Overwhelm can be defined as being completely submerged by thoughts and emotions, responsibilities and experiences to the extent that day to day functioning becomes such a challenge that they become so hard to manage that you risk complete breakdown.
In 21st Century life there is a bit of a cult of being “Busy” with busyness being equated to success. The conversation often goes along the lines of “How are you?” …..”I’m great, I’m really busy.”…..”Oh that’s amazing”.
It’s important to remember that being busy is often a choice and it doesn’t always mean that you are being productive. Finding a balance between work/rest/play/family/horses/social life isn’t always easy but it is most definitely possible. How many times have you heard someone saying that they often “multitask”? Is this necessarily something to be welcomed?
THE MYTH OF MULTITASKING
- Multitasking actually isn’t possible, trying to do more than one cognitive tasks at the same time doesn’t work. What you’re actually doing is inefficiently jumping from one task to the next and back again, possibly all within one train of thought.
- Multitasking only creates an illusion of productivity.
- It can be dangerous e.g. driving and texting at the same time!
- Research suggests that 40% of productivity can be lost by attempting to multi-task. It actually takes longer to complete your tasks and you’re more likely to make errors.
- A Stanford University study confirmed this by showing that those who multitask are worse performers, and struggle because they can’t filter out irrelevant information, slowing down completion of the task at hand.
- The key is to accept that your mind can only, truly efficiently, focus on one task at a time.
- SO………WHAT SHOULD WE DO??????
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP OURSELVES TO HANDLE STRESS AND AVOID OVERWHELM?
I’m going to suggest two techniques which are really helpful.
- What you can do in the moment when you feel completely overwhelmed and fear that you might “lose it” or switch into panic mode .
- A planning technique for getting tasks done.
If you feel overwhelmed “in the moment” then PRESS PAUSE. Stop what you’re doing, breathe to allow your stress hormones to settle back into a more comfortable range. A relaxing breathing protocol such as box breathing or cyclic sighing will help to turn down your sympathetic nervous system stress response and trigger your parasympathetic nervous system which will help you to feel, and be, more relaxed.
Then do something different such as going for a 10 minute walk, doing a little bit of exercise, have a cool drink, call a friend before returning to the things which you want to get done.
The second suggestion is more of a planning tip for getting things done and avoiding the feeling of overwhelm when your tasks build up and you don’t know where to start.
TRIAGE YOUR TO DO LIST!!
- CODE RED – REQUIRES IMMEDIATE (LIFE SAVING) ATTENTION.
- CODE YELLOW – NEEDS TO BE DONE SOON BUT CAN WAIT.
- CODE GREEN – NOT SERIOUS, CAN WAIT UNTIL THE RED AND YELLOW TASKS ARE COMPLETED.
- SOME TASKS MAY BE CODE BLACK – THERE’S NOTHING TO BE DONE, THEY CAN’T BE “SAVED”. LEAVE AND MOVE ON.
WE ARE AIMING TO DEVELOP INCREASED RESILIENCE
- COMPETENCE – the feeling of knowing that you can handle a situation effectively.
- CONFIDENCE – belief in your own abilities, derived from competence.
- CONNECTION – developing close ties to friends, family, colleagues. A community builds a sense of security.
- CHARACTER – having your own set of values and morals and demonstrating caring attitude to others.
- CONTRIBUTION – realising that the world is a better place because you’re in it.
- COPING – learning to cope effectively with stress helps you to be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges.
- CONTROL – realising you can control the outcomes of your decisions and taking responsibility for them.
With growing resilience you will be in a better position to be able to deal with the stresses of life and much less likely to become overwhelmed. If you feel that you need support with stress in your own life then please do reach out for help.