Tips to Tackle Overwhelm
Have you ever wanted to take on a big project, but continued to procrastinate because you haven’t known where to start? Do you have a dream that has languished because you haven’t managed to figure out how to tackle the overwhelm that looms large every time you attempt to decide where to begin? Are you struggling to work though a challenging situation in your life that feels overwhelming and for which you can’t seem to figure out how to move through? You are not alone my friend. Sometimes I’ve found that when getting ready to start something I have labeled new, unknown and difficult, my thoughts can be so chaotic that they are bouncing around all over the place. At other times it feels like my brain is a blank slate and it simply refuses to kick into action. In today’s blog post we’ll talk about some tips to tackle overwhelm and get things moving again.
The idea for this week’s post came to mind because I have been tackling a bit of overwhelm myself lately. When I finally got up the gumption to quit my job in February to bring JMB Living and the JMB Living Journal to life, I had no idea how much effort this was going to take. I’d been working on the journal for years and finally realized I was going to need to dedicate a lot more time on a daily basis to actually make it happen. And I knew it would take a lot of effort, but the closer I get to launching the journal the steeper the climb actually feels. My to-do list feels like it has exploded and I find myself wishing I’d worked longer hours and been more focused earlier in the year. Last night I could physically feel the anxiety of all I had to do weighing heavily on me. I realized that it is time to take a step back and look to all the tools and techniques I have used in the past to help me get through the next few months and do the best job I am able to, while still caring for my body and mind at the same time.
Breathe and Release
A great place to start is simply just taking a deep breath - actually a few deep breaths would be even better. Recognize that it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed when you encounter new, unfamiliar and unpredictable situations in life, especially when they have multiple facets. So give yourself a break and recognize that this is part of the process and will also make the reward feel that much sweeter in the end.
Then take a few moments to write down everything your mind is screaming that you need to get done. This is often referred to as a ‘brain dump”. Don’t try to censor your thoughts; just let it all be emptied onto the paper, whether it pertains to the project/situation or not. Doing this will help free up your brain to be more productive with the next steps.
Consider how Past Experiences Have Prepared You
Next it is helpful to remember and recognize what we actually do know that will help us in this situation. We often are too quick to discount our own lessons from the past and how what we learned can benefit us greatly as we undertake a new experience. It can be helpful to take a few minutes to reflect and remind yourself of situations and experiences that are similar or that could help with even one small step of the journey. I would suggest writing them down and posting them in a spot where you’ll see them and be reminded in the days, weeks and months to come. I’ll share two of my big anxieties in recent weeks and what ended up on my list to give you a couple of examples.
Large outflows of cash - In the early days of JMB Living I didn’t have to spend much to get things started. However, now it is time to show up bigger and start marketing to get the word out. I’m also getting ready to print the journals, which is the biggest expense thus far. The size of the bill has given me the jitters and has me questioning if I am making a wise choice of the right quantity and all the options. I find myself wondering if I have what it takes to make the financial decisions necessary to run a successful business. When I look back however, I am reminded that for years I managed a budget well in excess of a million dollars. And was that a disaster? No. Did I screw up and totally blow the budget at any time? No. Was every decision perfect? No, but it was all okay and I learned much in the process. And so, I’m telling myself now - if I could handle that, I can handle this. Is it scary? Yes. But am I trying to remind myself that I am not totally unprepared.
Building a team - This too was mentally easier in the beginning when I could handle much of the day to day activities on my own. While I am definitely not alone in bringing this journal into being, I’ve realized recently that I need even more help from others for this to succeed. I’m honestly not sure why building a larger team has caused me stress. Perhaps it makes the vision more real which is both super exciting and terrifying at the same time. To help calm my brain in this area, I wrote down that for years I hired and managed a group of 10-13 people. Yes, the work and tasks to be accomplished now are completely different, but the skillset of working with and managing a team is not completely new.
Make a Plan
This can not be over-emphasized. There is something about taking the time to get a plan on paper that in and of itself makes the project or situation feel more manageable. Your plan can take many forms. It can be as simple as listing on paper everything you think needs to be done to complete a project or handle a situation. You could begin by jotting down large areas of the project that need to be accomplished and then breaking each area down into smaller sets of tasks. Often working backwards by beginning with the end result you want to achieve can make this process easier.
Bringing the JMB Living Journal to market is something that will take place over the next couple of months. To help me manage the timeline, I plugged the list of tasks and activities required into an excel based calendar that I can update as the days progress. Having all the tasks for the plan in an electronic format that can easily be updated allows me to then write each day’s tasks in my planner without having to scribble and erase, making things messy in the days to come. At the same time, the process of writing down my plan for the day in the journal allows me to direct my focus to the day’s activities rather than getting overwhelmed by focusing on everything that needs to happen in the next couple of months.
Prioritize and Tackle Bite Sized Chunks at a Time
The beauty of creating a plan is that you can then organize the tasks more easily in order of priority and focus your attention on one bite sized chunk at a time. Obsessing over the bigger list of all the tasks that need to be done is often what creates feelings of overwhelm. Doing so may cause you to question your ability to succeed or can cause you to procrastinate on taking the next step or even the first step. Focusing on one small step at a time can feel more manageable and will help you to chip away daily at the project or situation.
Consider Where You Can Use Help and Guidance
After you have crafted your plan, look through the list of activities to see if you can enlist the help of someone else to get them done. This can be in form of family or friends that truly would love to be involved or hiring someone else if you have the ability to pay someone to handle some of the tasks.
Do you know someone that has tackled a similar situation or project in the past? Reach out and ask their advice on the best way to approach the problem. It is possible that there are easier ways of handling things that you may not have thought about yet and someone with experience may also be able to warn you of actions to avoid.
And don’t forget to look for tasks that aren’t important enough to be on the list in the first place.
Proactively Engage in Activities to Help you Stay Positive
Large projects rarely succeed without some hurdles and sidesteps along the way. It can be easy to get discouraged and question your ability when this happens. If you take care to write down and celebrate your small wins on a daily basis you’ll have something to look back to when the going gets tough. You can look at what you wrote and realize that you truly are making steady progress toward your vision, even if it doesn’t feel like it at that moment. Writing down your wins in a journal as a daily practice can be very powerful for this reason, not to mention it helps to improve your self esteem and view of life in general.
Starting your day by listing all that you are grateful for is another wise way to start your day with positive vibes. You can take this a step further by stating aloud a positive affirmation for your day. (Head on over to our resources page to find out more about creating affirmations that work if this is new to you.)
And when you get discouraged regardless of your efforts, keep your attention focused on WHY you wanted to do this in the first place. For me this means reminding myself that I decided to create JMB Living and the journal as a way to help women to find more happiness through focusing on the simple things in life and the beauty that can be found in these small moments.
Schedule Down Time
Lastly, make sure you schedule time to take breaks and step away from the project or situation. Not only will doing so help replenish your energy and enthusiasm when you return, but you may also find yourself more creative when you are able to look at things from a fresh viewpoint. Try stepping away to take a walk or do a few simple stretches. Schedule in a break to run an errand, getting outside if you can. I needed to get groceries today, so I decided to bike to the store instead of driving. It did me a world of good to breathe in the fresh air and simply get out of my office for a little while.
Listen to your body. Are you getting enough sleep? The right nourishment? How much time away do you truly need? Sometimes taking a longer break for a few hours, a day or even a weekend if you are able to, can really help avoid burn out and give you strong momentum forward when you return.
Do you have any other techniques that have worked well for you in tackling overwhelm? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below and best wishes on all your big undertakings in the meantime!