Sunday, October 17, 2010

How to Control Overwhelm

“Overwhelm” seems to be more the norm than the unusual today. We’ve grown used to being “overwhelmed” as a way of life, but did you know it can rob you of your motivation, your health, your relationships, your financial stability and your overall well being?

When we are facing a career change or major life transition or thinking about what we’re going to do next, we can feel overwhelmed even when we are doing nothing. The thoughts in our head just take up so much space!

But, you CAN do something about it. It’s not HAPPENING to you. It is the result of certain behaviors and mindsets, and I’m going to talk about some of them over the next few weeks so that you can join me in DECIDING that this is no longer a useful coping mechanism.

Are you ready to do something about it? I am. You CAN change this destructive habit, and in the next weeks we’re going to tackle this together.

So let’s start by discussing the concept of “time.”

Yep, when we’re overwhelmed, we feel a constriction of time. Time is like having a limited amount of space in a drawer, and an infinite amount of things to put it in it. Everyday people around us are constantly making up new things for us to put in our 24 hour drawer. The list is growing and expanding as we speak. (Well, I’m writing.) Yet, there is still only the same amount of space in that drawer.

In fact, our language is often about feeling “jammed up,” “tight,” and, well, “overwhelmed,” because our drawer is overly full.

It’s important to note that mental energy has the power to really fill up the drawer! There’s nothing like a solid negative thought to get your drawer filled to the brim.

The drawer is the same for everyone, by the way. I have the same 24 hours in a day that you do. But, those who are centered, focused, satisfied and fulfilled make different choices than some of us who are rushed and overwhelmed all the time. They choose wisely what they put in their "drawer," and what they leave out of it. And, they make no attempt to do it ALL. They are content with choosing less in their drawer – and enjoying it more.

According to Jeffrey Davidson, a time "attitude" consultant, "the mega-realities of life in America are that there are too many people, too much information and limitless choices. The one thing that isn’t limitless is time - there is only so much a person can accomplish in a day. Those ever growing realities make learning to ’manage’ your time only a short term solution," says Davidson.

So, you can see, that tomorrow, next week, next month next year, the demands on your time are going to be greater. You no sooner get a handle on your current situation then 6 …or 20…. new things show up, and your time management plan is a shambles.

Now let’s go back to the drawer. The quality of your life is determined by what you choose to put in your drawer …and what you leave out every day.

What qualifies as a “choice?” You have made a choice when you say “Yes, I’ll do that.” Or “yes, I’m going to buy into that negative idea.”

So, how do you determine what goes in and what gets left out?

Passion goes in. Dreams, visions, fun, laughter and creativity go in. Anything that captures your imagination and makes your spirit soar goes in. Time with family, Disneyland, nature and self-renewal go in the drawer.

For some amazing reason, passion, joy, balance and play actually increases space in your drawer. That energy creates more energy.
It also keeps the negative thinking quiet as well.

But most of us fill up our 24 Hour Drawer with less than meaningful activity, stressful work, and bland relationships in hopes that somehow, someday there will be "extra" time to pursue something we care more about. It doesn’t work. It only makes you feel more hopeless and helpless…which starts another round of space filling negative thinking.

So, make a note to start to remove energy draining activity, meaningless tasks and anything that doesn’t inspire you…OUT of the drawer. If you are wondering how to determine that, sentences that begin with “I have to, ought to and should” tell you what needs to go out.

These are all things that you are resisting and don’t make you feel good, and will trigger negative thinking which triggers even more overwhelm.

But you may be thinking, “What will I do about my responsibilities?”

In my next article I will talk about exactly that.

But, right now, I suggest you begin to become aware of your drawer. What are you putting in your drawer and what could you leave out?

This is the beginning of releasing overwhelm.