10 Ways To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
That’s your solution? ‘Have a cookie?’ Astrid asked. No, my solution is to ‘run down to the beach and hide out until this is all over,’ Sam said. But a cookie never hurts. ~ Michael Grant, Gone (Tweet this)
If you’re interested in personal development even one tiny bit, you probably already know that the emotion behind all disempowering states is fear. So far so good, but what can you do about it?
What most people don’t realize is that fear shows up in many different forms. Most of the time you don’t even realize you’re afraid, yet something magically happens that keeps you from obtaining a certain goal or from doing something you’ve dreamed of for years. It could be that you always get sick when you’re on the verge of achieving something, or it could be that you suddenly feel too busy to proceed.
One of the most common ways that fear enters our lives is by making us feel overwhelmed. But what exactly does that mean? Feeling overwhelmed by something means that you can’t possibly imagine managing it. You feel there’s just too much, it’s just too difficult, there’s just no way.
If you like metaphors, here’s one: feeling overwhelmed is when you think you have to eat an elephant in a single bite, even though deep down inside you know you don’t have to do it in a single bite.
Unfortunately, feeling overwhelmed has probably prevented hundreds—nay, thousands—of great ideas from happening. Even when we get to a certain point with what we want to do, the moment that emotion comes, we’re ready to drop everything and focus in an entirely different direction. Until we feel overwhelmed again.
So, if you want to start a business, or write a book, or travel the world, but you feel there’s just too much to do and you don’t really know how to handle it, it’s time to learn how to deal with feeling overwhelmed right now!
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t let it stop you!
Don’t waste another minute. Your time is precious and you could be using it to create the future of your dreams rather than worrying about that massive challenge ahead. To that end, here’s what I’ve done (and still do) to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed and proceed with my plans—even when they seem insanely impossible and difficult. Here are my 10 tips:
1. Chunk correctly
Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us. ~ Marcus Buckingham (Tweet this)
One of the awesome things that happened to me this year was that I was able to go to UPW—a 4-day seminar with Tony Robbins that absolutely blew my mind. While Tony did say a lot things that were brand new to me, he also said other things that I already instinctively knew, but just didn’t know how to… put. One of those was about chunking.
Chunking is the way you define the different steps towards a goal, but it’s not exactly planning. When you plan, you sit down and write things—or at least you should, but we’ll talk about this later.
Chunking is the way things are divided into steps in your mind, before you even start. Some people over-chunk.
They think “I want to write a book” and when they picture the sheer effort of writing an entire book, they crumble and give up. They see the steps as being too big and can’t possibly imagine themselves taking even one of those steps.
Then there are the people who under-chunk. In their head, every goal or even mundane task is separated into hundreds small bits and pieces. They would see their wish to write a book like this:
- – Read books about how to write a book,
- – Think if you’ll have time to write the book at all,
- – Come up with story about book,
- – Come up with characters and their names,
- – Create back stories for the characters,
- – Come up with title of the book,
- – Create a plan for the book…
Aren’t you tired already? And you haven’t even started writing yet! That’s another path that leads straight to feeling overwhelmed.
If you’ve recognize yourself in one of those description, here’s what you can do. In your head, come up with 3-5 steps for achieving your goal. They shouldn’t be well-defined (or anything at this point) they should just sound doable to you. Or at least doable enough so that you can start.
2. Move on anyway
I used to listen to ‘Perfect Day’ by Hoku every single day in high school! ‘On this perfect day, nothing standing in my way… Don’t you try to rain on my perfect day.’ It pumped me up when I was feeling down or defeated, whether it was from the cool kids making me feel left out or feeling overwhelmed with homework and mean teachers. ~ Kara Lindsay (Tweet this)
Truth is that this way of thinking can get you through anything, not just the feeling of being overwhelmed. However, it is also a great strategy here. Once you’ve started, even if things continue to seem too damn difficult, just keep going—one small step at a time.
I love giving this example, but when I was starting my coaching business and trying to get it off the ground, I was never certain if what I’m doing is the right thing and if people would ever pay me for coaching. It seemed to too difficult to make it all work and while I did have the energy to power through my fears in the beginning, after the first few months of trying everything I knew, I felt powerless. I kept reading about coaches who made it and when I would get to the how, it sounded so overwhelming.
One day I was about to give up, but my mind keep telling me “there must be an answer to this.” So what did I do? I Googled “How to make money as a coach.” I was desperate and ready to try anything. This was how I discovered a marketing class tailored specifically for coaches who were trying to sell three services online. I convinced my husband to pay for it and during the course, I created a simple product I gave away for free. People started downloading it like crazy. Soon, I had the steady flow of customers I wanted.
Now, where’s the lesson in this story? Your next step can be the simplest thing in the world. It could be you Googling something, reading, taking some sort of action—any sort of action at all. And sooner or later, the other shoe drops. All you have to do is keep moving. Even when things seem hopeless.
3. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Sound character provides the power with which a person may ride the emergencies of life instead of being overwhelmed by them. Failure is… the highway to success. ~ Og Mandino (Tweet this)
Here’s the deal: whatever you’re aiming for, you’ll make mistakes. And while that sounds reasonable and acceptable when you rationalize it, on an emotional level many people fear mistakes and failures more than anything. In fact, a huge part of feeling overwhelmed is the fear of what would happen if something—or many things—go wrong.
Well, here’s what going to happen: Absolutely Nothing!
If you are calm and accept the fact that mistakes and failures will be part of your way to success, you’ll see that nothing that bad will happen as a result of most mistakes, and even if something does happen, you’ll be able to cope with the consequences.
When I was in sales, I read a piece about a guy who told his sales people “Go out there and get me 100 NO’s today!” You’d think that’s a strange advice for someone who wants his team to sell, but it’s actually an amazing technique to get the stress off your people’s shoulders. Because they went to 100 people, they never feared rejection as it was part of their target anyway, and when they made a sale it was that much sweeter.
Feel free to adopt that way of thinking in whatever you do. For example, when I sit down to write my book—or to write as much of my book as I feel inspired to—I always say to myself that whatever I write can be edited, can be cut, can be completely changed. It doesn’t have to be my best work ever, I just have to keep writing so that at the end I have a material I can work with. Because without this material, if I just spend my days wondering when the stroke of genius will finally come, I would never have a finished book. Ever.
I think faith is incredibly important because you will become overwhelmed with what’s happening and you will have waves of grief, but when you turn to your faith, I believe God will give you waves of grace to get through it. ~ Joel Osteen (Tweet this)
The idea of trust is simple advice, and yet it is too complicated for most people to follow. Because what does trust really mean? Don’t you have to rely on facts, on proof, in order to trust something? Well, maybe in some cases you should, but when you’re trying to combat the feeling of being overwhelmed… not really.
Trust is blindly believing that whatever needs to happen, will happen… and that anything you do can only make things better.
When I say trust, of course, I mean all kinds of trust. I strongly encourage you to trust in yourself, to trust in the people around you and to trust in the almighty Universe (or God, or however you wish to call it). Because it is precisely that trust that helps us move forward one tiny step at a time.
I love the car metaphor and I think it is the perfect example of trust. Imagine driving at night on a dark street and you can see only as far as the lights of your car go. But you still drive, don’t you? You don’t get out of the car each 10 meters to go and check what might or might not be ahead? That’s the way life should be lived and goals should be achieved. Yes, that’s exactly the way. Just drive.
5. Have patience
I recently wrote an entire article on patience—why it’s important and how to be more patient—you can read this one here. But now let’s look at patience as the antidote of feeling overwhelmed.
First of all, lacking patience when it comes to achieving a certain goal or just moving forward in life usually means you’re expecting quick results. And when you’re expecting quick results, you’re pushing yourself to do more, faster, which brings you back to trying to eat the elephant with a single bite.
So how do you become more patient? Try gratitude. Yes, gratitude is a big one here. When you feel overwhelmed you often forget to be thankful about all the little things you have in your life that make you happy. And when you forget to be grateful, you forget to enjoy life.
And even though being grateful seems like something incredibly easy to me, a friend of mine recently asked me how exactly to do it. She said she finds it difficult to concentrate on the positive when there are so many challenges that constantly distract her.
Well, as with most problems, this one is also solved by a good strategy. Gratitude shouldn’t be left to happen on its own, or at least not in the beginning. Instead, set aside time in your schedule for only focusing on what’s great.
I love doing that every night before I go to bed and then again every morning when I wake up, but if you’re feeling stressed at work, maybe taking 5 min from your lunch break to be grateful would be a good idea. During this time, you can either mentally focus on and list everything you love about your life and who you are, or you can use a sheet of paper or your phone to write those things down. When doing that, think little—every little thing can make you happy it doesn’t necessarily have to be something huge.
And, a little extra tip from me, always add something to the list that has happened recently or that you got the chance to enjoy today / yesterday. This gives you the feeling of progress in life, instead of just being grateful for the same things over and over again. And when there’s progress, there are no feelings of impatience and overwhelm.
6. Get a coach or a mentor
Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation—when you’re in the darkest of darkness—that’s when your priorities are reordered. ~ Phoebe Snow (Tweet this)
It’s difficult for us, human beings, to change on our own. This is why I always recommend people to get a coach or a mentor. Preferably someone who’s achieved what you want to achieve or something similar—or at least a professional who knows how to ask questions, how to listen and how to make things easier for you.
This recommendation has nothing to do with the fact that I am a coach. In fact, I have not worked with coaching clients for a while now because my copywriting practice is going so well and my books take over a lot of my time and attention, so I’m not selling anything here.
But I often find people who don’t know how awesome coaching is and how much it can help. And I just have to speak up. You know, it’s like having a friend with backaches and telling them to get a massage. It’s natural.
So here’s what you should know about coaching, therapy and mentorship: it’s all about you! And if you’re like most people, there’s never been anything in your life—not even one conversation perhaps—that was all about you.
It’s not that your loved ones or colleagues don’t want to help you, they just don’t know how to switch their own agenda off and focus on what’s best for you. And coaches, for example, know that. So they dig deep to figure out what inspires you, what stands in your way and what makes you feel overwhelmed. Then they give you a new perspective.
And by the end of the process, you find a whole new person inside of you. And I’m not going to say that this new person is perfect—she or he is not. But he or she is better. He or she will go much further in achieving your dreams than you ever could. He or she will overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed.
And when this new person starts facing challenges, you get back to your coach to re-create yourself again. And the moment will come where you will be immune against feeling overwhelmed (and against many other things).
7. Read about people that have achieved your dreams
When I was young I felt really overwhelmed and confused by the desire not to end up in an office, doing something I didn’t believe in. ~ Lana Del Rey (Tweet this)
As a writer, every time I think about how much work all those brilliant Harry Potter books were, I feel so overwhelmed that I almost give up writing altogether. Until one day I decided I will use my admiration towards J. K. Rowling as a positive instead of a negative. How did I do that? I peeked back-stage by reading more about her, who she is and how she does, what she does. And all of a sudden, I didn’t feel overwhelmed anymore. I felt inspired!
Whatever it is that makes you feel overwhelmed and stressed, there is someone—in fact, there are many people—who’ve already been through it and succeeded. So why not learn from those people? You can read plenty of biographies nowadays, and if you don’t really have the time for that, at least Google the people you find interesting and inspiring and read their Wikipedia pages. Search for interviews with them on YouTube. Follow their Twitter.
As Tony Robbins says, success leaves clues. Why would you try to discover the hot water, when you can just read, learn and do what needs to be done? I promise you, the feeling of being overwhelmed will slowly, but surely dissolve.
8. Plan in writing
People are remarkably bad at remembering long lists of goals. I learned this at a professional level when trying to get my high-performance coaching clients to stay on track; the longer their lists of to-dos and goals, the more overwhelmed and off-track they got. Clarity comes with simplicity. ~ Brendon Burchard (Tweet this)
I thought that most people know and do that already, but apparently I’m wrong. Many people still daydream about things, think about things but never actually sit down and put things in writing. Why?
First of all, writing has amazing therapeutic effect. The whole act of putting your thoughts and emotions on paper feels like sharing them, but you don’t actually share them, which lets you be way more open.
We already talked about the fact that a huge part of feeling overwhelmed comes from not knowing what’s ahead and not being sure how to go about achieving what you want to achieve. Of course, a great solution to that problem is to sit down and plan things. But don’t just think about them, write the plan down.
A few great benefits of writing your plans down are:
- – You can re-read them and edit them if you want to, without trying to remember too much and ending up confused and stressed out.
- – It’s easier to follow them and also crossing off a step from your plan feels amazing because you can sense the progress you’re making.
- – You keep your mind free for generating great ideas! And that’s an important benefit.
Now, you may think that this is something you should do when you’re about to start a business or discover a cure for cancer. Not really. Writing down what you’d like to do and the order in which you’d like to do it can be applied to anything.
For example, due to a few unexpected expenses in our family last month, me and my hubby had a limited budget for the second half of the month. And while it wasn’t really that bad, it was still way less money than what we were used to. So instead of panicking and hyperventilating, I sat down and wrote a plan. Wrote the amount we have, the few big expenses that we needed to cover during these two weeks, what was left and how best we could distribute it so that we feel alright and don’t run out of cash. My husband is an artist. He’s not the type of person who would do such a plan, but I am that type of person. I wrote it down, and immediately felt better about the weeks ahead. We followed it strictly and we ended up with a bit of money left at the end of the period.
So plan, people! And write it all down! This could be applied to literally every challenge you face.
9. Don’t be afraid of mistakes
He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations. Men had drowned in seas like that. Robert Jordan, New Spring (Tweet this)
This is different than the “Don’t be too hard on yourself” advice I gave you earlier, because in order to be too hard on yourself you must first make a mistake. And some people are so afraid of making mistakes that they never get to that part.
Often, the feeling of being overwhelmed doesn’t come from the enormousness of what’s ahead, but simply from that fear of failure that’s hidden inside of you and is sabotaging you. A good example of that is driving. I recently got my license and started driving around town. At first, I always had someone with me, but then last Sunday I was urged to go the store with the car all by myself and do the shopping for the week.
I already knew I could drive. I knew that even if I make some sort of mistake, the other driver would be experienced enough to avoid an actual accident. Not to mention that the traffic on a Sunday morning is practically non-existent. And I knew that even if, God forbid, I got myself in an accident, it wouldn’t be anything major, because I and most people drive extra slowly and carefully in the city.
Yet, I almost had a panic attack when I sat in the driver’s seat and there was no one next to me to double check if entering the boulevard was OK. But you know what? That’s when we actually become the human beings we want to be. When we’re alone and we need to drive, we need to steer our life in the right direction and no one can help us, that’s when we experience life for what it’s meant to be.
So go out there and do something that scares the hell out of you. Then do something else like that. Then something else. And at a certain point, you’ll get used to the discomfort. You’ll get used to being afraid and taking the step anyway. You’ll get used to the constant possibility that you could make a mistake.
10. Come up with many strategies for success
I know that each of us has much to do. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the tasks we face. But if we keep our priorities in order, we can accomplish all that we should. We can endure to the end regardless of temptations, problems, and challenges. ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin (Tweet this)
The more strategies for success, the higher the chances that you’ll get where you want to be. It’s quite simple, isn’t it? And yet, people’s minds often jump from one thing to the next without ever creating a single strategy, let alone creating a few and prioritizing them.
Whatever it is that you want to do—small or big, hard or easy, even the things never done before—there’s more than one way to do it.
And from my perspective, there are usually at least three ways to do it. How to find those ways? I already gave you a few options above:
- – Google it,
- – Read what others have done,
- – Get a coach or a mentor.
- – And don’t forget to write all those strategies down!
- – Better yet, get a board of some kind and keep those plans visible and easy to refer to at any moment.
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche (Tweet this)
Feeling overwhelmed could mean stress and panic attacks, and alienating of your loved ones and never achieving your goals. But feeling overwhelmed also gives you a chance—a chance to overcome a challenge and suddenly open your eyes to the fact that you’re the greatest, most amazing, smartest, prettiest person in the world. And you deserve all you want and more.
And if you are, indeed, feeling overwhelmed right now or just often in your life, I suggest you take this chance. Because adventures always start with taking chances.