Before we get to the solution… let’s take a sec to talk about the issue.
That word can mean a lot of things…
Feeling unsafe or insecure
It’s a catch-all word that when you sum it all up essentially means…I don’t feel like I can handle the challenge I’m being faced with.
If you’re like most people… it’s a feeling we either try to scramble out of as fast as possible or fall back on good old deny, deny, deny.
Our efforts to run or deny tend to resemble something like…
Trying to control the situation
Taking on too many responsibilities
Getting distracted easily
Feeling and acting irritable
Not wanting to do anything
If we don’t like being in a state of overwhelm so much… just how do we end up there?
There’s a surprisingly long list of ways we can find ourselves head-deep in overwhelm.
Not setting clear boundaries or asking for help
Saying YES to things or taking on too much
Financial struggles and living in uncertainty
Not having a safety net
No clear goals/plan
Lack of scheduling
are all perfect breeding grounds for overwhelm.
With so many pathways to overwhelm it’s understandable why we end up there during this thing we call life.
Okay, time for a little hard truth…
We get to choose how we feel at any given moment.
not the situation
I really believe that.
It’s one of my core beliefs that I rely on every day.
That’s not to say feeling overwhelmed isn’t valid or you should never feel overwhelmed, in fact…
Acknowledging you’re feeling overwhelmed (or any feeling for that matter) is the first step to choosing how you want to feel.
You have to know where you are in order to figure out where you want to go and how to get there.
That being said… feeling overwhelmed is still a choice.
And choosing that choice leads to staying stuck or straying from where you want to go.
Overwhelm puts our bodies and minds in a state of fight or flight, making it hard to do anything.
What’s worse is when we get stuck in a loop telling ourselves how much we are overwhelmed. That takes us to a whole new level of overwhelm… being overwhelmed about being overwhelmed.
You end up in a self-propelling loop of overwhelm that can be hard to break out of…but not impossible.
You see, there’s another side to the overwhelm coin.
Overwhelm is a part of the human experience, and the faster and more we accept overwhelm as part and parcel of being a human, the easier it is to actually use it to our advantage.
We can use those times we feel overwhelmed as opportunities to learn some very valuable leadership qualities like…
Taking responsibility for our thoughts and feelings
Being the person who is the leader amongst the chaos
Not to sweat the small stuff
Harnessing those opportunities to learn these skills can really serve you well in every area of your life and throughout life.
These 3 keys to getting out of overwhelm are tools you can use to keep from getting stuck in an overwhelm loop and make the most of the opportunity to develop these skills.
if you’re experiencing the part of the human experience that we call overwhelm…
you might as well make the most of it.
Okay with all that being said…
Let’s dive into… 3 Keys to Getting Out of Overwhelm.
Key #1 – Stop. Find the Source. Mitigate.
In my experience, and from what I gather from what others tell me of their experience, often, anxiety and overwhelm come from a build-up of unknowns or lack of information.
I saw an episode of Grey’s Anatomy once where the character Miranda Bailey, was talking to another doctor, Richard Webber, about how she handles her anxiety around her husband, Ben, being a firefighter. She said — I work off of the information that I have. Ben left for work this morning. He was safe. He helps save lives. He’s very good at it. Until I have more information that is what I know.
I watched in awe, wishing I could be like that.
As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve come to learn that, for me, not having the information makes me feel anxious. The lack of knowledge makes me feel unsafe and insecure.
This is a hard thing to navigate, especially when you’re an entrepreneur.
For years I rarely felt like I knew what I was doing and when you’re mostly working outside of your comfort zone you rarely feel safe and secure.
Even other wildly successful entrepreneurs have confided to me that they always feel like the bottom will fall out at any given second.
I don’t know about you… but I don’t want to live my life feeling that way.
That’s why I learned how to source out the overwhelm and then mitigate the issue.
How do you source out the overwhelm?
I’ve found a couple of really great ways to go source hunting…
Changing your state is a really powerful tool for finding the source.
Go for a walk
Take a shower
Lay down on the ground
Get in the car, blast the music, and drive
Anything that shakes up your energy.
Another really good way to pinpoint the source… talking to yourself.
I know it may feel ridiculous at first… but it works.
Go ahead and have a full-on conversation with yourself. Ask yourself what’s going on.
I talk to myself ALL the time.
I once texted my therapist to say– Hey, I think I might actually be losing my mind, I literally can’t stop having the same conversation with myself over and over again.
She said– Ohhhh that’s good. You’re processing. Keep talking to yourself. Eventually, the conversation will end.
And ya know what, It did. I processed it out.
At one point, the source of the overwhelm will reveal itself, and that’s when you know it’s finally time to mitigate.
Let’s say I’ve gone through the process of sourcing and figured out that my anxiety is stemming from finances… because who hasn’t been overwhelmed by their finances at one point in their life.
Now, knowing my overwhelm is about finances and because I know my anxiety comes from unknowns or lack of information, I go on a fact-finding mission.
I’ll look up…
What I’ve been spending.
How much is in my account
What bills are coming up
What money is expected to come in
Anything that will help me get a clear picture of where I stand financially.
With all that info at my fingertips, I can now create a plan of action. That might mean cutting back a bit, changing my budget, or whatever else to get me back on track.
With a plan in place, the overwhelm loses its grip and dissipates.
It’s been my experience that people don’t really understand why they feel the way they feel and therefore the only available solution is to bandaid the feeling with a numbing agent.
We are leaders. We don’t do that.
We stop, find the source and mitigate the situation.
Key #2 – Structure Gives You Freedom
It only makes sense that you would be in a state of overwhelm if you’re always trying to do everything yourself without a plan in place.
The idea that structure gives you freedom may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Ever since I learned this, it’s become one of the main guiding principles of how I move through life.
I could see early on how tempting it could be to watch tv all day or put off writing that blog post. It showed me how important it was to develop strong self-discipline.
Little did I know that the other perk to self-discipline is its ability to keep me out of overwhelm.
When I am organized
When my tasks are mapped out the night before
When my schedule is planned
I feel in control of my time and not anxious.
One of my most favorite quotes is by Robin Sharma…
Show me your schedule and I’ll show you where your priorities lie.
There is so much truth to that statement.
Someone that starts each day by deciding what they are going to do that day will have a calendar that looks very different from someone who schedules everything out, if at all.
They’re also way more likely to be pulled into overwhelm than someone who has a calendar filled out neatly and highlighted.
Now that we’ve covered the importance and benefit of structure, the next question is… how do you know what to even plan?
Here’s a nice little trick I used to help with that when it was just me, myself, and I…
I took myself out for coffee dates.
Yup. That’s right. Coffee dates.
Every Monday and Friday I would take myself out to Starbucks and enjoy a little me time while I planned out and recapped the week.
Now that I have a team, things are a little different, but you can still use the same basic structure of how we organize things.
Here’s how it works…
We create a working document and call it Project Plan: (Insert name of project). This document becomes a sort of project Bible. It’s where all the information about the project is kept together in one place so it’s all easy to reference.
That document outlines all the details of the project…
A description of the project
The goal of the project
The project deadline
All the tasks associated with the project
Links to any other files associated with the project
And so on…
We then go through and assign each task to the person who will be responsible for completing it along with the task deadline.
As the project moves along everyone updates the Project Plan to reflect what has been done or what questions have come up. This way everyone knows where we are within the project and where to find all the information about the project.
Now, I get that this might be a little harder if you’re on your own. In that case, a really good solution is to find an accountability partner. Someone that will help you keep on track.
The key here is to build up your self-discipline muscle enough so that you make time for planning and stick to the plan.
That’s not to say you’ll never pivot your plan, that’s totally fine and sometimes totally necessary.
The important thing is to get really consistent with scheduling in planning time and then working the plan.
You might be thinking…
What about creativity? Doesn’t structure negate the freedom needed to be creative?
Here’s how I’ve learned to handle the creative parts of my work.
I schedule open blocks of time for creativity.
For this to work though… you need to have planned out what it is you want to create during those open blocks of time.
Meaning, you go into that time knowing you need to create three blog posts and what the blog posts are about. This way that block of time will be super productive.
One last structure tip… probably my favorite of all time…
Perfect your morning routine.
All my mornings are the same. I get up at 5 am, get my coffee, and then spend my beautiful morning energy getting the most important things of my day done first. Before all the other demands on my time kick in.
Yes, building up the self-discipline to plan the work and then work the plan can take some effort. I promise the effort is more than worth it because all that work not only sets you up for success, but it will also go a long way when it comes to keeping you out of overwhelm.
Key #3 – Pick 3
You are one person.
There are only 24 hours in a day.
Let’s put some perspective on what that means.
Oprah says– You can have it all, just not at the same time.
Okay… bear with me as I put on my feminist hat for a moment.
In the world we live in right now, the experience is that when a man wants to venture out and start a business the woman picks up the slack. On the flip side, when a woman wants to venture out she’s expected to maintain the status quo, as well as, add on the work to do to get her venture off the ground.
I’m not sharing this just to stand on a feminist soapbox. I’m sharing it because I see this scenario all the time in the community of amazing women I built.
Please don’t do this to yourself.
It’s extremely unrealistic to assume that you can give your startup business 100% of yourself and still do all of the things. It’s just not possible.
You have every right to go for your dream too.
Have the tough conversations with those in your life to ask for their support in helping you achieve your dream.
Because here’s the truth…
Assuming you can do everything you’ve been doing and add on starting a business is irresponsible. It’s a recipe for disaster. You will burn out and then you’re no good to anyone. There’s also a very good chance you could burn those around you in the process too.
Think of this as your chance to develop your leadership skills. Because, that’s what asking for help is, a leadership skill.
Learning to choose your priorities is also a leadership skill.
There was a post by @melissa_hartwig I resonated with immediately. It said…
I was blown away by this post, it’s…
So guilt busting
You see, I don’t believe in balance.
Don’t get me wrong. You can totally feel balanced.
It’s the meaning of balance that tries to get us to fit everything in every single day that doesn’t jive with me. It’s a wildly unrealistic goal and will leave you feeling less than and overwhelmed.
Not really the life I’m looking for and I doubt you are either.
Let’s commit to being realistic about what we can do with the 24 hours we get each day.
Practicing the Pick 3 concept is a way to do just that.
Home-cooked food (I added this one in myself)
Choose three to prioritize and let go of the rest.
Just pick three and let go of the rest.
That doesn’t mean over time the three you choose won’t change. That’s totally fine. Kind of expected even.
There were many seasons where my top 3 were work, work, and family. Everything else took a back seat.
The season I’m in right now is family, work, sleep. I fit in the others when time permits but I don’t beat myself up over it.
If that means I only get to the gym once that week so be it.
If that means that I eat the same thing every day because I’m not making time to cook so be it.
Whichever three you choose is perfect.
The point here is to not beat yourself up for not getting everything in every day.
There you have it… your 3 Keys to Getting Out of Overwhelm.
These Keys may not be as easy as having an “Overwhelm Be Gone” balm or pill if one existed, but they do work.
Give them a try and then please let me know how it works out by leaving a comment. I love reading about your triumphs and joining in on the celebration.