Though this post covers the topic of feeling overwhelmed, it is not simply a repeat of my recent post on the topic.
This post is geared toward facing down your fear and resistance and telling it to shut the hell up.
This post is about facing major life decisions and choosing to take action, thus refusing to shy away from things when they get hard.
This post is ME pushing YOU to fight for yourself and what you care about by learning how to deal with your life.
If this sounds scary, good. It should be. Let me let you in on a little secret…
I’m freaking out a bit right now.
I have so many things I need to get done. Hey, I even want to do them! I get excited thinking about their finished existence!
But thinking about all the steps it’s going to take getting to that final state is not as exciting.
…I’m overwhelmed at the moment.
I’m right on the crest of a lot of big things for Strong Inside Out, Four Leaf Fitness (my personal training company), and my personal life, and I’m dreading all the work it’s going to take to make them happen.
This is because:
A. I know these things are going to take a lot of planning and work, and the mind is not the biggest fan of exertion.
B. I’m looking at ALL the things that have to get done, and it’s swamping my mind with chaos.
C. I have a lot on my plate already, and I am trying not to over-extend myself.
In addition to these logical reactions to overwhelm, I’m now starting to notice how it affects me physically as well.
Now, I’m not sure if this is a left-over habit from my days in deep depression or if everyone feels this way, but my body tries to play dead when confronted with something I have to fight for.
My body literally starts to shut off.
It’s happening now, and it happens when I get into fights or arguments, or when I feel like I’m being criticized.
I feel SPENT and a sudden need to curl up and go to sleep.
My body is playing dead to save me from pain.
So I’m faced with fighting that physical urge as well as the emotional fear in order to get these things done that I know will enrich my life.
Something tells me you’ve been through this before, too. ;)
How can we simplify this process so that the act of overcoming overwhelm in the face of major life decisions doesn’t seem so… well… overwhelming?
Better yet, why should we?
When you play dead, you’re giving into a half-dead life. If you’re not willing to fight for the things that matter to you, what’s the point? Are you going to play dead every time you want something, but someone doesn’t want to give it to you?
I, for one, prioritize adventure, passion, and fulfillment. In order to keep those qualities at a constant level in my life, I can’t sit around and wait for them to come to me. I have to actively create them. I have to fight for them.
Just as you are the only one that can create change in your life, you are just as responsible for maintaining that level of happiness once you obtain it.
It’s not easy sometimes, but with practice it gets easier.
Here are the action steps that I take when I have to face down some major decisions or big projects.
Get ready to fight for yourself and what you care about. We’re going to learn how to deal with our lives and experience what the half-dead only dream about.
Make a conscious choice to DEAL with it
This is the most important and probably the hardest step.
You must make the choice to deal with what you’re feeling, as scary as it is. The sooner you deal with it, the sooner it gets taken care of.
Consciously commit to dealing with the work at hand and the emotions you’re feeling.
The brain will resist. Your body might resist, too.
This is important: don’t let them.
Tell your resistance–those physical and mental urges to play dead–to shut the hell up.
By constantly shutting off in the face of difficult times, you weaken your resilience as well as your ability to experience the good times when they come!
Learn how to deal now so that when something really big comes along, you’ll be better suited to handle it.
If you feel yourself getting sidetracked with other actions that are less important, have the tenacity to re-focus yourself back on the big deal here. Procrastination is my personal go-to for not dealing. As soon as I catch myself putting off work to check on Facebook, I know that I’m resisting something.
Force yourself to deal with your life. Decide right now, in this moment, that you will.
Make some lists
I know. I hate lists, too.
The on-going ones seem to never get done, and then are left forgotten about in the reminders of your phone.
This is an action list, however, and is made specifically when things NEED to get done. This isn’t your classic I-hope-to-get-this-done-sometime list. This is an everything-on-this-list-must-get-done list.
Making these lists truly do help take power away from the tasks; they won’t seem so overwhelming when you’re looking at them on paper.
Take a look at the list-making tips here, then come back and move on.
Start taking one action at a time
Look at your most important action. Take the first step.
Take the next step.
Go on to the next step.
You see a pattern developing here?
Take each action at a time and focus solely on that action until it is complete.
You can only do so much. Spreading yourself between all of your tasks will just serve to inject that overwhelmed feeling into your life again.
Focus will be your key to success. When you can focus on one step at a time, you can get those single things done more quickly than trying to do everything at once, spreading your focus and getting distracted. You’ll come out with a half-assed product or maybe even just leave things unfinished because of the frustration they’re causing.
Here’s where we start handling some really difficult stuff: ingrained bad habits of over-extending.
I’ll tell you a little of what I’m going through.
On top of everything I’m trying to handle right now, I was offered an amazing opportunity to be a part of something that could make me a lot of money… or none. It was one way or the other.
It sounded like another great adventure to add to my life list, but then I started thinking about my priorities. I realized that, as much as I would love to have that money and that adventure notch on my belt, I just can’t get past how it would compromise those priorities.
You can’t say “yes” to everything and stay sane. You just can’t.
And that makes me kinda sad. But knowing this makes me feel less guilty for letting an opportunity go by.
Though something may seem like an amazing opportunity–and believe me, I don’t say “no” easily either–weigh your options.
Would it alleviate stress, or is it worth the mental stress it would cause?
If you immediately get excited about the opportunity, that’s a good sign! In the case of my example, however, my insides reacted with this immediate thought: “Oh my gosh, something else to add to the list!” That’s NOT a good sign.
There are so many opportunities in life, and if you’re like me, you want to take as many as possible! You just can’t take them all at once and expect to not end up in the looney bin.
Work the frustration/stress/anxiety/emotion out
Without this step, I would never be where I am now.
I’ve made some major choices in my life to get to where I am. I’ve faced some big decisions that weren’t easy to make, and done a ton of hard work to get here.
I don’t know if I would have been able to handle all that stress of change without getting all that stress out physically.
By turning on my music and running, lifting, kickboxing, practicing yoga or pilates, I strengthened my commitment to myself. I reinforced all that hard work I was doing by proving to myself in that workout that I was strong. I channeled all that anxious energy out through my workouts, so that I could focus with a clear head on my action steps.
It is scientifically proven that exercise helps the brain to focus for the rest of the day.
Aerobic exercise strengthens your ability to make new memories and learn new things.
Working out gives all that pent up stress somewhere to go.
Give your mind and body an outlet so that you don’t just fester in that pit of stress and anxiety.
My suggestion: When you’re going through super-stressful times, bring your workout routine back to things you know how to do and enjoy doing.
Trying to add a new form of exercise at this stressful time in your life might be a mistake- you don’t need to add something else to your list right now. Wait until the waters have calmed down a bit, then go learn Capoeira.
As the body strengthens, so does the mind. When your mind is strong, daunting tasks don’t seem insurmountable anymore.
With the right action steps, you can teach your brain and body not to play dead every time you’re faced with a load of work and/or intense emotions. In order to experience the highs of life, we have to tune into the lows as well.
Get through these hard times and come out stronger. It’ll be easier the next time around, and even easier the next.
Just don’t tune out.
DEAL WITH YOUR LIFE.
Because if you don’t, you’re wasting it.