Get Past Overwhelm by Janine Adams
When you feel overwhelmed, you can get paralyzed. Whether it’s overwhelming clutter, too many appointments, or too much to keep track of, that overwhelming feeling sometimes prevents you from doing anything at all. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips for getting past the overwhelm and taking action.
- Break things down into small pieces. Any large project (or situation) can be made less overwhelming by breaking it down into little bits that you can handle. Just as walking a marathon is just a series of (many) steps, a big project can be reduced to a series of steps you take one at a time. Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part. (See Tips 2 & 3.)
- Use a timer. A simple kitchen timer can be your best friend. If you have something you’re feeling too overwhelmed to start, set your timer for a small period of time, like 15 minutes, and work until the timer goes off. That gets you over the hump of getting started and makes the project feel less overwhelming. Once the timer goes off, you may find you work beyond the 15 minutes.
- Trick your mind. This tip is from Mark Forster’s book, Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. He says we have both a rational and a reactive brain and it’s the primitive reactive brain that stops us from starting things that feel unpleasant. You can trick it by saying, “I’m not going to work on that project, I’m just going to get out the file folder” or something similar pertinent to your situation. That causes the reactive mind to calm down and allows your rational mind to take over. Before you know it, the file folder’s out and you’re working on that project.
- Do daily things daily. Some routine tasks beg for daily repetition to keep them from becoming overwhelming in the first place. If you handle your mail daily, run and empty the dishwasher every day, or do a quick before-bed sweep of the spots that attract clutter, you’ll never face a monster pile of paper, dishes, or clutter.
- Write things down. Why stress your brain by trying to keep everything in your head? Instead, write down your tasks and appointments. A calendar is the perfect place for appointments (but keep only one!). For tasks, ditch sticky notes and consider keeping a single spiral notebook for your notations. Or use a single electronic task manager. Just be sure to write the items in a place where you can find it.
- Let go of perfectionism. Do you feel the need to know exactly how you’re going to accomplish something before you can get started? That can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps you want to make sure you’ve purchased the exact right supplies or done as much research as possible before beginning something. Life isn’t perfect. Your projects don’t have to be either. Chances are that if you let go of perfectionism your life will become less overwhelming.
- Reward yourself. So many women don’t reward themselves and if they do, it’s for results, not effort. But sometimes we need small rewards to keep us going. If you break down your overwhelming projects into bite-sized parts (see Tip 1), reward yourself for taking a bite! Rewards can be special treats, time with friends, or just taking an undisturbed bubble bath. Rewards make the project more fun and life a little more pleasant.
- Let go of “should.” Sometimes we get so caught up in the stuff that we think we should be doing, rather than the stuff we want to be doing that we don’t do either of them. If there are tasks that have been on your list forever, maybe it’s time to just take them off the list. If there aren’t serious ramifications of dismissing those shoulds, go for it. Focus instead on more important and rewarding tasks.
- Get help. If there are things that overwhelm you that you can pay (or order) someone else to do, by all means do delegate. Sure, it might not be done as well as you’d do it (see Tip 6) but it will still get done. And you won’t have to do it. Delegation can be very liberating.
- Learn the art of saying no. If you’re overcommitted, it’s time to do some triage. Are there volunteer or family obligations that you dread? Make a list of your commitments, identify the ones that really benefit you and consider stepping away from others. And by all means give careful consideration before saying yes to the next favor or volunteer opportunity. Give someone else a chance to fill that role.
Don’t let this list of ten tips overwhelm you. Select one that really resonates with you and see how easy it might be to implement it and make your life a little bit easier. Then try maybe one or two more. Life doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Sometimes just taking a step back and reevaluating can make all the difference.
© Janine Adams is a Certified Professional Organizer® and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, Missouri. She’s the creator of the “Make Peace with Your Mail” e-course and co-creator, with life coach Shannon Wilkinson.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, you will want to access the Just Whelmed Wee Weekly Workshops. Each week you will receive mini workshops that are designed to help you reduce your stress so you can become just whelmed.