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How To Minimize Overwhelm Using Kaizen Philosophy

No one can say for sure how life post-Covid pandemic will look like but sure enough 2020 has been a unique year for all of us.

For some like me, social distancing, as it has been called, was nothing more than beneficial to our inner work and self-development, but for many, this period of isolation was daunting, lonely, and detrimental to mental health.

This feeling of general uncertainty that a lot of us have been experiencing lead to a complete powerless and overwhelming state of mind.

How can we overcome feeling overwhelmed?

What leads to overwhelm

First of all – what exactly is overwhelm?

It’s nothing more than your brain triggering an alert that it has too much to deal with at any given moment. Your brain’s capacity isn’t limitless, so understanding some things about how your brain has been designed to work can help you prevent or recover faster from it. 

Overwhelm is a trigger of the stress response and It can lead to a lot of physiological and emotional issues such as hypertension, insomnia, irritability, stroke, burnout, and depression.

There is one part of your brain called the pre-frontal cortex that is in charge of all your conscious thinking. It is the part of your brain that is activated when you set goals and plans, control impulses, solve problems, think things through and use creativity. 

Undoubtedly, one cause of overwhelm is change. Routine tells your mind what to expect. It is calming and gives you a sense of security and normality. Anything which causes change triggers stress and negative emotion as your brain tries to alert you to the changes. 

In times like we are in now, change is everywhere. Many of us have lost all our normal routine. This is totally disorienting and stressful – even when it means that we have less to do than normal. This is why inputting routine, and trying to stick to normal things where possible can help. 

The Kaizen way

Although you cannot predict everything that happens in life at all times, you can prepare yourself for any situation by being mindful of how you react to everything.

The human mind is the most adaptable tool there is — make it work for you. No matter what happens, you can adapt, cope, and stay calm.

Kaizen is an alternative strategy to cope with the fear or anxiety that comes when we are face to face with big changes.

The Japanese word Kaizen means good change:

Zen = good

Kai = change.

As Robert Maurer explains in his book – “One small step can change your life – The Kaizen Way”

” Your brain is programmed to resist change, but by taking small steps, you effectively rewire your nervous system so that it

  • Unsticks you from a creative block
  • Bypasses the fight or flight response
  • Creates new connections between neurons so that the brain takes over the process of change and you progress rapidly towards your goal. “

Our fear of change or anxiety usually tricks us into creating the worst-case scenario in our minds and most of the time, it proves itself wrong. We tend to focus our attention on big and scary questions and situations that may never happen.

 2 Kaizen Way strategies to minimize overwhelm

  • Take tiny steps 
  • Ask small questions with a gentle and kind spirit 

The Kaizen way is based on taking tiny small steps, thinking small thoughts, asking small questions.

The thought of just having to take a tiny step every day is comforting to the overwhelmed, anxious mind. 

When you ask really small questions or do really small tasks, they are non-threatening, so a good kaizen question to ask yourself when you are feeling like it all is a bit much is: 

What is that one small thing I can do to feel less overwhelmed today?

Asking small questions is also an effective way to gain self-confidence. Those of us who tend to have negative self-talk can practice replacing the negative comments and questions with more empowering ones.

For instance, if someone tends to ask constantly: Why am I so dumb? “ can replace that with: What is one thing I like about myself?

The Kaizen technique of asking small questions can be used to determine your next small step too – by simply asking what small step could I take today that will make me feel closer to my goal?

You remove all that weight your big and scary goals may inflict on you and as a consequence, you will experience that in fact, small steps can indeed lead you to big results.

So what small questions can you ask yourself today that will cause you to take that tine tiny step that will move you forward without making you feel anxious and worried?

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