What is overwhelm?
Welcome to the second installment of overwhelm! If you missed my first post, you can read it here.
What is overwhelm? Overwhelm is an emotion that comes from the thought:
- I have too much to do.
- I don't know where to start.
- There's too much to keep track of.
- I can't keep it all straight.
- I'm pulled in too many directions.
Or some flavor of those thoughts. If you remember from previous posts, our feelings are caused by our thoughts. This is great news. This means that feeling overwhelmed is a choice. It's optional.
The way we tackle overwhelm is two-fold:
- mindset work
- tactical strategies
We have to do the mindset work first. Without it, all of the strategies in the world won't solve for overwhelm, because again, overwhelm is caused by our thoughts, not by our to-do list, or our jobs, or clients, or our workload or by moving, packing and unpacking. It's not caused by messy houses or unmanaged inboxes. Overwhelm is not prevented by tactics, strategies, calendars and to-do lists. It starts in our minds, and ends in our minds.
Mindset Work for Overwhelm:
- What do you think is causing you to feel overwhelm? (List the circumstance, i.e. your job - even though we know it's our thoughts that are actually causing the overwhelm.)
- What do you think about this circumstance? Write down as many thoughts as you can. Keep going until you don't have anything left to write. Include questions you may be asking yourself, too. Include all of your judgmental thoughts. Include feelings. Don't edit yourself here; let it fly.
- Now, highlight or re-write only the facts. i.e. I have a job. The deadline for this project is x."
- Those facts are neutral, meaning, they don't have meaning until we assign them meaning with our thoughts. Our thoughts are optional. How might someone else think about these circumstances?
- What would you think if you weren't allowed to think any of the thoughts you listed in the second question?
- Find a neutral thought to think that is believable. For example:
- I've gotten all of my work done before, I can do it again.
- I've done good work in the past.
- I always feel stressed until I write out a plan and then I feel better.
- I might be someone who can get everything done.
- To find out of a thought is believable, try it on by saying it in your head (or out loud) and noticing how you feel in your body. If you feel a tiny bit better - it's a good thought to practice. If you feel worse or feel nothing, try another thought on. Keep going until you find one that gives you a little relief.
- Pick the one thought that gives you a positive shift. Catch yourself when you are saying the old, negative thought and gently remind yourself: we're thinking (new thought). Repeat.
Now for the tactics. Reminder: These really only work if you do the thought work first. You might experience temporary relief but the overwhelm will come back unless you're doing the thought work, too. And practicing the thought work. You can't just try to believe something once and have it stick! Practice, practice, practice. Writing down your thoughts daily is a great idea.
1. Write everything down that you need to get done. Keep going until you can't come up with anything else.
2. Edit. Do you want to do everything on your list? Go thought one by one and eliminate anything that isn't absolutely 100% something you truly want to do. You decide. Even paying taxes and caring for your child are choices. That's true for everything. Stop telling yourself that you have to do it all! You don't. It's all a choice. It doesn't mean there aren't consequences for not doing things, but stop telling yourself you have to do anything. You don't. Plus, when you realize all of those things are decisions, you'll feel a whole lot better about them instead of feeling resentful - just a side note!
3. Decide how long each item that's left on your list will take.
4. Put it in your calendar. Throw away your to-do list. Follow your calendar.
Congratulations! You can do all of the things you want to do. And, you know when you're going to do them now. They're as good as done, as my coach Lauren Cash says. She's a time management genius, FYI.
If you want help with this process or want to learn more about managing your mind, schedule a free consultation! Making the decision to move forward with coaching is the very first step in creating positive, lasting change in your life.