Ever felt overwhelmed and struggled to move through it? Of course you have, you’re human. We all experience overwhelm from everyday life to business. We all experience it for a multitude of reasons and to overcome it we need to understand why we experience it.
According to cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Harvard University, our brains only have the capacity to process 5-7 chunks of information at a time. That’s it. No wonder we get a sense of overwhelm in our everyday world where we’re expected to be on top of everything at the same time as taking on millions of bits of information every day. We are constantly bombarded with information every hour, every minute of every day and our brains are calling out for breathing room while we scroll through social media, run a business, interact with people online, plan our lives and try not to say yes to too many things. Here are my 6 simple ways to stop the overwhelm.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
Mentally as well as - actually take a break- where you’re not consuming. First, if you are learning something new, trying to problem solve a bad situation or just adding too many things to your plate, then give yourself a break from judging the feeling of overwhelm. There is a constant expectation from society that we have to have it all together all the time and if we’re overwhelmed, it’s an indication that we don’t. This is a myth. Overwhelm is an indication that you’re overwhelmed (that our brain is trying to process more than possible right now) that’s it. Give your brain a break from processing so much information by taking a mini detox in consuming. That means, no Netflix, no phone, no music, nothing. Just space to process and daydream.
When was the last time you stopped and just gave yourself space to just BE?
A while I’d imagine.
Whether it be starting your day with meditation, 10 minutes of daydreaming throughout the day, or an hour on your own with a cup of tea before bed, is totally up to you.
Whatever works for you, just give yourself the space to just be and your brain will process and find it’s equilibrium again.
EXPECT IT – BUT DON’T JUDGE IT
When we are learning something new, putting ourselves in a new situation or pushing our brains to expand with new thinking or knowledge, taking on too much purposefully - then give yourself the acknowledgment that you are going to feel overwhelmed, and that’s OK.
Remember how I said your brain can only hold up to 5-7 chunks of information? If you’re pushing it to process more with learning, problem solving or holding onto too many to-do’s then you can expect to feel overwhelmed. But piling on top of that overwhelm with judgment and guilt for feeling it is only causing you more suffering. There is no reason to judge yourself for a normal emotional response to taking on too much, this is your sign to know that you have either taken on too much or you’re growing and learning.
Overwhelm and confusion are a normal part of learning and growing. It’s OK to feel it; just choose to become aware as to what is causing the overwhelm, rather than drowning in the emotion that is there to remind you that you need to slow down. Process or say no.
PINPOINT THE MAIN THINGS THAT ARE CAUSING THE OVERWHELM
Sometimes, we fall into a pit of overwhelm because something has tipped the scales in what we believe we can handle or we’re worried about something more specific.
When you’re experiencing overwhelm see if you can pinpoint which 1-2 things are causing the majority of the overwhelm. Is it that phone call you don’t want to make? Is it because you’ve said yes to something you wanted to say no to because you’re scared to say no and set a clear boundary with someone?
Are you dreading a bad outcome? Do you feel that 1 or 2 things are going to be time-consuming or difficult to do?
Pinpoint those 1-2 things and ask yourself – what is it about these things that is causing me to feel overwhelmed? Am I fearful of what may happen?
Are you avoiding it because it seems difficult, uncomfortable or painful? Understanding why you feel overwhelmed may help you to find a different solution to be able to move forward.
Then it’s about spending uninterrupted and focused 10 minutes on the main thing that’s causing you the overwhelm to see how much you can work through. You’d be surprised how much taking action and working on the solution can help you release the overwhelmed feeling.
RECOGNIZE THE MINDSET YOU HAVE ABOUT YOUR TO-DO’S
What’s the mindset you’re having about what’s on your plate? Our thoughts create our emotions, so if we’re feeling overwhelmed, I’m sure there is some thoughts you’re having about your list of to-do’s that goes something like this: I can’t handle this , I don’t know what to do ,I don’t have the time , It’s too hard
Sound familiar? Often we can think it’s the task or circumstance that is causing the overwhelm, when really it’s the way we’re thinking out the task or circumstance.
Have a think again about the task or circumstance that is causing you overwhelm and bring awareness to your thoughts about it. Are you using limiting language? Are you telling yourself you can’t handle it?
When I find myself in a state of overwhelm, I often find my thoughts have fallen into a spiral of out of control language and as soon as I shift from statements about the problem and refocus my attention to what the solution may be I can then begin to ask more empowering questions like:
How could I handle this?
What’s my next best step?
What could I handle? ( if I don’t think I have the time, how much time could I set aside to work on the problem? )
How could I make this easier?
When we shift our mindset to the solution and then choose to spend productive time on working through the problem the overwhelm starts to dissipate because we have gone from thinking it is out of our control to being in control again. Then when we can take back control of our thinking we can shift from problem to solution and make progress to moving past it.
GETTING BETTER AT SAYING NO
Want to not feel overwhelmed anymore? Say no more than you say yes. It can be that simple, but in today’s world it may not be that easy.
If you think you say yes to too much then it may be worthwhile working on these two things:
Re-evaluate what is important to you and your life and setting clear boundaries. When you are unclear on your goals and what’s important to you, it’s easier to say yes to things because you don’t realise what you’re missing out on. When you’re clear on exactly what YOU want and what you’d like to be spending your time on, when someone asks you to do something, you can reflect on what saying yes would cost you.
How are you at setting boundaries? People treat us the way we allow them to treat us and if you’re starting to become resentful or feel underappreciated, it’s about time you review how confident you are at setting boundaries. Boundaries don’t have to be about telling the other person NO, it’s about communicating that you currently do not have the space or time to take on the task. You don’t have to explain yourself or say sorry, you just have to communicate your unavailability.
FOCUS ON YOUR NEXT BEST STEP
Lastly, where you direct your focus is where you’re going to go. If you’re focused on the problem and the overwhelm you’ll only create more problems and overwhelm. When you’re focused on the solution you can focus on moving forward toward the problem being resolved.
What’s your next best step?
By simply using this question at every crossroads or any time you experience the rise of overwhelm you can continue to focus on moving forward. Whatever the overwhelming task or circumstance is, focus on how you want things to go. The more you focus on a positive outcome the easier it is to move forward toward it.
Next time you’re experiencing the dreaded sense of overwhelm, apply one of these 6 ways and support yourself with overcoming the overwhelm in a way that supports your growth and expansion.
Here’s to overwhelm free days…:)