Feeling Overwhelmed? Small Steps That Can Lead to Big Progress

June 13, 2023

by Bob Ostrom


The power of a mantra

Do you have a mantra? I do. Mine is, "Something is better than nothing." I use it to help me stay grounded and focused when I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed.


At Tilt, we recognize the four stress patterns as Flight, Fight, Flip, and Freeze.

Lately, when I'm feeling stressed, I’ve noticed my mind goes straight to "freeze" mode. This is a natural survival response, but it can be counterproductive when it leads to procrastination or inaction. My mantra helps me to break out of this cycle by reminding me that even taking small steps is better than no steps at all.

For example, when I'm stressed by a task or a project that feels too big, it is almost like standing at the base of the mountain, looking up at the summit, wondering how in the world I'm ever going to reach the top. The feeling can become so overwhelming that my mind kicks into freeze-mode. When I'm in freeze-mode, I recognize it is avoidance behavior, so using my mantra can help generate the momentum I need to break through my temporary paralysis. By shifting my focus away from the clutter or minutia my mind would prefer to focus on, I can redirect my thoughts to something more productive. Something is better than nothing. That means I've still made progress even if it's a tiny step. And the best way to reach any summit is by putting one foot in front of the other. 

My mantra may seem simple, but it's powerful enough to help me take action, even when I feel stressed or overwhelmed. If you're looking for a way to break out of a cycle of inaction, I encourage you to try using a mantra as well. It might just be the thing that helps you to get moving again.

Here are a few tips for creating your own mantra:

  • Choose something simple and easy: In times of high stress trying to call on something complicated or recall a wordy mantra will only add to your stress level. Simple is best. So keep it simple.

  • Choose something meaningful: A mantra is only useful if it resonates with you. Using something that doesn’t resonate will most likely leave you feeling unmotivated and flat. Make it meaningful.

  • Create a reminder: A mantra doesn’t work if you don’t use it. In stressful situations, it’s easy to forget about your mantra. Try writing it down and posting it as a reminder in places where you'll see it often (I have mine written on a Post-it note that is attached to my desk lamp, so I can’t miss it).

  • Experiment: Coming up with a mantra takes a little work, don’t be afraid to switch things up with different mantras until you find one that works for you.

  • Rinse and repeat: When you recognize you are in a stressful situation or feeling overwhelmed, use it, then use it again until it becomes second nature. 

Using a mantra can be a helpful way to break out of a cycle of inaction and start moving forward. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, give it a try.