Jon Baker explores in this blog post, what it feels like to be overwhelmed, and 9 things you can do to reduce your stress levels and get back under control.  Are you feeling overwhelmed, slightly out of control and worrying that you’re getting less done than you should?

What is overwhelmed?

Overwhelmed can feel like you’re drowning in a sea of hundreds things to do and people to get off your back – and you just can’t keep your head above water! The trouble is, waving your arms frantically around wastes energy and doesn’t help. I’m sure you can think of a few people in your office who tend to do this when they get stressed. I’m a scuba diver instructor, and all divers are taught the importance of stop – think –act. It’s like that with being overwhelmed, although every fibre of your being is yelling at you to get frantic – it doesn’t help.

Why does it make us feel stressed?

There are several things going on, creating and deepening the stress:

  • Drowning: Like in the drowning analogy, your mind moves into survival “fight or flight” mode, leaving you less control.
  • Internal struggle: Nagging at yourself develops into negativity, which nibbles away at you. Your mind stays active like a central heating system pumping cold water round the house, working hard but achieving nothing.
  • Negative self image: Lack of results and achievement reduce self worth.
  • Getting physical: Being overwhelmed moves on from your mind to your body, leaving you worn out. Some years ago I was shattered by 10:00 every morning, and those were the good days!
  • Avoidance: It’s natural to avoid things that cause the emotion, trouble is then you start to shut down and without realising it, you’re avoiding good things too (yep, I’ve been there too).
  • Indecision: Making decisions gets harder, even silly ones evoke stress.

In the cold light of day it’s easy to say these are illogical. They stimulate irrationality and emotional response, and who said that’s logical? It happens to us all from time to time, so feeling overwhelmed doesn’t mean you’re odd.

9 things to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

OK, honesty time here. From time to time I’ve had to employ some, or all of these tactics. Even if you’re normally really organised, sometimes you can fall off the wagon, it’s about admitting it!

  1. Should and must: Remove the words “should” and “must” from your vocabulary (e.g.“I should work on my networking strategy”, “I should spend more time chasing prospects”). These words  make things worse, try “I want to”….
  2. What’s good: Remind yourself at the beginning, middle and especially end of the day, what’s going well. There is always something that’s good, even if you have to look for it. Pick two good things from each day, visualise them before going to bed.
  3. Take smaller steps. Rather than trying to win 50 new clients in a month, aim to win a few clients a week and recognise each as a positive step forwards. Doing one small task can make you feel better about a larger projects.
  4. Reward yourself. Rewards are often stronger than punishment, if only we’d allow ourselves to use them! A simple cup of tea after finishing a set of notes can do it, and a bigger step has a bigger reward. Choose rewards that are meaningful to YOU not somebody else.
  5. Get Physical: No matter how busy you are take breaks. A 15 minute physical break, where you DO something PHYSICAL really helps. You’ll recover the 15 minutes in additional productivity. A walk round the block will help. Try to focus on something other than work for the first 5 minutes of that walk, it will help even more.
  6. Eat Frogs First: Brian Tracy’s analogy of eating a frog is great, we only have a limited supply of willpower. It runs out during the day so your ability to tackle hard tasks reduces, so do your hardest task when your energy is at its highest. Pushing hard tasks to the end of the day, doesn’t stop our subconscious thinking about them. Worrying for hours over the task we’re putting off  slows you down all day.
  7. Get disciplined: Using a default diary, or dividing up your day into time-slots where you focus on different categories of your to do list will help. Download our free time management planners, including weekly planners, power hour templates, to-do list organisers, to help you get more productive during the day, (email required).
  8. Perfection is the enemy of the “merely” good enough: Get real with yourself and remember that something that isn’t perfect, is better than a perfection which doesn’t get delivered.
  9. Have a picture in your head: Use your imagination and visualise (or hear, smell, taste or feel) how you’ll be when you’re done. It’s a simple image of me getting my book published that keeps me going. Focus on what’s the point.

I’ve used all of these to help me and many clients. How do you deal with feeling overwhelmed?

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