We’ve all experienced it before, the debilitating feeling of overwhelm.
The problem with being overwhelmed is that it can really kill your creativity, your joy, your ability to overcome problems and find solutions because your brain totally shuts down into that fight or flight mode.
Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed now or whether you know you can become overwhelmed quite easily, I’ve got some practical things that are going to help you.
I really liked this description of overwhelm I came across when I was doing some research about it.
This is written by a Ph.D. Professor, Marla W. Deiblera, she says:
“Overwhelm comes when we think a stressor is too great for us to manage.”
It’s like when we think we don’t have the resources to do what we need to do, we feel like we don’t have the time, the energy or the money.
Being overwhelmed is usually not caused from having too much to do. It’s not knowing what to prioritise first.
Overwhelm also comes when we are not feeling equipped to be able to do it.
You start doing something and you get stuck and you don’t know what to do. You don’t know who to ask. You don’t know how to solve that problem.
When that happens, you move onto something else, when it gets too hard, you start another and so on and so on, until suddenly you’ve opened these loops in your brains and it freaks out. This is what causes overwhelm.
Ultimately, being overwhelmed is a feeling that is triggered by our thoughts. But the problem is, we don’t always know what thoughts are triggering this feeling, because it’s often unconscious or subconscious. So, we just think, we’re overwhelmed.
That’s not true. We can choose the state of overwhelm, overwhelm is a choice. We must remember that it’s not circumstances causing our overwhelm, it’s our thinking that causes overwhelm drives our feelings and drives our results in our actions.
You’re always going to have lots to do. It’s not a case of, I’ve just got to get through this, and I’ll be fine. If this is a pattern in your life, you’ve really got to look at the root cause of what’s going on.
Usually, it comes down to a limiting belief that we have about ourselves. We’re putting way too much expectation on ourselves, or we think that other people have a lot of expectations for us and that’s causing the state of overwhelm and it stops us from taking action.
We go into that fight or flight mode, where we freeze and kill time by doing something easy, something that we know how to do. We go shopping, the movies or we scroll our phone because we just don’t want to feel the stress, which is going to make it worse.
It causes us to procrastinate, to stress and doubt ourselves. That’s terrible for our relationship with ourselves because we start doubting ourselves, our capability because we’re not finishing things. We’re not getting things done.
I was talking to a friend recently and we’re talking about how we use overwhelm as a bit of an excuse. We both realised that we did this rather than focusing on one thing and finishing and completing it.
We thought if I do this and this and this and this and this, then I’ve got this excuse for not finishing that. When you focus on one thing, and you complete it, it’s very much a binary result you either did it or you didn’t.
For example, in January, I decided that I was going to focus on one habit only because I usually have lots of habits that I’m working on. The research says the more habits you’re trying to change, the least likely you are to change any of them.
90% of the time if you try and change one habit, it drops right down to 70% If you try to change two habits and 50% or less if you try and change three habits. When I set my goals for 2020, I decided it’s one habit per month and my habit for January, was journaling. That was it.
But on the side, I was trying to work on my health, my time management, skill acquisition and I still ended up doing way too much. The problem was, I got to the end of January, I hadn’t completed a full 30 days of journaling.
When you’re overwhelmed, you’ve got to look at why. You’ve got to ask yourself some questions.
So I’ve got some questions here to ask yourself to help you reduce overwhelm:
1. What matters most right now?
A great question to ask yourself is what matters most right now? It sounds simple. If you’re not overwhelmed right now, it sounds simple to say that question. But when you’re in it, when you’re frustrated when you feel like you can’t handle anything else…
…You need to step back and ask yourself, what matters most right now. Sometimes it’s a mix of people and tasks. You got to have these clear decisions of what matters.
For me, when I get overwhelmed, I’ve always got to think what matters right now is people over tasks. Maybe you’re managing a team and you think I’m so overwhelmed, whose opinion matters most right now?
Do you need to get something through that’s has a clear deadline, and you find yourself doing things that aren’t that important? For me, personally, I have a rule that I always put my paying clients first.
2. What am I already trying to achieve?
Sometimes we get so in the detail that you’ve got to lift yourself up above it and say, what am I ultimately trying to achieve here? And why am I getting so caught up in this detail and maybe the stuff that doesn’t matter?
I see some of my mentors they put things up that aren’t perfect, I was talking to Jess about this yesterday, we were saying we see people put stuff out that’s not perfect, and they are still really successful people.
I think why I get so caught up about typos or things that aren’t perfect on my path points. Yes, I want to do my absolute best, I want excellence, I want to get 100% but perfection doesn’t exist and sometimes I think we can waste a lot of time on perfection.
3. What Can Wait?
Sometimes I just need to stop and think, what can wait?
Maybe I’ve got a messy bedroom or maybe I haven’t cleaned my car lately.
It’s important to think about what can wait right now. Maybe it’s not that important to catch up with your Facebook feed. If it’s not that important, it can wait.
4. How can I best Manage Expectations?
Whether that’s an expectation that you’re putting on yourself, or whether there are expectations that other people have of you, ask yourself how can I best manage them?
Maybe you need to contact someone and just be honest. Just say, I’m really struggling right now, I’ve just got so much going on. I just want to let you know that it’s going to take me longer or I can’t come to that thing.
Put up those boundaries to manage your expectations.
Often, it’s our own expectations of ourselves. That’s the biggest problem. How can you best manage that?
5. What’s my Next Best Action?
This question is GOLD and I ask it to myself all the time, what is my next best action because there are always so many actions we can take. There are so many articles we can read, posts we can write, so many things we can do to grow our business.
But what’s the thing that’s really going to move the needle forward in business? Those are usually dollar-producing activities. Whether it’s sales conversations or creating an email newsletter, rather than sitting back and creating something that is going to take too long, start putting things out there that are going to get a result quickly.
I also want to share with you some things that you can say to yourself.
When I was feeling overwhelmed last week, I reached out to a friend who said “Do your reasonable best, and trust God for the rest.”
Whether it’s trusting yourself, the universe, God, a book, a system, you got to trust. Sometimes you just must ask what’s my reasonable best?
Your reasonable best is not perfection. It’s what’s reasonable in this timeframe. Sometimes we have a bit of shame around submitting something that’s not amazing. But it’s not reasonable to think that we can always do everything amazingly.
My sister left me a message that said, “You’ve just got to get through this try to manage it the best you can. Then going forward, say no to more things”. I love that!
When I’m really feeling my heart racing, when I feel like being overwhelmed, I’ll say things like “I’m okay, everything’s going to be okay. I’ll get through this. I can handle this.”
You’ve got to encourage yourself, build yourself up and be your own cheerleader. If you’re struggling to do it yourself, reach out to a friend and get them to tell you.
So to recap the five practical steps to overcome being overwhelmed
- What Matters Most Right Now?
- What am I Already Trying to Achieve?
- What Can Wait?
- How Can I Best Manage Expectations?
- What’s my Next Big Action?
What was your favourite step? I’d love to hear! Post below in the comments.