Feeling overwhelmed is a major road block. A road block to our creativity, our happiness, our ability to connect in relationships. Most of us are probably aware that when we feel overwhelmed, we are not as productive, happy, or fun to be around. We may not understand the neurological reason why feeling overwhelmed leads to procrastination and us snapping at our loved ones but we know it happens. Here are five ways to take charge of our overwhelm. Choose to thrive, not just survive your days.
- Schedule: Get out your calendar and write down what you’re doing when. The more specific you are, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel. What kinds of things can you schedule aside from the obvious work hours, carpools, and doctor’s appointments? Your exercise, your meals, your shopping trips, when you’re going to bed, and date nights. Schedule it in and then stick to that schedule. Some think this is neurotic and they’ll feel restricted but I challenge you to try. In reality, you will feel calmer and more in control of your life. Here is a scheduling worksheet that can get you started.
- Eliminate Distractions: Now that you have that schedule, honor it by doing what’s on your schedule and eliminating distractions. For example, when it’s time for me to sit and write my blog posts, I put my phone on airplane mode, pop in some earbuds, and go. I also choose my environment carefully. I don’t try write while my kids are home jumping on the trampoline. In fact, I often leave my house to work as my brain can come up with lots of reasons why I should interrupt my work: the dishwasher needs to be emptied, clothes need to be washed, a spot on the ceiling needs to be cleaned, etc…Be aware of possible distractions and set yourself up for success.
- Minimize Choices: Our brain is a skilled information gatherer. The leading cause of stress or overwhelm? Unused information. Combat this in two ways:
First, start paying attention where you are taking in information that you don’t need: cancel magazines, turn off the TV, and stop ‘browsing’ online or in stores. Minimize your life. You know what works for you. You know which clothes are comfortable and suit your body. You know which foods taste good to you and help your body perform. You have enough gadgets in your kitchen. Consciously and deliberately choose what you’re feeding your brain. Use this sheet to help dig deeper.
Second, get out a piece of paper and make a list of all the decisions you make on a weekly basis: what to wear, what to eat, where to get gas, when to exercise, etc. Look at your list and make decisions ahead of time: What will you eat for breakfast? Wear on weekdays? There are so many pieces of information for our brain to take in, make decisions now to free up your brain for the more important decisions. It is no coincidence that both Steve Jobs and Einstein chose to wear the same thing every day. Instead of standing in the closet staring, they used their mental power elsewhere. Do the same thing with your meals: Choose to eat the same thing for breakfast each morning. What’s that? You think you’ll be bored? Since when is it food’s job to entertain you? Food is for fuel. Speaking of fuel, choose one gas station and always go there instead of driving around looking for the best price. The difference in cost is minimal when you take into account the cost in time and mental energy.
4. Eliminate Distrust: Now that you’ve made these decisions, trust your choices. If you choose to enroll your daughter for dance lessons at ABC studios and you learn that your friend’s daughter is enrolled at XYZ studio, choose to think: “Well that’s nice” and stick with your choice. We have been trained to distrust ourselves and our intuition. Reverse this by making choices and sticking with them. Decisions lead to action and any step forward is a step in the right direction. Choose to learn from your decisions and trust your choices. As a certified personal trainer and weight loss coach, many clients ask me what they “should” eat for breakfast. Unless they are eating chocolate croissants with jelly on top, my answer is “whatever works for you.” Lean into trusting yourself. What gives you energy? What fills you up? What can you make/eat/prepare with your schedule? We look to others to tell us what to do, thinking we don’t know what’s best for us. Build confidence in yourself by deciding and taking action. Overwhelm disappears when we take action.
5. Eliminate Excuses: Own your choices. You didn’t exercise? Don’t tell yourself you didn’t exercise because you slept through your alarm or because it was too cold. You didn’t exercise because you chose not to. You ate too much last night? Don’t tell yourself it was because you had a tough day at work or because your husband bought the kind of ice cream you love. You chose to. You didn’t get your work done when you said you would? Don’t tell yourself it’s because your coworker kept interrupting you or your dog needed a walk or your son wanted to play legos. You chose not to. The choices we make create our realities. We are overweight because of the choices we have made. We are frazzled because of the choices we make. We are adults and have a lot of control over our days. When stop making excuses, we feel less overwhelm. If instead of thinking: “I didn’t exercise because my son wanted to play legos”, we think “I chose to play legos with my son instead of exercise” we move from being a victim in our life to being an emotional adult. I don’t know about you but I feel a lot better when I think empowering thoughts instead of pitying ones.
Please let me know if you try any of these tools (and how outstanding you feel afterwards). This is what Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Coaching is. This is what I do and why I do it. It works and I see how there are no external forces getting me to feel a certain way. I am in charge of my thoughts and my thoughts create my feelings. Do I coach because I have it all under control? Hell no! I coach because I don’t have it all under control. I work on my thoughts and behavior every single day and share my journey so we all can grow. Why not join the fun today? There are many ways to get started: