When you’re in the midst of it, it’s hard to figure out how to stop feeling overwhelmed.
Overwhelm has been described as “too much going on emotionally.” How does emotion get into the picture?
In a nutshell, thoughts cause the release of chemicals in the body, which in turn create physical conditions that produce emotions. You can tell what you’ve been thinking by being aware of your feelings.
Overwhelmed feelings are a sure sign that you’re focusing on the big picture, the whole mountain, of all you have to do—whether that’s a project or just life.
Your swirling thoughts are creating stress, which lead to emotions that feel overwhelming. So how can you stop the swirl and calm the emotions?
First, realize that your perspective is skewed. It’s not possible to do everything on your list all at once, at this moment. So why beat yourself up and get emotional about something that cannot be done?
The only thing that you CAN do is the next thing. Do the Next Thing.
In fact, do the next thing for three minutes. Do you think that three minutes isn’t much time? Try sitting at a stoplight for three minutes. Jump up and down for three minutes. You’ll quickly get a sense of just how long three minutes can be.
We tend to underestimate the value and power of what we can accomplish in three minutes.
Triple that time to 9-10 minutes. Stay focused on the next thing and work on it for ten minutes. Please, no multi-tasking when you feel overwhelmed.
Paper is your friend when you feel overwhelmed. Seriously, don’t use your computer or phone app. Something different happens in your brain when you use a pen and paper than when you type on a keyboard.
Make a short list of Next Things. After you spend your three or ten or fifteen focused minutes, use that pen to draw a line or make a checkmark on the short list and feel the satisfaction.
If you truly stay focused on your Next Thing, you won’t feel overwhelmed while you’re doing it. The success you feel when it’s done will give you energy to start the next task on your list.
For years I didn’t realize that habits of thought led to frequent overwhelm. I would start thinking about all that had to be done that day and it would lead to discouragement about the laundry on the couch, how a blog post was going to get written and the national debt.
Even though I eventually learned how to stop feeling overwhelmed, I still catch myself staring up at the mountain of to-do’s.
In fact, it happened today. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by a project with a deadline. With the realization of what was going on, I got out a spiral notebook, made my list and forced myself to focus on the Next Thing. I ended up making good progress on the project and finishing some things that had been put off for several days.
It’s actually kind of silly when you think about how we do this to ourselves over and over. But hey, it’s human nature. The next time you wonder how to stop feeling overwhelmed, remember your pad of paper, pen and timer. Keep calm and do the Next Thing.
Charlotte Siems is a happy wife and mom of twelve who is a speaker, author and coach. After losing 100 pounds with T-Tapp, she became a Master T-Tapp Trainer, sharing her encouraging story with people all over the world. She has built a successful online business and writes about family life and T-Tapp at www.ThisLovelyPlace.com.