“Overwhelm kills more dreams than fear or doubt ever will.”
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You’re going along just fine, maybe sleeping, maybe it’s 4 am. All of a sudden the stress and anxiety fog rolls in and it’s like you’ve suddenly lost all clarity. Everything you have to do feels like it has the same weight, and it’s crushing you.
You have zero sense of direction, no idea where to turn next, and out of the blue, you wake up crawling through quicksand with the weight of the world cinched down on your back. Even the simple act of breathing feels hard.
Welcome back, overwhelm (that is if it ever left).
We joke about it a lot, but actually overwhelm can have serious consequences for your health. The stress and anxiety it produces can take a true toll on your body: Elevated heart attack risk, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, just to name a few.
Even without those, it just sucks. And it’s exhausting.
Here’s the thing: If you’re feeling overwhelmed it means you’ve taken your focus off the present moment. You’re either looking ahead or behind – or comparing your journey to someone else’s. None of that will move the meter for your life and business. Stop doing that, friend!
managing overwhelm is a whole lot Easier said than done though, amiright?
I don’t have any foolproof advice to offer you about how to avoid ever falling into overwhelm, stress and anxiety. Sometimes it’s a daily occurrence if I’m honest.
What I have developed over the years, though, is a pretty good process to help me calm overwhelm.
Take a look:
5-Step Process to Manage Overwhelm
1. Make a “Dump List” – Often getting everything out of your head will help lift that feeling of random pieces of paper flying around in your mind. I keep a pad by my desk at all times. That’s where I park the to-dos that pop into my head. When overwhelm strikes, just write it down however it comes out. You’ll organize it later.
2. Move – Can’t even figure out what all you have to do? Take a walk, do a workout, pace the room. Movement almost always brings clarity, and a higher-intensity workout can be like releasing the steam from a pressure cooker. (Could be switched with 1 if needed)
3. Chunk It Up – When I worked in public relations, I would organize my tasks according to which client needed what, and within that by priority. That way I could make sure that everyone got attention every week. It works like a charm for other applications, too!
4. Then Break It Down – Divide the tasks into small enough bites that they feel easy. It doesn’t matter how small, the point is to get them to feel easy. It could literally be, “fold 5 shirts,” or “row for 5 minutes.” Success breeds success. Once you’ve taken one step, you’re almost guaranteed to do more.
Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird is my bible here. It’s one of my very favorite books on writing, but also a great primer for life. Also, she’s hilarious and a great writer herself. You can’t miss this one.
5. Take Messy Action – The secret sauce here is to start. Somewhere, it doesn’t matter where. Just take forward action and don’t let perfectionism get in the way. There is no “perfect” place to start. So just GO.
In writing, Anne Lamott calls this the sh$tty first draft. Like writing a draft that you know out of the gate won’t be the final version.
Forget about getting it “just right,” that’s probably what’s holding you up. Just do something. You can always go back and re-write, re-film, rework. Didn’t like the workout you gave your class today? Change it for next time! Bad angle on the workout video? Replace it with a better version.
One other thing you MUST do to manage overwhelm:
We’ll call this a Bonus Step in the process:
For all that is good and holy, please put your phone down the minute you notice yourself doing that.
Trolling social media “looking for inspiration,” can quickly become a search for proof that you’re worse than everyone else and have nothing new to share. Put your phone on airplane mode, then shove it in a drawer. Give yourself time to share your goodness with the world.
Keepin’ it real, I don’t always succeed at doing this. But when I do, it works like a charm. Give it a try the next time you’re struggling, and let me know how it goes in the comments!