In the fast paced and busy world that we live in today, it is all too easy to become overwhelmed and want to step off the planet for a while until things get better. Today I want to share with you some information on overwhelm and how to over come it.
I can remember many times throughout my life when I have felt overwhelmed and it is most certainly not a pleasant feeling. It makes you want to hide or in my case go into ‘non-mode’ where I actually do absolutely nothing (which in turn makes everything worse for myself) I am sure that as you are reading this, you have experienced similar, if not the exact same, feelings as I have to overwhelm.
There are many things that contribute to overwhelm and I’m sorry to say, that they stem from you. This may be a challenging concept, but all of your experiences of the world around you and feelings you have come from inside you, they are fueled by your thoughts and actions.
Here are some of the ways that you create your own overwhelm (I’ll go into how to overcome later in this post)
Taking on too much
Many of us find it difficult to say ‘no’ which leads to us getting into overwhelm because we have too much going on in our lives and we find it difficult to balance it. Often we take things on because we feel guilty about saying no and letting someone down or feel as though they will dislike us or judge us for not saying yes. This is a slippery slope to making overwhelm a huge player in your life and something that needs to be changed now! (I personally am a recovering yes person and I know the freedom that comes from saying no – and it wasn’t as difficult as I had imaged it to be either!)
Often you will say yes to things that are not actually important to you means that you reduce your time and energy to do the things that are important, like giving yourself some self-care, spending time with family or pursuing your dreams and hobbies. Making sure that you give your own priorities the level of importance they deserve is important for not only you to live a life that is of your choosing, but also frees you from tasks that will linger and make you feel overwhelmed.
Knowing your limits and building your boundaries is key here.
Putting Pressure on Yourself
You know that niggling voice that tells you that you should be able to do everything for yourself and everyone, yeah that is the way that you put pressure on yourself and build the feelings of overwhelm. The constant mind chatter has a knack of taking you into the negative and making you feel as though you should have done something better, you should have been able to do more or that you have done something wrong.
This kind of negative self-talk is what makes us take on too much because we are putting unnecessary (and unreasonable) pressure on ourselves to do more than we can. Noticing when you have these thoughts and letting them go will help you to beat the overwhelming feelings that come along with them.
Wanting to have control of things is a really big cause of stress and overwhelm as you simply can’t do EVERYTHING yourself. Sometimes you need to put trust in other people in order to free some of your time. Nobody has the capacity to do absolutely everything and trying to do so will drive your further down the spiral of overwhelm draining your energy and sapping time that you could use for more important things.
Trying to have control over everything means that you have more than you can realistically do and will feed feelings of overwhelm, stress and anxiety.
Again, as a recovering perfectionist I know how this one can create terrible levels of overwhelm. Believing that we have to everything to a perfect level will mean that we spend way too long on each task that needs to be done and analysing it every step of the way. This one is a great pair with putting too much pressure on yourself and the voice that beats you up.
More often than not, good is good enough!
Again, another one that partners really well with the pressures that you put on yourself. When you put very high expectations on yourself, you create a goal that is much further away than you can realistically achieve. This makes overwhelm the next step in the journey as you will be aiming so high that you struggle to get there – that’s when that voice comes in again and beats you up for not doing better!
Setting yourself realistic targets is much more effective.
I know that if you’re anything like me then you know the feeling of at least one (if not many more) of the things that I have outlined above As you can see, they are all internal responses to things. Stress cannot be experienced from the outside, it is our thoughts and reactions to a situation that makes it stressful and that is where overwhelm comes from too.
Now, let’s get to how to overcome overwhelm and get you back on track.
1. Step Back
The first thing to do when you start feeling overwhelm is to step back from the situation to let some light fall on it. Breathe deeply and create a space where you can break the thoughts that are causing your overwhelm. Even better than stepping back is taking a walk to physically shake off the feelings and being you to a better place.
It may seem a difficult thing to do when you have everything to do, but taking a break will help you to refocus your attention and to break away from the loop that is bringing the feelings of overwhelm.
2. Brain Dump
Grab some paper and a pen and write out all the things that you feel you need to be getting done – add absolutely everything that is flipping around in your head and put it onto the paper. It is much easier to deal with things when they are in the real world outside of our heads than when they are spinning in the tumble dryer of our minds.
3. Assess and Reject
Look through the things that you think you need to do and immediately cross off the things that aren’t really necessary e.g. redecorating the spare room when it can wait until you have more time, or doing something because you have created the expectation that you should do it e.g. weeding the grassy area at the end of your street.
Then look at the other things that on the paper. Which can you push-off to another time? Get them onto another piece of paper and cross them off this sheet.
Which tasks can you pass back to someone? Which can you delegate? Highlight the ones that fit this category as we’ll look at them in the next step.
4. Hand Back
If you have said yes to some things that are not important to you, hand them back. it will be challenging at first handing them back as it will stretch you outside of your comfort zone, but it will really work out for the best for you – especially when you see your list of to-dos reducing.
If you can delegate the task to someone else, do it. And leave that control freak or perfectionist out of it. Remember, you are aiming to free yourself from overwhelm by reducing the things that you need to do, so let people help you.
5. Ask for Help
As with handing things back, don’t be afraid to ask for help, it is not a sign of weakness. Knowing that you can ask for help when you feel overwhelmed can immediately lighten the feelings that you are having as you then have support to help you get through. The person helping you might be able to offer you advice or support to do it differently next time or be able to completely take the task from you, lightening your load even more.
6. Create Boundaries
This comes down to learning to say ‘no’ and sticking to it, even when you get the feelings of guilt creeping in or that mind chatter goes crazy in your brain.
Creating boundaries (and sticking to them) shows people around you that you are controlling your own time and that they will have to abide by it too. When you know that you don’t have the time or capacity to do something don’t cave in and take it as you will feel overwhelmed and that is a worse feeling that a little moment of guilt.
…and don’t create problems for yourself by taking things on that you know will stress you out or make you worry. You are not responsible for everyone’s problems, tasks, jobs or worries. You need to make yourself and your time and well-being a priority.
Remember, just because you can’t do something for someone doesn’t mean that nobody is going to be available to help them!
7. Make Space
Make space in your day and calendar to block off time to get the most important tasks done. Work out when you feel at your best (morning, afternoon, evening) and do the biggest things then. When you have the most important things done, you can start working through the small 2 minute jobs when you are not at your greatest. This will help you to get things done and clear your list.
8. Bedtime Clearing
About an hour before bedtime, write down all the things that you think you need to do – just like in step 1. You can include things that you think you might need to do and anything else that is on your mind. Pop the paper in a safe place and do something relaxing for the next hour (and that doesn’t mean browsing the internet, watching TV or playing games) You want to get away from anything that will stimulate your mind too much as that will trigger more thoughts to spin.
When you’re up in the morning, review your tasks for the day and work through the process again, chucking out any that aren’t really necessary and are not a priority and get to work on the ones that are important for that day. Remember, you can’t be everything to everyone!
As part of a month of overcoming overwhelm, I am in the process of developing a new and exciting course and coaching package to help you to get back on track and free from overwhelm. If you would like to find out more and be the first to find out, sign up to my newsletter here.
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