You know the feeling…there’s too much to do, too little time to actually do it, and you’re feeling the walls begin to close in on you. Yes, you’re definitely feeling overwhelmed.
So what do you do when that Inner Frenzy monster grabs a hold of you and puts you in that panicked, frustrated, overwhelmed state of mind? How do you regain control of your emotions so that you can remain calm and develop a plan to deal with all the things on your plate?
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that coping with overwhelm is easy…because it’s not. But just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s impossible either. Here are four steps to take when you’re feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure what to do next.
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Before you go any farther, when you feel that inner frenzy taking control and feel yourself starting to lose it, stop and take a breath.
Yes, I know that this is generally NOT your first instinct…because it wasn’t mine either.
In fact, when I’d feel that panic of overwhelm overcoming me I always was convinced that there was no way I had time to actually stop. I had too much to do! I didn’t have time! I had to take action NOW before things got worse!!!
Can you relate?
But whether we think we have time to stop and take a breath or not, it’s the critical step we have to take in order to take any other steps. Because the truth is that we can’t formulate a plan…or even think straight…when we’re overwhelmed and feeling panic set in.
So it’s okay to stop for a minute. The world won’t end. But you’ll begin to feel the fog in your head clear just enough that you can start to think clearly…which is how you figure out the next steps.
Steps to take when you’re feeling overwhelmed
First, decide what YOU want and what is important to YOU
Often we feel overwhelmed because we have too many things to do, too many obligations, or too many roles we’ve taken on.
So one thing to do is to take a good hard look at all of the things on your plate and figure out what is most important to you. And when I say important to you…I mean that literally. What is important to YOU.
Not what is important to your significant other. Or your mother. Or your best friend. Or anyone else.
What is most important to YOU?
And this can be hard to figure out if you’ve let others
dictate guide your actions up to this point. It’s not uncommon for women to put the needs and wants of others ahead of our own. But this tendency makes it that much harder when we finally start thinking about what it is that WE actually want.
But here’s the thing…at some point…if you want to be truly happy…you have to start ignoring (at least to some extent) the voices of others and learn to listen to your own.
Because until you do you’ll always be acting on someone else’s priorities.
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Second, learn to say NO and to prioritize
So once you figure out what it is that’s important to you, it’s time to look at all the things on your plate. Most likely there are things there that you didn’t ask for…and don’t really want. And these things contribute to you feeling overwhelmed.
I’ll let you in on a little secret…you don’t have to do everything that’s on your plate. And you don’t have to do everything people ask you to either.
No is not a dirty word and it’s okay to use it.
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Third, it’s okay to disappoint people
I know, I know…we’ve been taught that it’s not nice to disappoint others. We’ve been taught that good girls – and nice women – go out of their way to make others happy, to meet their needs, and to be considerate of other people.
And yes, these are nice things to do.
But you don’t have to do any of them when it comes at the expense of your own happiness, well-being, mental health, time, or priorities. And you certainly don’t have to live in state of constant overwhelm in order to please others.
Will people be disappointed when you don’t do what they ask?
They’ll most likely be disappointed because now they have to do the work of finding someone else to do what it is that they want, or they’ll have to do it themselves.
But their disappointment isn’t your problem to solve. And they’ll live over it.
You, on the other hand, may be setting yourself up for a break down if you continue to take on everyone else’s priorities, demands, problems, and tasks.
You have the right to please yourself even if it means disappointing someone else.
Fourth, realize that when everything is important, nothing is important
Here’s another little truth…you can’t do everything.
At least you can’t do everything at the same time and do it well. It’s just not possible.
So when you’ve got a lot on your plate it’s crucial to take a hard look at everything and realize that some things are by nature more important than others.
Because you when everything is important, nothing is important.
In other words, you can’t give equal weight to every task or project on your list. You have to figure out what is most important and prioritize from there.
And while you’re looking at this list it’s good to apply some criteria to each item. The three “D’s” are helpful here:
- Decide what to DUMP,
- what to DELEGATE,
- and what to DO based on your priorities and goals.
A final thought to help you cope when you’re feeling overwhelmed:
We often feel like the word No is permanent and final. That if we say No to something we’re shutting something out of our lives forever.
But that’s not true.
Saying No doesn’t necessarily mean never… it just means not now.
That realization gives us the freedom to say No while reminding ourselves that as situations and circumstances change, we can reconsider our priorities and obligations in a way that doesn’t make us overwhelmed and that contributes to a happy, joyful, meaningful life.
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