The Overwhelm Epidemic

Overwhelm is a crushing feeling of constant overload. As a result you feel out of control.   There is not enough time or energy to fit in everything.                     

Managing Overwhelm

Overwhelm is a crushing feeling of being overloaded and out of control. 

Overwhelm Warning Signs

Are your “to do” lists never ending? Has over committing become a habit? Is sleep interfered with by worry about what you have to do? Perhaps you have anxiety about deadlines? Are you drowning in oceans of information? Do you dread your email inbox? Is it a struggle to turn chaos into order? Has your desk disappeared under clutter?

In particular you may feel panicky. You may procrastinate. Subsequently, feeling  stuck stops you from taking effective steps to reduce the overload.

Importantly, overwhelm effects performance. For example, you can’t think clearly. A ‘foggy’ mind makes it difficult to focus. Also, it becomes harder to make simple decisions. Together with stress, rushing sets you up to make mistakes. Likewise you may forget things. Despite being busy, it seems like you don’t accomplish enough.

Take Action

If you are in overwhelm, then you need to take consistent action.

As a first step, address the current bottleneck situation. The next step is to set up strategies to avoid creating more overwhelm.

Accordingly, certain things are essential to stay in control of your daily life. Noteworthy are effective organising skills and learning to say no. In particular, daily stress reduction practices are essential.

Generally, there are 3 key areas to address:

  • life management
  • time management and
  • self care

Tips To Reduce Overwhelm

Decide right now to take control.

To begin, write out in brief point form everything that contributes to your overwhelm. Include all of your commitments. In particular identify the sources of stress in your life.

The next step is to review each point. What commitments can you let go? Perhaps there are some commitments you can reduce. Who can help? Consider how the contributing factors may be allleviated or modified.

Certainly practising effective stress management is vital. Consider daily routines or habits that could help reduce stress.

Prioritise your ‘to do’ list/s.

To start, divide your master list into 3 categories: a) immediate or urgent b) medium term (up to 4 weeks) and c) longer term (beyond 4 weeks).

Next, work your way through your immediate (a) list. Prioritise this list according to urgency. Essential deadlines will be at the top of the list. Particularly consider this: what will bring the greatest benefit when you can cross it off the list? For the most part, competing items can be sorted according to what will bring the greatest relief. Additionally, dealing with the easiest items boosts motivation.

Another key guideline relates to stress and pressure items. What are those things that keep you awake at night? Furthermore, which items spike anxiety or stress each time you think about them?

Finally, consider sequences. Are there items that must be completed first within a broader project? For example to apply for time off before you can book that holiday!

Set up your action plan.

Take the first item on your immediate (a) list. Analyse what it would take to complete this item. Who can help? Can it be delegated ? How can it be simplified or made easier to complete? What exactly do you need to do? Gather any needed information. Do you require certain resources? Plan your strategies.

Similarly, apply this process to each item.

Schedule regular sessions to take control.

Begin this week. Make it a new routine. Schedule time every week to focus on your immediate (a) list. Even 30 minutes regularly, will make a massive difference. For this focused time you are unavailable! This means no interruptions! Put everything else on hold including emails and phone calls. Just like an essential meeting or appointment, schedule your ‘take control’ sessions in your diary.

At each session focus on your specific task list for that session. Until the bottleneck is cleared consider longer sessions or more than one block of time each week.

Track and revise your list.

At the end of each week set your focus tasks for the coming week. Unfinished or urgent items are added to your ‘taking control sessions’ for the coming week. Feeling organised will develop a sense of control.

Do a conscious ‘cost and benefit’ analysis going forward. 

Assess every new request, task or commitment. Above all be clear and realistic about what it will require from you. Accordingly calculate how much of your time or energy it is realistically likely to take. How does this fit with existing commitments and resources?

Avoid giving an automatic ‘yes’ to requests. First, ask yourself if it is worth making this commitment. Will it be a source of stress and resentment? In contrast is it something you will really enjoy? Are you satisfied about the value or benefit it will bring to your life? (or the life of loved ones).

Learn assertiveness skills.

Learning to say no without fear or guilt is such an important life skill. Furthermore assertive communication skills are essential in managing overwhelm. In addition, this skillset supports you to set clear boundaries without feeling anxious.

Embrace the extraordinary benefits of routines. 

Routines provide a structure to hold chaos at bay. Generally, routines support mental health in several ways. For instance they provide a rhythm and sense of order and control. Also, routines help you to be more time and energy efficient.

Probably, if you are a working parent, then morning hotspots of stress and conflict are familiar! Accordingly, a great solution is to establish ‘night before’ and morning routines with your children. Likewise, consider routines that would make your own mornings easier and more relaxed.

Finally, commit to putting these routines in place. In a few weeks your new routines will be strongly established.

In my counselling work overwhelm  topics usually include stress reduction, procrastination and time management. In addition, mindfulness training, and techniques to relax deeply are hugely beneficial. Skills like assertiveness benefit the whole of your life. Call or email me if you would like to discuss how I may help.

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