Dealing with overwhelm - your way
There’s been much written about dealing with feeling overwhelmed. You know, that feeling when there are so many choices, or you have so much to do, that it’s impossible to know where to start? For most, overwhelm is that point we get to when we can no longer think straight. We might experience anxiety or anger in places that aren’t normal for us. Making decisions might seem impossible and it’s often tempting to withdraw to avoid making any decisions at all. Sometimes we might feel we’re going 'mad' because we feel in such a muddle.
Much of the advice is brilliant, but what if these generic suggestions don’t speak to you? If you’re still saying 'yes, but...' it’s likely that you need something more specific for your personality type. This might be true whether you’re considering career coaching or business coaching, or simply want to raise your self-esteem and confidence.
So, before we go any further, a bit about personality types. There are many 'instruments' used to discuss personality typing, but the gold standard is seen as Myers Briggs. Myers Briggs type indicator (MBTI) is based on the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung; this mother and daughter partnership (Myers and Briggs) aimed to make it relevant and useful in everyday life. The theory says that what can be seen as a seemingly random behaviour is predictable and consistent, depending on an individual’s personality type.
There is a mass of data about MBTI and it’s backed up by acres of science - way too much to go into here. But, in terms of how you might deal with overwhelm, this is a snapshot.
Based on preferences within each of the dichotomies identified by Jung, an individual is invited to consider various scenarios and how they might instinctively respond. Having made this decision, each one is then combined with the others to form your personality type which is written as a code of four letters.
- The first dichotomy refers to your favourite world - where does your energy come from? What do you do to recharge? Do you prefer to focus on your inner world or that of the world around you? This dichotomy is between introversion and extraversion (not to be confused with whether you’re the quiet type or the life and soul of the party). If you take your energy from outside (extraversion), you might reach outside for solutions. You’re more likely to talk things through with other people, possibly in a relaxed environment. This might bring some relief and you may get further insight into the issue talking it through with others or even saying the problem out loud. Perhaps you find somebody trusted and explain where you’re at so you can find a solution. You might prefer to take immediate action to problem solve. One of the disadvantages for you might be that you take action before checking out whether it’s the right thing to do.
For those who prefer to process things internally (introversion), you might prefer to reflect on the issue and write things down, perhaps prioritising things. You might like to give yourself time to make a decision, and you’re able to take considered action, giving much thought to what might have to happen next. One disadvantage for you might be that you spend so much time considering options that you don’t make the progress you’d like to, and might tie yourself up in even more knots. Try speaking to a trusted person to get a different perspective on things to help you move forward.
- In the second dichotomy, we look at what information you need to make a decision. Are you focused on facts, figures, detail and how things function, or do you prefer to add meaning to the basic information and see the big picture? This dichotomy is between sensing and intuition. If you prefer to trust the information that comes in through your five senses, you’re likely to rely on facts and prefer to consider solutions you’ve considered before to solve the problem (sensing). So, where you’ve come across the issue before, you’ll look to how it was sorted out then and apply the same thinking now. Because you might prefer the facts, you might break things down into more detail before looking for solutions. Whilst this might bring you clarity, there’s a danger that you might feel even more bogged down in the detail and find yourself going around in circles. Sometimes, writing down every conceivable solution to the problem can help. Even though they may be ridiculous, it can sometimes open up some options you’ve not thought of before.
If your preference is to pay attention to meanings, big picture or impressions (intuition), this can increase the feeling of overwhelm as it might seem as if you have too many options and can’t focus on the way forward. It can, however, mean that you can be creative with solutions. Often, a good way might be to capture all of your thinking on paper or in a document, perhaps with a flow chart or thought cloud capture which can help you see patterns and solutions.
- For the third dichotomy, when you make a decision, do you use logic and objectivity, or is your preference to consider the people first? This is not to be confused with whether or not you care about people - both types can be very caring; they just make decisions differently. This dichotomy is between thinking and feeling. You might prefer to find the basic principle of the process (thinking). You’re likely to apply logic and reasoning to decisions and highly value fairness; sometimes the facts become more important than the people to start with. This can be of value when feeling overwhelmed, as you can often find the logic. You might feel overwhelmed when your usual logical approach doesn’t seem to work anymore. However, your thinking will help you find a way thought although it can sometimes seem as if you’re uncaring and making decisions without taking the people into account, so make sure you step into the situation to test your decision against the impact on others.
If your preference is for stepping into the situation (feeling), you might find yourself deep in many options without being able to find a way out. This can leave you feeling stuck. One possibility is to try imagining you’re stepping out of the situation (an NLP practitioner can help you do this practically) so that you can take different viewpoints you might not have considered before.
- The fourth dichotomy looks at how you live your life; what do others see when they see you living your life? Do you prefer to make a decision and stick to it, getting things done in an organised fashion, or perhaps your preference is to stay open to new options, happy to change your mind and your plans along the way even though you reach the same goal? This dichotomy is between perceiving and judging (not to be confused with being judgemental).
If your preference might be to plan (judging) and to have life under control, at times of overwhelm, this can mean that you’re left without options as you don’t easily consider anything other than the plan. Perhaps asking 'what if?' or 'what’s the opposite?' might help so that other solutions might come to mind and your ever-decreasing circles can become wider.
If your preference is to be more flexible and keep taking in information in case there is a better way to do things (perceiving), then you may be in danger of bringing in so many options that you can’t see a way through them. However, the benefit is that, in not getting bogged down in structure, you might be more innovative with solutions and comfortable with not knowing the answer straight away. Perhaps giving yourself a deadline to sort things out can be the stimulation you need to get things moving.
I can’t stress enough that this is a quick overview of how an understanding of your MBTI personality type might help you deal with overwhelm. When you’re ready for more understanding, be sure to find a good practitioner who will help you with more insight into your personal development.