This headline may seem like a strong statement to make but being overwhelmed is a form of helplessness that can happen to anyone, it creates an emotional hijack that’s not pleasant to deal with.
But deal with it, you must, right — I mean what’s the alternative?
The following is a true situation that highlights how you can reframe and reprogram your mind to crush feelings of being overwhelmed, in no time at all.
Yesterday morning was such a case for someone very close to me, let’s call him Jake.
He lay in bed in the early hours feeling totally overwhelmed by everything he had to do, to get his new consulting practice up and running well.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that the pressure is intense, long hours, never switching off mentally, marketing. sales, finance, operations, suppliers, client management, writing, product development — testing — creation and maybe some time to eat, drink and sleep.
Overwhelm doesn’t just have to be about the volume of things you need to do though, it can be the size of the task, it can be the difficulty and perhaps not knowing what or how to do things or the pressure from above (bosses) but for Jake, it was about the number of tasks, so many priorities and some of them, not enjoyable at all.
And here’s the crux, EVERYONE we’ve ever known or are likely to know, feels the intense stress of being overwhelmed at times, even if you don’t know about it.
So it’s not about whether we suffer this or not but how we deal with and manage it when it arises isn’t it?
HERE’S WHAT JAKE DID.
1. He took himself to a different place physically and mentally. Instead of going straight to his usual workstation upstairs, he went to a relaxing sitting room downstairs at the back of our home. This has comfy sofas and wall-to-wall patios doors looking out into the garden, on what was a bright sunny morning. Yes, the sun does actually shine in England at this time of year :))
2. Once there, he took a few deliberate deep breaths just to ground himself and stopped the unmanaged thoughts going round in his head by asking a question — if this was a situation with one of my team, what advice would I give them?
Jake always had the ability to take the sting out of emotions for others, bringing calm, logic and resolution to what was previously a highly emotional situation so why not use his methods for his own benefit.
3. This started him thinking about some of the answers of course and into a calmer, more logical state of mind. So, he then asked another question, this time of himself.
If I was on the outside, looking in ‘what advice would I give myself’ came to mind.
By doing this, it made the question more objective and specific to his situation and personality, as illogical as it may sound, he’d separated himself from the emotional feelings and into solutions mode.
4. Ideas started flowing and this led to further questions around his options, how he decided where to begin and keeping the end objectives in mind:
a. He could begin with a small, enjoyable or quick to complete task to get started, to activate his brain and physical movement.
b. He could begin with a small, unenjoyably task to get it out of the way and out of his head.
c. He could do a couple of small items to build momentum and then use these to head on into large tasks.
d. He could choose to take on one of the biggest tasks to get it done and then leave room for all the smaller tasks to be completed in easier pockets of time, which would give him more flexibility later in the week. This could also provide him with bigger levels of satisfaction.
e. Whichever, the important thing for Jake was to keep the end in sight, i.e. what did he want to accomplish? This focus made it easier for him to make decisions.
5. The decision he made had multiple benefits because he could serve existing customers well, raise awareness with new ones, add new content for a program he’s producing and potentially gain new consulting clients too.
But it wasn’t the decision that was important so much as the thought process, breaking the pattern of overwhelm and seeing a variety of options clearly, with which he could make a wise decision.
The great thing about this process was that it took just minutes to go through and yet, it moved Jake from a feeling of overwhelm to one of being in control.
Whilst this is a simple case of overwhelm that was uncomfortable, it was not life-threatening. Having said this, people who don’t deal with being overwhelmed can let it build and build until it reaches breaking point, see later notes.
It’s worth noting that whilst this real life example was Jake’s way of dealing with overwhelm based on the sheer number of tasks ahead of him, the methodology can be applied to other cases such as the size of the task or dealing with pressure from bosses, regardless of whether its positive or negative pressure.
The key is to ask logical, objective questions from the outside looking in and the quality of your answers will largely depend on the quality of your questions. e.g. the following type of questions could be used when dealing with unreasonable bosses:
Ask — What’s the very worst that could happen if; you messed up, didn’t do it on time, decided not to do it at all, asked for some help or for someone else to take it on, pushed it back up the line or any others you may think of that are relevant?
Then — Write down the answers or type them onto a document, one by one, like the list of options Jake came up with. This is valuable because it takes them out of your head and you literally see them for what they are ‘objective pieces of information in perspective’ rather than tangled thoughts swirling around in your mind, causing havoc.
JUST HOW SEVERE CAN THE CONSEQUENCES FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T EFFECTIVELY MANAGE FEELINGS OF BEING OVERWHELMED?
The following are true scenarios:
Intelligent and highly capable people suffer nervous breakdowns, quit decent careers and destroy marriages or families.
Coaching clients who’ve said they ‘couldn’t carry on’ the way they were and wanted it all to end.
A high level manger tells about a situation where they ‘’seriously considered driving into a tree on the way to work on multiple occasions’’ but ended up taking time off with stress instead.
And it’s not just work, what about family members and friends who’ve been at their wits end because of overwhelm (at the limits of one’s emotional or mental limitations) too.
How many more examples go unnoticed and unmanaged until it goes too far.
I don’t have all the answers for deep levels of anxiety caused by the stresses of feeling overwhelmed but Jakes story does give a helpful guide to nip things in the bud and avoid stress building up to unacceptable levels.
I’ll finish with a quote that I heard many years ago and it’s stayed with me ever since:
“The mind makes for a lousy master but a great servant. If you know how to use it and this should always be your aim, you will control the mind and not have it control you. It will play tricks with you at the least expected of times so stay awake (conscious) to keep it at bay”.
NB. The earliest origin of ‘Overwhelm’ I could find, comes from the 16th Century, meaning “to submerge completely” or in the figurative sense “to bring to ruin” so don’t allow it to ruin you at any point in future.
“ Teaching people how to mind-hack their way to personal health and wealth”
My Belief and Aim… Always.
You are a super-human being and hold within you, the creative genius called your brain. I am here to help you free up your mind space and make that super-power multiply your effectiveness, to create an exciting and highly profitable business or career, increasing your personal wealth, financially and mentally.
I take you from vague ideas to make your imagined life a reality, even if you think all the odds may be stacked against you. You will crush doubt and indecision and ‘kick ass’ like never before. This is your time.
Originally published at medium.com