There are brilliant people who struggle to do the simplest things, while less intelligent people run huge, complicated businesses successfully. Why? Partly, it’s confidence, but a huge part is dealing with chaos or uncertainty without feeling overwhelmed.
Feeling overwhelmed robs us of our abilities. It means that less than 100% of you shows up to your job. You’re not all there for your family.
And like many shitty things, we must face them directly, stare them down, and defeat them.
Let’s do that today.
Feeling Overwhelmed: What Is It, Exactly?
First step’s first, what exactly is the feeling of being overwhelmed?
It’s a little different for everyone, but basically it’s a mixture of dread, confusion, and panic that we can’t meet the challenges in front of us.
Note that it’s different from losing or failing. There are people who do not meet a challenge in front of them, but they keep their head in the game and continue to try to get traction.
If you watched last week’s UFC 207, that would be Dominick Cruz vs. Cody Garbrandt. Dom was losing, but he stayed in there ’til the end and kept trying to get his game working.
‘Overwhelm’ goes way beyond that. It’s the state of feeling utterly baffled, half-helpless, rattled. You shut down and don’t live up to your potential.
Sticking with the UFC 207 theme, that was like Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes. Ronda got cracked, and it’s almost like her brain went, “OH F*CK! WHAT DO I DO?” She looked lost and unable to cope with what was going on around her.
While it might be less physical and dramatic when you get overwhelmed at your job or in your life, that’s what it looks like.
You have more work than you know what to deal with, so instead of taking it one step at a time and fighting through it, you go catatonic because you have no clue how you’ll get it all done by the end of the day.
Perhaps you’re planning a huge weekend excursion, and the weather makes parts of it impossible. You have to rebook a whole bunch of stuff last minute, and many of the things you need are unavailable.
You’re not sure how you’re going to pull it off, and with obstacles popping up one right after another, you become irate and irrational and unable to think straight.
Prioritize Your Life: You Get Your Musts, Not Your Wants
If you only get one thing from this article, it’s this: You get the things you must have, not the things you want.
If you’d like to live in a mansion, but you must be able to live in a one-bedroom apartment, well, you’re definitely finding a way to pay rent on that apartment. The mansion? Probably not.
But here’s the thing: If you want something and aren’t getting it, it still causes stress in your life.
That’s why you absolutely need to get your priorities straight. Take inventory of the goals in your life. Find the ones that are most important to you and make sure that they are musts.
You’ll put your time there first and give yourself the best possible chance of achieving those goals. Consistent achievement is one of the best ways to curb overwhelm. If you’re making progress, then it’s a lot harder to get stressed out.
What’s Not Giving You The Value You Deserve? Cut It
One of the key causes of feeling overwhelmed is having too much stuff to do and not enough time to do it.
How much time do you spend on shit that doesn’t help you or even make you happy?
Take some time to run through everything you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
How much of that stuff is providing you with no value in return? Just stop doing those things, and you’ll be amazed by how many extra hours you now have.
Be careful about the things you eliminate. If you love playing video games, then don’t just stop that altogether because it’s “unproductive.”
You might be using it as a way to chill out and relax, which gives you a chance to recharge the batteries. It might not make you money, but it helps your mental health.
Perhaps it’s time to cut back, but don’t completely eliminate things just because they don’t look good on paper.
Automate, Delegate, Outsource: What Can Get Done Without Doing It Yourself?
Sometimes, you can’t straight-up eliminate things in your life. They need to get done, but you just hate doing them — or they take up too much of your time and make it harder to focus on your priorities.
Well, have you ever considered finding a way to do them that doesn’t involve you?
For example, let’s say you’re a messy guy and hate cleaning your apartment. Well, how much would it cost per month to have someone come and clean it for you?
Now, before you scoff and say, “Only rich people can afford that,” take a moment to work out the numbers. Consider how much extra time you could spend on, say, getting your side hustle on, or working on an entrepreneurial dream.
Could you generate more money in those hours to pay for the cleaning service?
Maybe, maybe not, but the point is to stay open to those kinds of opportunities.
The same goes for automation. Are there apps and software and tools out there that can automatically handle some of the shit you have to do at work or in your personal life?
I have no idea what you do for a living, but I’d be willing to bet there are definitely ways to use technology to automate parts of your life or at least help keep you more organized.
Again, we’re taking chaos and bringing order to it. We’re taking a mess of papers and reducing the size and craziness of it. It’s little things that help you gain control over your life and avoiding feeling overwhelmed.
Keep It In Perspective: What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
One of the biggest contributors to feeling overwhelmed is the stakes.
“If I don’t finish this, she is going to KILL me!” you think, as your pulse quickens and your palms start to sweat.
By all means, if you really are in some prison somewhere and really will be killed, then I totally understand those emotions.
But if not, then really? You’re going to be killed?
In reality, most people understand that they won’t be killed for not finishing an assignment, but they still act that way. They freak out of the smallest things and act like the world is coming to an end.
It’s no way to live.
Zoom out, look for some perspective.
As an antidote, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t deliver?”
Someone will be mad? Well, so what if someone’s a little mad at you?
You’ll be fired? OK, that’s a little worse, but will you never find another job?
The point is to understand that it’s not life or death. I’m not advocating that you blow assignments — do your shit — but I just want you to understand that the world won’t end if you fail every once in awhile.
Simply reminding yourself of this fact will help you relax, pull you out of overwhelm, and help you to your best possible work.