Feeling overwhelmed is something that all of my clients struggle with to one degree or another. I work with all kinds of women, and overwhelm isn’t choosy with who it lands on: career-women, stay at home moms, empty nesters, and passionate creatives alike have experienced it. Maybe you are experiencing it right now. So how do you overcome the overwhelm?
When you have big dreams and goals in your life, it makes sense that overwhelm will strike now and then. You’re trying to balance your existing life with creating a better, more fulfilling one, and that comes with swirling thoughts competing for your attention; and when you’re overwhelmed it becomes harder to take positive actions toward those dreams. Unless, that is, you know how to work through it and come out with a plan.
Feeling overwhelmed is a huge red flag that you’re lacking clarity. Your mind is spinning through the “what ifs” and “then whats”, and it literally cannot keep up. It’s exhausting! In my group program, we spend a big chunk of time diving deep into becoming clear on who you want to be, what’s important to you, and what you want to be doing in your life. Creating this crystal-clear vision not only helps to inform the next steps you need to take, but it ensures you avoid feeling overwhelmed in the journey. The first step we take together as a group is also the first step to help you overcome the overwhelm in your life.
1. Three Things. Write down the big projects that you are focusing on, but no more than three! It’s just too difficult to focus on more than three big goals at once. These could be projects at home, in your life, or for your business. Once you have the big projects written down, break each down into the action steps required to accomplish them in as much detail as possible.
This is not meant to be a to-do list! Rather, it’s listing all of the things that need to happen to achieve the goal. For example, if you want to be healthier, your list might include things like: work out three times a week, have healthier food in the house, and drink more water. It’s amazing how cathartic it is when you finally get all those thoughts out of your head and organized on paper.
I created this post because I’m experiencing a lot of overwhelm in my own life right now. (See? It can affect anyone - even high performance coaches!) I have a roofing project going into its sixth week, my daughter is getting ready to head off to college, I’m working on a new website, I’m getting more intentional with the content I’m putting out, and a new cohort of my Extraordinary Life Tribe will be starting up soon. It’s a LOT to keep in my head! This exercise helped me see the big picture… which then leads to step two.
2. What Else is Going On? Next is to list out all the other things that you want to do or that are going on outside of those projects. For me, I want to be spending intentional time with my family. Like I said, my daughter is heading off to college, but my son is fourteen already. I only have another four years at home with him, and neither of them wants to spend all their free time with Mom. So making that time is very important to me. I also want to exercise more, our family to eat well, have a tidy home, take care of the dogs, spend time with my husband, grow my business, and on it goes.
This exercise is meant to get all of the overwhelm out of your head and on paper. Then, once you can see all that you are dealing with and what’s causing the stress, you can take action to fix it.
3. Define Importance. This may be the hardest step of all, because now you must take time to decide what’s most important to you. I want to be very clear here: you need to decide what’s important to you - and NOT what society, or your mom, or your best friend thinks should be a priority.
As you define where you want to allocate your time, consider where you can combine things from your previous list. For example, over the past year and a half my husband and I have been mountain biking together again. It’s how we met, and now we’re spending time together while also getting a good workout in. Sometimes our son joins in, so we get family time together as well.
Getting clear on what’s important to you will help you better prioritize your time, so it’s spent on the things that you want to do. It also will help you with the next step.
4. Say No. Saying “no” to things doesn’t come naturally to many women. This may be because for moms, they take on an “I can do this” mentality the moment our child is born. Just think of all the things you never did before you were a mom, and how you just did them. Never bathed a baby? I’ll figure it out. Baby cries all night? I’ll get through this. And on it goes, until we realize we’re taking on more and more, because “I’ll make it work.”
For the women who don’t have children, there may be a drive to prove they can do it all, or maybe their own mother managed to keep everything going. No matter what, we can all become better at saying “no” to things that don’t align with our priorities.
If something isn’t fun or is exhausting and overwhelming you, and you’re doing it all for someone else, stop for a moment and consider the whole picture. Maybe you volunteer every week at the school, but hate it because it takes up a big chunk of the day. Is it important to your child that you are there, or would they rather play a board game with you in the evening?
Everyone’s priorities are different, so saying “no” might be unpopular at times, but your sanity is 100% worth learning to set and maintain your boundaries.
5. Embrace Planning. I have clients that really resist planning, but it’s so helpful in streamlining your life and making room for the things you want to spend your time on. Let’s use meals as an example here, because it’s something we all deal with Every. Single. Day.
A lot of women feel responsibility for meals, having food in the house, and everything that goes along with that: shopping, making healthy choices, pleasing a variety of preferences, and working around activities. It’s a lot, no matter who’s doing it! And since the task of feeding the household isn’t going to go away, planning ahead will make all of those tasks easier and faster.
The trick is to not get bogged down in planning the meals, and making it as simple as possible. Our family has been using a meal planning app called Real Plans for seven years, and I can’t imagine living without it. You input your family’s likes, dislikes, any special dietary needs, and how many meals you want to plan, and it spits out the recipes and shopping list for those meals. You can even take it a step further, and use Instacart to get the shopping done for you!
This is just one example of how planning ahead can save you time and headaches later on. Yes, there is upfront planning, but the time savings in the long run is worth it. Other ideas for planning ahead could be scheduling your workouts, setting up automatic bill payments, or looking ahead to appointments that need to be made so you aren’t scrambling.
6. Ask for Help. Going back to the idea where women often feel the need to do everything on their own, it’s time to embrace asking for help. I know I was raised by a mom who kept house, fed the kids, worked, was a great parent, etc - but this is very cultural! And intellectually, we know that it’s unrealistic to “keep it all together” on our own, yet we still seem to try.
Consider where you can possibly get help and support in your life. Perhaps it’s teaching the kids to do housework or help with meal prep. Yes, it takes more work on the front end, but kids are fast learners and it will teach them life skills, too. You could hire help to clean the house, trade babysitting with a friend, ask a relative to spend special time with the kids, or outsource a task in your business.
We all need help in our lives, and there shouldn’t be any guilt in seeking it! The same goes for seeking input from people that you trust when you feel overwhelmed. We get so caught up in our own heads that outside perspective can be a blessing. In my Extraordinary Life Tribe, there’s support from me and the other group members who may have experienced what you’re going through; and I’m there to ask you questions to help you. Plus, getting those feelings off your chest is so freeing.
Feeling overwhelmed is never fun, but it does offer you an opportunity to look at the bigger picture of your life. Using the steps above, you can start to overcome the overwhelm while creating a life that feels easier and more aligned with your priorities.
If you want to explore these ideas more, sign up for my next Design Your Decade Workshop, which will help you work through your priorities, and see what’s going well in your life, what isn’t, and where you want to go next.
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