You have a client call in 10 minutes, but you haven’t had a chance to go over their case because the thing you didn’t deal with last week has come up again. Then your husband calls and needs that information for the bank that he left on the kitchen table. You can’t find it, he’s getting upset and now your mind is in overwhelm. At this point you wouldn’t be able to find and elephant in a haystack.
I’ve had days like the one described above. We all have. Luckily it doesn’t have to be a regular occurrence. There are tools to help us cope and get back to thinking straight.
Below you’ll find some ways to help you get past being overwhelmed at any given moment as well as ways to prevent ending up there in the first place.
What to do in the moment of overwhelm:
Figure out what can wait and what can’t. In the example above, your client is more important. Tell your husband to wait until you’re done because the bank can wait an hour.
Change your thinking. Stop thinking that if you don’t get everything done on your list you’ll spontaneously combust. Most things will wait.
Take one action. Overwhelm can cause us to freeze up. By taking one action, no matter how small, we can melt away that stuck feeling and get ourselves moving again.
For those times it truly isn’t urgent:
Ignore your to-do list. Just until you calm down. Often we pile on too many things and in our minds we feel we have to do them all at once. So ignore the stuff that needs to get done and do something that’s not on the list. Maybe start that novel you’ve been wanting to write or finish that painting you started.
Do something that soothes you. Listen to gentle music or a guided meditation. Take a walk or do some spiritual reading. This will bring you back to yourself where you can focus again.
Focus on what drives you. In other words, do first the things that you’re motivated to do. When in the flow you’ll forget all about that to-do list and accomplish plenty.
Get some rest. Don’t push yourself. You can’t keep plodding along and expect to feel better.
What you can do to prevent overwhelm:
Go at your own pace. Don’t worry about what other people think you should be able to accomplish or even what you think you should be able to do. Just do what you can and consider that enough.
Overestimate how much time a task will take. Much of our overwhelm stems from thinking that a task will only take a few minutes when in reality it takes a half an hour. By giving yourself more time you’ll never run out of time.
Create a routine and stick to it. The routine helps you keep on task within a timeframe. Over time you’ll create a habit, which will free up mind space and allow you to get some of those daily things done more easily.
Get up earlier. If you know you have a lot to accomplish, start early in the day. I know that when I sleep in a little on the days I have a lot to do my morning routine goes out the window and I feel rushed. Give yourself time.
Shorten your list. If you think you can’t do this, I recommend you sit down with your list and prioritize. Put those things that move you towards your goals first. Then if there is room, put in just a few chores.
Make a weekly list. Sometimes I get so busy making the list that I forget to break it down. Make your list, prioritize your items and then plug them into different days of the week. Be sure to not overload any one day.
Play around with these suggestions and find out what works for you. Life is too short to spend it under stress. And being under stress makes you stupid because it scrambles your brain. Boy have I experienced that one. So put a stop to it. Take back your life so you can live your dreams.