We all fall victim to overwhelm. The trick is to find a way to reset quickly, so you can recover and get back to what you need to do.
Whether it’s often or infrequent, the paralyzing results are the same. Here is what happens to me when I’m in overwhelm (Not pretty, but I’m just keeping it real here, people!):
When I’m in overwhelm, I’m like a deer in the headlights – I am stuck and can’t move. I’m truly paralyzed. I typically spend a lot of time “Spinning “– I can spend LOTS of time in front of my computer doing who knows what. I straighten my desk and organize files. And I convince myself that I’m busy, but I know better. Busy work is busy work.
Or, I become an expert at procrastination. I work from my home office so I find myself folding laundry, doing dishes, cleaning. Anything but working. The busier I stay, the less I have to think about how overwhelmed I am, because I’m….well, busy!
Here’s what to do to nip overwhelm in the bud:
Recognize the symptoms.
I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms, or better yet, anticipate when I’m going to fall prey to overwhelm. Typically it happens in times of transition. I may have signed up too many clients at once. I may have a new hire that I need to train on top of all my other duties. I feel stress creeping into my shoulders and neck, for whatever reason.
I start to look for times when I will likely be in transition and anticipate what is likely to hit the fire, or what is going to need extra attention. But you can’t always do that. Once you notice you are in overwhelm, take action right away with any of the following strategies.
Cut down on your outside influences.
There are gurus aplenty in the online world, all with a different voice and recommendations. I have learned (the hard way) that more input does not equal more clarity. Make some choices.
Whose voices, newsletters, and recommendations do you find valuable and want to continue to follow? Choose at most 2 or 3 and unsubscribe from the rest of those newsletters. Don’t sign up for any more webinars aside from theirs. Or, just give yourself a complete break from outside influences. Do not sign up for any more courses. Keep it simple, sweetie.
Detox your to-do list.
Overwhelm can come from a to-do list that is several pages long. It shouldn’t be. There should be a max of 3 main things you should accomplish in a day. Take a critical look at that list and use the 4 D’s: Do, Delegate, Delay, or Delete, to whip it into manageable shape.
Download The 4 D’s of Productivity for more tips on how to use this powerful tool
Take some action.
If even that feels like too much effort, then just take some action – ANY action and start very small. I find that the smaller the step, the easier it is to get started. Once momentum starts, it’s easier to keep going.
Take an emotional time out.
Read an engrossing book that has nothing to do with work. I’m partial to mysteries that completely take over my brain. Go to a movie if you can swing it. Can you say binge-watch?
The point is to take an hour or two away from your problems — physically somewhere else, if possible. You’ll remember that there’s a vast world out there, and maybe put yourself back in perspective.
Same idea here, but with a personal physical component. Hit the gym. Go for a run or a swim. Take a spin class. Whatever it is that you do for exercise, work it into the middle of the day, so you can separate the difficult morning from the rest of the afternoon.
Not only does exercise count as an accomplishment, but it also fills your system with endorphins that lead to a more positive attitude and go-getter state of mind. Talk about a reset!
Reach out to Biz Besties.
Brainstorm why you are spinning, or just vent a bit. That can also clear your head! Sometimes you just need the chance to talk with someone you’re close with who is completely unrelated to whatever drama is going on in your life.
Just say no.
Sometimes you have to say no. Sometimes you even have to say, “I know I said yes before, but I have to say no now.” Of course, you don’t want to make a practice of this and develop a reputation for unreliability. Still, maybe it’s better than getting overwhelmed and getting nothing done.
Thinking about overwhelm won’t help. You have to take action.
Putting these techniques into practice can help you move out of overwhelm quickly. My favorite is to just take a small bit of action and to let the rest unfold. The longer you stay in this state, the worse it will become. In this case, size does matter, and even tiny steps count!