Welcome back, WIMBAs, especially those of you who are feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s going on right now in your job and in your personal lives. I have worked with enough of you to know that you take on A LOT so it is not surprising if you do feel overwhelmed. And, if you do, you are in the right place because today we are going to talk about what leads to overwhelm in the first place and what you can do about it.
I’d like to start off with a quote. This one is from Lidia Longorio who playfully asked, “What’s on your mind?” And the answer was, “I don’t know. Nothing but everything at once.”
This is exactly how we become overwhelmed. In fact, I’ll share with you 3 ways that we can become overwhelmed, so if want you to listen closely and consider where does overwhelm show up, take good notes.
Reason #1 why we become overwhelmed is that we think about too much at once.
Overwhelm is something that I see a lot in my practice because I work with very high achievers. And one of the things that is very common amongst high achievers is that they really have a lot to do on their list. They’re very ambitious. They have a lot of goals. They want to accomplish a lot. And so they start to think about all the things that they need to do and it gets really jumbled up in their head between their personal life, their work-life, if they own a business — there’s just so much going on that they start to feel like it’s too much for them.
Now the truth of the matter is that you can do all of those things without the overwhelm and that’s really what I want to talk to you about today. So in particular, if you are feeling overwhelmed for this reason then recognize that you don’t have to think about everything that you have to do in your life all at the same time. This is what calendars are for. This is for you to put down when and where you’ll be doing each and every task that you want to accomplish. That way you don’t have to think about it. It’s already taken care of and when people sit down and write out there list of desired accomplishments and the kind of steps that they need to take in order to achieve those and then plants those into different time slots on their calendar, they no longer have to worry about when it’s going to get done, whether it will get done. It’s just a matter of “When I get to that time, I will do it” and it’s a great little tool that you can use to overcome that overwhelm, to really side step that emotion because everything will get done in the right time. You cannot do it all at once anyway so why think about all of it at once?
Reason #2 why we become overwhelmed is that we worry about everything that might go wrong.
One of my clients felt exhausted by her job. When I asked her why, she said it was because she felt overwhelmed and that affected the quality of her sleep. So we dug deeper to understand where the overwhelm came from. She said that, for instance, she would have to call medical providers about her patients. That’s when I had to stop her. You see, it’s easy for us to point the finger at circumstances we are in and think they are causing our overwhelm, but in fact, there is an intermediary step. Our mind is a meaning making machine and whatever input our senses bring in, our mind makes meaning of it. When we drilled down, my client was able to see that she worries. Her thought was, “What if I mess it up?” So I asked her how many times she’s messed up in the past. It turns out she “messed up” once out of ten times. So I reflected back to her that she got it right 90% of the time but is spending 100% of the time worrying about the 10%. Then I asked what her mess up was. Turns out her colleague was trying to get through to the providers but couldn’t. So when my client got through, she forgot to ask about her colleague’s patient. Now, you might have completely different scenarios you are dealing with in your line of work, but ask yourself whether you are focusing in on the minor possibility of something bad happening instead of on the possibility of getting it right.
You see, when we have negative thoughts, it creates a domino effect. For my client, having these negative thoughts brought up overwhelm which negatively affected the quality of her sleep. She was then exhausted and became so disenchanted with her job, she started wondering if she’s in the wrong career. She didn’t know what to do instead. I told her that before she makes a decision to shift careers, she first has to learn to make it work where she is. Now she understands that it is her brain that is creating the overwhelm, not her job and because she is managing her thinking better, her sleep has improved and so has her mood. So you see, overwhelm is a choice. You have to act like a detective and clean up the mess.
Reason #3 why we become overwhelmed is that we experience negative emotions and think that they will be unbearably painful, last forever, and be all-consuming so we try to shut them down. So first of all, you cannot shut your emotions down, you can’t shut them out, you can’t push them away. And recognize that your emotions aren’t really the issue necessarily. It’s your association with your emotions that is the issue. It’s your thinking about them that is causing overwhelm. Turning down the overwhelm is not the same thing as shutting down your emotions.
If you’re overwhelmed by your emotions, you need to learn how to manage them. This includes emotional literacy which means learning to name your emotions and understand what their purpose is. Then it’s about emotional management, which is how you can turn down the dial on negative emotions and turn up the dial on positive emotions.
I walk you through all of these Emotional Intelligence skills in my book, The 7E Solution to Burnout, so if the title has kept you from getting a copy, realize that the book goes above and beyond the title. And if I haven’t said it yet today, Emotional Intelligence is the most important set of skills you can have to feel satisfied in your relationships and to be successful at work. It’s nothing to sneeze at.
There are other issues that might fall under this umbrella. Things like setting boundaries so you don’t take on more than you can chew. Things like shifting your expectations of yourself from perfection to something more realistic that doesn’t compromise your health or the quality of your work too much. Things like prioritizing what you should focus on and what you can outsource or delegate out. These I also cover in the book, so if you want to learn more, I’ll leave the link in the show notes, or you can go to 7ESolution.com
In summary, we said there are 3 reasons why you might become overwhelmed. These include:
- Thinking about too much at once
- Thinking about everything bad that can happen
- By experiencing negative emotions and thinking that they will be unbearably painful, last forever, and be all-consuming so you try to shut them down.
I hope by now you have a better understanding of what’s led to your version of overwhelm. But regardless of what’s led to it for you, my greatest hope is that you now have some ideas of what you can do to turn down the overwhelm in your life.
You don’t have to do this alone. Use The 7E Solution to Burnout book to coach yourself into greater Emotional Intelligence or if you’d like to work more closely with me, you can sign up for a complimentary consultation on my website, drsharongrossman.com
Remember, overwhelm is a choice. Once you get good at recognizing why you are overwhelmed, you can quickly turn down the noise. Wouldn’t that be amazing?