There are times in life when things just seem too much; so much in your head, so much to do, and seemingly so little resources to do it. In this blog, I will help you understand overwhelm and give you some tips to deal with it. To help you better understand how to overcome overwhelm, I will first briefly outline the 5 components that cause it.
Unrealistic expectations. This is when you have high and strict expectations or you set overly challenging goals, that put unnecessary pressure on you. If the expectation isn’t met or the challenge isn’t achieved, it can feel like failure. Of course, with a feeling of failure comes questions and thoughts that your brain could linger on: “What am I doing wrong?”, “I’m not good enough”, “I can’t work fast enough”, I might not be doing the right thing”, etc., all resulting in a feeling of overwhelm.
Perfectionism. Doing your best is important but trying to make everything perfect means you’ll have less time for the other things that need to be done and you’ll feel even more overwhelmed. It’s important to get perspective on the bigger picture and do your best, but not get bogged down in perfection.
Saying yes when you want to say no. Saying “yes” when you really want to say no can be an attempt to avoid feeling guilty or being rejected. However, it can also lead to resentment and a feeling of being taken for granted, which can sometimes feel worse than guilt.
Only you can do it. Overwhelm can be caused by wanting to do everything yourself. Maybe you don’t trust others, or you believe that no one else can do the job as well as you. As a result, you struggle to delegate things to other people, and you find yourself in a big mess heap.
Overachieving. Being an overachiever can make some people feel special and proud, but living up to this can be difficult and may make you feel stressed and overwhelmed.
What to do.
1. Review your time
To overcome overwhelm, it’s important to set realistic goals and targets. It’s good to aim high, but you need to use your time well, make tasks manageable and not stretch yourself too thin. This means looking at any “busy-mess” and adjusting a few things.
“I never have enough time”, is one of the most common phrases when it comes to busy-mess and overwhelm. So, let me ask you this, every four years there is a leap year and I’d love to know what you did with those extra 24 hours you were given? Mm finding it hard to remember?
So, time itself may not be the issue, it could be your use of time and your perspective of it. To see if this is the case, I want you to do an intentional 8-hour exercise that will probably be one of the most useful exercises you will ever do when it comes to planning and making things manageable for you. The exercise is just for one day and it’s worth the time as it will free up a lot of time in the near future.
I want you to document your activities every 30 minutes for a period of 8 hours. Every 30 minutes for one day, you will stop and write down what you did for the previous 30 minutes. Be truthful. If you spent 30 minutes, eating, watching TV, doing a project, scrolling social media, listening to someone complain about life on the phone, or whatever, write it down. This is not an exercise to criticise or judge, it is purely to bring awareness of your time usage. You might find that a LOT of the time you don’t have enough of is taken up by meaningless activity that has absolutely nothing to do with your goals! After you’ve done the exercise, look at what you need to eliminate from your day and what you might need to adjust.
Take energy breaks
Your brain only has a short attention span to be fully focused. After which it tapers off, unless you have an “energy reset”. You need breaks in your day to make sure you are in top form but make them meaningful and impactful. Breaks will help you get more done in a shorter time. When you take a break, you need to slow down your mind. Reading or listening to the news or checking emails and social media keep your mind active. To recharge you need a change of scene and downtime. It could literally be a matter of taking a quick walk outside or a 5-minute meditation to reset and recharge. You can do this during the time you once didn’t have.
2. Clear your head
When you feel overwhelmed, there can be a lot going on in your head. Your mind is emotionally cluttered and busy, and you can’t think clearly. You must get the stuff that’s taking up space in your head out, so you have room to think clearly. You can read more about emotional decluttering at https://www.donnakennedy.com/10-ways-to-emotionally-declutter/
It’s important that you look at what will help you get the job done, but also what might be getting in the way or slowing you down. A lot of overwhelm is caused by unnecessary activity or activity that isn’t impactful at all, so you need to ask yourself:
- Is the task you’re trying to do really necessary for you to achieve the goal?
- Will it impact the overall goal in a positive way?
- What task will get the most impact right now?
Delegate and ask for help
You cannot do everything all the time, all by yourself, and not expect overwhelm.
Questions to consider:
- If it needs to be done, do you really need to do it yourself? Be honest!
- Who else could do this task to take the load off?
- Where can you find someone else to do this task?
- Is the person doing the task (if not you) causing the goal pain or do you need to find someone more effective?
Delegation can involve everything from a task in an office to home chores or a school pick up. Life needs to be balanced in all areas to avoid overwhelm. It is okay to not be superhuman! It is not failure if you can’t do everything. Know your limits. You’ll be a lot happier and lot more productive!
Urgent versus Important. Not everything that is urgent is important.
- Does this task need to be done today?
- Is it urgent or important? Differentiate the two!
4. Thought Accuracy
To deal with overwhelming thoughts, you’ll need to assess if your thoughts are accurate and reasonable. If a thought includes the words “never”, “everyone”, “always” or “everything”, you might need to question it. For example, if you say, “Everything always turns out bad”, or “I never get it right”, unpack it and ask yourself is it really everything, always and never or are you using terms loosely? Using loose catastrophe language stops tasks getting done and only makes you feel bad. So, be specific and work on the task at hand only. Then come up with better alternatives.
For example, “If I chunk this task down and make it manageable, might it be more doable?” or “For this particular project, might I need to upskill or get help?” or “Could I research this more and find an easier way to do it?” or “What do I need to do, to make sure I feel confident giving this particular presentation?” Get specific, accurate and reasonable. This is a very effective way to shut down overwhelm.
5. Take charge of your state.
You get so much more done when you’re in a positive emotional and mental state. One of the easiest ways to change your state is through intentional physical shifts.
Intentionally breathe deeper, with your shoulders back and look slightly above eye level. This will give your brain the message that you are in a strong positive state. Your mind and body are connected and when you change your posture, your brain follows with a corresponding chemicals and feeling. For example, you can’t slump and be excited at the same time. To get excited you have to engage an excited posture. So, what posture do you need to be in to feel confident and strong? If you’re making a phone call, for example, and need to feel empowered, make it sitting upright or standing up, not lounging in your chair. Try it and you will find you will come across a lot stronger.
Rebounding (using a mini trampoline) is my go-to and can recharge you in just five minutes, but any form of movement will help. Jog on the spot, go for a brisk walk, do ten jumping jacks, whatever gets your heart rate up in a healthy way that will allow you to feel alive, do it! You’ll get the added bonus of an endorphin (happy hormones) hit.
6. Information overload.
If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information coming at you in your life, then reduce it! The world is so full of busy information these days, that it can be distracting. For example, do you really need to know that Martha ate mushroom soup today in the café in Spain? Or could you tone down social media exposure so you can get things done? Do you really need to get involved in the gossip conversation at break time or could you do something better with your time? Are you taking too much advice from people and you need to simplify? Are you listening to global news every hour, when really it’s information overload? Simplify every way you can.
7. Set Boundaries
Time is your most valuable asset, so don’t just give to anyone for anything. Use it wisely for good reasons, with boundaries in place. Set times for different activities and devote quality time in large quantities to people who matter to you. If you don’t, you risk getting pulled and dragged in all different directions, by whoever, which results in overwhelm.
Setting boundaries allows you to decide what is okay for you and what is not. You might not like it at the start, but you’ll be respected and that feels great! Don’t say “yes” if you know you will regret it later. Don’t take every phone call just because your phone rings. Prioritize and understand your needs, and make sure they are met in balance always. Being the best you does not take away from anyone!
So, there are 7 tips that I hope you find useful. If you found this blog useful, then please share it with other people or on social media. I’d also like to give you the gift of my eBook Success Made Simple. You can download it for free here https://donnakennedy.com/#ebook