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Dear Candy Q&A: Are you Overwhelmed?

Thank you to all who joined the live Q&A on July 8th! There were some great questions! Register to join the next live Q&A on Saturday August 12 at 9am Pacific/12pm Eastern and have your questions answered in real time! After you register, a reminder email including the zoom link will be sent to you close to the session date.

We will do an hour of Q&A followed by a 20 minute breath work & meditation experience.

Here is the link to register: http://tiny.cc/LiveQandA Hope to see you there!


Overwhelmed? You're not alone. It is a common experience among many these days, especially brain retrainers. When we are in a stress response, our capacity to respond to the demands of life are lessened. We become more easily overwhelmed by tasks or situations that, when we are well rested and functioning more optimally, are easily do-able. I am sure many of you have experienced this - on days where you have had a good night's sleep and wake up feeling well rested and emotionally light, it is so much easier to handle the demands of the day and to feel capable & optimistic while doing it.

This is an example of how the state of our nervous system and our level of regulation plays a role in our perception and ability to take action. Being in a stress response affects our capacity to decision-make, problem solve, focus, and be efficient and effective with our actions. We don't have the same perspective or the same access to the executive functioning when we are stressed, which makes it harder for us to get things done. We are also more likely to make mistakes or not make the best choices, which then creates even more work for ourselves. Furthermore, being in a stress response keeps us caught up in the thinking loops around all the things that need our attention, which affects our ability to take action. We can feel incapacitated and this can shut us down or stop us from taking any action, which then leads to even greater feelings of overwhelm.

Here are some practical suggestions to help you get out of this cycle:

  1. Breathwork. Breathing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to start bringing more regulation into our nervous system quickly. It is something we can do anywhere at anytime, and is always accessible to us. Try alternate nostril breathing or the Ujjayi (ocean) breath for a few minutes and you will see your system instantly starts to calm down. These breath practices engage parasympathetic activity, along with offering many other health benefits. If you want to take it even deeper into a breath practice that leads to sustainable changes in many different measures of health (including parasympathetic activity) check out the SKY breath meditation classes offered online & in person by the Art of Living Foundation

  2. Regular Meditation. Meditation practices as part of your daily routine are a proven way to help your nervous system become more regulated and more resilient over time. As you engage in regular practices, your capacity to tolerate stressors increase, along with your access to executive functioning, so you end up in overwhelm less often and feel more capable of responding to situations as they arise. It also changes the baseline of your nervous system regulation, so you are better regulated overall.

  3. Adopt a Bigger Picture Perspective. Putting things into a context of the bigger picture can help calm our limbic & nervous systems. Recognize that pretty much everything is temporary, things are constantly changing. This circumstance or situation that you are currently experiencing will not last forever. Another way to put things into context is to ask yourself, "In ten years from now is this really going to matter? Am I even going to remember this?" In a stress response we get so caught up in the details and feeling like it is going to last forever that we lose sight of how unimportant many things are in the grand scheme of things. By regaining perspective, our system calms down.

  4. Get clear on the priorities and let the rest go. It is common when we are in a stress response to think everything has to be done now, and because we don't have as much access to the executive functioning parts of our brain it is harder to discern what the actual priorities are. Engage in an activity to bring more regulation into your nervous system (like a few minutes of breath work, or a meditation) then revisit your list one item at a time. Ask yourself, "Does this really need to be done soon/today or can it wait?" If it is something that has waited a while already, chances are it can still wait. Prioritize only the things that really matter and those that are time sensitive.

  5. Take things one at a time. Stop the tendency of multitasking. Research shows that multitasking is a myth. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. We might be able to switch between one thing and another in microseconds, but the focus is only ever on one thing. Switching back and forth between multiple things tires our brains and can overstimulate the nervous system. It also makes us less productive. By making a list and taking things only one at a time, we actually become more efficient and use less energy and resources to complete the tasks.

  6. Delegate and Recruit Help. When we are in a highly demanding situation, recruit help. Many brain retrainers are caught in a mindset that they have to do everything themselves. They don't ask others who are willing and capable of helping out. If those close to you are used to you doing everything yourself, there may be a little backlash at first when you start to reassign the responsibilities and delegate to them. Stick with it, they will adjust and in the long run it is better for all of you. Overcome the discomfort of seeking help.

  7. Build in short breaks several times throughout the day. This may seem counter productive. You already have too many things to do and now you're going to take time out for breaks!?! Actually, by taking short breaks (2-5 minutes) regularly, we interrupt the pattern of going into and getting stuck in a stress response & auto-pilot. We also interrupt the rushing tendencies that many retrainers have. Insight Timer has a section of meditations five minutes or less, which can be a great way to take these breaks. You could also simply stop, feel your feet on the ground, take several deep breaths into your lower abdomen or do alternate nostril breath as other options. By hitting the pause button (and your limbic system might resist this at first, but know that it is necessary) we are interrupting the tendency to be continually in dysregulation.

The more time we spend dysregulated, the more we tend to operate on autopilot and are not aware of the present moment or our actions/state of being. This feeds limbic dysfunction and ultimately the patterned response of stress and overwhelm. It's time to start recognizing the tendencies of our limbic and nervous systems and to start shifting into a new way of engaging in life, especially when we are faced with a lot to do. We have the ability to change our habits and our responses. We just need to take the actions necessary to make it happen, and repeat them often.


If you have a question, please email me at dearcandyquestions@gmail.com

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Candy Widdifield is Certified Master Coach, Registered Reiki Master Teacher and former Registered Clinical Counsellor, living in Calgary Alberta, Canada. She has a background in brain retraining & nervous system regulation, trauma, grief & loss, mindfulness, somatic therapy, & positive psychology. She taught the DNRS in-person program for 5 years, has over a decade of experience coaching brain re-trainers & provides mentorship to other coaches. Candy works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com

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