Top tips to help you deal with feeling overwhelmed
Last week I wrote about how a sensation of overwhelm engulfed me, what I did to try and tackle it and the benefits I experienced when I reached out for help.
Reflecting on the situation, my thoughts naturally turned to my clients. How often had I heard and used the term overwhelm with them? It seems that we all suffer with overwhelm from time to time, but even though it is common, it's a very personal experience for each individual. The triggers and responses can be totally different for each of us. But essentially I believe that it triggers a fear response.
When we feel fearful, stress hormones are released into our bodies and those in turn trigger the flight flight response, shutting down the brain's capacity for creativity and free thought and firing up the body to take an immediate physical response. This means that the brain doesn't process information as well as it usually does and problems can seem much bigger and trickier to solve than they actually are. You may not be able to shake off overwhelm easily, but knowing a few tricks to help tackle it is a powerful way to deal with the anxiety that sits around it.
So here are my top tips to help you tackle overwhelm
Sounds simple but sometimes we are in such a rush to get everything done we don't necessarily realise overwhelm for what it is. Once you can put a name to something, it somehow makes it easier to deal with. Think of it as a diagnosis. Once you know what's wrong, you can apply the right treatment.
Take a moment to slow down, shut your eyes and empty your mind. A few minutes mindfulness can start to calm the body and down and help the brain to function. You then approach the task in a much better frame of mind.
Schedule time to tackle it
When dealing with clutter, I always advise my clients to schedule a time in their diary and stick to it. If you are the sort of person that needs to do a bit or procrastination before you begin a task, then schedule that in as well. It's ok to need 15 minute faffing about before cracking on wth a task, but be aware of that and know it for what it is. Remember, you didn't accumulate your clutter in a matter of hours, so accept that it is going to take a while to tackle it.
Set a time limit
Decide on a time frame for the task, there's nothing worse than thinking "I've got to do all of this in one go" to make you feel overwhelmed and demotivated. Some people work better in short bursts over a period of time for example half an hour a day for a month, whilst others prefer to submerge themselves in a task for hours on end. Try to understand which one you are and plan your time accordingly. Whatever you decide to do, by scheduling and setting a time limit regularly, you'll be amazed at how much you can achieve.
Set an intention
Decide what it is you are going to tackle. Sounds simple, but if you make a promise to yourself, you are more likely to stick to it. Saying your intention out loud can help, as can checking in with another person. Somehow by telling someone what you are going to achieve today holds you accountable. Don't forget to check back in (with yourself or your friend) at the end to update on how you got on. Before and after photos are another great way of motivating yourself.
Ask for help
It took me a long time to learn this but you don't have to fix everything yourself, you are allowed to ask for help. It's ok to admit you can't do everything single handedly. Seeking expertise or support is actually empowering, makes the task easier to tackle and it feels that the burden is shared. A friend can be a great support during a time of decluttering. Or if you need expertise, the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) can help you find a professional near you.
Review and celebrate
Your achievements, learnings or insights can easily pass you by in a rush to crack on with the next task. But stopping and acknowledging what you've achieved, gives you a massive positive boost, a surge of dopamine and even more energy. Give yourself a reward - a celebratory cup of tea and a biscuit, calling a friend, 20 mins of social media, a brisk walk in the fresh air. You choose it and whilst doing it, think about how great it feels to have tackled and come through.
Focus on the positives
Don't get all judgy with yourself. It can be easy to focus on the negatives of what we haven't achieved. For example, 'I cleared out my wardrobe but I didn't get round to doing the shoes'. This sort of language doesn't let us focus on our achievements, but rather keeps us small by undermining our efforts. Try instead ' I cleared out my wardrobe today and it feels great, I can already see the benefits (list these here) and I feel proud of what I achieved. Next time, I'm going to tackle my shoes.
However you decide to do it, facing up to overwhelm is a great way to clear space in your mind and get focus back. If still daunted by the task in hand, remember tip no 4 and ask for help. If it's a decluttering or organising project that you need help with, why not get an APDO Professional Organiser in to help you?
What sort of things overwhelm you and what have you found to be the most useful way of tackling it?