adjectives to the poster. He copied the quote. He looked for the glue stick. And he looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.
How does this relate to you, you ask? Well, you know better than I, but here are some possibilities:
- When you want to lose weight, do you focus on the food you are missing (mmm, Chocolate Molten Cake) OR on how good you feel when you know you look good (how about wearing that swishy red dress to your birthday party)?
- When you have a project due at work, do you focus on how big it is, how challenging it is, how overwhelmed you are…OR do you focus on how good you will feel when it’s done or how you’ve done an amazing job on something similar in the past?
- When you face a laundry room filled with piles of dirty clothes (as one of my coaching clients did), do you focus on how much laundry there is and how it’s going to take you hours to do? OR do you grab everything in sight that’s white and step over the rest to throw it in the washing machine?
When you stop, breathe, and consciously choose an empowering focus, everything changes. Your brain releases its state of overwhelm and jumps into creative thinking mode. Instead of being constrained, tight and tense, your brain and your body have renewed energy, movement, and life… you are able to accomplish more – and maybe even have fun doing it!
If you need help getting out of overwhelm, Spark Your Spirit can help. With our individual coaching and in our groups and courses, we help people experience more peace, balance, and happiness, lose weight, build new careers, build businesses and much more. Jump on the waiting list now. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.