The strain of the push-and-pull of life’s constant (and competing) demands can sometimes leave us feeling like we’re juggling chainsaws on a tightrope.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, every obligation feels like an unbearably heavy burden. Here’s my advice for scaling back your life, battening-down-the-hatches and surviving the emotional storm without your life grinding to a complete halt, or worse – slipping backwards into the quicksand of desperation and depression.
1. Allow yourself to grieve it
Set aside a whole day (or even a whole day each week for a couple of months) to cry, sulk, and generally pull the doona over your head and weep for what might have been. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I invoke the ‘Mopey Saturday’ clause. Mopey Saturday is spent in bed, watching movies, reading, or meditating. I brood, over-analyze and generally spend time fessing up to myself about what’s bothering me… name it, own it, grieve it and let it go.
2. Buy three pocket-sized notebooks and a favourite pen
Mark the front cover of one with ‘Home’, one with ‘Work’ and one with ‘Me’. Carry them in your handbag / man-bag / knap-sack. Whenever you think of something you need to do, write it down in the most simplistic, directive way possible. ‘Buy roast chicken for school sandwiches’. ‘Review divorce paperwork’. ‘Email Person – reschedule next Tuesday’s corporate planning meeting to the week after’.
The simple act of writing these things down whenever they occur to you frees your mind from the stressful white-noise in your life caused by the nagging baggage of ‘stuff you need to do’. It also serves as a time-management tool, giving you useful tasks to focus on when you find yourself momentarily filled with the motivation and available time to catch up on a few things.
3. Set yourself 3 tasks a day
- one professional
- one at home, and
- one for you.
While you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep the goals small. (Making an appointment – with your lawyer / accountant / hairdresser / friend – counts.) Keep them practical: Buying the kids’ school uniforms. Doing the grocery shopping. Folding the washing. Cooking and freezing the dinners for the week. Sending out the agenda for that important meeting you’re chairing next week.
Achieving even these small tasks guards against your life grinding to dysfunctional halt. You may not be forging ahead, but it’s better to tread water than to drown.
4. Walk it off
If you don’t feel up to hitting the gym, the simple of act of walking around the block can do wonders for your state-of-mind. Even if it’s just 20 mins a few times a week, it’ll make a difference. (And it counts towards the about point as one of your tasks!)
5. Establish a routine
When it comes to putting one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, the value of a routine in stopping you sliding backwards into a pit of despair cannot be underestimated. Again, Simplify. While you’re feeling overwhelmed, a simple checklist of routine tasks can help you get through the day… and on those days, having a shower DOES count as an accomplishment.