5 Steps for Dealing With Overwhelm When You Don’t Have a Second to Spare
That moment when all you want to do is stamp your foot and cry out every expletive you know.
You have a million and one things to get done by yesterday, all equally urgent and all relying on you.
Awash with stress chemicals, your chest is tight and your breathing is shallow. If you pause for too long, you might even feel the lump that’s been forming in the back of your throat.
And while your clearest thought is imagining your great escape, you know you can’t.
It’s a moment of true suffering and we’ve all been there.
But how to get out of this funk?
Where do you get started to both survive and achieve the outcome you need?
Well, read on, dear friend.
Because Linda Ruiter-Dawson, qualified life coach, mindfulness teacher and licensed HeartMath coach and mentor, has put together a catchy little 5-step jingle on dealing with overwhelm below, to help you bust through stress when don’t have a single second to spare.
5 Steps for dealing with overwhelm
It goes a little something like this:
- CHOOSE KIND
1. STOP: Interrupt snowballing self-talk by confirming what is true
Let’s just start with, whatever you’re telling yourself right now, there’s a good chance none of it is true.
No, you’re not stupid, and this doesn’t ‘always happen.’
Yes, you can do this. You’re actually pretty incredible.
In moments of overwhelm, our negative self-talk can really be the straw that broke the camel’s back – telling us the million ways we will inevitably fail and that we should save time by selling ourselves short and aborting our mission now.
To break the circuit of snowballing self-talk, remind yourself what is actually true. And just a hint: our lived experience is one of the most powerfully irrefutable truths we know and trust. Some of my favourite reminders include:
- Your self-talk lies to keep you safe and underestimates your capability
- You are safe and extremely capable
- You have relevant skills and qualities to achieve the task(s) at hand
- You have successfully survived every single challenge to date
- Every challenge provides an opportunity to learn and grow
- You will continue to be challenged in the future
- Several past experiences can help in this situation
- This is a point in time which “too will pass.”
2. DROP: Into your heart and get your whole brain back online (some heart-led biohacking)
Once you have gained back some power by reframing your self-talk, it’s time to bring all your internal resources (i.e. whole brain thinking) back online through one of my favourite HeartMath™ techniques, or the Inner Ease technique.
Essentially, this technique interrupts our energy draining stress emotions, and returns us to a more resourceful state of mental clarity and emotional balance.
Here’s how it’s done:
- First, acknowledge how you’re feeling e.g. stressed, overwhelmed, etc.
- Next, shift your awareness to your heart. Imagine your heart is ‘doing the breathing’ for you. Your breathing may be a little slower and deeper than usual, and you imagine your breath going directly in and through your heart area.
- With your heart-focused breath, imagine that with each breath you are drawing in a feeling of ease. You may even say to yourself with every breath, “ease.”
- After a few short moments, you may begin to notice feelings of calm. When you feel sufficiently calmer, set an intention and anchor this feeling of ease into your body as you set about your mission.
As a certified HeartMath™ coach and mentor, I absolutely swear by these life-changing techniques, which can be used in any place and any time.
3. FIND: Identify your best point of entry
Once your resources are back online, it’s time to consider your plan. Where is the most logical place to start?
Always look for the easiest way in.
It could literally be anywhere but usually involves taking a proverbial step back to find your opening with fresh eyes. Something that will be an easy ‘quick win’ that will instill feelings of hope, possibility and progress, which will give the necessary confidence boost to believe that you actually CAN do this.
It’s not so much about what or how it’s just a matter of getting started.
Because that first step will always lead to the next. What’s one thing you can do right now to get you moving again?
4. UN-BIND: Break into steps and work incrementally through essential elements
Discover the path of least resistance.
From your first, easiest step, you’re already in motion. Now it’s a matter of breaking the journey into smaller parts, increments or milestones comprising of the essential elements.
Keep it simple, we’re not looking for perfection. We require progress.
Imagine your challenge as a massive brick wall. Now, you lean your ladder against it and can see exactly how many rungs or steps it will take for you to scale. You identify each step, progressively climbing each until you reach the top, ultimately achieving your goal.
Chunk a mammoth mission into smaller parts and work methodically through each to completion. You may benefit from making a documented plan or list to guide your progress, or you may do this mentally. Either way, focus on keeping each individual step manageable.
Sometimes this means delivering the ‘must-haves’ while skipping some of the ‘nice-to-haves.’ Use your discretion based on your situation at hand.
Remember, with each step comes new information and feedback. Use both to correct mid-course, if and when required.
5. CHOOSE KIND: Avoid energy-sucking perfectionism by practising self-compassion
Chasing perfection is a sure-fire path to misery. Don’t let that be your reality.
The fail-safe antidote does not come easy and requires a great deal of personal leadership (which btw, you have in bucket-loads). Yep, it’s self-compassion.
According to Drs Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, there are three key elements to self-compassion:
- Self-kindness (vs self-judgement and self-criticism). How can you show yourself some, right now?
- Common humanity (vs isolation) You are not alone, nor are you the only one to have experienced your current conundrum. How can this be a point of connection rather than a reason for shying and self-shaming?
- Mindfulness (vs over-identification). How can you observe ‘what-is’ without emotional attachment or attributing some exaggerated, judgement-laden self-narrative?
When you realise you’re experiencing a moment of human suffering, please consider this. How will you extend yourself the kindness, compassion, connection and empathy that you would so readily extend to others? Remember, if it does not include yourself, then your compassion is not as compassionate as you think.
In my interesting point of view, self-compassion is the ultimate in self-care. And, just like a muscle, it requires a consistent practice of daily practise to keep us at our best.
It’s tough to go easy on ourselves. But self-compassion is always the right answer.
So, if you’re ready to kick overwhelm to the kerb so that you can be less distracted and more present to enjoy life with your family, you may wish to check out my services here.
This post is sponsored by Linda Robyn.