My Five Keys to Managing Overwhelm
Well, the results of my survey are coming in, and one of the key things that’s showing up so far is how many women in business get overwhelmed in one way or another.
When I realized this, I thought to myself, “That’s great!” Of course I don’t mean it’s great that people are feeling overwhelmed! Rather, that I have a number of things up my sleeve that can help them. Perfect!
I immediately started brainstorming ideas for a workshop and a blog (not this one!) on the topic, and set myself a schedule of when I wanted to have certain things in place to help keep me on track.
Then the reality of my week kicked in!
First I was thrown off by my son coming home from college unexpectedly for a couple of days. I was delighted to see him, but his visit did eat into my work time (and included an expensive trip to Target!).
I had also conveniently forgotten about AmSAT Journal – the journal of the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT). I volunteer on the news team, which produces the journal, and I am responsible for layout. We are currently in the middle of putting together the fall issue, which always means an intense period of work for me. Well, that hit this week….
Then of course I had my regular work commitments, to both my Alexander Technique and website clients. Indeed Tuesday was totally blocked off to do a website re-design! Oh yes, and my Alexander Technique class at the Y kicked off this Thursday, so of course time was needed to plan and give the class.
On top of this I’m dealing with phone calls back and forth to the UK around health issues with my parents there (I’m an only child), which not only suck up time, but are emotionally difficult too.
And it goes without saying, that in the background to all of this there’s a seemingly constant influx of emails, texts and phone calls that have to be dealt with and responded to, as well as the usual family and household responsibilities and chores, and a home and office that are in dire need of some TLC.
I’m sure there’s more, but you get the picture!
With all this going on, in my “free time” I attempted to get my workshop plans in place and my blog post written. I seem to have scraps of paper with scrawled notes on them all over the house!
And guess what, I was starting to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Ironic, right?
So what did I do? How did I manage my overwhelm? What helped me?
First, throughout the week, I kept up with my self-care routines. My daily walk or run, outside in the fresh air, allowed me to “get away” and think freely (it’s a time when I often have my best ideas!). My daily Constructive Rest practice gave me a dedicated time to rest and restore mind and body. I made sure I got enough sleep…for the most part! I also took a wonderful yoga class on Wednesday evening, which came at just the right time after a day of stressful phone calls.
Mindfulness and Awareness
Being aware of myself in the moment – of what I am doing with my body, how my breath is moving through me, of what I am thinking – is key to lessening the feelings of overwhelm. After all, overwhelm is not something outside me; rather, it’s my reaction to everything that’s going on. That reaction has a physical component and an emotional one, and they are inextricably linked. Awareness of both of these gives me two different ways in. I call the physical component, the “Posture of Overwhelm.” It’s basically a version of the “fight of flight” reflex, and I’ll write more about this another time. Luckily, through my Alexander Technique work, I’m skilled at working with both of these components, and was able to apply this specific mindful awareness as I worked, thought and rested this week.
While it’s very helpful to remember “There is no tiger!,” I have learned that telling myself things like “Everything’s OK” or “Don’t feel like that” is not, nor is it true. Maybe everything is not OK. And certainly my feelings are real, even if my intellect tells me they’re unwarranted. I’ve found the key to change is first an acceptance of “what is” and paradoxically that is when things start to shift. This week, when I reminded myself that I was free to feel overwhelmed (upset or frustrated – oh yes, did I mention my computer’s been acting up, too!), my perspective would start to change.
Pause and Review
My practice of pausing, to notice and review my situation in a reasoned way, was key to my sanity! It gave me time to breathe (often literally!), and helped me realize what choices I had. I could assess what could be reasonably changed or not. In a single moment that might mean realizing that the excess tension in my neck was not helping me think clearly (or feel good) so I could choose to let go of it (hooray for Alexander Technique!), or on a larger scale, with a gentle nudge from a friend and colleague, that I am actually in charge of my own schedule, which meant I could choose to review it and change it – which I have done. It now feels more realistic and has a bit more ease built in, while staying with my key goals.
Gratitude and Perspective
Finally, remembering to be grateful for all I do have going for me, as well as celebrating the small achievements and successes this week, helped me keep my perspective. I remember I am human, that I am not perfect, and like everyone, it’s an ongoing practice to rise to the occasion with grace and poise. I fail many times over, but am grateful to have my work, this Alexander Technique practice, which I can return to again and again.
I intend to delve further into the topic of overwhelm, so stay tuned!
If you have questions or anything you’d like to share, ways you get through overwhelming times, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comment in the space below.
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Thank you so much for this, this morning, just what I needed to hear. As an AT teacher I too need reminding to practice these principles n all my affairs!
Glad it came at the right time, Carolene 🙂
Wonderful! Reminded me so strongly of what seems to happen every time I attempt to take on a new work project. Can’t wait for the next instalment.
Hi Imogen, useful blog! I particularly like the one on acceptance. It’s so easy for me to get snarled up in angry feelings of “too many people asking too much of me” and recognising, indeed accepting, that to feel like this is ok, is good. And then I can start to shift in my reactions, recognise my own part in the situation I find my self in, accept, and become a bit more rational and able to change my mindset (and maybe do a bit of rescheduling!)
Yes, acceptance is huge! Glad you found the blog useful, Sarah.
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Great post! Thank you for sharing it on Women inspiring womenf Facebook page
Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad you like it. I just had a quick look at your blog, and your latest post caught my eye, “The Power of Habit.” The book sounds intriguing and the ideas complementary to my own work, which also deals with habits.
Love the phrase the “Posture of Overwhelm”– very resonant and immediately accessible on a personal level for me.
Thanks. I like it too 🙂
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