I felt like the world was caving in on me.

The ceiling and the walls were getting smaller and smaller and closer and closer.

The sweet pungent smell of suffocation began to envelope all of my senses.

And I recognized the familiar sensation of resistance paralyzing my every move.

I’m stuck.

Now I can’t do anything!

That’s right.

It was back.

The one nemesis I thought I had slayed in battle.

The silent one that so often creeps up behind me when I’m not looking.

Have you guessed what I’m talking about?

That’s right…this is how I feel when I go into OVERWHELM.

Sound familiar?

Overwhelm has to be one of my biggest arch-rivals in life.

And the annoying thing is it literally paralyses me.

If you’ve been there before you know what I’m talking about.

As a reflective & curious kinda gal, I’ve noticed a few recurring patterns with my own overwhelm behavior.

So I thought I’d share this with you today. I mean why not?

Why Overwhelm is probably happening to you

I’ve noticed that for me, overwhelm gets triggered by one main thing. And this is quite common so you may recognize this scenario.

I’ll get really, really excited about something. Then I’ll put together a somewhat ambitious plan. If I’m honest at this point, the plans I put together are usually a little on the optimistic side. What can I say, I’m an optimist at heart.

But the problem with setting overly optimistic plans is that they can be unrealistic.

And this is wherein the problem lies. It’s a simple equation:

Huge goal + unrealistic timings / expectations = OVERWHELM

The thing is, once you’re caught in the depths of overwhelm, it can be hard to find your way out. It’s dark in there and there’s no map or kind stranger to show you the way.

To make matters worse, another little trigger usually pops up it’s head at this point.

This one goes by the name of big picture thinking.

Now you’d expect that big picture thinking would be a useful skill to have. And it is most of the time.

The exception to the rule though is when you need to get stuff done.

I’ve talked before about the importance of action, and unfortunately big picture thinking can at times get in the way of taking action.

Here’s why big picture thinking can cause overwhelm

When you’re focused on big picture thinking – you’re usually in the future. You’re looking at the vast end result that you want to achieve. In my case, this is often a big hairy exciting goal! (not sure why it’s hairy but I’m going with it)

OK so the problem is that when you’re that far in the future, goals can suddenly appear scary or hard to reach. They feel like they are so far away from your grasp. There’s an elusiveness about them.

And then thoughts like these ones can creep in:

  • Oh my god, how will I ever get THERE?
  • I have absolutely no idea where to start?
  • There is just so much to do, I may as-well not bother!

And voila! We are back to our friend overwhelm.

If we get stuck on all of the stuff we need to do to get somewhere, then it has this affect of paralysis on our bodies. And for me, this may mean I just won’t do anything. For a while anyway. Until I can get myself out of this funk.

The irony is that sometimes naivety is a really helpful tool.

When I look back on all of the things that needed to happen for me to co-found a marketing agency from scratch (can’t believe I was only 27 at the time ) the list would have looked something like this:

  • Creating a brand out of thin air
  • Finding a USP (unique selling proposition)
  • Deciding on the right name for the business
  • Starting a company blog (and maintaining one!)
  • Developing a website
  • Finding an office space
  • Hiring a team
  • Sourcing a list of clients
  • Pitching to clients
  • Not to mention – doing the work!
  • And then there’s after the work – reporting, following up with clients..yada yada yada..I could go on for days.

Feeling overwhelmed?

I am. Just from reading this list!

A simple solution to cure overwhelm

So it was in the middle of this confusion where I actually found the golden nugget of wisdom.

The one thing that would set me free from the claws of overwhelm!

And it’s a really simple solution.

But simple is best.

Are you ready to hear it?

Just take baby steps.

That’s it. Nothing fancy. No 10 step model or complicated process.

Just move your focus from the big picture, over to the small picture and take one small step each day.

Don’t focus on the end goal, focus on what you have to do each day and then 6 months down the track you’ll look up and realize you’re actually pretty close to your goal.

OK actually I lied.

There is a second step.

And that relates to my first point – the one about unrealistic expectations.

Well this step is even easier than taking baby steps.

Just don’t do it!

Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself.

Easy right?

Easier said than done.

But it can be done – and I’ve managed it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I still fall into the trap of overwhelm. But those days are less and less.

Why not try it yourself? Go on. I dare you.

Simple Life Strategy: 2 Steps to Stop Overwhelm in it’s tracks

Here it is, my simple 2-step process to kill overwhelm!

1. Check in with your goals & what you’re trying to achieve. Are you being unrealistic? If you are, stop it.

2. Move your focus from the big picture end result to specifically what you need to get done today. And go do that. The big goal will work its-self out if you take care of the baby steps.

Did this post enlighten you in anyway? Go ahead, share it with someone who needs to hear this today.

What are your tricks for overwhelm? How do you know when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed? What are your triggers?

Stop for a moment.

Think about it now.

And then let me know in the comments below.


Zoë B

PS ~ Sick of working just to pay the bills? Get my most popular, FREE online training here: My 3 Step process To Find A More Meaningful Career.

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