- On March 22, 2018
“You can’t always get what you want,
but if you try sometimes,
you just might find,
you get what you need.”
–The Rolling Stones, 1969
“I did it again. Tried to jam 20 pounds of ‘stuff*%*’ in a 10 pound bag.”
As I looked at my upcoming week on Sunday night, I thought, “how am I ever going to get it all done?”
A bunch of deadlines loomed, many which required some significant input on my part. I’m feeling completely overwhelmed. The pressure of all I had to get done scrambled my thinking and made it loom over me like a hand puppet monster shadow projected on a wall.
Ever have one of those days? Weeks? Or do you find this the constant state of your life? (I’ll admit, it used to be mine).
I’ve worked with many people who want so much out of life, they often feel overwhelmed with choices. The pressure of getting it all done sends them into rigid thinking. The joy somehow slips from their life.
I’ll share how I kept my sanity in this one critical week, on the chance that something will spark for you and make a difference in how you live and lead in your life.
The first thing I did was sit and meditate for 10 minutes.
It calms my frenzied thinking by forcing my mind to focus on only one essential thing–my breathing—and let everything else slide by. Just 10-15 minutes of sitting and breathing makes a positive difference in how I handle stress (and I’ve also practiced while standing on the metro!) It’s like going to the gym. There I’m building strength in different muscle sets. Meditating builds brain strength to help me pay attention. Afterwards, I was more clear-minded in figuring out what was really essential.
I also wrote out a card—“I give myself permission to focus only on the essential things I need to accomplish this week’s goals” and put it by my computer.
I was tempted to jump on an email trail coordinating action on something not immediately pressing. I ignored the urge. Giving myself permission not to was important. Otherwise I start “shoulding” on myself. I should do this. I should do that. Feeling the weight of expectations from myself and others. The active idea of “permission” lets me play hooky from should-land.
Next, I estimated how much time I had available and gave myself deadlines.
Have you ever noticed how your work expands to fill the space available? If you have 2-hours, you’ll somehow get it done. If you have 8 hours, it will somehow expand to fill up 8 hours. A deadline kept my perfectionist saboteur at bay, so I didn’t fall into the trap of spending hours overthinking minor things.
Finally, I changed the language I was using.
I shifted away from the negative energy words around overwhelm, anxiety, and frustration I had started with. I acknowledged my gratitude for each of the wonderful things I was going to get to do this week. That I had my health, and my experience, and challenges that were stimulating. To trust that I had always risen to the occasion and would again.
The brain only knows what you tell it. If I use negative energy words, it goes it ‘protect’ mode looking for ways to keep me safe from this perceived ‘threat’ of too much.
When I use positive energy words—gratitude, enthusiasm, confidence—the brain’s threat detection system is put at ease and more energy can go to the executive functioning portions of the brain which is essential for making good decisions.
I was humming along and really making progress.
Then, the universe brought me what I needed — an unexpected spring snow storm. Activities were canceled and moved. There was space again in my calendar! Wiggle room. Flexibility. Room to put the work aside and veg out at night. Room for a little creative activity. Ahh!
Another reminder that somehow it will all work out in unexpected ways.
How do you handle those times when you feel in complete overwhelm?
Have you had the ‘magical coincidence’ where something unexpected brought just what you needed?
Photo credit: 2018, JMaliszewski, the snow storm that gives me space to breathe