A common occurrence for the impact makers and leaders I support, is an overwhelmed, cluttered mind. Managing the clutter and overwhelm of the highly active mind, is frustrating and can be paralyzing for many.
This cluttered and overwhelmed mind is an experience I lived many years with. I thought if I could just find the “right” thing, or if I just accomplished everything I “should”, then I’d no longer have to deal with any of this. That was not the case.
After research and trial and error, I discovered and implemented shifts that helped me calm the mind clutter, and experience more balance and clarity.
I reframed my beliefs about mind clutter. Instead of thinking it was bad or wrong, I just accepted that it was a sign of falling off balance, which gave me the information I needed to choose to get back into balance. It was data collection instead of some bad thing riddled with self-shame.
I now rarely experience a cluttered mind. However, if I do, I now practice these five steps to reorient back to the present and calm my mind clutter. I’ve decided to share these steps with you, so you can benefit too!
A recounting of my last cluttered mind experience and how to apply the 5 steps.
The other week, I woke up with a filled, overactive, cluttered mind. It was filled with so many thoughts that I couldn’t sort out exactly what I was thinking or why. I tried to lean into my emotions, but all that came up was disarray. It was difficult to narrow down exactly how I was feeling because I was struggling to narrow down exactly what I was thinking.
I’d learned how to manage my thoughts and feelings in a way that felt balanced, effective and healthy for me, so I hadn’t woken up like this, or even felt this way in general, for a very long time. I noticed what I was physiologically experiencing first. My head and shoulders were super tight. I intentionally dropped them down a bit to physically relax them.
All this tightness and mind clutter was a sign to me that it was time to do an internal self-assessment.
I tried to slow down and backtrack my past week, to determine what had changed. I found it difficult to sit or stand still long enough to slow down the way I typically would, so I chose a mindless task to keep my hands busy as I listened to an inspirational speech from someone I enjoy listening to. The speech was generally on the topic of personal development and self-care, so this was not a means of distracting myself, rather, it was a means of intentionally centering myself.
Fairly quickly, I felt myself tap into the words of the speaker, draw them into my experience, and my mind began to slow.
You see, I used to try to jump from 0 to 100 all.of.the.time.
I used to get angry about having a cluttered mind. I’d try to control it. I’d fight myself about it. I’d shame myself for it, and all of this would just lead to more frustration disconnect, clutter, and overwhelm to the point where I’d just suppress the experience…trying to avoid it as best I could while hustling on “getting things done”.
That way didn’t work out well.
I’d want to jump from an angry state, right into a calm state. Or move from an overwhelmed state immediately into a productive joyful state… but it doesn’t work like that.
You have to shift from one state to the other one step at a time, moment by moment. Just as you can’t get over a mountain in one large leap, you can’t leap from one unwanted state to an intensely desireable state, all in one swift motion. Trying to do so will leave you feeling worse.
I had relaxed my physical body and engaged in tasks that didn’t require a bunch of cognitive thought processing. These initial steps were enough to help me be able to now slow down and check in with me; it was now time for me to do my self assessment.
I backtracked through the past week. I realized that since I had gotten sick the prior week, I had fallen off of my routine. I wasn’t regularly tending to the self-care I had embedded into my lifestyle, and as a result, I was not recognizing or communicating my needs in a way that was helpful or aligned with me.
This was good information for me to have. Although former versions of me would have beat myself up for this awareness of “fault”, I’ve learned that this is not helpful or necessary. In fact, that level of critical self-scrutiny is counterproductive and keeps people stuck. So, I used this information to formulate my “move back into alignment” plan.
I recognized what had gotten off track; what was not working for me. I decided where I wanted to be instead, which, for me, is quite often a state of gratitude. For me, nothing beats a deeply connected state of pure gratefulness for all that I am, all that I have, and all that is yet to come.
Using journaling, I countered the overwhelm by writing out what feels good to me. I wrote out what I recognized was “off”, and because I’ve been doing this inner work for quite some time, I was able to sort out what was underlying the “offness”. I intentionally switched the “shoulds” that I sorted out were overwhelming me and creating unnecessary mind clutter. I replaced the “shoulds” with what I intentionally chose to focus on, and I got clear on why I’d chosen to focus in on that alternative.
I started to experience a palpable shift, both emotionally and mentally. I allowed myself to share my appreciation for this movement.
With the information I’d gathered, my more relaxed state and my increased clarity, I was able to create a practical few steps to get me back onto track with my regular self-care embedded lifestyle that I had fallen off of the past week.
This is a process you can choose to follow yourself, if you’d like. I’ve written up the steps for you below.
Five Steps to Calm the Mind Clutter:
Step 1: Intentionally slow down and move inward.
Step 2: Mindfully Focus on Mindless Task
Step 3: Take a self assessment. “Where am I at (i.e. frustrated) and where do I want to be (i.e. a state of gratitude)?” (IMPORTANT this is NOT about “what conditions can I control or manipulate! Don’t focus on what you can’t control)
Step 4: Give yourself Permission to Shift to the Desired Emotional Space (ex. gratitude).
Step 5: Create & Follow A Plan the Feels Good; Reserve your right to grow.
Depending on where you’re at in your life journey, you may find that walking through these steps is difficult to do alone. If that’s the case, I highly recommend connecting with a qualified mentor, caring expert coach, or attuned psychotherapist, to be a support for and with you along your journey.
Wishing you wellness,
Dr. Toni Warner, LCSW, MSW, MeD, is a transformational life & wellness coach for the ambitious seeking balance and a licensed psychotherapist in Pennsylvania. Dr. Toni is the founder of Dr. Toni Coaches, LLC, a coaching and consulting business. It’s mission is to inspire and enact positive change in the world by helping heart-centered impact makers and leaders to create balance, allowing them to more deeply and meaningfully live, love, connect and share their gifts, enhancing the lives of others. She is also the founder of Authentically Me Psychotherapy, LLC, where she supports high achieving and creative individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, burn out and disconnection, to get in touch with their core selves so they can live more fully and authentically aligned lives.
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