I write about this because this seems to be a state I get into quite often. It’s become a bit of a running joke that you can set the clock by the frequency and regularity in which I get overwhelmed – its pretty cyclical from a work angle and hits me a couple of times a year.
But this feeling of overwhelm is something I also face on the personal front. Who doesn’t feel overwhelmed in today’s world? You would have to do some pretty nifty scheduling and time blocking not to feel this. People, things, commitments, schedules, data, technology – they all seem to literally compress and come together, sometimes in more ways than one, usually when you are not quite ready and bear down on you.
Having been in this situation now for some time, I feel that it has given me some perspective on the issue. Firstly, I can say how I am feeling about it without literally running into a panic. Which is what I used to do. Does having to deal with a new situation a few times stop it from becoming new, making it more familiar and therefore, easier to bear, each time you are confronted by it? Damn right. So, from one who has been there and done that, here are some simple things you can do when you are overcome by this emotion.
1. Realise it’s just a feeling and in time, it too will pass.
It’s very important when in the moment, to realise, that you are in a ‘moment’. That takes the pressure off. Overwhelm is a feeling, an emotion and like all emotions, it too will go away over time. So, be patient and just ride the journey.
2. Do something about it.
The one thing I realise is that once I confront the emotion and realise it’s there and stop denying the effect it has on me, the quickest way for me to feel in control is to do something about it. It’s not about the size of your solution, its simply about taking action. It’s the inability or unwillingness we have to do something about it and just whine in the corner that makes it worse. And another thing – you probably already know exactly what you need to do, to feel better. It’s that thought in your head you keep pushing away. It’s the same one that keeps popping right back up. So, the quicker you come to terms with it, and the quicker you get around to starting to do something about it, the better it will be for you. The key is not necessarily to finish doing the something but to start. Just start. You will feel better after that – action makes you feel in control and that will improve your emotion and feeling about your situation.
3. Acknowledge it.
Perhaps this should go before action but this was not supposed to be a chronological list. Nothing good comes from failing to confront what we know we need to. You don’t necessarily need to shout it out or acknowledge it to others – but you can certainly come to terms with it yourself. Try it and see, enough said.
4. Make a list, write it down.
Maybe this is the side of me that is organised but I find keeping a note or list, writing down what I need to tend to, helps me feel better and more in control. The whole process of keeping a list has many advantages. Firstly, you clarify in your mind where your focus needs to be – you can arrange and rearrange your priorities. As you sift and shift, you find yourself getting mentally clearer about the journey, the process and the outcomes. This is the hard work I believe – not the execution. It is the sitting down and making the plan – it is the laying down of the priorities which takes a mental toll on you. You have to think it through, you have to make decisions about what to focus on, what to leave to the wayside. But once you’ve done this, the manner in which you execute seems a lot lighter. The road appears clear.
5. Keep chipping away at it.
I have to admit, it does seem easier to keep blocking it off but it will come back to haunt you. So, once you’ve gone down the right path of acknowledging, of taking steps, of making a list, keep at it. The act of keeping at it will feed on itself and strengthen your resolve and your muscle, enabling you to keep going until it becomes almost effortless. And you will find that so much of that heavy burden was really the burden of making a decision, not of the execution of the plan.
So, there you go. It works for me, and maybe it will work for you too.