Friday, February 29, 2008

Serenity Tip: Recovering from Overwhelm

It's Friday. Are you more relaxed, looking forward to the weekend? Or maybe you feel your throat closing ever so slightly as you stare down a long list of things to do, and recognize several as things you didn't get to yesterday, the day before or the day before that. And don't forget that deadline coming up today and early next week.

Welcome to overwhelm.

A friend of mine called me last night with the following symptoms:

* Obsessive worry about confrontations and projects he'll have to handle next month.
* Regret that he didn't get to some projects earlier this week and that they were building up.
* Sadness and shame around some stuff in his personal life.
* A general sense that it was impossible to catch up, that there was too much to do and it all needed to be done right now.

Sould familiar?

Yeah, me too.

I so know this feeling. I'm the queen of overwhelm, with a habit of being very dramatic about it. And since I also work hard at being productive and professional, I've also come up with some ways of coping with it. Here are my favorites:

* Focus on these 24 hours: That project due in a month? That confrontation you're dreading? If it's not happening today, shelve it. I don't know about you, but I often use worry as a replacement for planning, so I end up working myself into a tizzy because I think it's somehow protecting me from that thing I'm dreading doing next week or tomorrow. The truth is all it does is steal precious energy I need for today's looming deadlines and the hard work in front of me right now. Don't do it to yourself. Just focus on today.

* Trust the future: If you have a spiritual practice and believe in some kind of Higher Power, now's the time to focus on inviting that power into your life. I know it sounds hokey and/or frighteningly religious if you're not, but bear with me. The point is this: You don't need to worry about how you'll handle projects in the future. You can trust that the Higher Power of your choosing/tradition/understanding will help you make the right decisions when the time comes. It's not all in your hands and never was. Relaaaax.

* Get clear: Remember that worry-as-a-replacement-for-planning? Now that you've let go of the biggest weight of overwhelm, you can focus on just those things on your to-do list that are important today. These can be personal deadlines, client deadlines or anything else. Really take a look at your to-do list today and set some realistic priorities. You may find that you don't have all that much that absolutely positively has to be done today. Weed out the things you're doing out of pride instead of necessity and focus your considerable energy and skill towards those things that are helpful to your clients.

Do these tips work for you? What are the other things that overwhelm you in your business?

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