Moving from overwhelm to a state of ease in challenging work environments

6 effective practices to get you back into alignment

It’s Monday morning and I have already planned my whole day tightly. I wake up feeling energised and ready to conquer the world. I step into my day, going from one meeting to another with literally no space for breathing. 4 pm hits and it’s time for the three most important meetings of the day. Back to back.

My first meeting goes well, yet lasts a little longer. Obviously I’m late to the second one. Truthfully, my heart is not in it. I am counting down the minutes to the last meeting of the day, thinking I’m going to be super late and at the same time it’s so interesting and this could lead us to great opportunities, but fuck, I’m going to be late and I have not even had time to go to the bathroom and I want to pee and we are running out of cash in three months from now and I need to make a good impression, oh wait a minute, I think he just said something interesting, oh yes, it is interesting but wait again, I’m late. This is what goes on behind the curtains as my body cringes on my chair.

I end up being 10’ late to my 3rd meeting and it is a 30’ call. I got on the call feeling drained by the day I just had, overwhelmed by my own thoughts. I feel a little shameful and apologise deeply. I am lucky because as it turns out, this guy is quite understanding and in a good mood. We’re a bit over 7 pm, it’s done and I have to run to the other side of Paris to give a fitness class, because yes as if being a full time entrepreneur was not enough, I also give fitness classes two to three times a week.

I stand there in the middle of the gymfloor and feel a wave of overwhelm rush over me. Deep down, I want to go hide in the back of the room.

In this moment, I realise I fell back again. It’s probably the 1000th class I’m giving out and yet it is also the first time I feel defeated. I want a way out of this day.

What do you do when your mind is in a freeze, fight or flight mode?

Practice 1: Exercice

Luckily, exercising is my number one tool to release anxiety, so I guess it was a happy coincidence that I was about the start a fitness class. That Monday, I chose to start moving my body, one move after another and eventually started releasing endorphins, flushing out toxic chemicals from my body. The end of that session was pure magic. I closed it with breath and meditation. No words needed. I was back home and the energy in the room had levelled up. I will not elaborate on this tool because I’m sure you have heard it a million times already, but make sure to make exercising one of your weekly habits, not only for your physical health but also for your mental health.

Practice 2: Be present and breathe

I know, it sounds so hollow. But it’s real.

99% of the times when your brain goes in flight or fight response, your thoughts are simply future tripping. As Melissa Moffet puts it in her Nervous System Masterclass: Capacity, “it makes it difficult for you to receive what is here now”. In my case, as I was on a call with a worldwide leader of my field, I was simply not able to receive the tremendous feedbacks and opportunities he was offering for my mind was simply projecting onto the rest of my day.

So, how to be more present? By breathing consciously.

Can you merely feel the air go in through the nose, out through the mouth? If you’re like me and have been in stressful and challenging work environments your whole life, it’s likely that you tend to be in apnea half of the day. Simple awareness is enough. Now, next time your mind goes to crazy town, simply reconnect to your breath. In the midst of an important meeting or during a public speaking event, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth and notice your voice drop down and your body relax. If you can, I suggest that you close your eyes, inhale through the nose for 4 counts and exhale through the mouth for 4 counts as well. Do it for 3 minutes and then build up to 10' if you feel like it.

Practice 3: Meditate daily

You saw it coming right?

Our minds are so busy that it blurs our intuition and clarity and leads us in a state of chaos in the wake of the smallest, dumbest events.

When is the last time you have taken out 5 minutes off of your day to just close your eyes and be? It’s not about cancelling the thoughts, merely letting them be and move through you. And simply be. Being instead of doing in a society where we have been taught to hustle and force and let no space to simply be. Does that resonate?

If you don’t trust me because I have indeed made myself the example of what not to do, just trust Shawn Achor and go see his Ted Talk The Happy Secret to Better Work. If I had one advice to leave you with on that topic though is: do it daily. Meditating for one hour every now and then is proven to be far less efficient than a 5’ meditation EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s like sports, only you’re training your mind to be still.

Practice 4: Focus on what is thriving

Have you ever counted your blessings in the midst of a chaos and focused on what was thriving rather than what was missing? Do you do it daily even when everything seems to be unfolding perfectly?

One of Esther Hicks’ most famous tools is her Appreciation Game. It’s a game you can play on your own or with someone, where you start listing all the things you appreciate in your life, and in this case, why not in your stressful and challenging work environment. It trains your mind to shift perspective and attract more of what you want. I could lay you the neuroscience behind positive thinking but it’s not my place and I’ll just leave you with that quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer:

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Now, let me take the first round. I appreciate that moment when I felt overwhelmed with my own thoughts for no valid reason, feeling like the own spectator of my own life drowning in such small troubles, because it was the perfect opportunity for me to pause and get back into alignment. I appreciate that key opinion leaders and investors had made time in their agenda to speak with us, providing feedbacks and support, and helping us build this venture the right way. I appreciate the freedom that comes with my entrepreneurial journey and the team that I am working with on a daily basis…

Just writing this makes me feel joyful. Do it daily if you can and notice your energy rise up.

Practice 5: Make joy a priority

In September 2020, I was randomly connected with the best selling author, who also happens to be one of my spiritual mentors, Gabby Bernstein, for a Q&A session. I was back home and had just started this new entrepreneurial venture. Truth be told, I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the idea of purpose and had no idea what my next step was going to be. In a state of freeze. As I was telling Gabby my story and asked for guidance on how to reconnect to a purpose-led path, she stopped me and said: “Let yourself off the hook, take the pressure off” emphasising on the fact that I was completely disconnecting myself from joy and inspiration. And how could I live a life on purpose if joyless? It sounds so simple but are you truly making joy a priority? I am not suggesting that you just stop working but rather inviting you to reflect on how you can make your challenging and high-performance environment more joyful?

Gabby had really taken one page of my book that I had completely forgotten about. When I was a strategy manager back in 2019, I used to lead very challenging projects that came with a lot of work, pressure and sometimes overwhelm. I remember suggesting to my team back then to plan at least three moments in the day to enjoy themselves. It could be as simple as going out for a walk, a coffee, connecting with a colleague or a friend, or whatever it was that lit them up. You can also schedule it in your calendar, as silly as that sounds. Block a time slot every day that reminds you to have a little playtime. Having that commitment to yourself will drive you back to joy and isn’t it what life is all about? This habit is really the first step to driving back joy and presence into your work. The next step is to actually make your work a game, but I guess that would have to be a full article (incoming). You get the idea!

Practice 6: Surround yourself with regulated and cheer-leading people

Your brain is wired with mirror neurons. Science shows that when you look someone in the eyes for more than three seconds, it activates your mirror neurons and make you feel and behave like them. Mel Robbins teaches this in her latest best selling book The High Five Habit, explaining how she smiles to random people in the street to experience the science behind mirror neurons. I actually used this tool in my fitness classes or when walking in the street, starring at someone in the eyes and smiling. When done for more than 3 seconds, the person will smile back. It is such a simple way to raise your vibration and trigger the positive chemicals in both bodies, so trust that it’s worth looking like a lunatic in the street!

All this to say that, overwhelm might lurk in from times to times, just make sure that you are surrounding yourself with the right support. You are the average of the five people you are the most around, meaning if you only hang out with party poopers, it might be harder to regulate your nervous system. I am not suggesting to ghost every people that might sometimes be negative, because we all are at some point, but merely to be more mindful of the people you bring in in these moments of chaos.

Remember, it’s a choice of every second: how do you chose to perceive your reality?

This Monday’s overwhelm, as minor as it seemed, was a great reminder that it cannot all be about hustle and forceful actions, and that performances flow more easily when in a state of joy and ease. What I did next is simply cleared the night and took the next morning off to recharge using the most simplistic mindfulness tools, and there I was, back in the flow and ready to conquer the world.

Only more sustainably.

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Conscious deeptech entrepreneur | Founder @kolibrilab | On a mission to unlock high-value biologics

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Amélie Quilichini

Amélie Quilichini

Conscious deeptech entrepreneur | Founder @kolibrilab | On a mission to unlock high-value biologics

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