Last week, I found myself freaking out on my family for the mess in our house. I mean, it DOES drive me crazy to come home at the end of the day and find my living room littered with half-empty microwave popcorn bags and empty glasses, and the throw pillows from the couch on the floor, but usually, I ignore the mess and carry on. And eventually it gets cleaned up.
My freak-out wasn’t really about the state of my living room, though. I had just had it up to here (I’m indicating a point about six inches above my head), and it wasn’t my family’s fault.
It happened because I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I had a million different thoughts running through my head, about my dental practice, my blog, my Desire Map workshops, my (messy) house, the state of my fitness, and what the books I want to read over the next six months.
You know, important stuff, and not so important stuff, but a whole lot of stuff.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve also got a zillion ideas and to-dos racing through your brain on any given day, and sometimes, it gets to be too much.
When that happens, it can be hard to take action because it’s hard to know where to start.
I have been there more times than I can count, sister. And the good news is that there are steps you can take to feel better.
Action doesn’t have to be complex to be effective. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make the biggest difference.
Here are my top 7 ways to take action when you feel completely overwhelmed.
1) Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
It’s easy to push back bedtime when you’ve got a ton to do, but sleep deprivation makes everything harder. Lack of sleep is tied to lower productivity and lower mood, so by cutting back on sleep to do more, you ending up doing less, and are less happy to boot.
You probably know that you want to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night, so tuck yourself in nice and early and get some good shut-eye.
2) Set a time for at least twenty minutes and do a “brain dump”
Grab your journal or a fresh sheet of paper and write down everything you can think of. Write until you have nothing left to write about, until you’re repeating yourself. Get out all of the to-dos, the ideas, the appointments to book. Usually, the act of getting it all out usually makes me feel better, even when it takes two hours to write it all down.
3) Sort your to-do list
Divide your list into four categories: urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, important and not urgent, and unimportant and not urgent. Eliminate the unimportant tasks from your schedule, or, at the very least, delegate them. Check out this post from planetofsuccess.com for more info on how to sort your tasks.
Be careful: If you’re only doing what’s urgent, you may not get to the important but non-urgent tasks that will make the biggest difference in your personal and professional life.
4) Pick your top three tasks daily
Every morning, or at the end of the day before bed, pick the three most important tasks to get done for the day. Make sure your tasks are actionable and achievable in a couple of hours at the most. If any of the tasks you choose take longer than a couple of hours, max, break the task into smaller steps. Having huge tasks hanging over your head adds to your sense of overwhelm. Breaking those tasks into smaller steps makes them more manageable – automatically less overwhelming – and helps boost your confidence because you’re making progress with each smaller step.
5) Meditate and practice gratitude daily
Meditation helps keep you grounded and centred, and helps you get out of your head. Use a meditation app like Calm is you want some support in the form of guided meditation or you’re new to meditation.
Gratitude is also an important habit. It boosts your sense of contentment and helps shift your mindset to a more positive one. When I’m grateful, I’m hopeful. Click here to read more about the benefits of gratitude.
6) Get some exercise, preferably outside
Along with boosting your mood, exercise also is great for unleashing your creativity and clarifying your thoughts. Exercise in any form is fantastic, but taking it outside is particularly great at making your feel better, because spending time in nature is shown to improve your mood. Next time you feel like your life is spinning out of control, step outside, look up at the sky, and take a few deep breaths. That always helps me keep my perspective and makes my problems seem smaller
7) Plan some downtime
I may seem counterintuitive, but taking time off is important in feeling less overwhelmed. You may feel like it’s unproductive time, but taking time by yourself for yourself pays out in the form more greater energy, and greater future productivity.
Last week, when I felt like I was getting burned out, I checked myself into a hotel room for a night. Super indulgent. But it ended up being so useful because I was able to recharge my energy stores and tackle a big project the next day.
You may not the have the flexibility to get your own room for the night, but there are other ways to make space for yourself. You can hit a coffee shop for a few hours of writing and reading, got to a movie, or camp out in your spare room overnight. You’ll probably have to plan ahead, and if you have kids, you’re going to have to a) let go of any guilt you might have for taking time for yourself and b) line up childcare (if you don’t have a partner who can help you out with that)
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