7 Steps To Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed Even When Life Is Chaotic
Feeling overwhelmed? It’s something I hear a lot about from readers. I get it. There are a million things going on at all times. Well, as it turns out, right now is one of the potentially most overwhelming times in my life. But I’m not overwhelmed. And it’s solely because I’ve learned how to manage my mind to beat overwhelm. I’ll share with you how I’m doing it below, but first, let’s start with the facts so you can get a sense of what’s going on in my life right now.
All the things going on in my life
Here’s a look at what’s going on in my life right now that could very easily be overwhelming:
1. I’m moving out of state;
2. I’m running a business;
3. I’m working part time for the Life Coach School;
4. I’m preparing for Life Coach Training and FinCon.
I could freak out with all the things going on in my life right now. But I’m managing my mind so I don’t feel overwhelmed — and it’s working. Right now, I have no home. No consistency. No routine. No certainty. When you move, everything is crazy. My cousin (who I live with right now) just looks at me sometimes (usually when something has gone wrong) and says something to the effect of, “are you sure you want to move to Chicago? This really does not look fun.” The reason I’m not overwhelmed is that I made the decision to move. I chose Chicago. I’m honoring it. I made a massive action list of everything (down to the last detail) and put it all on my calendar. When something new comes up or something else happens that wasn’t planned, I add it to the list. I continue to focus on the tasks at hand and solve each problem, without making it mean anything. I let go of caring at all of what other people have to say about it. I’m constantly remembering to choose not to indulge in overwhelm.
I decided ahead of time not to get stressed or overwhelmed, and instead, look only at the facts and for solutions. This is one of the greatest lessons if you apply it to your life. There are the things that happen, then there are the thoughts you choose to have about them. Overwhelm doesn’t have to be a part of your life. Overwhelm is always laced with self-pity (I am admittedly a recovering self-pity-alcoholic!). Most people indulge in self-pity but refuse to acknowledge or admit it. Your brain is programmed to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be efficient. This is what’s kept us evolving — it’s kept us alive up to this point. We’re at a point in evolution where our brain doesn’t know what to do because we have so many decisions — more than ever before. Think about the number of food options in a grocery store. Think about the career options you have. You can be anything you want. This is the first time in history we have had so many options, and our brain freaks out about it. This isn’t bad. It means we need to train our brain to deal with it all. We need to become more disciplined. We need to train our brain to handle all the options. We need to incorporate constraint into our life.
When you train your brain to manage a ton of options, you set yourself up for success in the future. Options aren’t going anywhere. The only way you’re going to beat overwhelm in our modern society is if you learn how to reprogram your default thinking so that it supports finding solutions instead of going into overwhelm. You can either go and hide in your bed, overeat or overdrink, watch Netflix all day, or train your brain to manage all the options. Too much of something doesn’t cause overwhelm. It’s the way we think about it that causes overwhelm. Our thoughts are simply undisciplined. When you indulge in overwhelm you are repelling the options available to you. You repel money. You repel opportunity. You repel all the abundance that you so badly want. You have to stop the overwhelm. Here’s how:
1. Decide not to indulge in overwhelm
The first step is to decide that you’re no longer going to indulge in overwhelm.l. A lot of times we allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed when something unexpected happens. When you decide you’re not going to indulge in overwhelm, it means you can’t live in “I don’t know” and confusion. When you live in confusion and “I don’t know,” you stay stuck and overwhelmed. When you take action (even if it’s the wrong action) you will learn from it. You’ll then take different action in the right direction. Staying in an overwhelmed state keeps you stuck. Whenever I have something come up for the move that I didn’t plan on (like having to sell things online from a storage unit where the road was closed), I refused to indulge in confusion and feeling sorry for myself. I took action, despite the less than ideal circumstances.
2. Put constraints in your life to reduce your options
The result of this is that you train your brain to consider fewer options. I only considered a few cities when I decided to move out of Ohio. Had I considered all the cities, I never would’ve moved. If you consider all the options, you’ll never take action — there’s just too many. Another way I have constraint in my life is that I only wear neutrals; I don’t eat meat and dairy. You already do this with some food (think of food you don’t like, for example). You don’t eat it at all. Constraint just means adding more rules intentionally so you can make your life easier. Your brain won’t like this. It will freak out — FOMO will set in. Don’t listen to your brain. It doesn’t know how to limit the options. Anywhere you can put rules in your life where you limit your options, you’re doing your future self a favor by avoiding the overwhelm.
3. Make decisions and take action
Once you’ve limited your options, you have to choose, then take action. You have to do this, even where you experience resistance. You have to support your decision long enough to where you take action. If you choose and second guess without following through, you’ll never know what could’ve come out of it. You’ll never get results. Making decisions and taking actions is what prevents overwhelm. I had resistance about moving. Was I make the right decision? What about Dallas? What about NYC or San Fran? Why Chicago? Should I just stay? Why am I leaving at all? What about money? Will I make enough? Is my business successful enough? I had all of these thoughts and so many feelings to go along with them. No matter what, though, I honored my decision and kept taking action to follow through.
4. Make an action list of all the things you need to do and put them on your calendar
Make sure you have a massive action list of all the things you need to do for whatever you have coming up (for me, this was for moving). Then, put each item on your calendar with a specific time slot for when you’re going to complete it. This isn’t for your entire life, but it’s for whatever the thing is that’s happening that you’re about to be overwhelmed about. Maybe it’s not a move, maybe it’s starting a blog or getting a new full-time job. Whatever it is, you need to make a massive action list of each and every item that you need to do. Then, put it on your calendar. Making an action list and scheduling it is tedious. If you do it right, you will easily have over 25 things on it. I had more than that for my move. It took a while to get the list together, and in order of priority, but once it was done, it was great because all I had to do was follow the list. Any time something new came up, I added it to the list.
5. Schedule your priorities first and everyone else’s second
This means you’re proactive instead of reactive. This means you have to say no to other people. It ain’t easy and it ain’t fun, but it’s the right thing to do. I always schedule at least two weeks out. And even then, I’m very protective of my calendar. This also means that you have to schedule downtime appropriately. If your schedule is unmanageable, it means you need to cut things out.
6. Measure productivity based on results
The sixth step is to make sure when you’re taking action that you measure how “busy” you are by what you’re producing. Stop measuring how much activity you’re doing — only measure what you’re producing. For example, instead of patting myself on the back for “working on my blog,” I measure how many course lessons I produce during a certain time. I make sure that I create urgency so I get something done in a much shorter amount of time than I think I need, so I create momentum. Measuring productivity based on results is a serious game changer and a great way to improve your life.
7. Separate the facts from the drama (aka your thoughts about the facts)
The final step only applies when you’re on the brink of overwhelm. All the steps up to this point are the preparation so you don’t get here. But inevitably, you will, just like I did for my move because there are so many things happening that can go wrong. You have to know how to deal with it without becoming overwhelmed. The way you do this is to separate out the facts from your thoughts about the facts. Ask yourself “what are the facts?” and “what are my thoughts on the facts?” For example, the facts were that the road is closed where my storage unit is with all the furniture I need to sell before I move. My thoughts about these facts were “I’m not going to be able to sell my stuff. Who is going to go to a closed-off road to buy stuff when it’s already sketchy since it’s on the internet? This is a problem.” I decided not to believe those thoughts. Instead, I took action to sell the furniture, despite the less than ideal circumstances. If you are choosing thoughts that aren’t positive, you are going to feel overwhelmed. Manage your words — don’t say you’re overwhelmed or busy. This just creates drama. You will have more peace and freedom and you’ll be able to get the results you want.
A bonus tip I have that’s not really a step but is worth mentioning is having the right people around you that are really supportive. Not everyone is going to understand what’s going on in your life and that’s okay. The key is for you to have at least one person who you can go to for advice and support. There’s nothing better than this when feelings of overwhelm creep in!
The result of eliminating overwhelm is that you feel good. You feel like while things are going on around you, you’re at peace inside. You have time and energy for family and friends, and you really enjoy the journey instead of wishing you were at the end of whatever process you’re in the middle of. The more you practice eliminating overwhelm from your life, the easier it is. Remember: your thoughts create your feelings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s because you’re choosing thoughts that are causing that overwhelm. Use this seven-step process outlined above to help you stop feeling overwhelmed. But keep in mind: they won’t work until you implement them in your life.
Natalie Bacon is an online entrepreneur. Prior to this, Natalie practiced as a certified financial planner, at a firm that managed over $1B in assets under management. Before her financial planning career, Natalie practiced as a business attorney. Natalie has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, and other publications. Natalie is most passionate about helping young, professional women design their dream lives. Read Natalie‘s full story here.
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