When I get involved in a new project that I am passionate about and am excited to move forward quickly, I often get an intense feeling of overwhelm. It’s like I can’t get the words out quickly enough for something I’m writing, or I can’t process the multiple thoughts that are running out of my head at the same time. Multi-tasking isn’t a strong enough word to capture that overflow of thoughts and ideas and emotions that happen simultaneously when you are overwhelmed. Overwhelm usually happens when you feel there are just too many things to do or deal with.
Overwhelm Because It’s New
It is not uncommon for the sense of overwhelm of too many things to do to happen when you start something new. Starting a new job, creating a new business, taking on a new role, starting a new school, moving to a new town or city, means that you have to deal with many moving parts and you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you don’t know so a feeling of chaos and lack of control can overpower you. For many people, that state can be paralyzing—they have so much to do that they can’t do anything at all. But getting into action is actually the best way to handle overwhelm. The key is taking one step at a time.
But where do you begin? When you are in overwhelm you can feel lost as to what you need to do first. It’s as if you can’t think straight.
Breathe Deeply When A Moment Of Overwhelm Hits You
The first place to begin to squelch the overwhelm in any given moment is to stop whatever you are doing! Take a deep breath and slow down. Recently I took a breathing and relaxation course and learned a number of wonderful exercises that are very helpful when your emotions and mind are running wild. My favorite and simple to implement technique is the 4-4-6-2. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, exhale for 6 counts and hold your exhale for 2 counts. Try that several times, hearing your inner voice doing the counts “In 1, 2, 3, 4, hold 1, 2, 3, 4, out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, hold 1, 2”. Calm will enter your being in no time.
Get It Out Of Your Head And Onto A List
The next great step is simply to list all the things you want to do, projects that are on your mind, issues that are bugging you, or chores that you must get done. Write them down on a pad of paper, your notebook, on your phone or computer—whatever tool calls to you. Just getting the mass of thoughts out of your head and somewhere else is a releasing technique. Sometimes that is enough to lessen the overwhelm and you’ll feel better. Using the structure of creating a list is simple yet powerful and also helps to organize you for the next step.
Pick One Item/Task/Issue and Handle It
It doesn’t really matter what it is, but getting one thing done will make you feel much, much better. Getting into action takes the power out of overwhelm. But here’s the thing: you must complete it! If you don’t handle one of the items that is causing you overwhelm, it will always be there to nag at you. When you complete one thing that is contributing to your overwhelm, your body naturally relaxes and your mind realizes that yes, you can get through it all, one step at a time.
Creating Structure For Calmness
Creating structure to handle all the moving parts of your life is a wonderful technique to reduce future overwhelm. There are many tools to organize and create structure depending on the specific task you are encountering. Most of them are means to organize your thoughts and time so that you can manage at the right pace all that you are dealing with. For some it means using electronic organization, for others, physical tools. I like to use a combination of both to suit different needs. I have an electronic calendar for time management. I block out time for a specific task so that I feel calm knowing in advance that it will be handled. I like having a pad nearby my desk to keep a running list of new things that occur to me that I need to attend to. It is a great method to quickly release each concern and prevent overwhelm. And I find that moving my body even if it is as simple as a quick stretch or short walk while I do deliberate breathing helps to keep me in the relaxed state. Find what works for you.
No doubt things will come up in your life that will throw you into overwhelm. The more you are aware of what helps to calm you and the more you practice those techniques, the quicker you will get back to a calm state. And even better, using structures that help to keep you from going into overwhelm in the first place will make you more happy and peaceful and productive.
How do you calm overwhelm in your life? Share with us below, we’d love to hear from you!