What to Ask Yourself When You Feel Overwhelmed, Stressed, or Anxious


“Clear your mind. Your heart is trying to tell you something.” ~Unknown

Words have incredible power. I’d like to share three little words that can unlock your inner magic. They can help you cut through the layers that stand in the way of your inner truth and help you get in touch with your highest self. The peaceful, compassionate, loving self that knows what you need in any given moment and wants to bring goodness to the world.

But I better tell you now that they are simple words that may not seem earth shattering at first.

These words have become part of my life in the last few months. When I am feeling tired, stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed I ask myself this simple question. It forces me to stop and listen to myself. Then I can take action from a calm and peaceful state.

What Are These Three Words that Can Unlock Your Inner Magic?

So what are the simple words I have found that help me to stop in the middle of stressful situations? How can I tune into the reality at the heart of every circumstance? With three little words, which form a simple question:

What is so?

Isn’t it often the simplest things that have the most profound impact? Allow me to share why these words have been so powerful for me.

I am the mom of one high-energy and very curious four-year-old boy. We also happen to live in Japan, where I am a foreigner. Japan can be a stressful place for a foreign mom. I get overwhelmed. I misunderstand things. I feel out of control.

I am a writer, but procrastination and the struggle to find the time to write kick my butt over and over again.

Maybe you have those feeling too, whatever your circumstances.

Learning to Make Choices to Respond Wisely

There are key moments in the day when I have decisions to make. To be honest there was a time, not long ago, when I didn’t believe I could make those choices.

There are moments when I would give in to procrastination when I should be taking action. Or moments when I would force myself to push through and do things when I need to sit and rest.

Moments when I would get angry with my son when he needs me to be calm and help him process his own difficult emotions. Or moments when I would get stressed out by overcrowded places when I have no choice but to take my place among the crowds.

There are voices that run through my head in those moments. They tell me things I should be doing or things other people shouldn’t be doing. I have a litany of judgments about how things should be different to what they are in the moments of my day.

In those moments when I’m struggling, those voices come from somewhere other than my own inner wisdom. When I react poorly, it is often because I am more worried about what other people will think. My mind gets caught up in a million thoughts that do not serve me.

I snap. I react. I get mad a people pushing me on a crowded escalator and push back. I become the thing I hate and judge myself along with everyone else.

So I am learning to stop and take a deep breath and ask myself “What is so?”

What Is So?

These three words cause me to slow down long enough to listen to what’s going on with me. I may just be hungry or tired or distracted by something I read online that continues to run through my mind.

If I am procrastinating on a writing project, for example, I need to listen through the fear and the doubt to the voice underneath. The voice that says, “You’ve got this. You are good enough. You are safe. Everything is okay. You have everything you need right here and now.”

If I’m getting mad at how other people are behaving, perhaps it is because, as my husband always says, it’s their first time being human. Hell, maybe it’s my first time being human. We are all still practicing this humanity thing.

Finding the Voice of Compassion

And we all need to find the voice inside of us that is kind and compassionate. The voice that allows us to respond wisely to what life throws at us and not react out of our fear or worry.

Few of us ever slow down enough to find that voice. We believe that the fear and doubt are the only emotions we are feeling; we are too afraid to dig beneath them. We find it hard to believe that the deeper reality, what is true and what is so, is always peace and love and goodness. We just need to sit with our feelings and listen to our highest self.

We are experts at avoiding the unpleasant emotions. We never sit with the negative thoughts long enough to let them melt away. Facebook will happily offer up endless distractions. There’ll always be one more cup of coffee and another box of cookies.

But if we always avoid the unpleasant feelings, we can never find our way through them.

Acknowledging What’s Underneath the Fear and Negative Thoughts

This simple question, “What is so?” frees me to acknowledge what is happening inside me. Invariably, I procrastinate when those ugly little words “I am not good enough” are raging unacknowledged within me.

If I keep going and keep digging there might be a physical reason why I am not feeling in control and my best. I probably need to eat or drink or sleep or exercise. Maybe I need to sit down and journal through the feelings and find my equilibrium again.

I’m still working on being the mom who responds calmly to whatever my son gets himself into instead of being the mom who screams “Don’t do that. Don’t touch that. WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR?!” Because what is so is that he is a healthy, happy four-year-old, and the light of my world.

It takes practice to know that you have the power to act from love and not fear. It takes practice to strip away the anxious thoughts and find what is most deeply true in every moment.

Will you join me and try it the next time you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out?

Stop, slow your breathing, and focus your attention inside your chest. What is so? What is so? What is so?

You are alive. You are safe. You know what you need.

About Kamsin Kaneko

Kamsin Kaneko is a writer, mama, and creativist. She blogs about overcoming blocks, stepping into your creativity, and living a heart-centered life. Most days you can find her on Instagram looking for small moments of beauty in the midst of urban Japan. If you struggle to live from your truest, most loving self, download Kamsin’s free ebook Journaling Through.

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