When You Feel Overwhelmed

Article By Dee DeWitt


Generally speaking, I believe the tendency for most of us is to say “yes” to most of the things coming into our lives.  I know that’s the case for me.


Sometimes we’re too nice to say no.  Sometimes we’re afraid that if we say “no” others won’t like us.  Many times, we are overly optimistic about how much we can get done.  We don’t want to look bad by saying we can’t do something. Or we’re afraid to miss out on opportunities by saying no.


So we say “yes” to more than we can actually handle.  And we become overwhelmed, stressed … and in the process … exhausted.  This seems to be especially the case over the holidays.


We all know that too much stress is bad for us.  Of course, we can’t avoid stress completely, and without some stress we would never grow.  But too much stress leads to problems … health problems, relationship problems, problems at work, and more.  Overloading ourselves also leads to decreased effectiveness.  Taking on too much means we don’t do as good a job with the work we attempt.  We often switch between tasks, jumping from one to another, so that we actually take longer to do things and often don’t complete tasks.  Or we’re so rushed with the tasks we do complete that quality suffers.


It seems counterintuitive … however … doing less makes us more effective, and thus more productive.


There are many ways to cope with stress.  But how we cope is important:


Negative copingA few of the more common ways we cope with stress and overload include eating, smoking, drinking, and shopping.  We’ve all done it … I’ve done all four, so I know that they can feel like you’re really de-stressing … but you’re not.  It leads to more stress.  When overdone, they’re unhealthy … they’re not good in the long run.


Positive coping – Exercise, relaxation techniques, reading, Yoga and meditation, taking a hot bath. These lead to less stress, and should be done whenever you become stressed.


Reducing the stress – Best of all is reducing stress at the source.  What is it that is stressing you out? See if you can reduce that source of stress.  For many people, it’s their workload … either personal or business.  The way to reduce that source of stress is to cut back on our workload.


Unfortunately, many people who are overwhelmed feel like they just can’t cut back.  Instead, they feel like they need to work harder to get everything done that needs to get done.


So how do we cut back when we feel like we can’t?


Step back for perspective.  In order to make the decisions necessary for cutting back, we need to take a few minutes to clear our head and think.  Stop whatever you’re doing (or if you can’t, then plan for a few minutes after you are done), and take some time to consider everything you have going on.  Take a walk to clear your head.  Get some fresh air.


Make a list.  List of all your tasks and projects.  Put everything on the list, including both personal and business commitments.


Setting limits.  If you set limits for yourself, you will be forced to choose only the essential.  The actual limits aren’t as important as the act of setting them … you can adjust the limits later depending on what works for you.  Choose just 3 important tasks to accomplish today, and limit yourself to only three projects.


Prioritize.  Once you’ve set the limits, take a look at your long list of tasks and projects, and choose which ones you’re going to focus on.  Which tasks and projects are the most essential?  Which ones will provide the most long-term benefit?  Which ones will have the most impact?


Eliminate.  Of the tasks and projects you didn’t choose as your top priorities … are there any that can be just eliminated?  Any that can be delegated or automated?


Renegotiate. Of the commitments on your list … go to the person or people you’ve committed to, explain to them honestly that you just cannot do everything on your plate right now, and ask for a different deadline or timeline.  Can they wait a week?  Two weeks?  A month?  Set a new date, and try to stick to it.


Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.  Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.
-Eckhart Tolle


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Posted on 30 December, 2009 in Balance, Goals
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