One quick way to overcome overwhelm.
If you could sum up overwhelm in one phrase, it usually begins with “I just don’t know how I am going to…”
Get it all done
Survive the stress
Decide what to do
Figure out what to say to her
And the more we say these things, the more overwhelmed we get.
All the obligations swirl around us, like a tornado, shocking us with speed, intensity and magnitude that seems insurmountable. And rather than look for a solution, we run to the nearest storm cellar and hide. In the moment it seems like the most reasonable thing to do, it is a natural, self-protective response.
But unfortunately, choosing to hide from the tornado raging outside does not give us the relief we are looking for. We sit there, immobilized, wondering what is happening in the time that we are wasting by not taking any action.
So what IS the answer to overwhelm?
Making a decision is the cure to overwhelm. Any decision.
Why is this? One of the core characteristics of overwhelm is lack of a solution. This idea that there is no answer promotes helplessness (which is why being overwhelmed is so awful). The problem is, helplessness potentiates itself. Once we accept, even subconsciously, that there is no solution, we stop even looking for one. We stop even considering that we have control.
Why in the world would we do this? Because obviously the tornado seems really big and scary and uncontrollable.
So how does making a decision cure this? Can it really be so simple?
I assure you it can.
What decision you make isn’t even that important. It’s the act of making the decision. By making a decision, a decision to delegate, a decision just to focus on the patient in front of you, to address one issue, to prioritize, to explain something for the 10th time, to not eat the cookie, to say no, to say yes, you have taken back control not only of the situation but more importantly of your runaway mind. You have suddenly given your brain the chance to get out of the storm cellar and move out of Kansas.
Want 5 steps?
There aren’t 5 steps. There is just the one. Make a decision and do it. Tell your brain what you are focusing on rather than attempting to focus on everything. You may not want to but I am 100% sure you don’t want to stay overwhelmed either. If your decision doesn’t work, you will already be out of the overwhelm tornado so you can just make a new decision.
Initially you might be tempted to keep one foot in the cellar, to jump back in if things go south. Keep practicing. Make a decision, try it. Make the next decision. Like any other skill, it gets easier and easier. And sooner or later, you realize the tornado is just made up of the things in your life that you have thrown into the air and swirled around. Separate it out and there is just wind, wind that you can redirect.
Your overwhelmed self will tell you this is nonsense, that your problems are too big and insurmountable. Your job is too tough, your mom is too sick, your bills are too big. I get it, I have felt this way too.
Just give it a try.
You may be one wrong decision away from curing your overwhelm once and for all.
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