While, I am away on vacation this week, soaking up some cool weather and mountain air, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite posts from earlier this year. These 5 tools are ones I come back to time and time again, and with a new season coming up and school starting again, I’m sure you could use the reminder as well.
Lately I have been busy creating new programs, finishing my second book, and keeping up with my class schedule. After managing it well for a few months, so I thought, I was slammed with sudden stress, irritability, and total overwhelm in the last few weeks. I chalked it up to a few different things and changes that were going on in my life, and while I know these did play a part, they weren’t the main culprits.
My busy schedule left little time for fun. It may sound selfish or silly, but this sudden all-work, no-play lifestyle dropped me right back into my old thought patterns and stress triggers. I was suddenly grumpy, crying at small things, and feeling like my creativity was sucked dry. I had little passion to write, which didn’t help my stress, since most of my busy schedule had to do with writing and teaching.
Basically, I was completely overwhelmed. I knew I had to make a change in my life. This stress was starting to affect me creatively and mentally, but also physically. I was experiencing stomach aches, heart burn, and incredibly painful, tense muscles. These are my tell-tale signs of too much stress and not enough living.
Even though I felt stressed, and old patterns were beginning to creep in, I realized I had the tools I needed to release the stress and beat overwhelm. I knew if I took a step back and re-evaluated, I could figure this out.
My main problem was time and motivation. I was stressed, which meant my sleeping patterns were off. I was staying up late, stressing about how I wouldn’t be able to get up early, and then stressing when I slept in past a certain hour I had deemed “appropriate” for a self-employed adult. My body felt worn out by my class schedule, and I was starting to not look forward to teaching them all, which is never the way to head into a class of eager students. And my writing was feeling blah. Every time I went to write, I would feel overwhelmed and like I needed to be doing something else, something bigger, or something more “productive” around my home. I had suddenly created a ton of rules and restrictions in my life in order to live more, but instead they had left me feeling restricted, limited, and totally overwhelmed. Exactly the opposite of living more fully. I wasn’t having fun, I wasn’t productive, and I wasn’t flourishing.
It was time for a change. I took a look, re-evaluated, and re-prioritized my life in order to create more productive and important work, while carving out some down time for myself. While overwhelm will never completely go away (it can be a powerful motivator and teacher), these simple steps can help you discover why you are overwhelmed, what you can learn from it, and how to let it go until you need it again.
Here are the 5 things I did to Beat Overwhelm:
Outsource where you can: I absolutely love grocery shopping and cooking. These are in fact two of my very favorite things to do. But even favorite things can get overwhelming. Trips to the grocery store and trying to come up with new and fresh recipes for blog posts, on top of daily smoothie recipe testing for my new book were, getting to be not so fun. It had become more work than play. I decided to outsource my grocery shopping and planning a bit by joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) with a local farm. I know get a box of produce each week with fresh, seasonal goodies. It helps to cut back on my shopping time and also inspires me to create new recipes with the ingredients, without having to think of what to buy and how to make it differently. It is also much cheaper than buying the produce in the store. If needed, I might also try a meal planning service, such as Blue Apron, to send 3 meals a week with recipes.
For me, food was my easiest and biggest thing to change and find help with. For you, it might be cleaning, yard work, child care, or something totally different. Brainstorm for a bit – What things can you outsource or barter with to beat stress?
Reduce Your Schedule: This was a hard one for me but I knew that one way to create more time and freedom was to back away from some commitments, such as teaching a few classes. I was starting to dread my busiest days and really feel tapped out and exhausted mentally and physically by the time my later classes rolled around. So I decided to reduce my schedule, starting with giving up 2 classes a week in order to free up an evening in my schedule. This was difficult for me to do, because I had worked hard to build up my schedule and earn enough, but in the long run, I knew this would give me more time to refresh, which means better classes and more productivity in my other endeavors.
Look at your schedule: What things could you change or move around to create a few hours or days with more downtime? Even if it doesn’t seem like it would make sense (dropping an hour or two of money-earning potential or dropping an hour at the gym), these small changes will help you recharge, flourish, and create even more in your life.
Rethink your “musts”: I realized my stress had hit a new high (or low?) when I was stressing again about not waking up at a specific hour. If I wasn’t up early, I felt like I had failed my day, was a lazy slob, and would never be successful. All of which, I made up. I had to rethink my “must” do list. Did it really matter is I woke up a little later if I was tired? Wouldn’t I be more productive if I wasn’t stressed and tired? So I decided, with much encouragement from my husband, to drop the stress and just go to sleep when I was tired and wake up when I wasn’t. Of course, listening to my body and tuning in made it easy to get to bed on time and wake up a bit earlier without stressing over it.
What “must” do you have that is bringing in more stress than it is helping out? How can you rework it?
Change your View: I will be the first to say part of my overwhelm was from not getting out of the house enough and getting sucked into too much TV time. When my cat passed away, it was hard to be in a quiet home all day. Even with 2 dogs, who love to bark, there was an underlying silence to my house. I filled it with hours upon hours of TV. I wouldn’t always be watching, but I would always have it on. All the noise and the slight inattention made it easy to tune out and not get done what I needed. I decided to cut back on TV time, but also get out of my house more. I have been spending some time outside, meeting friends and colleagues, and working from coffee shops and cafes. I find that being away from my home makes me work more efficiently and enjoy my work more.
I am also putting in an actual office at home with a big window and lots of light, so I can close my door if needed and get creative.
Where can you change your work view? Maybe meet a co-worker outside for lunch or perhaps take your off-the-clock work to your deck or patio when you get home.
Ask for help: This was by far the hardest one to do – ask for help – and technically I didn’t really ask. I had a moment when I was doing the dishes and feeling overwhelmed, and I broke down. I started crying and my husband came over to hug me. He asked what was wrong and I said, “I am tired of doing the dishes, laundry, and making meals”. He said, “Well, I can help”. You see, he works 40+ hours a week and goes to school full-time. I decided I would take care of the house on top of my own work, so he wouldn’t have to. But that wasn’t fair to either of s and eventually caught up with me. Asking for help is hard, but sometimes you just have to be honest and say what you do (or don’t ) want. The answers will come.
Where can you ask for help, even if it is hard?
Now it’s your turn. Which one of these resonates with you the most and how can you use it to beat overwhelm? Leave your commitment in the comments below to inspire yourself and others to make it happen.
If you loved what you read today, take a peek at the Personal Lifestyle Coaching sessions. These one-on-one sessions will help you discover where you can release more stress and live more fully, creating the things in life that are important to you. There are currently 5 spots open for session in September.
I can’t wait to see you beat overwhelm, one step at a time.