When you look up the definition of overwhelm in the dictionary, you’ll find it’s not pretty. You get words like, submerge, massacre, engulf, bury and deluge. And let’s not forget clobber, devastate, and dumbfound.
And that’s what the experience of overwhelm feels like – there is so much coming at you it’s hard to think straight. How can you get anything done when you’re in such a confuzzled state?
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But know this: You can’t always squash overwhelm. It’s a form resistance and resistance is pretty much inevitable. Rather, you need to recognize it for what it is, accept it and learn from it. Only then can you choose a different path with grace.
Here are five secrets that will help you do just that:
• Change Your Choice: Feeling overwhelmed is a learned behavior. I learned it from a true master–my mom. God bless her, she has numerous positive qualities, but she is also really good at working herself into a tizzy. So if overwhelm is a learned behavior that has become a habit, it is also, at some subconscious level, a choice. And that means it is possible to choose something else.
• Get Curious: Overwhelm can sneak into a lot of different aspects of your life. Put on your Sherlock Holmes cap and get curious about the particular forms your overwhelm takes. What kinds of situations trigger it? What are the thoughts that accompany it? How does it feel in your body? How do the people you’re in relationship with react when you start feeling it? The more aware you are of your overwhelm habit, the easier it is to change.
• Track Your Time: Once you pinpoint where overwhelm shows up in your life, then do this: Track how you spend your time. You may think you can’t do one extra thing because you’re already working 60 hours a week — but are you really? Track time and you may be shocked to learn that you are only truly working for 38 hours a week. Remember, overwhelm works by confusing you. So let this exercise help you fact check your reality.
• Do Less: If you discover say, that you spend the majority of your Sundays doing laundry — as I did –consider sending your laundry out to the wash-n-fold — as I did and it’s amazing!! Delegating effectively buys time back, time you can now spend hiking, working on your novel, teaching your kids how to cook, or whatever floats your boat. It also helps to minimize the time for overwhelming chores like tidying up the house. Can you just do one big clean-up before bed? Or ignore the mess sometimes and just get on with living your life?
• Aim for Consistency: Figure out your “feel good” baseline. You may need 2-3 hours a week of marketing to ensure your business is humming along. Or at least 10 minutes of meditation daily to feel calm. Whatever you absolutely need to manage overwhelm, make it a priority. Stick with it even when things are going all to hell and also when things are going great. This is about being compassionate with yourself. Because it doesn’t feel good to lose momentum. In fact, it feels horrible.
With that, I’ll end with a quote from Swami Kripalu, a yoga master whose followers established the Kripalu retreat center in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts:
“It is proper to welcome struggle. It’s arrival is always auspicious. It transforms an ordinary human into a spiritually-awake person.”
Replace the word “struggle” with “overwhelm” and you start to see how powerful your decision to manage overwhelm can be! If you’d like more guidance on overcoming your overwhelm, start a conversation with me on Twitter here or here. Peace.