It is always something. You go on vacation and come back to twice the work you had before you left. Expenses are rising and you feel like a hamster on a wheel as you try to keep as much cash coming in as going out. And busy-ness just kills relationships.
This week alone I heard from multiple people that by the time they get home from work they don’t have any bandwidth for their spouse or kids. They get that they are looking for mindless activities to zone out. But, they are overwhelmed and their mind needs a few minutes of peace.
And the next day it starts again.
Once you are in a state of overwhelm, it feels like it just compounds. And, honestly it doesn’t matter if the overwhelm was self-inflicted or not. I used to have a problem with overcommitting. (If my husband reads this he will write in the comments, “used to?”). It is all relative. I do feel a bit overwhelmed right now.
This is usually how I dig myself out:
1. Identify the sources of overwhelm.
There is usually a combination of issues that include time, emotions, and mental fatigue. The solution for each may be different though. Time I can delegate. Too many decisions I can create a methodology to make them rather than push them off and compound the stress. Emotional overwhelm usually requires a combination of dealing with the core issues head on and practicing some self-care.
2. Clear the decks.
I like to journal so I will make a list of all the things that are causing me stress in my morning journals. In order to start the process of working my way out I need a clean slate. I look at my lists and ask myself what is actually important to me. I am only going to put back on my plate the things I care about. An example may be that different acquaintances have asked to go to coffee or talk, yet I haven’t had time to visit with my sisters or spend time with my granddaughter. I may have to prioritize my family.
3. Work through past commitments.
It is important to me to meet prior commitments. This doesn’t help me clear the decks, however, it is usually a finite set of commitments that I can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. Plan these things in and focus on meeting the expectations of the commitment, not exceeding it. Perfectionism and overwhelm are a bad combination.
4. Build space into the future.
This is a Stephen Covey principle of put first things first and focus on quadrant II activities. Quadrant II activities are important, but not urgent. This is where you can put down the firefighting gear and proactively plan time for the relationships in your life, self-care, and even quiet time. This has to happen in the near future because focusing on these things are the priorities in your life that will actually reduce the overwhelm. If we wait until we aren’t stressed out to build space into our life, it never happens.
5. Stay mindful of this process and avoid repeating the same patterns.
As time frees up and you are prioritizing what is important, you start to feel better. People will still need things, and new opportunities will arise to fill your time, mind, and heart. We need to keep a proactive filter on to avoid a whole new crop of commitments.
Again, perfection and stress feed off of each other. And stress feels like an emotion, but we have choices.
We can choose to prioritize.
We can choose to say no.
We can choose what is good enough.
Don’t procrastinate or self-medicate to avoid the overwhelm. Tackle it head-on and you can work your way out of overwhelm in less time than it took to get there.