Life is busy. There’s so much to do. Go to work, pay the bills, catch up with family and friends, plan ahead, not to mention all the apps on our phones with notifications every few minutes letting us know what someone posted on Facebook. We have an event coming up or have to make sure you rsvp to your friends birthday, emails, SMS, Snapchat. The list goes on and on.
How technology affects us
There was a time before technology got as advanced as it is, that we were told it would make life easier. And it has in some ways. However, it has also increased the moments of overwhelm!
You’re trying to finish a project (and if you’re like me, it was probably put off to the last minute), or racing out the door to the shops and then you get a phone call or gets an SMS from your friends asking you to come out for a drink tonight or let’s do dinner. Aggghhh!!! Sometimes it can feel never ending, one thing after another. The to-do list (there’s an app & reminders for that too) gets longer, not shorter.
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It gets to the point where some things can’t be ignored and have to be done, and then others that you continue to push to one side, “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Only, 6 months later you still haven’t had that garage sale. And then there’s the moment when you look at the list and don’t know where to start, everything is important.
What is actually happening when you get overwhelmed?
The reason why we get overwhelmed is that every thought you have creates a mini-movie, or picture, in your mind. You’re probably not even aware of it, but every time you have a thought about the birthday party you’re organising, or the project you’re working on, or going for a coffee; you’re creating a mini film of it. Then imagine putting all of those mini-movies into filing cabinets, where everything that’s on your ‘To Do’ list is in one, every movie you’ve created that’s ‘In Progress’ is in another filing cabinet and every movie that’s ‘Complete’ is in another.
For each thought, you are creating a picture and then filing it in one of the filing cabinets, and it’s getting more and more full with every thought. And, how many thoughts do we have each day, or, each minute for that matter? That’s a lot of files! You’ve been thinking of getting healthy, so you stack up one picture after another of exercising, eating healthy, not eating healthy. You’re thinking of the whole stack of pictures at once. Thinking of all these pictures, it’s easy to hit overwhelm and eat a doughnut, or order that pizza. It just gets too hard!
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Completing all your ‘To Do’s’ is not going to make you feel better though, because there will always be more. So, how do you feel better about things not being complete and still keep moving forward?
It’s time to mention the two P’s.
Procrastination is a typical result of overwhelm, “It’s too hard, “I’ll do it tomorrow/next week/someday”. The remedy is taking action. That can be easier said than done though. If we procrastinate because the task is too big, then to overcome procrastination (and overwhelm) is to do the small, baby steps towards the outcome first. You want to go on a date, but you’re shy; you hit overwhelm and stay inside watching TV. Instead, try joining a club or going to a movie. Or even better, go to the local coffee shop or bar for 30min and talk to 1 person. The great thing about doing this is you are interrupting the pattern of staying at home, even if it’s only interrupted for 30min, it’s a start, and you can repeat it, again and again. Baby steps add up over time, and before you know it, you’re finding it easier to meet new people or to go on dates.
And then there’s
Perfection adds to overwhelm. Often people who are overwhelmed continuously are not satisfied with imperfection; everything has to be exact. Perfection is an unrealistic expectation. How often is there the perfect outcome? Life is not perfect.
You create a picture of the perfect conversation on a first date, perfect interview and so on, and then you end up not even starting because it seems too hard to achieve the exact outcome. It’s safer to keep the image perfect than to accept that maybe it won’t occur exactly as you play it out in your head. I was super shy growing up. I didn’t go and talk to people; I didn’t go on dates. I would create these perfect scenarios, imagining how I wanted the date to go and then when I thought of how scared I was of talking to people, I got worried I would stuff it up, and so wouldn’t start.
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"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
I did this for years, hiding away. The crazy thing is, the problem got bigger and more overwhelming as time passed. As a result, I never had a boyfriend until I was 27 years old. At that time, I knew that something had to change. I dropped the thought of trying to create the perfect scenario and I asked a guy out. He said yes! We had a great night. It turned out that it didn’t matter if I said the wrong thing or didn’t look perfect, because I was me, and there is no comparison because there is no other me to be compared to. I realised that everyone is different and unique in their own way. To get there, I had to have a bold and courageous moment of dropping the picture and doing something about it, taking action.
By focussing instead, of what is possible, I started to ask the question “What is the best possible result or outcome?” When you do this, you can start learning from the process, appreciating and growing from each experience. As soon as I let go of perfection, I also added a question at the completion of each task “What would I do differently next time?” This question is powerful. It gives you a chance to grow from the experience and improve next time.
When we make little improvements we get better over time
When we do something that we haven’t done before, sometimes it can seem overwhelming, it’s full of unknowns or can seem hard to know where to start. When you first learned how to tie your shoelaces, it may have seemed overwhelming, but the person who showed you probably broke it down into small, manageable steps, and you took it one step at a time. If you’ve watched kids learning to tie their shoelaces the first time they are probably ok at it. Then they start running and their shoe soon falls off as it comes undone. They do the same steps again, this time they do it better, until these days, you probably don’t even need to think about the steps to tying your shoelaces. You can do it while thinking about something else and they will stay tied all day.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
The key to this is finding someone who has been there before and learning from them. When you were learning to tie your shoelaces, you were successful because you found someone who knew how to tie shoelaces and how to break it into steps that you could follow. Whether it’s approaching a new thing you’ve never done, something you’re looking to improve, or something you’ve been working on for some time. Find someone who’s been there and model them, do what they did. Find out the steps they took and repeat them. It takes a task from being big and unknown or overwhelming into small steps to be followed.
The steps to overcoming overwhelm
1. Let go of perfection – Work out what is achievable.
2. Take action – Do something.
3. Keep it simple, baby steps – Small actions towards a goal add up to completion over time.
4. Look for ongoing improvement, constant growth – What could you improve? What would you do differently next time?
Remember; learn from what you and others have done before, keep it simple, if something’s not working, change your approach and keep going.
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