Dealing with Overwhelm

Ever had a time when you seem to be running flat out and there’s not enough time to do all the things there are to do? Just when the spinning plates are about to crash to the floor, a pile of additional ones lands in your lap…

Overwhelm is a state of mind. When you find yourself coming out with statements like ‘I can’t do everything!’ or ‘I don’t have time to get all the things done that there are to be done!’, you are reinforcing your beliefs about the situation. This makes your experience worse, and hence you feel overwhelmed.

So how do you deal with overwhelm?

Firstly, stop fighting it, and stop trying to do everything. Instead, just do what you choose is important. Take a ten-minute break (you do have time to, I guarantee it!) and decide for yourself what is important. When I take stock of all the things I say there are to do, I nearly always find that there are only one or two things that, if I dealt with them, would result in the rest becoming insignificant or easier to deal with. And those one or two things are often where I am having my values squeezed or compromised most. So having identified these one or two items, deal with them. Make them the most important things to complete, and stick at it until you are happy with the outcome. Let the rest of it sort itself out – things become clearer once you have dealt with the biggies.

Another comment to make about overwhelm is that it is cyclical. It is perfectly natural to have periods of time when you can experience being very busy, and other times when you seem to be cruising. This is what life is like. There is nothing wrong, whichever extreme you are experiencing, it’s just as it is. So you might as well enjoy it, and accept it. As a great sage said in the past, ‘whatever the situation, it will pass’. It will!

Having said that, you can create some practices and habits which reduce the negative impact of overwhelm, and you get to be at your best more of the time. These involve deciding what is important and putting those things in place (or in your diary) first, and honouring them. For me these include swimming or exercising three mornings per week, having an early telephone conversation each weekday morning with my co-coach Susy, where we create the forthcoming day, having Fridays generally clear to do what I want to do, and running my life in the context of my values. In this way, the important things get done first, I deal with energy drains as quickly as I can,  and life generally works as I would like it to.

And sometimes I get stuck, or overwhelmed, and it’s all part of life. The support structures help me to minimise the impact of periods like that, and deal with them powerfully when they appear.

Enjoy creating your own priorities, and let other people assist you in honouring them – life gets easier and more fun when you do.

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About theclaritycoach

Paul Stonehouse is an experienced coach, educator and speaker, and is completely committed to helping people perform at their best. His particular passion is helping people move forward when they are stuck, enabling them to live and work a in a way which is a confident expression of their true selves.
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2 Responses to Dealing with Overwhelm

  1. Sally Branch says:

    Was it Gandhi who said, I meditate for half an hour in the morning, unless I’m really busy, and then I meditate for an hour…? It’s so easy to get caught up in the emotions generated by the thoughts such as those you mention, isn’t it, then rush into ill thought out actions or conversely, hide under the covers 🙂
    Good post, thank you

  2. Thanks for the comment, Sally. This is a very personally relevant blog for me at the moment, as I am in the final stages of moving house after 18 years, and it can get a bit overwhelming at times! One of my favourite ways of dealing with it is saying to myself ‘this too will pass’ repeatedly, and I love the Ghandi quote too. Best wishes.

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