10 Steps to Dealing with Overwhelm
As I finish teaching a meditation and mindfulness class on Overwhelm and Time I come to realise how huge an issue this area is. I open my inbox I’m hit by articles about reducing stress, panic attacks and finding the balance. The world is in a state of overwhelm and it is often not until it is too late that we try to address it.
I’m not except from these feelings because I teach meditation. Far from it, I’m human like everyone else and face the same obstacles in life, scheduling, and getting that family work life balance right.
I’ve learnt a lot along the way, and quite frankly it sucked. We’ve been programmed our whole lives to serve, to do our best and push forward doing, doing, doing. This doing though, this is what will land you on your arse or as one of my students said ‘either that or dead’. And its true we only need to look at the rise in suicide rates, mental health issues, and deaths caused by stress to realise death or ill health are common place and becoming the norm.
In Japan they even have a word to describe death by over work ‘Karoshi’. The major medical causes of death by Karoshi are through stroke, heart attack and starvation. What value does this put on human life?
Ask any human what they most want from life and I guarantee the majority would say they wished they were happy.
Ask Yourself the following
Do you value your employer more than yourself?
Who are you trying to please?
If you died tomorrow would it matter that you never finished all your work?
Would you actually ever do it all, finish the list, catch up? Or would the list just expand?
Is your to do list worth more than your happiness?
What signs and symptoms have you currently got health wise?
If you continue your current behaviours how will this affect you and your family?
I ask these not to shock you but to get super real with how you are treating yourself and allowing others to treat you. Cold hard truth and when I realised this myself it really hurt. It’s your own fault. Ouch, pretty shit to hear I know. Your lack of boundaries and lack of self-worth have lead you to be frazzled, trampled on and taking on too much.
Do you have symptoms of stress and overwhelm?
Tiredness Crying Involuntarily
Unable to sleep Feeling Nauseous
Skin conditions Racing Heart
High Blood Pressure Anxiety
Panic Attacks Feeling close to breaking point
Scattered Thinking Depressed
When I was at my worst levels of anxiety and unable to even look after my kids, I would blame everyone else. How hard my life was, how no one else was doing as much as me, how I couldn’t stop because others wouldn’t manage or do things as well as I could. Well guess what that is a BS story my mind created. Because when I could no longer wok, no longer cook, no longer drive, everyone around me coped. They pulled together and the world did not stop because I wasn’t whizzing around like a maniac at 100mph.
It’s not all doom and gloom there is hope and there are solutions. Hopefully if your reading this you’ll be able to tackle your overwhelm before it tackles you, literally to the ground. It’s not easy and it can be pretty painful to recognise just how chaotic and out of control our lives have got. I’m not perfect at this and about 6 months ago I was on the phone to my coach balling my eyes out as I had some work deadlines to meet, family commitments and a book to have submitted by a certain date. I was in crazy mode, blinkers on, no way out. Side note, if you haven’t got a coach or someone who can hold you accountable find one! This person will have your best interests and goals at heart and will push you to go get them. Anyway I digress.
Time is not the enemy, time is your friend. YOUR time is exactly that, YOUR TIME. We all have 24 hours in a day. That used to piss me off so badly when people said that. Or when I read that line ‘We all have the same amount of time as I searched for a solution to my overscheduled lifestyle. I used to think what a lot of shit, these people don’t know what their talking about. Well shocker they actually did. I was the cause of crazy in my life. We all have crappy periods when life gets busier but ultimately we are in control of our own lives.
Post my worst months of anxiety I discovered boundaries and scheduling. I used to have endless to do lists. These lists left me feeling unfulfilled, useless and that my I was never going to catch up. I learned to love my google calendar and diary.
I scheduled everything, lunch, food prep, waking, meditation, checking emails, etc . In this practice I discovered that my list for that day was 100% physically, mentally, emotionally unachievable. Not unachievable ever, but just that day. I recognised the horrendous and debilitating pressure I was putting on myself to do it all. Pressure to not let others down, or to feel like I was failing. I discovered that my sense of time was actually fuelling my anxiety my fear of never doing enough.
I looked at and reviewed my activities, cancelled what was no longer bringing me joy or essential. I reviewed my priorities and got real. It made me aware of the time I was wasting and where I needed to do more.
If your spending 2 hours chatting to colleagues throughout your work day you can’t be pissed when you leave late. It’s time to get honest and real and create a life that supports you, create a life that brings you joy, spend time with those you love.
No one will write on your tombstone ‘She was always first to her desk in the morning, wow her powerpoints were amazing’. Create the life you desire, you deserve.
Don’t Know Where to Start?
Here’s my go to overwhelm list
1 Allow and Feel into all The Shit: Yip no trying to pretend it’s not happening, really feel it all. The racing heart, the tears, the exhaustion. Take note. This is not your beautiful natural state. This is high alert and trauma. This is illness and disease away to happen. Take note now!
2 Stop and breathe: You can do this anywhere your desk, in the loo, in the car. Give yourself even 60 seconds of space. Breathe in for 4 and out for 6. This will allow your body to switch into a calm state.
3 Create a time to review your schedule: If you don’t have time to do this, or think that there is no time some mega action needed. You can stay up 10 minutes longer or get up 10 minutes earlier and just look at your diary and what you have ahead. Sometimes the thought of it all because of the emotional state we are in makes it seem worse than it is. If we can see what is coming up, we can shift things about, seek support, recognise the areas that we need to look at. You can only make the positive changes if you know the areas that may trip you up.
4 Action Time: Re juggle, plan and prep for success and overwhelm reduction. Is there anything you can drop immediately? Can your children get the bus home for example instead of you collecting them? Can you cancel a class you attend so you can have an early night that week. Can you get take out instead of cooking or have something in your freezer ready to whizz out at the times your busy, can you ask colleagues, friends, family to support you. Don’t agree to starting new things when you’ve already got loads going on.
5 Plan and Schedule You Time: Whether that is time on your own or catching up with friends. Creating the space to do the fun stuff is critical. This should be non-negotiable. Take yourself for a coffee, grab a book, go rock climbing whatever you need to refill your cup.
6 Eat, Sleep and Think Healthy: Positive food choices, sleep quantity and thoughts are essential to help support you during periods of intense stress. I know that feeling of wanting live on caffeine and sugar but this will lead to peaks and troughs of energy that will leave you feeling moody, grumpy and worse. Fuelling your body with loads of nutrients is key.
7 Move Your Body, Change Location: The world can seem really small and overwhelming when we’re stuck in front of our computer or the place that is overwhelming you. The key is to escape. Just leave the scene of the crime so to speak. Take a walk or run. Experience the expanse of the world. Move your body even by dancing or wigging and shake out that stagnant overwhelmed energy.
8 Create Free Space: Have some gaps in your schedule so spontaneity can arise, so you have a sense of freedom and choice.
9 Meditate, Mindfulness: This is the icing on the overcoming overwhelm cake. Anyone can meditate or be mindful. It’s focusing on the here and now, what we have in this moment. Creating a daily practice even just 5 minutes a day will change your world. You’ll be less reactive, more focussed and anxiety will drop. No excuses there are so many apps you can use, YouTube etc. Its all at our fingertips.
10 Review Schedule Daily: Just review in the morning or last thing in the day. Take a look at what you have coming up. Be prepared. Think about how you wish that day to go. The positive version of that day in your mind. Review what worked that day and what didn’t. When we live in auto pilot its hard to make changes or see other options.
This may not be my most empathetic piece of work. But this is such as serious issue, it definitely needs tackled. It’s time to get real. Because I want you to thrive in life not just survive. This is it, its your call. It’s not easy saying no, cancelling things and rejiging. But surely your life is worth joy and peace? Afterall, isn’t it what were all seeking, The Path to Happiness.