From the desk of Robbin Jorgensen – WBC Guest Speaker
Overwhelm sneaks up on you when you least expect it, especially if you have a tendency to be a people pleaser or a type-A overachiever.
It begins when you take on too many tasks, say Yes to everything, and forget to set solid, non-negotiable boundaries for yourself.
You finally realize you’re in over your head when you’re exhausted, frustrated, and caught in an endless to-do-list loop, yet nothing ever seems to get done.
Struggling with overwhelm is more common than you realize.
I talk to women every day who grapple with stress, who don’t take care of themselves, and who feel they can’t say No when they’re asked to assume more responsibilities.
The pressure can be debilitating and can lead to depression and physical ailments that can derail your career, not to mention your life. According to the American Institute of Stress, stress and overwhelm can have a wide range of effects on emotions, mood, and behavior:
- Overwhelm and stress may cause you to eat much more or less than you usually do, affecting your digestive system and resulting in heartburn or acid reflux.
- Your nervous system reacts by shifting its energy to fighting off this perceived threat and goes into the “fight or flight” mode. This can make your heart beat faster and raise your blood pressure.
- Stress can make you breathe harder and lead to hyperventilating and potential panic attacks.
How can you avoid getting blindsided by overwhelm?
Practice #1- Box Your Breath.
I know, that sounds like a no-brainer. But the fact is when you feel you’re in over your head, breathing is the last thing on your mind. Conscious breathing helps you focus on the present moment and eliminate the “noise” in your head. Your goal is to get back to a peaceful mental state so you can think clearly and come up with your next steps. Simply doing three rounds of “box breathing” can bring you back to zero and give you time to think clearly. Here’s a simple explanation of how to use box breathing:
- Inhale slowly and deeply to a count of 5.
- Hold that breath for a count of 5.
- Exhale slowly to a count of 5 so you feel it deep in your gut.
- Hold for a count of 5, again.
- Repeat this sequence of inhaling, holding, exhaling, holding. 3 rounds. 60 seconds.
Practice #2-Minimize Multi-tasking.
Yes, really. You’ve probably heard (and ignored) the stats about multi-tasking, but take a moment to stop and really take this in. Humans have the ability to shift our focus quickly; sometimes it takes just a 10th of a second. But to shift your focus requires a tremendous amount of bandwidth from your brain, which can affect your performance and the quality of your work. Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40 percent. The truth is, we aren’t actually multi-tasking; rather, we’re rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting our productivity and losing time in the process. When too many to-dos compete for your attention, you get mentally fatigued and overwhelmed.
Practice #3- Build Boundaries.
I know exactly what you’re thinking when you read this one: “Yeah, right.” Trust me, I felt the same way when I was working in corporate until I actually tried it. Your boundaries don’t have to be extreme. For example, you can set an internal “out of office message” for 30 minutes. Let everyone know you are heads down working on a project and will respond in 30 minutes. Send a separate email to “the powers that be” and let them know, too. Leave a note on your door that says the same thing. Unless the building is burning down, anything can wait for 30 minutes. Give yourself permission to focus and really dive into ONE activity at a time. Boundaries open up space for your creativity and productivity to skyrocket.
I’d love to hear how these tips worked for you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Robbin Jorgensen is the Founder and CEO of Women Igniting Change®, a global purpose driven organization geared toward unleashing the contribution of women around the world. She is a highly successful businesswoman with 25+ years of experience in sales and marketing, training and business development. A sought-after speaker and women’s leadership strategist, she is the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda’s AVEGA Agahozo and is on the Board of Advisors of the Center for Leadership & Service for SUNY Albany. Her company supports forward-thinking organizations committed to fully leveraging the strategic potential of their women leaders. They are trusted by major organizations including Microsoft, Bank of America, Deloitte, General Electric, Oracle, S&P Global and Cisco. Women Igniting Change® reaches women in 46 countries around the world.