Have you ever felt overwhelmed? I certainly have. I work very hard to avoid being overwhelmed, but it can (and does) happen despite my best efforts. When I’m feeling that way, I can often feel paralysed. I’m not sure which way to turn or what effort to make or how to reduce my stress.
I blogged about this a while ago when I talked about Doing the Next Thing. I basically try to not think too far ahead, but I just concentrate on doing what comes next, however basic that may be.
But there is another point I want to make. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, what is most important is to simply Do Something.
If you’re overwhelmed, it’s very easy to get stuck in an over-analysing loop. For me it looks like this:
Picture me muttering to myself:
“There is too much to do.
How did I get myself in this position?
Don’t think about that now.
Just do the next thing.
I need to make dinner.
But the kitchen is a mess.
I should clean the kitchen.
But that will take half an hour.
I’m hungry now.
I should make something quick.
I don’t have anything quick to make.
I should go food shopping.
I don’t have time to go food shopping.
I should send one of the children food shopping.
I don’t know where the children are.
I should have the children clean the house while I go food shopping.
There’s no time for that.
Maybe I should pickup pizza.
I don’t want pizza – I have all of this produce in the garden to be cooked.
I should go pick green beans and cook that.
Jim won’t want just green beans.
I should cook him some protein.
But all the protein is frozen.
Actually I have canned venison.
Maybe I’ll make canned venison with green beans.
But first I need to clean the kitchen. It’s a mess.”
Wow – does that remind anybody other than me of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie*?
It’s so easy when you’re overwhelmed to get in a loop and not accomplish anything. I’ve learned that first I need to figure out what the next thing to do is. And then I simply Do Something!
In this case, I would have started with cleaning up my kitchen. It’s a brainless task that keeps my hands busy and keeps me making forward progress.
I’m still able to finish the rest of those thoughts, but while those thoughts are being muttered, I’m accomplishing something. And when I’ve accomplished something – even if it is simply a cleaned off countertop, the world suddenly looks a little bit less overwhelming. That little bit of forward progress often breeds further forward progress.
Do you know what makes me feel even better when I’m overwhelmed?
Delegating the “Do Something”.
It looks like this:
Me: “Front and Center!!! (all the children come running – or at least the ones within the sound of my raised voice).
OK, there is too much to do and not enough time to do it. Let’s act quickly.
Brett – you clean off the table.
Colter – you wipe down the countertops.
Emery – you go pick green beans out of the garden.
Fletcher – you wash the dishes.
Greyden – you wash the cast iron.
Hewitt – you put away the clean dishes Fletcher washes.
Indigo – you empty and reload the dishwasher.
Jade – you start sweeping.
Let’s move people.”
While they all jump to their tasks (yes, they would jump to their tasks but it has taken years of child training to get them to do that!), I would start water boiling. Water boiling leads to pasta cooking which is always a great solution when I need a quick dinner. Combine it with goat cheese, butter, venison, and green beans and I have a quick and relatively easy and healthy dinner!
That’s one example.
But I want to stress that the important thing when you’re overwhelmed is to just Do Something! Doing something will break the paralysis that so often accompanies being overwhelmed.
Have you ever had a big project you wanted to tackle, but it overwhelmed you and you didn’t know where to start? My advice is to just Do Something. It doesn’t even have to be a very good something. Just start.
Perhaps your house is full of clutter and you don’t know where to begin. Just Do Something. Preferably something easy – pick out a single drawer to declutter. Or a single shelf. Lots of times having a small success motivates you to do just a little bit more. And a little bit more. And before you know it, you find yourself actually enjoying what you’re doing instead of dreading it.
Or perhaps you are not happy with your relationship with your spouse. Don’t try to fix it all at once. Just Do Something. Try saying one positive thing to your spouse every day. Look for one nice thing you could do to make his or her life easier. Just Do Something. And then keep on doing something* until you start to find that your relationship is improving.
Or perhaps you’re not enjoying your chosen career (or you don’t have a career and are stuck in a meaningless job). Thinking about doing something different can be completely overwhelming. You don’t have to start with applying to other jobs. Just Do Something easy. Talk to people about what they are doing. Make something fun and try to sell it on etsy or ebay. Write a list of jobs that you find exciting. When you’re doing something you start to become more aware of the opportunities that are out there.
Or perhaps you are deeply in debt and don’t know how you’ll ever get out of it. Don’t despair about paying it all off. Just Do Something to make progress. Start keeping track of your expenses. Create a list of what are your needs and what are your wants. Read a book about budgeting or money management*. Just Do Something and you can start to turn things around.
It doesn’t matter what the situation is.
Remember that we are all overwhelmed at times in our life. That’s normal and natural. You just don’t want to stay there! Focus on Doing the Next Thing and even if you don’t know exactly what that next thing is, make sure you Do Something!