The important questions to ask yourself when you're overwhelmed

08 June 2017 - Mindful Practices

When we’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiousness, frustration or other emotions, one of the best things we can do is to ask ourselves the right questions.

• Questions force us to take a step back and refocus rather than get caught up in our emotions.
• They help us better understand the root of our emotions, which is vital to finding any solution.
• Putting a name to an overwhelming feeling makes it more manageable.

Here are 9 essential questions to help centre you when you feel overwhelmed:

Question 1: What am I really feeling right now?

The trick to this is to be specific. “Stressed” or “overwhelmed” aren’t specific enough to be helpful. Are you angry? Anxious? Jealous? Get to the why of what you’re feeling by naming the emotion. Naming it allows you to create a healthy distance, so you recognise that you’re not your feelings and all feelings pass.

Question 2: Am I in immediate danger?
When there is a perceived threat, our body goes into fight-or-flight mode and we tend to act and think more rashly. Asking yourself this question puts things into perspective. When you’re aware that you aren’t in real danger, you’re able to respond calmly rather than react.

Question 3: Will this matter in a year’s time?
Most things don’t. If it does, remind yourself that life is what you make of your choices, more so than the choices themselves.

Question 4: Is my current state of mind/body heightening my emotions?
Have you had enough sleep? Are you hungry? Falling ill? Your physical state affects your mental state. Get more sleep or food then re-check how you feel.

Question 5: Is this within my control?
Once we accept that we can’t control everything, we can begin to let go of the weight on our shoulders and look for more effective ways to cope. Sometimes all it takes is a shift in perspective, which is great news because that’s within our control.

Question 6: Why is this important to me?
Whose expectations (real or imagined) are you trying to fulfil? What’s the underlying reason this is important to you? Questioning your beliefs and assumptions allows you to re-evaluate your feelings.

Question 7: What matters most to me?
Focusing on the big picture helps to put immediate and everyday problems into perspective. It also reminds us to be grateful for what we have.

Question 8: What’s my biggest obstacle right now?
Thinking about all your challenges now doesn’t help you move past this difficult moment. What’s the one thing that’s causing you to be stuck in this moment? Time management? Your ego? The way you’re communicating? Breaking it down makes it more manageable.

Question 9: What’s the smallest step I can take right now?
Sometimes it’s as simple as asking your friend for reassurance. Other times it’s writing a to-do list. Doing one simple thing can help you move past an overwhelming moment and gives you the courage and motivation to take more steps.

Don’t worry if you can’t answer all these questions during an overwhelming moment. Sometimes, focusing on the right questions is more important than having the right answers. 

What other questions help centre you in such moments? Let us know at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team