How to Work Your Way Out of Overwhelm
You hired an expensive team to complete a project on time, and everything was going well under the leader had a heart attack and everything started to fall apart. But the deadline still looms.
Could there be a worse time for your spouse to catch the flu and spread it to your four-year-old?
Then there’s the day-to-day operation of your business and your household, your father is in the hospital and you need to drop by and see how he’s doing, and your neighbour wants to “talk” about your tree’s branches extending over the fence into their yard.
Being overwhelmed is a condition common in everyday living, and enduring even a few moments of that sensation of everything being out of control is tough. But when it extends day after day, night after night, and you envision yourself in the hamster on a wheel existence, something has to change.
When you get that sensation, the first thing to remember is that we have all been there. This moment in time will pass and you will restore an order and balance to your life. Meantime, there are some steps you have to take right away to deal with the sustained stress, or you could become both physically and mentally exhausted.
Feeling overwhelmed is another way of acknowledging that you are being ruled by your anxiety. If you cannot get it under control, it can cause you long-term harm. It isn’t something to shrug off or ignore.
My experience is that no matter how bad it gets, there is always some corner of your life in which you can find some leeway to lessen the tension.
I recently worked with a client whose demanding job involves working with patients with mental health issues. In one instance, she had tried everything she could think of to help the man control his suicidal tendencies.
In desperation one sunny summer afternoon she encouraged him to leave her office where they normally met and walk outside to a nearby garden bench. She asked him to look up at the sky and empty his mind of all his worries just for a few minutes.
“We are safe here,” she told him. “We can take a recess from the world. Just look up at the blue sky and the white clouds and empty your mind. Smell the flowers around us and just know that for these minutes, you have no worries.”
To her surprise, his breathing grew calmer and steadier and he sat several minutes looking up in silence. Then he turned to her and said he felt a little better.
Looking back, she remembers it as a breakthrough moment in his care.
Sometimes just taking a few minutes to change our perspective is all we need to climb off the “I’m overwhelmed” treadmill.
Here are five things I do when I feel the anxiety of being overwhelmed:
- Change perspective. It might be as simple as stepping outside to look up at the sky or just walking from one room to another, but the simple act of mindfully changing the scenery around me clears my head and adjusts my perspective. Try it; I believe it will help you too.
- Master the moment. When I feel like I am drowning in commitments and work, I stop to consider that this is just one moment in time, and it is not the first time nor will it be the last that I feel like I am being dragged under the wave of work. Reminding myself that I didn’t drown before encourages me to understand that I will make it to my destination this time. Take this moment to breathe slowly and deeply, in and out for at least three times, and resume ownership of this moment you are in.
- Look for elastic in the deadlines. In every project, there is always one or two variables that can be stretched without creating a major problem. People are a lot more understanding than most of us think. Consider bringing in more help, or removing something else from your schedule.
- Align your priorities with your values. You will feel a lot less stressed if you believe in what you are doing.
- Practice caring for yourself. It is okay to go for a walk in the midst of chaos; in fact, sometimes it should be mandatory just to help you restore order to your mind and clarify your priorities. You are in charge of yourself, and you must care and nurture yourself when you need it. Sometimes it is as simple as going to bed to get a much-needed rest and awakening early the next morning to finish a project when you are more alert.
At the end of the day, remember that being overwhelmed is not a productive state of mind.
Paula Morand is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and impact in a more bold fashion.
24 years, 27,000 clients, 34 countries, 15 books, former radio personality, 11x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee. Check out Paula’s bestselling books on Amazon: “Bold Courage: How Owning Your Awesome Changes Everything”, “Dreaming BIG and Being BOLD: Inspiring stories from Trailblazers, Visionaries and Change Makers” book series; and her most recent release“Bold Vision: A Leader’s Playbook for Managing Growth”.
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