One Thing To Do When Feeling Overwhelmed

Tell me…am I the only one? 🤔

Have you ever had so many things swarming in your head that you felt as if your brain was in a bottleneck? Like midtown Manhattan at 5:15PM on a weekday--complete gridlock.

It looks a little like this: You’re coordinating several critical projects for work…your partner is out of town, or you’re single, you’ve got the full brunt of the household responsibilities…two of your children have practice in two different places and need transportation…and you haven’t returned your friend’s call from two weeks ago. Let’s not consider the health crisis a family member may be facing or some financial pressure that’s mounting. I could go on and on.  

During times like this, I hear myself saying, Let me get through the week and things will be ok. 

Or, 

Just let me get through this season, then I can breathe.

The truth is that one week or season bleeds into the next, and before I know it, months have passed. And I am still in that same congested brain space.

I notice people don’t like to talk about this openly except in passing, as either a sort of badge of honor or a subtle cry for help…it’s not always clear which. But we are all experiencing some level of overwhelm on a regular basis. And it is not healthy!

Last week, I was in the throes of it.

It’s back to school time in the Northeast. My children began school on the same day…at three different schools.

I admit, for weeks, my mind had been strategizing and rearranging the moving parts of our lives to try to figure out how I was going to work out the logistics of it all.

Can you say stressed?

Here’s a little secret about being an entrepreneur that works from home…EVERY-thing that is household related must be figured out by you or you will not have the space in your day for your work. Even the most supportive and in-tune partner tends to think that since you are physically home, you should handle be able to handle it all.

That pressure proved to be too much for me last week. I was completely overwhelmed and not in a good place. I came home from the morning drop offs and had to just be still. (Hence, the absence of a post last week.) My mind was on overload. My heart was racing. I was trapped in a negative downward spiral grasping for a lifeline. So, I just stopped.

I learned that being still was exactly what I needed.

It seems counterproductive, I know. And feels that way, as well, especially for highly motivated and productive doers. We tend to be driven and strive hard after our goals. The downfall of this is that we often don’t know how to rest regularly. So, when overwhelm hits (which it does for everyone at some point), we tend to be bent toward doing what we know to do…get something done. (David Allen would be proud.)

We lean in. We slay. We crush it. We go to the mattresses. We…[you fill in the blank]. Unknowingly, by doing this, we decrease our productivity and negatively affect our health. 

I learned this past week, that doing nothing was the “getting done” that I needed.

Researchers have already proven this. They assert that sleep, regular exercise, and short breaks during the day contribute to peak performance. Yet, in our culture, we tend to sleep less, exercise sporadically, and power through the day.

I’ve read the research before. I’ve even referenced some of it. See here. Yet, I was still burning the candle at both ends, trying to coordinate a million moving parts, and not coming up for air. So, when I hit a wall, I had to stop. 

I lounged around the house. I watched a little Netflix. I read a new book. I daydreamed. Then I cooked a few meals for my family. (Cooking, creating with my hands, is therapeutic for me.)

It worked!

The next day, I was amazed at my energy level, my focus, my high idea flow, and my ability to work out a significant number of challenges that I was having both in my work and in personal life.

The moral of this story is that when you’re feeling really overwhelmed…not just everyday stressed, I mean the hit-a-wall, keep-me-on-the-first-floor-or-I’ll-jump type of overwhelm…then slow down to a complete STOP. No good thing can be accomplished or produced with you in an overwhelmed state. 

Once your brain has an opportunity to be detoxed and restored through rest, you can flow at a higher performance level. Making rest a priority can even help you to avoid Overwhelm altogether.

I confess, I’m now a true believer of rest.

Not working is work for get-it-done people like me. I’ve begun to put this rest thing into practice. And practice makes permanent!

Tell the truth, do you have margin in your life to rest this week? If not, right now, take out your calendar and schedule some rest time. Spend an hour or a few doing absolutely nothing.

I dare you! 😉

Until next time…

XO,