With any significant disruptor, like this pandemic for example, it affects every aspect of our lives. Which makes it likely that we start to feel overwhelmed. And when we’re overwhelmed, some of us will clam up and become stuck, while others will frantically take action only to feel scattered and burned out later.
It’s not an “if” but a “when” as far as moments of overwhelm making an appearance in our lives. While they can stifle a lot of people, you can learn how to handle these moments in a healthy and productive way.
Ask yourself these simple questions to alleviate the stress that comes with overwhelm:
1. Am I truly taking care of myself?
When we feel like we don’t have control, the first step to taking it back is to take inventory of yourself, which goes beyond your physical health and to your emotional and mental health—the parts of yourself that are impacted first by overwhelm.
To check in with yourself, first ask, Why am I feeling overwhelmed? Then address other parts of your well-being by making a list of drainers and drivers. What on your list brings you joy, and what zaps your energy?
Address your inner world before addressing the external—the more out of alignment and disconnected you are to yourself, the more empty (and overwhelmed) you’ll feel. When it comes to unraveling and understanding the root of overwhelm, everything starts with self-care and personal well-being.
2. What am I building?
I’ve had to, unfortunately, bury a handful of loved ones over the last few years. It’s reminded me of the fragility of life. There’s an impermanence to it, and you nor I will be here forever.
This may seem scary to contemplate, but placing impermanence in the right context can also be empowering. When you combine the notion with this question, it’s going to renew your focus for the present moment, as well as the bigger picture.
By regularly asking yourself, What am I building? you’re creating a sense of urgency to make each day count, and also trimming the frivolous non-essentials.
Is it something you’ll be proud of later? If not, decide what it is that you want to build, and don’t let your current limitations stop you from dreaming. At this stage of the process, don’t tell it like it currently is— tell it how you want it to be.
3. What is my next step?
After addressing your personal and professional life, it’s time to get into action. The first step doesn’t need to be massive; instead, choose something small to start with. Your goal isn’t to change the trajectory of your entire life right now—it’s to build some positive momentum.
You want to focus on what you want out of life, while remaining in control. So, think big, but act small. Ask yourself, What is the smallest, most immediate action that you can take right now to move the needle forward?
For example, suppose your goal is to lose 20 pounds. Complete a 30-minute workout today. If you want to start a side hustle, make a checklist of what it’ll take to get started. If you’re a business owner and you’re feeling stuck, find a mentor to ask for advice.
You can’t control when overwhelm shows up in your life, but you can control how you respond to those moments. Remind yourself of these three questions the next time you find it knocking on your door.
Photo by @rohane/Twenty20.com
Julian Hayes II is the founder of The Art of Fitness & Life. He is an author, health and wellness consultant, and speaker operating at the nexus of creativity, health and business. His mission is to help you integrate health and wellness into a life you love while increasing your energy, productivity and performance at work. His book, Body Architect, is a real-world guide designed to help you create a life you love while creating a body you love.