One year I traveled the entire United States for work. I could be in Seattle one day and New York City the next. My young son and husband wanted me home with them. I couldn’t sleep and had zero time for self-care. It was overwhelming and exhausting. I’m amazed I performed at all in my job, but I was so determined to move up the corporate ladder, I kept on going despite feeling like a wreck most days.
How does overwhelm make you feel?
Like a deer in the headlights?
Frozen in your tracks, paralyzed and unable to move forward or backward?
Feeling totally crappy about yourself and wanting to give up?
Maybe you end up like me in the cycle of unworthiness where you start with a great idea, but never seem to bring it to fruition. You are not alone!
Overwhelm has made corporations sit up and take notice of its negative impact on productivity. Management is realizing that people who work all the time are not actually more productive. That spending time away from work fuels their productivity and ability to solve problems with creative solutions. Some companies have gone to shutting off email after hours and encourage leaders not to read or respond to emails on nights or weekends.
Have you ever racked your brain to try and remember someone’s name only to have it pop into your mind when you are in the shower? That’s because when the mind has some time away from work it can function at its best.
Let’s say you want to write a book. You have a great topic and you have lots of ideas spinning in your head. You carefully formulate an outline with many thoughts, ideas and stories you want to share with the reader. As you look at your outline, your excitement changes to overwhelm and you start wondering how you’ll ever get this finished. Your Inner Bully starts placing fear and doubt in your mind about whether you can really write the book. Where will you find the time? Who will buy this book anyway? From that place of overwhelm, instead of moving forward, you decide this is probably not such a good idea or it’s not the right time to write this book.
I know this one well! I just finished writing my latest book. Then, when it came time to read through my own completed book and edit it, I entered a state of total overwhelm. The task was daunting. The thought of reading and re-reading my book to fine tune it made me want to give up. (Mind you, I had already written the whole book!)
I had to get this part done if I wanted to publish my book, so I went back to basics: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! I decided that I could edit one page at a time and keep moving forward and that is how I am finalizing the project.
Here are some tips for combatting overwhelm that I use on a daily basis:
Clear the decks and FOCUS
Take everything off your desk and only focus on one task at a time. Too many things on your desk clutters your mind and easily distracts you. It causes you to jump from one task to another all day long never really making huge amounts of progress on any one of them. When there are too many things on your desk and you jump from one to the other you are circling the drain of overwhelm. Remove the distractions and place only one thing on your desk. When you focus on one task at a time you can stop yourself from becoming overwhelmed.
Pause and Belly BREATHE
Breathing can relax your mind and center your thoughts. Breathe deeply and often. Breathe from your belly so your lungs fill in entirety. Shallow breathing causes tension and anxiety which can lead you down the path of overwhelm. Deep breathing helps you disengage from distracting thoughts. This helps you stay focused, productive and keeps the creative juices flowing.
As counterintuitive as this may seem when you have so much to do, stop working for a few minutes and take a break. Whenever I feel overwhelm starting to creep in, I know that it is time to push myself away from my desk for a while.
If you can, go for a short walk outside. This refreshes your mind and relaxes your body. Walking increases blood flow to your brain and boosts your creativity. I used to think that eliminating breaks made me more productive. In reality it did the opposite because my brain never got the break it needed to be more productive and creative.
In my upcoming book, You Are Worthy! How the World Tries to Tell you Differently – A Guide for the Overwhelmed Perfectionist, I share how using tools like this help to combat overwhelm and keep you out of the unworthiness cycle. Stay tuned for release date!