It's only January 8th and I'm already overwhelmed. It's not that surprising considering I'm a (recovering) perfectionist and self-proclaimed overachiever. (Did you happen to see my post last week on my 30 before 30 bucket list?)
This year was supposed to be different.
I started 2016 motivated. Lit up. Excited. Heck, my word for the year was SPARKLE for heaven's sake. And only 8 days into a fresh new year, I'm feeling like I'm up to my eyeballs in work, burnt out and feeling incredibly unfocused.
Perhaps you can relate?
Maybe you set some serious fitness goals for this year. Gym 6 days a week, I want to lose 30lbs by spring!
Or you decided THIS was the year you were going to fall in love. I'm sick of all the creepy losers who hit on me at bars!
Perhaps you committed to finally, finally launching that business baby that's been brewing inside you for months. The world needs that special gift that only I have!
And just like that, life got in the way. Work deadlines, social gatherings, family crises and a few late nights burning the midnight oil and you're right back where you left off in 2015.
When will things work out the way you planned? When will life open up so you can go after your goals without other things getting in the way? WHEN WILL IT BE EASY?
Your life is filled with things that you need to do every single day, just because you have to do them. Stuff will come up, your "best laid plans" will fall flat and things will go off track. It's inevitable and that's just life. But you're not a lost cause so don't lose hope!
I know exactly how you're feeling right now. In a matter of a few days, my life went from calm waters to stormy seas and I went to bed last night feeling seriously whelmed. When I woke up, even after my morning meditation, my mind chatter was on overdrive. (Let this be a lesson to you, even those of us in the personal development world aren't immune to our negative self-talk).
I couldn't understand it: I made a concrete plan based on the goals and desires I had for my health, my business and my life, so why was I back to feeling stuck????
I had to remind myself of 2 very simple truths:
1) I'm only human. It's totally natural to have your mind start to convince you that you actions are pointless and that the effort you're putting in isn't getting yourself anywhere - especially after only 8 days, it takes a liiiiiiiiiitle more time than that to see noticeable changes in any area of life.
2) Action is the enemy of overwhelm. The worst thing I could do now that I've started moving forward to to stop now. So rather than doubting yourself, giving up entirely or binge watching Scandal (guilty!), this is the point where pushing through the mental walls that block your path begins.
Now don't get me wrong; having a lot to do can be very empowering and exciting. I love being productive and the confidence I get from crossing things off my To-Do list, but there's a fine line between having a full plate and literally drowning in tasks. So if you're dealing with several problems at once, not sure what to tackle first and all you want to do is crawl under the covers and wish it all away, I want to offer you a different solution, one I learned while reading Mel Robbins' Stop Saying You're Fine.
Do a brain dump.
Get all that STUFF out of your head and onto a piece of paper. If you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time in your head and while much of the time that works for you, there are times - such as now - that trying to think your way through the chaos is a recipe for disaster. Plus, my ultimate goal here is to take you from burnt out, maxed out and stressed out to a place of ease, complete inner and outer nourishment and radical care for self.
Here's the truth gorgeous girl, when you're truly overwhelmed, it's never because of something simple. You're smart, successful and a serious overachiever, YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS. You feel overwhelmed when you're facing a big problem that has many dimensions and because you have so much to get done, you begin to fear you aren't capable of getting it all done and that there is no guarantee it will all pay off. And the less clear you are about what you need to do, the more overwhelmed you will become.
You know shutting down, numbing out and avoiding doesn't help. You likely already tried that and are now feeling even MORE overwhelmed. But going to the other extreme and trying to accomplish #allthethings isn't working either. In order to move yourself out of stuck and overwhelm, you need to take action, but first, do a brain dump. And I'm going to show you exactly how.
1. List all the problems and decisions that are bothering you. Literally empty your brain.
2. Break them all down into their smallest parts.
You know you're doing it right if you have a large list that ranges from chores you need to do, items you need to pick up, tasks to complete at work, issues with friends/family, existential worries (who am I and what is my purpose on earth?!?!?). Let me tell you, my page was double-sided!
You're overwhelmed because we only have so much bandwidth, our brains can only hold so much. Once you "dump" the contents of your brain onto the piece of paper, you can now USE your brain!
3. After listing everything on the piece of paper, categorize them. You can feel free to make your own custom categories, but mine were Personal, Relationships, Career, Business, Finance.
4. Go deeper. Look at your list of categorized problems and determine whether it can be further categorized as Out of My Control or In My Control.
5. Out of My Control items: declare your wish or desired outcome for that specific problem or issue and then release them. Nothing more you can do there.
6. In My Control items: identify one, small, action you can take right now to resolve this problem or issue.
And that's it!
What you'll immediately start to notice is that not everything needs to be accomplished right this minute. Not EVERYTHING is a priority. What's more, you'll begin to realize, now that your brain is unscrambled is that the simple act of getting everything out of your head and onto paper removes doubt and allows you to take back control of your life. Action is the enemy of overwhelm and taking this powerful first step, you are much better equipped to take on the challenges before you.
So give it a try, would you! I'd love to hear how this goes for you so let's take the conversation over to my First Love Yourself Sisterhood community page. It's free and private!
I hope you find this exercise as enlightening as I did and that the next time you find yourself a victim of overwhelm and not sure how to tackle your mounting To-Do List, just sit down and do a brain dump - I guarantee it will help you find more clarity and order amidst the chaos.
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