Say 'no' to overwhelm!

The problem with people looking for higher performance is: they really go for it! They keep piling more and more on their plate till they have too much to handle. 

Sound familiar? I suspect that if this article grabbed your attention, you may aspire to a fulfilling professional and personal life, you might want it all! And on that path, it’s really easy to stumble into overwhelm. 

We say 'yes' to everything because we want it all, for ourselves, but also:

  • to support our beloved ones
  • to contribute to our employer’s results
  • to save the planet

Then, we crumble.

And too often we end up blaming others for not doing their share.

The problem is that overwhelm causes stress, meaning excess cortisol and adrenaline that prevents us from performing. We need a bit of stress to keep us engaged and driven, but past the sweet point, the sympathetic nervous goes into overdrive. We enter the fight or flight mode: heart rate and blood pressure increase even if we don’t notice it, anxiety replaces excitement, and performance plummets.

But it’s easy to cross the line because, hey, who wants to give up and potentially miss a business opportunity or a great personal experience?

Here are four quick tips you can deploy immediately to reduce overwhelm and get more done:

1. Cut the non-essential 

Do a serious audit of your life, record how you spend your time, and find out what’s non-essential. Then eliminate it... or at least put it off until you’ve got time for it (which probably means never but, hey!). 

In other words, it means reset your priorities, and that implies:

2. Get clear on what’s truly urgent

If we don’t get X, Y and Z done, then we’re finished, the business is lost, we won’t have a future and the world will collapse! This extreme sense of urgency is called 'catastrophising' in cognitive behavioural therapy.

Did you know:

  • According to the National Science Foundation, we have about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day?
  • On average, 80% of those thoughts are negative?
  • 95% of the things we fear will occur, do not occur?

To mitigate this natural bias, we need to get clear on what is actually urgent. Find out what’s truly urgent and make it your top priority. 

3. Learn to say 'no'

Another consequence of the first point is that, to cut the non-essential, you need to learn to say 'no', 'later' or 'never' to anything else: the point is to say 'not now' until your urgent work is done.

It often raises emotional discomfort and anxiety. Sometimes it’s just too difficult to say 'no' because we don’t want to hurt people, we want to please, we want to belong, or we want to be liked. But here it is: saying 'no' doesn’t mean you don’t want to help, it just means you’re doing something else already. 

The best way to stand for your 'no' is to keep in mind what you’re saying 'yes to' by saying 'no to' something else.

4. Get mindful

Last but not least, if you don’t have some form of daily mindfulness practice it’s worth getting one now. Mindfulness strengthens the parasympathetic pathway, which is the counter-balances to our sympathetic nervous system: it calms the stress response that can lead to overwhelm. 

Meditation is just one form of mindfulness practice. Anything that helps you extend the gap between stimulus and response technically counts as a mindfulness practice. Mindful walking (ideally in nature) will do as well, even mindful running or cycling if that’s your thing. Gratitude journaling is a great one too. 

Hope these tools help you too!

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London, SE14

Written by Raphaelle Hernu

London, SE14

Raphaelle is a coach and trainer in Sustainable Performance. She set up Strengthwise for people and businesses to get into a sustainable performing mindset, stay fully engaged and resourceful. She retrained after a 20-year career in finance in Paris and London. She now lives between London and the Monaco area.

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