I’ve had a pretty overwhelming and stressful couple of weeks.
Not only am I right in the middle of training for my first half marathon, putting the finishing touches to my new wellness eBook (watch this space!) and also juggling multiple clients in my work as a ghostwriter, editor and social media guru, we’ve also had some serious internet outages and a round of family sickness to fight off too.
There was one point where I felt so totally overwhelmed, I just sat in front of my computer and stared blankly at the screen, completely exhausted and completely clueless about of where on earth to start.
It seemed like no matter what I did about it, no matter where I started, I simply couldn’t chip away at the mountain of stuff that needed to be done. It seemed only a matter of time before it all got too much and came crashing down over my head.
And it didn’t matter how productive I got, I simply couldn’t squeeze more minutes out of the day.
Does this sound at all familiar?
Now, as you’re probably guessing, this story has a happy ending (yay!) I managed shake off the overwhelm, overcome that impending sense of doom and actually get s*** done. This is the story of exactly what I did to overcome that overwhelm and take control of my life (and sanity!) again.
Stick around for the ride!
#1. I did a ‘brain dump’
It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but dumping the contents of my brain onto a page actually worked miracles and made a big difference to beating my overwhelm.
Instead of feeling as if my brain was being pulled in a million different directions, I could physically see it all there in black and white. Yes, there was a LOT of stuff on that list, but it wasn’t anything that could physically hurt me or defeat me, and that made such a difference to how I was feeling.
And you know what? I noticed that the stuff I was feeling so overwhelmed with wasn’t quite as much as I’d originally thought. Awesome!
#2: I checked in with my priorities
There’s always going to be a ton of stuff you should be doing, but you don’t ever manage to get around to. And this is OK! Because you can’t do it all. It doesn’t matter how many productivity tips you learn and implement because in real life, there are limits.
You’re not superwoman or superman and you can’t cook a nutritious meal whilst training to be a brain surgeon, ironing your work clothes for the next day and teaching your old dog to do new tricks.
But what you can do is to prioritize. By picking out your three most important tasks (known as MITs in the productivity world), you can get the most important stuff done. And when this is out of the way, often the less important stuff just glides off the to-do list and onto the ‘done’ list.
So I looked at my glamorous brain dump and asked myself ‘Which of these things are most important?’ Then I wrote them down in a list of their very own.
Next I repeated the question with a slightly different slant, ‘Which of these tasks are most important TODAY or NOW?’
All of a sudden, those clouds of overwhelm parted and I started to breathe more easily….
#3: Could I ask anyone for help?
I’d outlined what needed to be done and I knew what my priorities were. Next it was time for some good old-fashioned delegation.
Now, most of us associate the word ‘delegation’ with formal stuff like business management and office-based work, but actually it’s a brilliant technique to use everywhere. Because even though the bulk of my work needs to be completed by yours truly, other people can help with lots of the other stuff too, lighten the load and…beat overwhelm!!
To give you an example, I started asking myself questions like ‘Can my partner help make dinner tonight?’ ‘Can I get my son to take the dog for a walk tonight?’ and ‘Perhaps I should ask my mother-in-law to babysit instead of struggling alone?’ It really helped.
#4: I ScheduleD my ‘battle plan’ & ticked off those tasks!
This is the easy bit! Using all of the information you’ve written down so far, what will you attack first?
I like to use a Google calendar to schedule my tasks (both work and life-related) so I can break everything down into manageable chunks and can see what needs to be done and when without feeling overwhelmed. Then I can go through my lists and tick everything off!
This is a productivity (and happiness-promoting habit) that really makes a difference to my life!
#5: I TOOK time for MYself
Whatever you do, don’t forget to take time for yourself simply to chill out, breathe and do something fun that will also help knock all that stress on the head! When we get stressed, our bodies release all manner of stress hormones can really wreak havoc on our overall health and will only leave us feeling worse than ever. Besides, it’s just no fun to feel overwhelmed and frazzled the whole time.
Here are my favourite ways to de-stress when I’m feeling the overwhelm:
- Running– running helps burns off tension, boosts my mood, gets me outside and away from my desk and also treats my body to some exercise.
- Yoga– yoga is brilliant for those moments when all you want to do is curl up somewhere and hide away from the world.
- Breathing exercises or guided meditation– close your eyes, take a deep breath and feel the stress melt away. Check out the FREE stuff on YouTube or enjoy the free breathing app on your Fitbit tracker.
- Walking– sometimes running feels like too much effort and I also want to enjoy some more quality time with my son. I love this! Such a stress reliever.
But seriously, once I’d worked my way through all of these things to beat my overwhelm and I’d actually got everything done, I felt like such a productivity badass.
(And if I’m honest, I was also very relieved that life was all getting much calmer again!!)
Next time you’re feeling like you can’t cope, why not try these steps too? They’ll really help you take control, feel much more chilled out and also help you get it all done. Enjoy!