Feeling Overwhelmed? A Lot Going On? 7 Things You Can Do Right Now to Re-Gain Control
by Best-Selling Author, Susan Sly
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
So, as I write this article, we have a lot of things going on. I am currently on a United flight from my home in Arizona to Boston where I am taking our daughter, Avery, to college. She is starting her first year, and despite my nudging, okay – let’s just call it nagging – she only recently decided to get organized. This means I, her mother, also had to add into the mix getting things for her dorm, weighing in on a packing list, deciding what we would ship, and being there for moral support during the onset of this new adventure.
Our other daughter, Maggie, is pregnant and living in Africa. Last week we found out the baby is breech and she will be having a C-section two weeks earlier than her due date. This means I, her mother, am returning from this Boston trip on Sunday, heading out to a speaking event in Columbus where I will literally run off the stage to take a commuter flight to Chicago, fly to Rome, transit to Addis Ababa, and finally arrive in Malawi.
As a side note, and for your entertainment, Maggie left the city she was in and went to a remote town. I had originally booked a flight to the city where she was, only to find out she was no longer there. To add to my list, I will be calling the airline to change my flight and somehow figure out how to get my daughter to a better facility to have the baby.
On top of all of this, our younger three are back in school which means we have after school programs – speech and debate, cross country, voice lessons, chess, yoga and swimming. Not to mention some tutoring.
Stop being overwhelmed? Not a chance!
The kids are fairly self-motivated when it comes to homework. However, we definitely need to be there. We also have an existing business, a fledgling business, and did I mention that after I return from Africa, I have another event, my in-laws arrive in town, and I head to Toronto?
Yes, there is a lot going on, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be overwhelmed. My good friend, Wendy, texted me the other day and said, “Thankfully you are a balanced living expert and teach organization. If anyone can handle it, it is you.”
Wendy’s text was the inspiration for this article. I realize many of you have ‘a lot going on’ as well. Whether it is juggling family and career – or simply trying to take your life to the next level – it can be very seductive to fall into overwhelm.
Make the decision to stop being overwhelmed because when we are in that state, we are simply not productive and when we are not productive, we fail to get results. My wish for you is that stop being overwhelmed and move into a place of productivity…NOW!
Okay, I know this sounds cliché, but the bottom line is that it really works. When I found out that I had to change my flight to Africa, I took several long, slow, deep breaths. Instantly, I felt better – much lighter and able to cope with what was in front of me. Whether it was more oxygen to my brain or the calming effect of taking a moment to re-group, a confidence emerged that this could be handled. Make a conscious decision to take several deep breaths the next time you are ready to lose it, and see how much instant relief you get.
2. Get Some Perspective
I am not perfect – far from it! There – that was refreshing. I work really, really, really hard at not complaining. One thing I know is that no matter what is going on with my life, someone else is handling a lot more. This week, I found out that a former client lost his child in an accident and another friend passed from cancer. If you have run out of bananas, or your kid wore the same shirt to school two days in a row, or someone is talking smack about you – get over it! Stop majoring in the minor. People have it a lot worse off than you do.
3. Get Organized!
Can I emphasize this enough? When I work with students and clients, the first thing I do is get them organized. You are only in overwhelm if you do not have ‘it’ together. If you do not have a written list, a focus, a plan, then you are delusional. When life is dealing you a lot of ‘stuff,’ you have no choice but to zero in on what is important.
For example, with everything going on at the moment, I have a meal plan. Now, if you know me, you will know that I always have a meal plan, but at the moment, the meal plan is really important. I do not have extra time to run to the store every day or try to guess at what we are having. Chris and I attempt to make enough food for leftovers every second night so we only are really cooking a few nights per week. Last Saturday night, for instance, I was making two massive pots of chili, one vegan and one meat for our family of mixed-o-vores, while simultaneously helping Avery order her textbooks and finalize details of our Boston trip. We ate chili for the next three nights and no one complained.
Whether it is something as simple as a meal plan, or something more significant like a schedule or travel agenda, the more organized you are, the less overwhelmed you will be.
4. Start Delegating
When it seems like I have more things to get done than I have time for, I delegate. You may not yet have a staff but you could delegate to other people in your house. My kids are capable of doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, and even vacuuming; my eleven year old can make a grocery list. Many people become overwhelmed because they refuse to delegate and end up feeling angry. STOP THE CRAZY! You can hire someone part-time to do some extra things. Find an APP that can help. Even a friend or a neighbor can pitch in. We are never alone!
5. Take It One Thing at a Time
Overwhelm often comes due to a multitude of thoughts, and perceived outcomes, swirling through our minds continuously. It is easy to get caught up in anticipating all of the work, obligations and potential scenarios ahead. This will serve to exhaust us. Instead, take it one thing at a time. In the case of this month, although Africa is in the back of my mind, it is not in the forefront of my mind. Rather, I am choosing to be present to what is going on at the moment and the next thing on the list. Once that is accomplished, I move on.
I once read that Canadian billionaire KC Irving wrote a list of only three things every day and didn’t move to number two until he had completed number one. The bottom line – if your plate is full, take it one bite at a time.
6. Use Spare Moments to Get Things Done
I love using spare moments to get things done. While on the airplane, for example, I wrote my packing list for Africa. Packing for Africa is not like packing for New York. There are several things to consider like major amounts of hand sanitizer and my homeopathic pharmacopeia. Although I always have a packing list, my lists for trips to places like Malawi or Cambodia are very detailed and complete. While I was getting my hair done, I used that time to my advantage as well. I sent some recognition texts to people, and also outlined some ideas I had in my notebook. I am just sitting there anyway, why not make the best use of it?
The truth is that when we are really overwhelmed we tend to do things that only serve to waste more time – binge watching Netflix or staying up late because we had to see the end result on Fixer Upper… sound familiar? If you really have that much to get done, you must put some things aside for a moment. You will never feel better procrastinating; you will always feel better with a sense of accomplishment.
7. Let Go of Perfection
This is not the time to worry about cooking gourmet meals or agonizing that your pedicure is one week overdue. Get over it! We tend to see our flaws more so than others do. Earlier in the week I did a training for several entrepreneurs. I wanted my slides to be perfect. In the end, I contemplated that the extra time I was spending on making things visually appealing was not as important as the message. The end result was that people loved the training. I also took a page from point number three and brought on a peer trainer, who was having great results, and that took some pressure off me.
When life throws a lot your way, let go of perfection, be yourself, be honest, and most importantly, be transparent. Let people know that you have things going on but that they are important to you. It is essential to do your best and not worry about trying to be perfect.
Lastly, know that the greatest achievers tend to have the most going on in their lives. Yes, somehow they make it look effortless; however, behind the scenes they are piecing it together, one link at a time. Make a decision to get out of overwhelm and get to work. You may have a lot going on, but that isn’t an excuse to not get things done! Game On!
Susan Sly is a Balanced Living and Productivity Expert. She is a best-selling author and has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime and more. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband Chris and is a mother of five children.