6 Tips to Move You from Chaos to Calm
Feeling overwhelmed is paralyzing. The inertia that sets in can result in you feeling even more overwhelmed. This sets up a downward spiral that will sap
you of your energy, creativity and productivity. Stop the spinning and reclaim a centering calm by following these 6 key strategies to STEADY your
Stop fighting the truth
If you are overwhelmed and overextended . . . admit it. You will always lose the war against reality. Raise the white flag. Acknowledge that you feel like Barbara Johnson who said, I thought I had a handle on life, but it fell off. It’s going to be OK. You can’t put the handle back on until you accept that it’s broke.
Embrace your fatigue. Fully acknowledge the resentment you may feel towards the people—including yourself—who put you in this position. Use the pain of the situation to your advantage. Pain can be a good thing if you listen to it. We all respect wisdom, but we obey pain! So let your stress, fear, fatigue and resentment fuel your recovery. If you want to move from chaos to calm you need to take that first step. You need to . . . Key #1: ACCEPT that you feel overwhelmed.
Be inspired by this excerpt from the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.
When I am disturbed,
It is because I find some person, place, thing, situation --
Some fact of my life -- unacceptable to me,
And I can find no serenity until I accept…
-Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition
Transform how you feel
Step 2 is about reframing how you look at what is overwhelming you. Instead of looking at the endless emails in your inbox as an ocean that is going to drown you, see them as a rising wave that can catapult you to new horizons. This works. Here’s why: Your energy doesn’t come from what you do or don’t do. Your energy comes from how you feel. When you feel overwhelmed it’s because your energy is sapped. Shore up your energy by taking care of you. You’ve heard it a hundred times because it’s true . . . if you exercise, eat healthy, and take time to recharge, your mood will improve and your productivity will skyrocket. You won’t feel overwhelmed when you feel powerful. I do this experiment at the end of my keynote speeches. I have the entire audience stand up and I say, “Okay, everybody put a big smile on your face; even if it’s an I’m-at-work phony type of smile. Now, while you are smiling, I want you to raise your hands up high toward the ceiling and look up.” Then, when these 300 or so people are all standing up, looking up, and smiling with their hands up, I ask them to try and feel down. They can’t do it! It’s hard to feel down (or overwhelmed) when you are physically looking up. The Tao has it right when it says: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Don’t be like the comedian who said, “I turned my life around, I was miserable and depressed. Now I am depressed and miserable.” Rather, be like 3M’s Spencer Silver, who didn’t see yet another failure in his attempt to create a new, highly adhesive glue, he saw what ultimately became Post-it notes. So, if you want to conquer your sense of being overwhelmed, follow Key #2: REFRAME what’s overwhelming you. Things are not happening to you, but for you.
Erase it by facing it
One of the factors that makes us feel overwhelmed is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of the unknown. It takes courage, but if you face your biggest fear(s), you can overcome them. It’s not uncommon for the fear inducing “problem” to evaporate once you face it head on. After all, F.E.A.R. is often “false expectations appearing real.” That monster under your bed doesn’t exist. But you’ll never know that unless you open your eyes and take a look. You may be an incredible public speaker. But you won’t know until you try.
Myth expert Joseph Campbell said: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” What is the specific fear you must face in order to accomplish your biggest dream? What action can you take immediately to face and erase that fear? You can get control of your situation and cease to be overwhelmed if you obey Key #3: Put feared things first.
Do what empowers you NOW. Procrastinate can’t stand up to action. They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But it will still take you a lifetime to get there if you never take that first step. Get the ball rolling. Create momentum. With momentum, problems that may have stumbled you in the past can be overcome. The finish line will greet you. And that feeling of overwhelm? It will be in your rear view mirror.
Delay is the enemy.
Imagine seeing the famous Eckhart Tolle book, The Power of Now and saying, “I’ll read that later.” Master motivator Danny Cox invented this classic piece of advice: "If you've got a frog to swallow, don't look at it too long. And if you've got more than one to swallow, swallow the biggest one first.” Don’t think about it. Do it. Swallow that frog you are facing. And when? Now! What is your frog? What should you act on first? Make a commitment to yourself to start acting on that issue today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. Today! Because an important technique for not feeling overwhelmed is Key #4: Create momentum by taking action today.
Delegate what drains you
To get past your feelings of being overwhelmed you need to understand that you are not responsible for other people. You are responsible to them. One of your biggest responsibilities to yourself, your employer and/or your clients is to do your best work. So balance that checkbook, write that informative report, organize the next staff meeting. But to offer the best version of yourself, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed, you need to focus on your strengths and delegate to others what you do poorly. Delegate tasks to the right person. There is no advantage having Brittany call prospective clients if Brittany is a texter and not a talker.
Delegating the right job to the wrong person will not alleviate your feelings of being overwhelmed; in fact it may increase them. So choose wisely. When everyone on the team feels confident in what they do and valued for their contributions, the entire project will benefit. This all goes back to your energy and refueling it. Delegate things that are draining you. Working in your sweet spot and let others work in theirs. Are you an idea person? Delegate the details you have been drowning in.
To stop feeling drained and overwhelmed it is important to lock into Key #5: Soar with your strengths by delegating around your weaknesses.
You are the problem…and the solution
Let’s get real. Life is not fair. You can’t wait for other people or the world to change. As Shari Barr once commented: “Expecting life to treat you well because you are a good person is like expecting an angry bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.” As we’ve already seen, fear is a big component of being overwhelmed. So is a sense of unfairness. Carrying a 30-pound rock up a hill will overwhelm you if it is a task that has been thrust upon you without your consent. But that same 30-pound rock can invigorate you if it is a link in a journey of your choosing. It’s all about perspective.
One of my favorite quotations of all time is an old Yiddish proverb; “If you are looking for a helping hand, there’s one at the end of your arm.” There are some things you simply cannot change in this life—the weather, politicians, teenagers, or the stock market. But you can change you. Change one thing at a time. Start with your story. The quickest way to change your life is to change the story you have been telling yourself (and everybody else). If you have a victim story, change it to a victory story. Then focus on the one thing that will make you feel most empowered, and do it. Don’t let feelings of being overwhelmed defeat you. Fight back with a new and improved version of yourself. All things are possible if you acknowledge and embrace Key #6: For things to change, first you must change.