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Overcoming Overwhelm
How to Overcome Overwhelm

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? If so, is it something you experience only from time to time, or is it continuous? Either way, in today’s article, you’ll discover how to overcome the ‘state’ of overwhelm!

Overwhelm – What Is It?

We’re going to begin by ensuring we all agree on what exactly overwhelm is and why it is a such a serious issue. For most people, it’s simply a feeling – the sense that no matter what you do, it won’t be enough. Like the feeling you might get from trying to meet an impossible deadline, dealing with too many problems at once, having others expect too much of you, or expecting too much of yourself.

a person with boxes - overwhelmed

Regardless of what causes your specific sense of ‘overwhelm,’ overwhelm affects us all similarly. It is also caused by nearly the same thing for all of us. That’s GREAT news because if overwhelm is caused by the same thing for all of us, yet some of us rarely, if ever, become overwhelmed, then all we need to do is find out what they do differently from the rest of us, especially those of us who are easily or frequently overwhelmed!

The Negative Impact of Being Overwhelmed

However, first, let’s make sure that you’re aware of the enormous negative impact that being overwhelmed can have on your life – we want to do this, so you’re deeply motivated to master the steps necessary to overcome it.

Aside from ‘feeling’ terrible, being overwhelmed hurts us in many other ways: 

It causes us to produce negative stress hormones that damage our bodies and can ultimately lead to cancer, heart disease, sleep loss, and premature aging. 

It negatively impacts our mental and emotional state, leading to frustration, anger, apathy, fear, and various forms of mental illness, such as chronic anxiety and depression. These repercussions can damage and destroy relationships costing us our jobs and even our lives. At the very least, they bring out the worst in us.

How To Avoid Overwhelm

Ironically, at the one time when we are in greatest need of our mental, emotional, and physical prowess, we begin to shut down when overwhelm sets in. As a result, we become the least creative, resilient, resourceful, or brilliant when we’re in an overwhelm-induced state of panic or fear. Therefor, the secret to being our best in any situation MUST include avoiding overwhelm.

With that said, let’s get started. 

You first need to know that overwhelm has much in common with ‘fear.’ If you go back and reread my article on BEYOND FEAR, you will find that the same things you can do to overcome fear will work on overcoming overwhelm, including ‘staying in the moment’ and ‘avoiding the tendency to catastrophize.

However, the single most effective thing you can do is this: remember how to ‘eat an elephant’… ONE BITE AT A TIME. The feeling of overwhelm is almost ALWAYS caused by looking at too many things at once. Yes, you must step back and see the whole picture to get your bearings.

However, once you see the whole picture, you need to release it and begin to focus on what you want to focus on – the one, single most important thing you can do RIGHT NOW; you can’t save the whole world all at once.

Task #1: Prioritize

You’ve got to figure out what one thing on your ‘overwhelming’ list is the single most important, then the next one, and the next. You don’t even need to have the whole list figured out (just doing THAT can be overwhelming). You only need to know the next few steps, just enough to get you started, then jump in and get busy!

When you’ve done all you can on that one thing, let go, move on to the next, and so on. You keep doing this until you’ve run out of priorities, at which time you figure out the next set of priorities.

The key here is to temporarily let go of everything but the thing you are doing NOW!

Task #2: Nothing is perfect

The next step requires letting go of the idea that it must be PERFECT, or nearly so!

The desire to create perfection is the second most significant cause of overwhelm after looking at too many things simultaneously. Shooting for perfection sets us up for overwhelm because perfection isn’t possible. Those who rarely ever experience overwhelm aren’t nihilists – they care just like everyone else. It is just that they know when it’s time to say, ‘that’s good enough; it’s time to move on.’

Believe me, I’ve got OCD, and I want everything I do to be absolutely perfect. However, if I had given into that, neither this video nor the ones to come before or after it would have ever been completed. Like you, I’ve got about a hundred other things going on at any given time, and there is no way that I’ve got the resources to create the kind of video in real life that I envision in my mind, much less to do EVERYTHING ELSE ‘perfectly’ as well. 

So what do I do? 

I tell myself I’m not trying to ‘create a masterpiece.’ I’m trying to create better lives, and the video I’m shooting is good enough to accomplish its purpose. Then I say, “Okay, let’s shoot the next one,” and I let it go.

So manage expectations – yours and everyone else’s – by saying, ‘I’ll do the best I can with what I have.’ ‘What you have’ is a given amount of time, energy, support, funding, and other resources, just like the rest of us. There are only so many resources to go around.

When you think about it, doing the best you can with what you have is the most we can ever ask of anyone, including ourselves! 

Task #3 See the Possibilities

Once you begin to focus on just one thing at a time and you’ve let go of the need for perfection, you need to do one more thing, which is to ‘focus on the possibilities’.

Those who allow self-doubt to creep in are destined to feel overwhelmed because, let’s face it, in the end, ‘overwhelm’ is little more than the fear that we’re not enough, that we can’t do it, that it’s more than we can handle.

So don’t go there! Nothing good will come of telling yourself that you’re not enough, while everything good will come from the opposite! Nothing remarkable was ever accomplished by someone who didn’t believe they could do it!

This takes us back to our Beyond Goal SETTING article, where you learned that the single most crucial ingredient for achieving goals was BELIEF!  This is because when we fully believe something is possible, it changes how we feel, which changes how we behave, which changes the outcome. 

The same thing happens when it comes to things that cause us to be overwhelmed. When we think about our strengths or past achievements, when we look for proof that what we are attempting IS POSSIBLE, and when we see that others have done it too, it increases our belief. Our belief changes what we are capable of, creating a positive feedback loop and eliminating overwhelm.

After all, once you break it down to ‘one thing at a time’ and focus on just that, what is there to be overwhelmed about?

“It’s just this little thing; hell, even I can do this one thing. Besides, it doesn’t need to be perfect, just the best that it can be under the circumstances, and I’ve done plenty of things like this, and so have lots of people; it really is no big deal.”

Then, when you finish that ONE priority, you move on to the next one and do the exact same thing, then the next, and so on. Before you know it, you’ve accomplished what may have seemed impossible had you continued looking at ‘everything all at once,’ shooting for perfection and doubting yourself every step of the way.

So, that’s it! Doing the opposite of the above is how you overcome overwhelm! This process will not only help you overcome overwhelm, but this is one of the greatest secrets to achieving the seemingly impossible AND LIVING A LIMITLESS LIFE!

Author’s Bio: A 3-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, psychotherapist, life-mastery, and peak-performance coach, Mark Fournier (The Limitless Coach) is lauded as a world-renowned expert on ‘Living a LIMITLESS Life.’ Mark has dedicated his life to ‘saving the world’ by helping others gain true mastery over their LIMITLESS lives. He is also a patented inventor, award-winning writer, author, columnist, keynote speaker, the founder and provost of LIMITLESS University, and the founding director of the DoGood Hero Support Network.