Pause Overthinking with Colour
Emotions & Resilience

Pause Overthinking in Under a Minute

We all get overwhelmed, panicked, exhausted, yet breaking free of that state sometimes feels impossible. In that state, how many of us know how to gain some mental space?

Many years ago, I read a post by Havi Brooks about some ways she manages being triggered. This is my version of her “name everything you see” exercise explained in that post.

The Five-Things Tool to Pause Overthinking

Look around you; wherever you are right now.

Can you see anything with a bit of blue on it? 

Currently, I can see a blue plastic basket, the board game Mouse Trap (blue box), a magazine with a blue stripe over it. That’s three…

We’re looking for five items. 

Now I have to look a bit harder. A book cover in that bookcase is navy blue.

Finally, I settle on the curtains: something I barely register any more.

Count them out “1. 2. 3… 4… 5.”

Feel any different?

Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. There is no ‘right’ way or ‘wrong’ way to pause: find what works fr you. Sometimes I find 5 things that are red or yellow.
Other times, I name 10 things of those three primary colours, and 5 things that are secondary colours: green, purple and orange.

Sometimes, I let myself count something with 2 colours in both colour lists.
Equally, I often set the intention of finding separate things for each list.

The key to this technique, is to create a space between all the ruminations, worries and ‘overthinking thoughts’, even if only for a few moments.

Sometimes I look for numbers:

  • This crisp packet says “2017” in the corner
  • That box says “100 board games collection.”
  • The video on youtube I’m watching has 34,000 views and 898 likes…
  • That chocolate box says “8 famous brands” in the subtitle [If you allow the ‘words’ of numbers, then ‘After Eights’ count too]

Sometimes, I focus on sounds instead:

  • I hear a bird singing.
  • My cat is scratching the carpet post.
  • I’m listening to a youtube video.
  • I’m humming a song from Moana
  • The wind is battering the window

What Does This Do?

When we feel overwhelmed or panicked, the result is often because we’re thinking about things too deeply, or without the facts.

Counting things in our environment has multiple functions. It:

  1. Distracts our mind for a few moments, creating a breathing space
  2. Tends to calm our emotions a tad: this is, for most people,  a ‘neutral’ activity
  3. Uses different parts of our brain -> thus distracting more than one ‘part’ [visual, counting, hearing, language]
  4. Is a ‘mindful’ activity: focused on this very moment, not the past or future.

Now, this is not a therapy tool or the be-all-and-end-all of ‘fixing overwhelm’, but it’s a simple, accessible tool, as long as your have a sense to use and an association to ‘label’ that experience “bird song” or even “magpie noise” if you’re good with your bird songs.

It won’t make the problems go away, or change any situations, but this technique can shift that habit from overthinking to breathing. At the end of the day, give it a go, and if it works for you, add it to your list of techniques that helps you. If it doesn’t, no harm done.

You need no extra tools, and it can be done without anyone else noticing.
If nothing else, it’s a technique you can keep in your toolkit; just in case you need it.

Want more techniques like this? Sign up for the free resource library here, or pause your thoughts with some cute cat pictures over at my instagram.

Creative Tools, Empowerment & Seeking

12 Quick and Simple Acts of Self-Care for 2018

This is part manifesto, part skills-training and part to-do list for feeling good and staying mentally well in 2018. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting point, and I’ve tried to include a few “less often shared” ideas for self-care. There’s also a free 18-page workbook available at the end of the post covering each step in more detail, with space to write your own answers in. 

I know all of these things, but sometimes I forget about them.
And self-care sometimes feels like just another item on the to-do list.

The Self-Care Checklist

So, I thought I’d make a little list and figured, if I struggle to remember this, and I teach it; what are the chances you could do with a reminder too?

This checklist is designed to give you a little guidance for those moments when you don’t have a lot of energy or time, but want to make a tiny positive step to improve your day. Because baby steps add up.

Let’s do this.

 

Put On Your Signature Costume

No matter what we’re doing, feeling comfortable and “okay” about ourself really makes a difference to how we feel.  Apply whatever armour will make you feel confident. For a lazy day, this is my jeans, tank top and all of my rings. For a work-day, it’s my favourite earrings, a really subtle bracelet I can play with, and a bit of eye-liner.

Breathe In

When we’re stressed or on autopilot, we tend to change our breathing. Try to breathe out slightly more than you breathe in, and as you exhale, relax your shoulders. Take a moment of space whenever you remember. Put a reminder on your phone if it will help.

Physical Health

The mindset of looking after ourself has a ripple effect on our mood and how the day feels. Make one ‘healthy’ choice. That could be drinking a few sips of water before lunch. Perhaps do 5 squats in the loo cubicle before you return to your desk at work. Maybe the above breathing technique is your small healthy step.

Make Progress

As humans, we thrive on a sense of progress. It doesn’t matter how big or small: just tick something off your list, or make some kind of progress towards a goal.

Wash up one cupSend that email that’s worrying you. Take the rubbish bin out. Put the clean washing away in your bedroom. Then counting “putting it away in the wardrobe” as a second task: and a second tick.

Connect

Disconnection and Loneliness is killing us. Connect with anything and anyone. Pet the cat outside. Smile at the person walking past you. Text a friend “how’s it going?” Tell someone you really appreciate the help they gave you last week.

Be Spiritual

Or make a personal, inner connection, somehow. For some, prayer is an option. For others, stand barefoot in the grass outside. Hug a tree. Care for something: water a plant.

Labels

We all want to feel seen and recognised. Label the thoughts and feelings in your own mind to help soften their shouts.

“This is fear. I’m worried about paying my bills this month. I feel tearful.”

This won’t make the worries go away, but that sense of “Hi brain, I hear you. thanks for letting me know. I’m working on that” can sometimes take some of the pressure off those negative thoughts.

Sound a bit weird to you? Try it. What have you got to lose?

Mental Blocks

Equally, distracting yourself from those thoughts can be healthy in small doses. Dance, run, watch a comedy DVD or name 5 things you can currently see which are blue. Take a break from your thoughts: they’ll still be there when you get back.

Grow

Again, we’re looking at that sense of progress. We thrive on growth, on learning, on understanding.

I grew up with this quote by Gail Sheeny taped to my ceiling:

If we don’t change, we don’t grow.

If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.

Inspiring

In this modern day, we spend so much time going through the motions: we exist rather than experience.

So this step focused on re-connecting with who you are and that feeling of being alive. For you it might be volunteering or donating to charity. It might be listening to classic audiobooks. Watching war films.

Maybe one of the earlier tips automatically ticks this off: I love dancing to violin music, standing with bare feet in my back lawn and reading autobiographies. They connect me to other humans, to the world around me and remind me how it is to feel alive.

TA DA! List

A fantastic tip I first saw from Ellie Di Julio, rather than a list of pressures you have to do today, reflect on what you accomplished. What’s on your “ta-da!” list today?

Motivation

Finally, one of the key issues with making changes is that lack of motivation. One of my favourite ways to combat this, is to find a “big why,” to identify a quest or value that will motivate me whatever the weather. What’s your personal quest? What are you here to do; what’s your legacy? 

Will you Prioritise Self-Care this Year?

Again, this is not an exhaustive list. But it does give us a few things to think about. Baby steps add up, and some only take a few moments each day. And in time, that effect is cumulative.

~

Download the free workbook with space to write in your own answers to these well-being ideas? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to grab yourself a copy of the 2018 Resilience Check-list!