- Do you find yourself multi-tasking all the time? Even when you’re with others do you check yourself constantly grabbing your phone when it beeps?
- Do you find yourself feeling anxious anytime you have a break? Is your mind consumed with trying to figure out what you forgot or searching for the next thing to do? As you get busy do you feel a sense of relief in being busy and despair because there’s so much that has to be done?
- Do you find yourself struggling to remember the last time you got a good night’s sleep? As you lay down does your mind race going over the details of the day?
No one wants to admit to being addicted to anything (except maybe chocolate) but the truth is too many of us have gotten so comfortable with being overwhelmed and overloaded it feels normal. Like all addictions, the hardest thing to do is admit you have a problem and you need help.
It’s hard to change because it seems like everyone you meet is just as overwhelmed.
I started listening to people as I asked them “how are you doing?” Their first response was “GREAT!” and when I asked what have you been doing lately they’ll admit to “being just so busy”. When I ask them what have they done that’s fun… crickets.
For many overwhelm and overload is the result of working for poorly trained managers. It’s become a commonplace management philosophy that encourages a culture of constant busyness, under resourcing and poor priority setting contributes to a feeling of helplessness. So you resign there’s nothing you can do and suffer in silence.
The culture of busyness takes a toll on us both professionally and personally. We waste time, attention and energy on relatively unimportant information and interactions. The result is about 25% of your time is wasted. If you’re addicted to overwhelm then that number can be as high as 40%.
Overwhelm reduces your ability to make complex decisions and you respond more emotionally to stress. Your ability to work with others and your attention to details is reduced dramatically. The longer you’re in a state of overwhelm the more likely you’ll find things constantly breaking down, your ability to prioritize, take action and eludes you. You’re tired all the time because you lack getting good restorative sleep.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now
- The first step is to declare enough is enough. No one changes anything until you’ve reached your limit. That’s just the way it is. Even though you don’t like that feeling of overwhelm and being overloaded. There’s a reason why you’re clinging to it. Every addiction has some gain that makes the pain all worth it even if for just a few minutes. Say it right now. Enough is enough.
- Claim your bliss – not with an attitude of gratitude but with an attitude that you can handle anything. Embrace your bliss with joy and a vengeance and resolve to protect it. Sit or stand still. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply 5 times in a row. As you exhale for the 5th time simply ask the question “what’s really irritating me?” You may not get the answer immediately but it will come. 9times out of 10 what’s irritating you is exactly what’s snatching your bliss.
- The root of overwhelm is a conflict between two or more values or beliefs. Take time to write down (yes I said write down) what you think has to be done, how it needs to be done and how you want to show up as a result of getting it all done. For each item then write down what you think is the worst thing that will happen if you don’t do it. For instance, if you don’t check your email as frequently what would happen? If you could get your boss to help prioritize what’s really important what would happen?
- Over the next 30 days schedule downtime and have some fun. I know this sounds crazy. But here’s the issue. When you’re overwhelmed fun is the first thing put on hold. This is a mistake because having fun releases serotonin. Serotonin regulates your mood, sleep, appetite, memory and ability to think and learn. Overwhelm negatively affect each of these areas. If you’re like most of my clients, then your first reaction is to work harder trying to catch up. Unfortunately, the harder you work the worst your performance gets.
I’ve seen people who were overwhelmed go from being considered a top performer to marginal and then lose their jobs in a matter of months. They come to me confused and dazed wondering what happened. Their trust level goes down because they thought co-workers didn’t do enough to help them and unfortunately the stress of looking for another job takes an even bigger toll.
Because they’re addicted to overwhelm they go right into the next job recreating the same conditions that led to their unemployment. Within 12 months they’re out of work again and wondering what happened.
If you know of someone who’s overwhelmed do them a favor and share this article with them. It may be the very signal they need to kick the habit.