More and more of us are feeling overwhelmed. With all that is going on in the world, and trying to keep on top of our lives, it can sometimes just all get too much. No matter how great we get at delegating, how successful our time management strategies or how many hours we have in our week.
Whatever your specific context, these 10 tried and tested steps are designed to move you from total meltdown, to feeling calm and focussed as smoothly as possible.
So, next time overwhelm strikes, take a deep breath, keep calm, and work through this checklist. You’ll be back to your capable, powerful self before you know it.
First things first – take a break and replenish your energy. Grab a mug of tea, coffee, or a giant glass of water: whatever will help you stop, steady and calm.
Breathe – You’ve got this.
2. Recognise it’s OK
Talk to yourself like you would your best friend. Turn off that inner critic, or inner chatter that keeps telling you everything that is wrong in your life. This is the time for some love and kindness – to yourself. Send some love to the part of you that is worn out and had it.
Of course you’re overwhelmed – look at what’s going on! It doesn’t mean anything about how capable or effective you are, it happens to all of us, and it’s a perfectly normal response to everything that’s going on right now.
3. Dump it out
Grab the workbook (a piece of paper or your notebook will do!) and dump out absolutely everything that’s weighing on your mind. And I mean everything. Big, small. Tasks, decisions, conversations, concerns. No judgment- just get it all out in one big list. Keep going until it’s all on the page.
4. Be your own best friend part 1:
The Big Ditch
Now, assume the role of your own best friend. Someone who cares about you, deeply, is unwaveringly honest, and has zero guilt about helping you do what you need to.
Sit down quietly with yourself (with more tea perhaps?) and commence “The Big Ditch”.
Firmly, honestly, and with love, cross anything off the list that:
- You can do nothing about
- Is not urgent in the next couple of days and will resurface of its own accord
- Will never get done, so is foolish to worry about right now
- Will take care of itself in time
5. Be your own best friend part 2:
Assume the role of best friend once more. Now it’s time to help yourself decide which tasks or concerns you should seek support with.
GET CREATIVE – this isn’t (necessarily!) about having a team of staff to call on. Where could you reach out for support from your partner, your neighbour, your friends, your connections on Facebook…
Go through what’s on your list and determine:
- Could someone (anyone) do this almost as well as me? (Note: “almost” – what matters isn’t doing everything yourself, or doing it ‘perfectly’ it’s finding a way out of overwhelm)
- Would it take me less time to pass it on right now?
- If I assumed that everyone I asked would say yes- what would I hand over?
- Are there any emotional issues or worry that a good chat with someone would help me with?
For everything you can involve someone else with – use your notebook to jot down who, and make action steps to contact them and ask.
Now do it! Send the text, fire off the personal message, write the email.
(Remember – if the shoe were on the other foot, would you be happy to be asked to help out a colleague or peer who’d reached breaking point? You certainly wouldn’t blame them for asking – the worst someone can say is no!)
6. Refocus on the big picture
What are the most important things in your life right now? If you were the Queen of Calm and Serenity, what deserves attention? What’s a needless distraction?
Now, go through and prioritise.
Be ruthless. Your whole task here is getting extremely focused on only those things you must do right now.
Once you’ve narrowed your list down by ditching things that don’t really need to be done and deciding to delegate anything you possibly can, then you prioritise everything that’s left according to ABC:
A: Absolutely must be done today
B: Be nice if it gets done today… but no-one will die if it doesn’t.
C: Could happen today, or tomorrow, or even the day after. Not too immense right now.
Then for all your As, order then 1,2,3 etc in the order you will attack them
Do the same for your Bs, and Cs.
(remember: asking for delegation support should be way up the top of the list!)
8. Time to replenish again.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is not to skip this step! Leave your list alone and
So… make yourself another tea. Step outside and breathe in some fresh air. Stretch. Have another break to replenish your energy. Go to the toilet because you’ve drunk so much tea! Really take the time to get yourself in the best emotional state you can in whatever way works best for you. Have a walk, a run, a bath, do some yoga stretches, watch something utterly irrelevant on Netflix. Get ready.
go do something else for twenty minutes.
9. Eat the elephant
Look at your list.
Finally, once you’ve replenished, you can have another look at your list. If there aren’t any “As” on it, then quite frankly the best thing you can do is to answer the very clear call from your body to stop and rest for a while. It’s incredible how much more effective we are when we take the time to stop and take care of ourselves – you’ll probably surprise yourself with how quickly you move through your list when you’re ready.
If you do have some “A”s, then start on just one tiny thing off that list. Remember the old saying about eating an elephant? You can’t eat an elephant in one mouthful, but you can if you do it one bite at a time. So do it like that — just take one bite, and then do a little replenish, and then take another bite.
Keep the self-love flowing through the process, and if you suddenly get additional clarity about something you can ditch or delegate, do it.
10. Rest and reward
Take a mini-break.
After every task, concern or worry that gets resolved from the list, take a mini-break and reward yourself.
A personal high-5, a stretch in the fresh air, a celebration post on social media, another tea!
Remember to treat yourself gently. You’re still in overwhelm recovery for a day or two after a melt-down.
Thanks to One of Many for their guidance and support always