Do you have high expectations of yourself?
Me too. You are trying so hard. Giving your best.
But you’re tired. Your brain is scrambled. Less gets done and everything feels harder.
I see you. You’re not alone. It’s okay to feel this way.
Here’s how to help yourself when you notice you’re overwhelmed…
Lower your expectations.
When we try to “do it all” we end up going through our day with the sense that we are in a rush. This increases our stress levels and makes it more difficult for us to think logically. It makes it harder for us to prioritise. We are less likely to allow ourselves to take meaningful rest. And we can experience negative thoughts and emotions when we fail to meet our unreasonably high expectations.
So cut yourself some slack. Ask yourself, “What is most important?” Prioritise that.
Maybe it means having very simple meals, delaying the redecorating or just making sure the essentials are done at work instead of pushing for perfection.
Have a think about what can be removed or reduced from your to do list. Focus on the essentials. If you’re wondering how to do this when your to-do list is spiralling out of control and your brain feels scrambled, the next tip is for you.
Do a brain dump.
You know when you have so much on your plate and you tell yourself that you “must remember X/Y/Z”? Then you forget. And you feel stressed because you keep forgetting the things you were supposed to be remembering and there is so much to do? And you struggle to sleep at night because it’s all whirring round your head?
This is when you need to do a brain dump.
For a brain dump; find a pen and paper and write. Whatever is in your head, put it down on paper. The to-do list, the ideas, the thoughts. Keep writing all the things you have to do or remember until you can’t think of anything else.
Next, categorise it into the different areas that are on your mind. Colour-code it, re-write it in categories; whatever works best for you to clearly see everything.
Then review it. Decide which ones can wait. The big goals that you’re not ready to work on yet, far off future things, things that are in your head but not a priority. Ignore them. You might choose to act on them in future, but for now, cross them out.
Some on the list you may be able to delegate. If you can, then delegate them.
What is left is your working to-do list?
Choose the ones you want to do something about first. Which are the priorities? Make a plan to get those done. How long will you need for each? When exactly is it best for you to do them? Schedule them in.
Now you’re back in control. You know what the priorities are. You’ve created a clear action plan. This is coaching yourself. If you’re still struggling after trying a brain dump then send me an email to email@example.com and let’s see if I can help.
For me, when I feel overwhelmed and then do a brain dump I immediately feel relieved. Once I follow through and start taking action I feel even better. Actually “getting stuff done” rather than being paralysed by a stressed brain.
Noticing that we have achieved something helps us to feel better too, which leads onto the next tip…
Set 1 small, achievable goal each day and congratulate yourself for achieving it.
On those really overwhelming days, scrap the to do list.
Huh?! I’ve just told you how to make a useful to-do list and now I’m telling you to scrap it. What’s that about?!
Doing a brain dump and making ourselves a to-do list and action plan requires time, energy and effort. On our most overwhelmed days even doing this can be too much. This tip is for those days.
So, choose just 1 thing that you want to achieve.
If you get to the end of the day and you’ve done that one thing then give yourself a pat on the back. You did it and it is enough!
This might be putting just one load of washing on. It might be making a phone call that you have been putting off. Whatever it is, just choose ONE thing.
When you’ve done it, notice it and congratulate yourself. It might not seem like much compared to the high expectations we have of ourselves, but on those really tough days; it is a huge achievement that deserves to be celebrated.
Congratulating yourself might seem bonkers but focusing on what we HAVE done builds evidence that we are competent, builds our confidence and helps us to feel better. As a result we are likely to achieve more going forwards.
What about when things start well but go pear-shaped?
Keep your ‘day plan’ flexible.
Create a rough plan at the start of each day. This is a guide for how you’d like your day to go. Having a bit of structure helps us to get more done.
If things go off-plan; we become overwhelmed by trying to fit the rest of the day’s plan into less time.
The key to avoid descending into overwhelm if your day starts to go pear-shaped is to keep a flexible mindset.
This means the plan can act as a guide but it is not an absolute must-do.
Keeping a flexible mindset means re-prioritising as the day goes on so that the essentials still get done. It means accepting the things that don’t get done. Recognising that they weren’t the top priorities today. Use tip 3 and focus on and celebrate what you did achieve instead.
The final tip is the most simple…
When we feel overwhelmed we’re usually in a stressed state. We can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce our stress levels in as little as 90 seconds.
How? By slowing our breathing.
The easiest way to do this is to focus on doing long, slow exhalations through your nose. You can count as you exhale if you find it helpful.
It can help to focus on your breath a number of times during the day. Tie this to an activity you already do regularly to help you remember. It might be after each block of consults, every time you wash your hands or each time you put the kettle on. Anything that you do regularly that you can link this new habit to. My coaching clients who decided to do exactly this found it made a big difference.
Try some of these tips for yourself and see what difference they make. If they don’t help then try something else. You are resourceful and capable. You will find something that works for you.
I hope there has been something in this that you have found useful and I would love to hear from you if so. You can drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the coaching I do, see my website at www.charlottelawson.co.uk
Join us for Charlotte’s webinar on Overwhelm HERE.
About the author:
Charlotte Lawson is a vet, wellbeing coach and trainer whose compassionate approach helps busy parents and professionals to lead meaningful and enjoyable lives with more calm and less stress. You can find her website at www.charlottelawson.co.uk and follow her on social media at Charlotte’s Coaching and Training – Home | Facebook