We all know that phrase, “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” Mostly we use it to refer to food.
But it applies to commitments as well. In a world where there is so much happening every moment of the day, where opportunities present themselves one after another and choices abound, it doesn’t take long to stuff your schedule to the max.
And then, if you are like me, the overwhelm hits. You look at your to-do list and you say, “Holy cow. How did I get into all of this?”
You want to give up. You want to get under the covers and hide. You’re pretty sure you can’t bring yourself to take even one more step forward.
Yeah, I’ve been there. Here’s the process I’m learning for getting through overwhelm.
How to Deal
First, you have to realize what’s going on. The cues will be extremely personal, so pay attention to how you feel when overwhelm sets in. Instead of spiraling downward into panic, stop yourself and admit you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Second, sketch out the big pieces that are getting to you. Where is the pileup? What chunks have collided, causing you to feel like there’s too much in your current field of vision? Has the collision occurred already, or are the pieces only starting to bump against one another? Write all this down if you have to. Don’t leave anything out.
Third, put all that stuff just you listed firmly in order according to when it has to happen. Don’t touch something from a future chunk until whatever’s in the most immediate one has been created / resolved / figured out / finished / whatever. Put your own blinders on and don’t turn your head to look in either direction.
For some people, taking a break here might work. If you’re one of them, then by all means, do so. But, rather counterintuitively, it actually makes things worse for me. The feelings of overwhelm follow me into my break, hovering over my head until I get back to work. I feel much better if I just dig in. (Though maybe with a cup of tea and a snack by my side…)
Finally, pick something small to do that will produce concrete results, something that will make a noticeable difference and that you can complete and check off with relative ease and/or speed. You’ll feel satisfied, but more than that, you’ll feel like you’re in control and moving forward. Close some browser tabs. Straighten your desk. Tackle a tiny to-do you’ve been putting off. Instead of freaking out and hiding your head in the sand ostrich-style, prove to yourself that you can do this. Deep breath.
Feeling better? I know I am.
Lather, rinse, repeat as often as necessary.
Think about it: What does overwhelm look like to you? What’s your usual approach to it?
This is my last Friday post for the foreseeable future! Starting next week, I’ll be posting weekly on Wednesdays. If you want to hear from me twice a week, you can sign up for my newsletter. It’s much more “emails from a friend” than “tips and tricks.” Next Wednesday’s post will be extra special, so be sure to come visit. And if you haven’t picked up your copy of How to Be Remakeable, you can grab that here!