Our tendency when we feel overwhelmed is to want to address it all… and right now! But by choosing one or two areas to work on at a time, we can achieve more, and more easily. If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, or you simply feel like life is coming at you from all directions and you can’t keep up, here are three simple strategies for getting through the craziness – and regaining control.
The simple truth is, nobody can do everything. If you’re trying to schedule more than can realistically fit into a day, and wondering why you’re coming up short, it’s time for a reality check. Being honest with yourself (and others) about what you can get to in any given time frame is the first step to actually achieving your goals.
Not only that, it will go a long way toward easing that overwhelmed, racing or “frozen” feeling. Though you may not think so at first, you’re not disappointing anyone by saying no… in fact, what you’re doing is proving your reliability. This way, when you say yes, people will know they can count on you, and you’ll be able to do your best – because you won’t be pulled in so many directions.
1. Pick your battles
If you feel overcommitted – whether it’s for a night or a week, or across the board – take a look at what elements of your insanity are optional. Sure, you may want to see all your friends, but going out to dinner more than once or twice a week after your long workdays may just add to your stress. Likewise, if you’re under deadline at the office, you might consider asking your spouse to pick up on dinner duty (or household chores) for the week. Odds are, little compromises can be made all over the place – and the beautiful part is, they won’t feel so small when you see how much of a difference they make in your day-to-day life.
2. A step at a time
Often, the sheer magnitude of the tasks we face prevents us from getting started. You know the drill: You want to organize your office or clean the garage, but there’s no way you can wrap your head around the two-day commitment it’s going to take to finish the job. So don’t try to! Instead of looking at the big picture, break things down into steps. Got 50 thank you cards to write? Do five a day. Still seem like too much? Start even simpler. Commit to addressing five envelopes each night before bed. By the time you’re done, you’ll know what to say… and you’ll be surprised how much more quickly you can rip through what’s left.
The same can be applied to any job that seems too big to undertake (and weighs heavily on you each second that it isn’t done). The point is, don’t let the forest get in the way of the trees. Baby steps will accomplish your goals a lot more quickly than sitting around paralyzed by their scope. Rome wasn’t built in a year.
3. Know your limits
Finally, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s tempting to take off at a nonstop pace. It’s what we think we need to do! The trouble is, going nonstop is a surefire way to guarantee not only burnout, but substandard results. By giving yourself a little time to yourself – whether it’s a half an hour a day to write in your journal, a Saturday afternoon massage or a once-a-month day to yourself – you recharge your batteries. This increases your energy, and it sharpens your mental acuity.
In other words, when you’re finished and it’s time to return to the real world (you know, that uber-busy one), you’ll be able to see things more clearly, and plan accordingly – rather than allowing yourself to simply get swept up in the storm. After all, that storm is actually one of your own making… and with a clear head, a realistic target and a few baby steps, you’ll be able to cut it down to a manageable size.
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