8 ways to mindfully avoid overwhelm

We all lead busy lives.
Our agendas are chock-full with appointments.
Our to do lists hardly leave us time to breathe.

We have become multi-taskers, juggling work and life but struggling to find the right balance.

Usually we manage pretty well.

But sometimes, things spin out of control and OVERWHELM takes over.

What are the signs of overwhelm?
  • you don’t know what the next thing is you need to be doing
  • you break down and cry because you think you are a bad mother for wanting a career and kids
  • you get head- or back-aches from too much office stress
  • you forget important things
  • you don’t find the time to meet your best friend
  • you don’t find pleasure anymore in the things you used to love

Recognize any of this?
For me, the last one is ringing a bell loudly at the moment.
After running my first half marathon in September, I have not been running much.
I have lost the pleasure in what I used to love doing without having to motivate myself.

It’s the beginning of an overwhelm alarm bell for me… If you feel the same and want to make a change, read on…

How can we avoid overwhelm to hit us over the head?
  1. Define and get clear:
    More often than not we tumble forward and fire-fight instead of living the life we want and were meant to live. This often happens when we lack clarity and a clear definition of what that life actually IS.
    So over the course of the next days, sit down for small chunks of time and think about your next year in broad terms. Where do you want to be a year from now?
    • I want to loose 20 pounds
    • I want to have started my own business
    • I want to find the right balance between work and private life

    Try to be be as precise and detailed as possible.

  2. Choose:
    You cannot have 3 to 4 major goals in a year to happen at the same time.
    You need to choose!
    Oh, but you want to start a business, loose 20 pounds, have a kid before you’re 40, be a good wife, learn French and take cooking classes.
    I repeat: you need to CHOOSE. I am not saying you can’t have them all. You can :-) in time.
    For now:
    • take poster board or flip chart and write them all down
    • glue pictures for each goal
    • draw all the advantages and disadvantages of each goal

    Do you get drawn to one more than the others? Pick that one!

  3. Define again:
    Mindmap your goal and write down everything that comes to mind around it.
    • Movement: join a gym, find a sport you like, find people who like that sport, start using stairs instead of elevators…
    • Health: buy more fruits and vegetables, check out Weight Watchers, stop smoking
    • Misc.: stick picture of ideal you on bathroom mirror, etc

    What are you already doing to achieve your goal? What areas do you need to adapt? How?

  4. Take baby steps:
    It’s all very nice to have a big goal, but it just adds things to your to do list, right?
    Right. That’s why we chop them into small doable portions.
    • Today: print a list of gyms in your area
    • By the end of the week: call at least 2 of them to check on details
    • By the end of next week: call two more and visit at least one of them.
  5. Get accountability:
    Once you have made your list of baby steps, make sure you share it with someone. This can be your coach, your partner, your best friend, your mom. Give them a copy if you are comfortable with it. The more people you tell about your venture, the more they will support you and  motivate you.

  6. Align weekly:
    On one day of the weekend (Sunday evenings, or Monday mornings are best), set aside some alone time. Take out your baby steps list and your agenda and pencil everything in. Go through things, make changes according to what else is going on that week. Nothing is cast in stone.
    This will make you aligned and clear of your goal and actions every week.
  7. Reward yourself:
    Striving for something big is no easy task. And it can become tedious after a while. Motivation to keep it up can falter. There is a simple way to avoid that.
    Reward yourself.
    No, you should not allow yourself a burger and chocolate after you have lost 5 pounds.
    Instead, celebrate the small victories.
    Buy yourself a little candle to blow out after week one.
    Treat yourself to a massage when you have accomplished all baby steps after 2 or three weeks.
  8. Stumble, fall and try again:
    When a baby starts walking, it keeps falling down, bumping its head.
    Does it go ‘Darn, guess walking was not for me.’ and give up?
    No. It stumbles, falls and tries again.

There is no perfect way to reach a goal without being overwhelmed.

If during the course you feel that something is off, start with step one again and get clear on your intention again. No one said you couldn’t stop or even go backwards for a while. 

If it brings you more clarity to move forward, it’s all good.

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