There are times in life when a wave of overwhelmness hits me. During those periods, I find it challenging to focus on everyday tasks. When it is clear I am in a downward spiral, I have to do something about it.
I'm in such a period at the moment.
How do I know? Well, it is kind of ... difficult to ignore. But there are clear physical signals, some of them are genuinely funny. For instance, my right eye starts to twitch. It is annoying. That signals an extremely high stress level. It is often subconscious because I know I'm stressed, but I don't feel that stressed. But my body reminds me to pay more attention.
(Funny enough, it is always my right eye, never the left. I don't know why.)
My digestion gets affected too. Some muscle pain also happens. I feel like binging on cheap dopamine, or even drink alcohol.
Luckily, since it is not the first time it happens, I already know how to take care of it.
The overall re-focus strategy consists in following a very strict schedule and a set of rituals (morning rituals, work rituals, rest rituals).
At work, for instance, I do the following:
I take a small piece of paper and divide it in three sections: 1) distractions counters, 2)mitigation routines, 3) ToDo list
The first section contains a list of categories of things that worry me (e.g. finding a new house). Each time I find myself worrying about it, a counter in the appropriate category is increased.
Then, I go to the second section and pick one of the mitigation routines (e.g. breathing exercise or stretching). I do that immediately and increase a counter there as well.
After that, I think about an action I can do to reduce that particular worry. If any useful idea comes up, I write it down in the third section.
The whole ritual takes between 3–8 minutes. I repeat it throughout the day. If I don't do this, I would pick up my phone to do mindless scrolling or check things that only increase my worries.
The counters in the first section help me bring awareness of what worries me more. So, I pick up the topic with the highest counter and journal about it before going to bed.
Interestingly, many of my worries are outside my control. I can't control other people reactions and opinions, and I want to stop thinking in terms of fairness because life is not fair. People are entitled to have their opinions and decide how to react to events, that's neither fair nor unfair, it is just life as it is.
It is surprisingly useful to remind myself these two things: 1) many things are outside my control, and 2) life is neither fair nor unfair.
From what's in my hands to change, I do some planning and take action, one step at the time. If I'm getting distracted/overwhelmed while doing so, I use the same method described above to re-gain focus.
It works for me. Sometimes it takes several days to be back to “normal”, but it always works.
Finally, I try not to complain. I shall try harder on this one.