Over the past 5 years, since I began my professional coaching practice, I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people experiencing overwhelm. This heightened feeling of being stretched to the limit can contribute to increased sleepless nights, increased levels of stress, a sense of loss of control or panic, increased feelings of guilt and an overall decreased level of self-confidence.
According to a study conducted by Catalyst in 2009, “55% of employees are stressed to the point of feeling extremely fatigued and out of control”. Studies conducted by Statistics Canada highlight that “Men and Women age 35-54 report the highest degree of stress” with “working women more likely than working men to report high levels of perceived life stress”.
Sound overwhelming? If you can relate to any of the above, consider some ways to overcome overwhelm, reduce stress and regain control:
1 Make a list of everything currently on your plate. Many people who claim they are overwhelmed have difficulty coming up with more than 15-20 items on their “to do” list. The very act of writing down the things you need to do (or are overwhelmed about) helps you de-clutter your mind.
2 Review and prioritize the list. How many of the items on the list are truly “must do” items? Review the list carefully and determine if anything can be delegated to others. Consider those items that are “nice to do” and remove them from the list. Prioritize the remaining list. Looking at the list objectively helps to minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed.
3 Control what you can and let go of what you can’t. Many people put a lot of attention on things they have no control over. Ask yourself if this thing you feel overwhelmed about is something you have control over or not. Focus your energy and attention on what you can control.
4 Be okay with an 80% solution. How much is your time and energy worth to you? Perfection is rarely expected nor appreciated and yet so many of us spend countless hours trying to get things perfect.
5 Release stress. According to Statistics Canada, “Canadians who are physically active report lower levels of stress.” Regular exercise can help lower stress and build resilience. Other ways to release stress include: deep breathing exercises, meditation, getting sufficient sleep and laughter.
6 Turn negative thinking into positive thoughts and actions. Are you focusing on “how bad things are” or “how much work you have to do”? Learn to change your thinking to more positive thoughts. Focus instead on all the good things that are happening to you or around you or focus on how much you have accomplished today. Maintaining your focus on your progress rather than on how much there is left to do will help you maintain a sense of balance and optimism.
7 Change your perspective. Sometimes we are so immersed in the details of things that we lose sight of the big picture. There is usually much less emotion and much greater objectivity from a bigger broader picture view of the situation. When you find yourself too close to an emotionally charged situation, ask yourself how the situation would look from the ”10,000 foot above” perspective?
While regaining focus and control may feel like an uphill battle, overcoming overwhelm is possible when you put yourself first, step back and truly consider your options and possible actions.