Overwhelm is a very common emotional response, especially in today’s fast-paced world. Personally, I find overwhelm to be one of the most unpleasant emotions. It sometimes feels (even physically) as though I am trapped, confused and feeling suffocated. But more importantly, as well as just feeling awful it also tends to be completely futile. Some so-called negative emotions can be useful as they drive us towards a positive outcome. But all overwhelm does is keep us stuck in the same place, spinning our wheels and unable to get out of our current predicament. I find that the reason so many clients come to speak to me is that overwhelm has led them to “stick their head in the sand” for far too long.
While sometimes it feels like our circumstances are causing us to feel overwhelmed, I want to offer, compassionately, that it is actually something that we create for ourselves. It is our thinking about those circumstances that is creating those oppressive feelings. So, what can we do to uncreate that feeling of overwhelm and move into a more supportive state?
Slow Down & Breathe
I know it seems counterintuitive, especially if you feel like you have So. Much. To. Do. But slowing down and taking a few deep breathes can be a valuable way to move the pent-up energy of overwhelm out of your body. Just stop what you’re doing, find a comfortable chair and breathe. Breathe in for a count of five and fill your belly with air. When we are stressed, anxious or overwhelmed we tend to breathe into our chest, make sure you focus on bringing it down and breathe out for a count of five. Do this at least three times or until you start to feel your body relax.
Do a Thought Download
The defining feature of overwhelm, in fact, I think it’s actually the definition, is having too much of something. In most cases, it’s the feeling that you have too many tasks that you need to do or too many options for something, that you just can’t make a decision. I mean, sometimes I even get overwhelmed thinking about what to have for dinner because the choice is just endless! In order to overcome this, we need to clear our mind of all the thoughts that are cluttering our mind and clouding our judgement of a situation.
Many years ago, I was introduced to the idea of Morning Pages. It is a daily practice of writing three pages of unstructured “stream of consciousness” writing. Essentially a Thought Download is the same thing, although it can be done at any time of the day, as it takes all those swirling thoughts out of our mind and on to paper. Sit down and write down ALL the thoughts that are overwhelming you. Once we’ve got everything in black and white in front of us we are better able to make sense of everything.
Once you’ve emptied your brain onto the page it is then time to pick through the rubble and work out what your priorities are. You may even want to go through with a highlighter to work out what needs to be done. Then choose the three most important tasks. You will be tempted to put ALL of the tasks on to your ‘Most Important List’ because, well, overwhelm makes us think that EVERYTHING is important. But you have to be honest with yourself here. You may think you’re superwoman, but those super-high expectations are not serving you.
Make a plan
“Let’s make a plan” – Four of my favourite words! I understand that not everyone is quite so filled with glee at the idea of planning, but if there is anything that can reduce your overwhelm, effective planning is it.
Once you have your three top priorities, the next step is to break down what needs to get done to achieve them. Some tasks may just require one action, but others will have multiple tasks underlying the main goal. Whether it’s making an appointment, doing a google search, asking someone for help, write down each of the steps that need to happen to get that task completed. The best trick to then ensuring they get done is to put them into your calendar as if they were a lunch date with your best friend – you wouldn’t just not turn up to lunch with her, cancel last minute or ignore all her calls (at least I hope not!).
Even the most audacious goals are achieved in the same way as the simplest ones – one step at a time. Multi-tasking is a complete myth, so you’re setting yourself up for failure by trying. When that meeting pops up in your calendar, you must keep your commitment to yourself by getting it done. The more that you keep your promises to yourself, but better trust and confidence you build in yourself. This becomes a positive upward spiral.
Watch Your Words
Most importantly throughout this whole process is the language you use. Both your spoken words (does “Urgh, I’ve got soooo much to do” sound familiar?) and the words you speak to yourself inside your mind are super important. These speech patterns have the power to shape your thoughts, create your stories and become your beliefs. They are powerful, so make sure you choose words that support your success.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed? If it’s your finances that are causing it, I can help. Book in here for a free mini-session. Or if you’d like more information and tips and tricks for managing your money mindset, sign up for my monthly newsletter, here.