5 top tips to beat overwhelm
“I’ll never get this done.”
“I can’t fit this all in.”
“This all feels too much.”
“I can’t handle this.”
Sound familiar? All things we tend to think or say when we’re feeling overwhelmed.
It’s a type of emotional paralysis in which you feel unable to handle or cope with your situation, and it’s all down to a lack of clarity and creates confusion and a feeling of being out of control which leads to stress and anxiety.
Five reasons you're feeling overwhelmed:
1) Lack of planning.
When you’re wanting to change your life in any way, or just wanting to manage the life you have, it’s extremely easy to get up in overwhelm if you don’t have a plan to follow. Without a plan there’s little direction, and without direction you can easily get swept off course, lose sight of what’s really important and then before you know it, you’re feeling overwhelmed.
2) Lack of prioritisation.
Not taking the time to prioritise your tasks – not dealing with the most important ones first, leaves your thoughts and actions scattered in all directions. Not only on the surface level, but if you also don’t have a sense of what’s important to you on a deeper level – what your values and life purpose are, then this also can leave you feeling rudderless and heading into overwhelm.
The deep need to do everything perfectly, to a high standard, and at high levels of production or output, leads to an often impossible expectation to meet, which often results in a general sense of anxiety, stress and overwhelm.
4) Saying yes.
Because you (as do we all) have an innate drive to please others (in order to survive), you may not good at saying no. As a result, you may be compelled to say yes any time someone requests your help in some way. As a result, you can be left with very little time and energy for the important work and things in your life. This can keep on going until your reach breaking point and end up both stressed and overwhelmed.
Grasping for control over everything is a guaranteed way of getting into overwhelm. It comes from feeling no one else is good enough, no one else can do as good a job as you. You have a deep lack of trust in others, and end up doing it all yourself.
Five ways to beat overwhelm:
1) Plan ahead.
Whether you’re wanting to change your life over a two year period, or change the way your day feels and goes – always plan ahead. As above in my video, focus on what you want by the end of that period, and then work backwards detailing all of the steps/goals along the way. Then yes, you can always be flexible, but you then know what you absolutely must do and by when.
2) Prioritise – what’s important?
What do you absolutely need to get done today? Without priorities you can get swept up in the unimportant but urgent tasks, with the important ones getting shoved to the bottom of the pile – then becoming urgent – leaving you with constantly having to deal with urgent tasks – a recipe for stress and overwhelm.
Break things down into smaller chunks and work on finishing each chunk at a time. Do not multi-task – it’s impossible to give your full attention and effort to everything at once (the neuroscientists back me up on this one).
As well as your tasks, break your week, day, and even hour up into manageable blocks of time – and then use those block to focus on specific task like emails, phone calls, writing etc.
3) Avoid perfection.
Perfection and high expectations are a form of self-sabotage. It comes from an unrealistic expectation of yourself and stems from low self-esteem. It will make you spend too much time and effort on any one thing, or over-filling of your time to get high volumes of work done - both again leading to pile up of work and a state of overwhelm. If you’re always heading for a 10/10, maybe try an eight and notice the difference (to you and others).
4) Say NO.
Time is your most precious commodity. It is your only non-renewable resource.
Decide what and who is important to you. Decide how you really want your life to be and what you want to have in it, and create non-negotiable boundaries around them.
Before you say yes to someone, pause. Every time you’re saying yes to something know that you are inherently saying no to something else.
If you find it difficult saying no to anyone and everyone, or maybe just particular people (and there are people who are particularly adept at disrespecting people’s boundaries), give yourself the get-out line “let me check my diary and get back to you”. And when you do go to see if you can fit it in, remember – you’ll never get that time back.
5) Delegate/ask for help.
Yes you can absolutely do it all – and if you’re reading this you know where that ends.
So bite the bullet and ask for help. You will absolutely be amazed at who is willing or who actually wants to help you (when someone helps you they actually get a triple dose of the feel good hormones dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – so you are actually doing them a favour if that helps).
And delegate wherever possible. Yes I’m sure you can do everything really well, but how much of your energy does it take? Who could do it quicker (and dare I say, better) than you? Some people are a wiz with technology/writing/admin/social media etc. and could take a fraction of the time and energy it takes you.
Think about what doing those tasks costs you – both in time and energy, and in lost opportunities and experience (and well-being).
And lastly... Treat overwhelm as a message – telling you to slow down, telling you to question what is really important to you, and getting you to take a different course (because this one clearly isn’t working for you).
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About Sue Belton
Sue Belton works with people who feel unsatisfied with their lives and careers. She helps them get clarity about what will make them truly happy and fulfilled, and then helps them create more meaningful lives. Sue has been working as a life coach for ten years.