Overwhelm is one of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs experience on a daily basis. The definition of overwhelm, according to The Brainy Dictionary is, “To cover over completely, as by a great wave; to overflow and bury beneath; to engulf; hence, figuratively, to immerse and bear down; to overpower; to crush; to bury; to oppress, etc., overpoweringly.” Whew…sound familiar? I’ve been there, too, so I understand -it’s not a fun place to be. As a business owner, with a full personal life as well, you don’t have to look very far to understand why it’s easy to often feel over the edge. It’s not just that you’re simply juggling a lot – as an entrepreneur, you are also risking a lot – your money, your reputation, your future. Being an entrepreneur is a commendable pair of shoes to step into. And, if you don’t get a handle on understanding overwhelm you might as well buy stock in Band-Aids to deal with the painful blisters on your feet.
Believe it or not, it is possible to change your relationship with overwhelm enabling you to experience a better quality of day to day life. Here are my 10 tips for turning overwhelm around. If you want them to work – you will need to carve out the time to practice them, that’s if you agree with the adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
1. Start with a powerful shift of awareness. The unwelcome state of overwhelm is a state of mind, it’s NOT who you are by nature. This is important to remember because it was your gutsy and wonderful decision to live a bigger life in the first place. Sometimes it’s easy to slip into victim mode and forget that you choose to be a business owner. It’s not to say that you should suck it up and deal, it’s simply an invitation to remember that taking responsibility for your decisions is actually an empowering thing to do.
2. Remember that the overwhelm is usually triggered by a perception – true or untrue. Often you perceive a lack. Not enough time, money, resources, confidence – I’m sure you could add to the list. It’s your job to determine if what you are afraid of is real or a projection into a future you can’t predict. If you’re overwhelmed about a real situation bearing down on you – take action. If you’re spinning about something you can’t know will happen, then it’s time to get a grip. Distinguishing between reality and projection is a critical antidote to overwhelm.
3. Recognize your personal symptoms of overwhelm. For me, I know I’m headed down the slippery slope of overwhelm when I’m grouchy and snappy with my husband. You can get tell tale physical symptoms as well: headaches, fatigue, depression – all potentially early warning systems designed to alert you that something is cooking under the surface. If you train yourself to recognize how overwhelm starts to show up for you – you can preemptively strike and try one of the these suggestions to minimize overwhelm.
4. Call a time out and admit that you are overwhelmed. Sometimes simply naming the obvious is all you need to stop the cycle. Doing this by yourself is helpful and recruiting someone to tell how you feel is even better. Ask for some venting time. Remind your generous supporter that you just need to blow off steam and let them off the hook for fixing your problem. You can then offer to return the favor. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a good vent session.
5. Prioritize. It’s easy to forget this when most of what you do is important. I use the following simple system. First, make a list of everything on your mind you need to do. Then, make a number key that reflects the following: 1 = Urgent, need to be done today 2 = Important, this week, 3 = can be delayed until next week. Then go through your list and assign each to do with a number.
6. Breathe life into your time management system. If you don’t use a system to manage your time, consider adopting one. If you have gotten lax with a system that has worked for you, pull it out and refresh it. You only have 24 hours in each day, that won’t change. You have to get a handle on managing your use of time. I find it effective to block out chunks of time for specific tasks. For example, I schedule three hours a week to catch up on paperwork and I put in on my calendar as if it was an appointment with a client.
7. Read your vision statement for your business. (If you don’t have a vision statement write one!) If you’re vision statement is old, write one that’s compelling. It’s important to remember why you are doing this at all. Reinspiring yourself will go a long way to helping you move past overwhelm and into action. Simple yet powerful.
8. Get back to basics. Take a self care moment. Stop what you’re doing and take ten deep, full breaths. Walk outside and notice five beautiful things around you. Pick up the phone and schedule a date with a friend. Schedule a massage; take the phone off the hook for the afternoon. Take charge.
9. Get outside perspective. It’s awfully easy to loose focus in the whirlpool of your own thinking. Ask trusted colleagues for advice and opinions. For the small business owner hiring a coach or therapist will offer you a sounding board. You don’t have to do it alone. Overwhelm thrives in it’s own stew. You need to break the cycle and asking for help is the first step out.
10. Imagine in full detail how you would rather feel. What if you weren’t overwhelmed? What if you were simply taking care of business and trusting that all was well. Building a house, it’s very easy for me to quickly get into a frenzy with millions of decisions and details. Personally, I’d rather feel joyful and excited rather than overwhelmed and stressed. Believe it or not, when I’m in the midst of overwhelm and remember that I’m also excited, it’s easier to make the shift to the happier state. What would you rather be feeling about your life?
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!