The lovely Dara Simkin is my guest contributor to 52 of You this week; she's a certified Life Coach and accredited behavioural analyst - but much prefers to be seen as someone who loves supporting the greater good. That's probably why we get on so well. Dara has written about the feeling of overwhelm, which strikes a chord because after I took my own advice on my last post, I now only have one week until I head off on an extended workation overseas. AND I AM FEELING OVERWHELMED. There is SO MUCH that I still have to do, SO MANY things to organise, and with my lease ending, I also need to pack everything up and put it into storage. Pass me the brown paper bag already, because breathing properly has become a new challenge. Here are Dara's insights on why we experience overwhelm - and what to do about it.
We live in a world riddled by choice – in the first world, that is. There is so much opportunity at our fingertips; it makes decisions sometimes seem impossible.
How do I know that I’m making the right choice? What if I miss out on something? What if I make this decision, and it blows up in my face? We can drown ourselves in questions, but until we actually take the plunge, we’ll never know what’s on the other side.
I believe overwhelm comes from too much choice. Nausea and stomach cramps and clammy hands; intense fear and indecision that makes you want to scream, “I QUIT!”
Too much choice leads to overwhelm and indecision, which leads to self-doubt, which can then spiral out of control into anxiety or worse, depression. Most of the problems we create are out of sheer boredom. Our lives are too easy and too convenient that we end up catastrophising the smallest things, creating big, scary monsters that make us feel out of control.
For the most of us, we’re no longer simply surviving. We have the luxuries of readily available food, entertainment and technology. We’re so efficient in our communications that we detach ourselves more and more; the more we connect on social media, the more we disconnect. The more we ‘share’ what we had for lunch, the less likely we’re actually enjoying with someone face-to-face and being present in their company.
But, what if all of our decisions were perfectly packaged in a way that gave us all the details, the outcomes, the risks? No chance. This is life - full of failure and fuck-ups that can make your stomach turn. When you fall down, you pick up the pieces and keep going. You embrace the bad times because you know you need them to appreciate the good times. You welcome failure, vulnerability and uncertainty even though it makes you feel like shit because you know you need it to come out of the other side.
It might sound crazy, but we need to be grateful for all the shitty times. I’m not talking about being thankful for the new pair of shoes you bought; actually feeling and experiencing true reverence for all of the hard stuff that got you where you are today.
We need those challenges to grow. The good times don’t push us out of our comfort zone or help us evolve into a better version of ourselves. It’s the bad and the ugly that improves our self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Building self-awareness allows us to make the hard choices and stick to them. There are no bad decisions, there are the ones we believe in and the ones we don’t. Here are some ways you can increase your self-awareness to overcome your overwhelm:
Breathe. It seems simple, but we often forget. Long, slow deep breaths. It grounds us in times of uncertainty. The breath is our anchor to presence. Breathe in, hold, breathe out, each for a count of four. Leave a post-it note somewhere you can see it to remind yourself to just breathe.
Write. It doesn't have to be the next New York Times best seller or even make sense. When we're overwhelmed we don't think clearly and our emotions can often become erratic and all over the place. When we take those erratic emotions and throw them onto a page, we can then look at them as an outsider looking in - from a different perspective. Write down the emotions you're feeling, how they're manifesting in your body and what you're thinking about, for about 15-20 minutes. Take time to reflect and think what you can do differently next time.
Prioritise. Make a list of what matters most. This will help you decide what really needs to happen now and what can wait. We can't do everything at once. We think that we're really good at multitasking when we're just giving ourselves the opportunity to fuck up more than one thing up at a time. The One Thing by Gary Keller is a great resource for this topic.
Trust – and accept failure. It's important to build enough courage to pick yourself up after you’ve fallen down. You're overwhelmed because you can't make a decision. Just make one and go with it! The circumstances don't change, we either believe in the choices we make or we don't. This is a great TED talk on How to Make Hard Choices.
Say no. Our fear of missing out has us saying YES when we should be saying NO in order to fulfil expectations we put on ourselves, or the fear built around letting someone else down. It's important to be authentic and self-aware when identifying the right times to buy in or bow down. Brene Brown said it best, "Every time we say yes because we're afraid of missing out, we say NO to something. That something may be a big dream or a short nap. We need both." Replace FOMO with JOMO - The Joy of Missing Out.
Fart with your mouth. When we're feeling overwhelmed we are mostly caught up with ourselves. We sometimes need to get over ourselves and the best way to do that is to break your state of mind. Make a farting noise with your mouth or just do something random and fun to get yourself out of your head.
Check out Dara's website for more info on her Mindset Programs, Work-Life Balance Package and upcoming workshops. Or email her with any burning questions you might have about life, love and growth - firstname.lastname@example.org | @darasimkin