Can We Choose to Thrive in the Chaos?
The answer is a resounding yes!
Many times we describe a situation of being overwhelmed when we have a lot on our plate. It doesn't matter if you are employed, a stay-at-home mom, or a student. A feeling of overwhelm can be experienced by anyone. You may have caught that I included the word “feeling.” Overwhelm is truly a feeling, and it is perception that makes it so. We all have different levels of tolerance for what we find overwhelming.
So how do we thrive when feeling overwhelmed? Here are some tips:
- Be mindful. Realize that no matter how much you have to do, you can only give your full attention to one task at a time. Most of the time our feeling of overwhelm occurs because we're thinking of everything we have to do. Focusing solely on the present task prevents you from dividing your attention resulting in a higher quality in your work and a more relaxed state of mind.
- Stop and breathe. Practice being calm while you work. Ask yourself if you really need that feeling of stress or anxiety to complete a task. For some, a feeling of anxiety has become connected to success. If I had the ability to take away your stress or worry about the task, could you still get it done? Of course you could. To complete tasks, we rely on our problem solving and creative thinking. Anxiety didn't complete the task. You did! Embrace the idea that you don't need a feeling of worry or anxiety to be successful.
- Reframe self-defeating thoughts. Saying “I'll never get all of this done,” isn't helpful unless it's true. If you've assessed the situation and cannot accomplish your task list, then utilize your problem-solving skills to seek out assistance or resources. If the statement isn't true, accurately reframe it. In this example, the reframed statement could be “I'll accomplish everything on my list with a steady focus and pace.”
- Create a short to-do list. Do you work from a long master list? If you work solely from a weekly master list, you might find yourself leaning into the tasks that you enjoy or find easiest to complete. When you reflect back on the list at the end of the day, you might be disheartened when you realize that higher priority items didn't get any attention. Instead, create a list that only includes the highest priority items for the day. Ideally, keep the list to no more than three tasks. You could include one or two “bonus” tasks that you can tackle when the higher priority items are complete.
It's a visual trick! Seeing items on your list being checked or scratched off is stimulating and reinforcing. It also instills a sense of confidence that you can do the same tomorrow. How would you feel if you had completed 21 tasks in a week? This can easily be accomplished with the three-item daily to-do list. Keep in mind that we tend to approach what seems manageable, and we tend to avoid what seems heavy or too involved. Give it a try!