Do you spend your energy worrying about everything you have to do instead of actually doing it? Has making dinner, picking up the dry cleaning, or responding to e-mails become a monumental effort? Is your to-do list growing at unmanageable rates?
Lately, I’ve been observing what happens when I find myself in this undesirable place. I noticed that when I start to feel overwhelmed, I go to great lengths to check off “just one more thing” from my to-do list. While this short burst of frenzied activity allows me to accomplish one thing, by the time I get to the second item, I’m totally exhausted.
So, I decided to try an experiment. For the last week, I tried to give into this stuck feeling; to surrender to it and to see what happens. When I slowed down, I noticed that the culprit was often unrealistic expectations of myself and my time.
When I started to have these unrealistic expectations of myself, it became easy to lose sight of why I committed to doing something in the first place. Once I became disconnected from the meaning behind my actions, it was easy to lose motivation. Losing motivation for one thing quickly snowballed into losing motivation for another thing, which contributed to an ever-growing to-do list and, eventually feeling overwhelmed.
Instead of giving into this frenzy, I decided to take some time to re-connect with what’s important to me—exercise, meditation, laughter, and fun. Now I’m in the process of figuring out how to incorporate these into my everyday life.
So, when you’re overwhelmed, instead of trying to get as much done as quickly as you can, try slowing down to get re-connected with the meaning behind your actions. Try a few of these exercises to help you slow down:
- As often as possible, stop for a moment and take several deep, relaxing breaths.
- Do something that you used to do as a child. Run through a sprinkler, swing on a swing-set, or draw a picture.
- Go outdoors for as long as it takes get perspective. Take time to notice the details of nature—look up at the clouds, smell the grass, snow or rain, and feel the fresh air on your skin.
- Run up and down your stairs or do some jumping jacks or push-ups for 10 minutes. Explore how getting out of your mind and into your body helps you to feel both calm and energized.
- Watch a funny movie, or read a funny book. Laughter provides perspective and makes everything feel more manageable.
Spend a week trying these exercises, and then look for patterns. What do you notice? What are you learning? What is possible from here?
Write down what you learned, or share it with your coach.
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try letting go of your expectations and measuring your accomplishments. Instead, focus on slowing down and re-connecting with what energizes and feeds you. When you’re connected with your values and the guiding principles of your life, you’re connected to the natural fuel for getting things done.