5 ways to navigate overwhelm
Earlier in my career, I was as a man on a mission. My coaching was focused on supporting men struggling with underwhelm. Getting them back on track with goal setting, planning, and accountability.
However, at the beginning of 2019 in my own life, I wasn’t that man. At home, I’d recently become a father and was confronting curve ball after curve ball of newborn baby drama. At work (then employed in a blue light service and running my coaching practice), I was carrying a heavy workload with tight deadlines.
Sitting down with my coach, he sensed something was up and opened by simply saying “are you okay Clive?” I responded, “No, not really.” I looked back at my coach and for a minute we simply sat in silence. Reflecting, I didn’t want to set goals or plan. I wanted space. To let go. I wasn’t underwhelmed… I was overwhelmed!
I started to talk. Sharing challenges I was having personally and professionally. It poured out of me. To share my struggles felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. Using a pen and pad we then laid out particular stress points with a focus on what I would change, accept and leave. I identified pockets of time (my commute for example) where I could get some breathing space. I pinpointed colleagues around me I would approach to support me with my workload. For the first time ever, my actionable tasks were not to-dos. One of them was not to go to bed when I still felt stressed. Instead, I was to go for a late evening walk to clear my head before hitting the sack. Another was not to keep my smartphone in the bedroom with me at night.
In the coming weeks, I was still under pressure but gratefully less overwhelmed. The actions and takeaways from my coaching session supported me through navigating an incredibly challenging period. For the first time, I understood that ‘regression can be progression’.
Five ways a coach can help you
If you are currently struggling with overwhelm in an area of your personal or professional life below are five ways engaging with a professional coach can support you:
Talk about it
Discussing and sharing our challenges concerning overwhelm is an incredibly useful exercise. From here there is often the opportunity to see the bigger picture and re-prioritise. A professional coach will provide space to ‘verbally unpack’ demands that are causing overwhelm.
Activities that can help counter-balance overwhelm become harder to complete. The head-clearing run gets skipped, the meditation practice goes to the wall and the afternoon nap becomes nothing but a distant dream. A professional coach will hold you accountable and increase the propensity of you making these pressure-relieving commitments.
Tasks that are the easiest to get done become a priority when we are overwhelmed in order for us to feel like we are being productive. Opting for ease rather than the more challenging task that will have a far greater impact and relieve pressure. A professional coach can help provide space to review your task list and support you with getting that challenging task nailed.
When we are overwhelmed sometimes the potential for task slippage can be left out of our planning and we can overlook inevitable delays. The train is then late, the meeting overruns and the knock-on effect is more pressure that contributes to overwhelm. A professional coach can help with reviewing plans asking valid questions to ensure time is factored in for potential delays.
Build a support network
There can be the potential for us to go into hero mode and forget that we can relieve the pressure that is contributing to overwhelm by simply asking for help. A professional coach can ask powerful questions around this and help you identify people you can approach to support you.
We all naturally experience overwhelm at different times in our lives, in different ways. It is a very personal state. A situation that might overwhelm one person might be no issue for another. Whatever the case it's when overwhelm becomes ‘the normal’ where it can have damaging effects. Relationships suffer. Our impact and how we show up in the world becomes limited. It is in these instances we need help. Whether that be a friend, mentor or a professional coach. We require someone that can help support us with moving back towards a more balanced way of living.
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