Ahhhh! 4 Steps to Combat OVERWHELM
Ah, Spring…. That delightful and peaceful time where buds pop up through the winter surface to bring us color.
Yet along with these bursts of scent and beauty, everywhere I turn, people are stressed out and feeling overwhelmed: a colleague out of the office leaves us stranded with their work, a round of new athletic team practices for our kids means a new round of carpools, the garden we planned is requiring multiple trips to Home Depot. People are ready to tear their hair out.
What is there to do?!
Well, I say there are four things to do to combat feeling overwhelmed:
1. Breathe. This seems challenging when we feel as though if we stop for a single moment the world will spin off without us. But it won’t. You can ALWAYS take one full minute to stop, breathe, slow your heart rate and gather yourself so that the next things you do will be focused and more efficient.
2. Prioritize. Feeling as though everything is essential leaves us exasperated and with not enough hours to do what we feel we must. Unless you have a way to get more than 24 hours in a day, you’re going to have to change your actions, since you can’t change the clock. Decide which are “must do’s” by putting things in three categories:
A. Urgent, Important, Needs Handling Immediately: things in this category include bleeding, head trauma and being wedged under something heavy. Anything other than these is not as urgent as it seems, truly. Gaining that perspective will go a long way toward feeling less overwhelmed. If there is anything this urgent on your list, stop reading and go handle it now. Otherwise, have a sense of humor that the other categories aren’t that important by comparison and that you can be grateful you have nothing to manage in this category.
B. Must do in order to fulfill my commitments: These are things like finish the report for work, pick up my kids from school, eat, sleep, give the presentation I promised to, etc. Once you identify something as being on this list — question it. Is it truly essential that it get done right now and by me? If so, keep it on your list. If not, delegate it to someone else, get help doing it or leave it till some other time. There will come a time when you are no longer overwhelmed and you can pick it up again then. Take more things off your list than you think you can.
Note: If you find that this is the category that seems swamped, you may want to re-examine what you have committed to and if it is truly something you’re willing and/or able to do. That’s a topic for the other side of this particular storm. For now, get help and delegate and cross as many things off as possible. After that, it may be time to scale back to save yourself from getting into this position over and over.
C. Minutia that will feel good to handle and get off my mind and list: These are things like errands, emails or most of what make up our To Do lists. Unless these items actually fall under fulfilling your commitments (B), consider letting them go entirely, or at least right now. You can find new car mats next month. Cross it off your list entirely and it will find its way back on the list if it needs to.
3. Take one step at a time. They say we can’t truly multitask — we just go back and forth between things very fast. Rather than spend your mental and emotional energy thinking about all the things on your list and how behind you are, once you’ve made your priority list, take it on one at a time. Keep going by putting one foot in front of the other — don’t look in the rear view mirror or miles ahead of you. Just right here, right now, this thing. Then the next one.
4. Keep a sense of humor and perspective. If you won’t remember the details of the things overwhelming you right now in five years, they likely aren’t that earth shattering — they just feel that way. Remember that in order to keep our humor, we need to be well cared for. Consider giving yourself a “time out” free of obligations to restore your sanity, focus and energy. That can be five minutes or five days depending on what you need. It sounds like the last thing you could do right now, I know, but if you had to fly off to a sick friend’s bedside, you’d be amazed at how much of the other stuff would get done by others. Same goes for when you are restoring your equilibrium.
Then, once you’re out of the storm, celebrate! Treat yourself well, congratulate yourself and rest. Then take a look at what got you to this overwhelmed spot and see if you can identify someways to prevent it in the future. Do you say yes when you mean no? Do you not ask for help? Do you procrastinate and leave things till the last minute? What things could you do differently before getting overwhelmed? Making a difference beforehand is the bast way to combat overwhelm. But once you’re in the storm… see above.