The Overwhelm Ogre creeps up on you unawares; it’s all too easy to slip into an under-functioning state as your norm. Accepting daily low energy, headaches, irritability, fuzzy thinking, lack of motivation and losing interest in things that used to excite you.
You may find yourself clock-watching, dreading Monday morning and longing for Friday, Comfort eating, drinking too much, poor sleep patterns, indigestion, IBS, skin problems…the list could go on and on. These are all signs that overwhelm has got you in its’ grip and if you let things continue you risk it taking an even greater toll.
Overwhelm is not inevitable. The key is to recognise those warning signs early, listen to their message and then make the choice to take control and change things from within.
Put aside 45 minutes to focus on yourself (yes you can find 45 minutes)
Relax in a quiet place with a notebook and pen and focus on how you really are right now. Divide your life up into 5 areas-it’s up to you what these are but you might want to include health, finances, work and something like fun or leisure?
Consider how satisfied you are with things as they are in each of those areas.
Give yourself a grading in each between 0 for appalling to 10 for perfect.
What’s your score out of 50? Which area of life scores the lowest? Focus on why that is and consider what aspects of the situation are outside your control and where you can take responsibility and change things. You know yourself and what you want better than anyone.
A lot of work-based stress is centred on performance and we tend to wait for and rely on others to assess us because that is the established system. Why wait? Self-assessment is one of the most powerful tools you have. Set aside 45 minutes of your life (yes you can) to create a method of personal performance evaluation tailored to you that you can stick to on a regular basis. Do you need to review weekly, fortnightly, monthly; which will help you most? What are the key areas of performance you need to monitor? What are your strengths and how can you build on them? Where do you need support and who could help you to develop and improve in your weaker areas? If you are monitoring yourself and honestly evaluating how you are doing the stress of any external assessment will reduce massively.
Perfectionism is rife in our competitive work environments and creates massive additional pressure. When we strive to make everything perfect we lose touch with how much time something really needs. Working too hard and for too long on every task can lead to our being perceived as lacking in confidence and indecisive. Not everything has to be perfect. Review your tasks (you may need to set aside another 45 minutes) and allocate a specific period of time to each relative to their overall importance. Make the decisions and stick to them; create a new habit and focus on achieving each task within the time allocated. This strategy also helps with procrastination which can be another aspect of perfectionism.
An awful lot of our stress comes from inside our heads. We are run by internal programming made up of values and beliefs we have learnt throughout our lives, many of them in childhood. To tackle overwhelm you need to bring your core beliefs to the surface and look at the effect they are having on you in your work and your personal life.
Tune in to your self-talk and listen to how you speak to others about yourself and your abilities. This is where your beliefs will show up. Once you get familiar with what you believe about yourself you can identify the unhelpful beliefs that are exacerbating your stress levels and holding you back. What would it be more helpful to believe?
Overwhelm is a common feature of living reactively. We are so busy caught up in the day to day and responding to immediate demands that we may not focus on the future or plan our direction, or we may get too easily distracted from any plans we have made. Building a vision of our future and creating a practical plan for how to get where we want to be is essential for keeping us out of the drama of day to day events. When you focus on your vision and your plan, your motivation is high. Take time out and get the help you need to get clear about the future you want. Get your plan in writing/visual form so that you can refer back to it. It’s like the map for your journey and it will help you see things in perspective.
© Jenni Hallam www.jennihallam.co.uk