Today I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. When I have 468 to-do items and needs pulling me in all the directions, I start doing constructive things like researching Christmas presents for my second cousin or scouring the bottom of the crisper drawer.
All tasks that really help me to meet my goal. (eye roll)
I’ve just become a master at spinning my wheels and going nowhere.
When I’ve spent a lot of energy on tasks that don’t actually make any progress toward what really needs to get done, I take note. It’s like a flashing sign of trouble up ahead.
Sometimes, this feeling overwhelmed is too many days without real FOCUS.
I simply need to keep going in the right direction and ignore the distractions.
But this is a little different. This feeling of avoidance is bigger and deeper than FOCUS can solve. This is beyond just what my hands need to do; this a heart and head deal.
Lack of focus is the symptom, not the source.
So how do I heed that warning sign—or even notice it’s there in the first place—to uncover the real reason for feeling overwhelmed?
Basically, how do I even begin to cope when I can’t cope?
Four simple actions. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to SNAP!
Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron shared this method in their book, The Road Back to You. I have found it particularly helpful when I’m acting like a professional at the Daytona 500—driving really fast in a circle.
Literally, I pause what I’m doing for 3-5 minutes. We live in a world that constantly says you’ll lose if you stop. But that’s a lie. You can stop for 3-5 minutes. First, breathe. You don’t even need your smartwatch or app. Just breathe in for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, and repeat five times. Go into the bathroom at work or hide in the laundry room (no one will look for you there!) and breathe.
How am I feeling? What’s happening around me? Am I reacting or responding? No judgment, just observation and identification. I’m feeling afraid and anxious. There is an ever-growing list of ideas and too few resources to accomplish all the things. Lots of people around me are feeling anxious, also.
(So this can be a hard one for me. I’m not always great at identifying, and well, feeling emotions. Especially the not-so-feel-good kind. So I keep this list around to help me name emotions and then take a moment to feel them.)
Stabile and Cron suggest asking three questions:
What am I believing right now? We’re always trying to make sense of what’s happening, so we create stories. And then we start living out these stories we tell ourselves and others.
“If I don’t wow them with this project, my team will hate me, and I’ll lose any chance to do more work.”
“I am not enough to do this work. I don’t have the skills.”
Oh, so that’s what’s fueling my feeling of barely keeping my nose above the waterline.
Yours will look different, but ask yourself the question and wait. The answer may surprise you!
Next question: Is it true?
Actually, no. The facts show me otherwise. I have two degrees and 20 years of experience creating what’s needed for this project. My team is all working for the same goal, making each other better. But an old story I tell myself is I have to bring the wow and the fun because other people are better at ____ than me. Catching wind of that old story leads to the next question:
How would this situation change if I let go of these beliefs?
I can get down to work with some confidence. I can ask for help. I can serve my team and our client with all the things I bring to the table. Although it’s true other people have similar skills, I’m the one being called to serve here right now. And I can have fun doing it! Now I’ve got some clearer perspective, free some old, untrue beliefs.
Now I can change what I’m doing. While the top of the cupboards may need cleaning, put down the scrub brush! It doesn’t help me achieve the prioritized goal right now. I can now turn to the work at hand, with a clear head and a lighter heart. I am off the circle tack and moving forward in a healthy way.
How do you move forward? What are your strategies? Did you try this? How did it go?