Recently I’ve been asked by a few of you for tips on how to deal with overwhelm. This is something that affects SO many of us (including me). I often find myself pacing round my flat, knowing there’s lots to be done but not able to focus on anything and it’s so frustrating!
Overwhelm is essentially stress
First and foremost, it’s important to understand what overwhelm is. Simply put, overwhelm is a form of stress.
To understand stress you need to understand how humans used to live in the caveman days.
(Stand by for a VERY over-generalised brain science lesson!)
We all know the women would look after their family and the men would hunt. But imagine if something was trying to attack you in your cave… you’d be stressed! While the men would fight whatever was attacking, women’s stress instinct would kick in and they would only focus on looking after their family and getting them to safety - stress was a vital survival instinct.
And as women, it effects us by ensuring we can switch our focus quickly between many different things - in the case making sure everyone from baby to granny gets to safely
Obviously, generally speaking we’re not dealing with those sort of life-or-death situations anymore, but when we are stressed this instinct still means that we find it difficult to focus on one thing. Our mind is jumping from this to that to the other.
You run around, try and distract yourself and end up getting nothing done.
So how do we get out of overwhelm?
It’s a spiral: being overwhelmed makes you feel stressed, but overwhelm is actually caused by stress in the first place.
But you can get yourself out of a state of overwhelm just as quickly as you’ve fallen into it by developing some coping techniques. Which brings me to my three-step plan for dealing with overwhelm:
“I really want to start a business! How do I start a business? What website should I used? What software do you use? What should I focus on first?” Slow down! You’re already overwhelmed! Take a step back and breathe for five minutes.
Now you’re probably thinking that you don’t have time to do that, right? I bet you’ve probably already spent more than five minutes scrolling on Instagram whilst trying to focus, so you can afford to take a little bit of time to stop and take stock!
Sit down, unplug, close your eyes and breathe. If you prefer, you can use a meditation app on your phone.
The aim here is to get your mind from a state of overwhelm, to a state of calm. Once you’re feeling a little calmer, you’ll be able to look at things a little more clearly and move on to step two.
2, Write it all down
Have you got a load of life admin to do and are you also juggling bigger things like several work projects? It is totally manageable if you write down every single thing you need to do. Once it’s all out of your head and onto a piece of paper, you’ll probably feel more in control and can then start prioritising.
I find it helpful to set a timer on my phone for a few minutes and brain dump every little task I can possible think of down on paper.
3. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise!
When I prioritise, I ask myself:
- what has to be done today? (Things that are time-sensitive, or are going to have the biggest impact.)
- what can be delegated? (Do I need to hire someone to do this for me? Can a family member help with life admin?)
- what I just need to drop for now?
Writing a list is a great start, but if the most time-sensitive, important thing is right at the bottom of your list, you’re still going to be stressed and overwhelmed!
Think critically when prioritising - there’s a different between doing things to be busy and doing things that will actually move you forward. Don’t be afraid to drop things that aren’t important right now!
Once you’ve got the hang of these three steps, you’ll be able deal with overwhelm as soon as it strikes. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve used these techniques and how you found them.
Want my help to achieve your goals?
Dealing with overwhelm, and achieving your goals can be tough. It's easy to be thrown off course - so I have created an incredible tool, resources and community to help you make your dreams happen!
The new Make it Happen Planners are the perfect too to help you get clear on your vision and goals, take consistent action and stay motivated.
In the Make it Happen Champions Club you will also find more information and a worksheet designed to help you wave goodbye to overwhelm! Find out more.