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A Strategy to Deal with Overwhelm

Do you every feel overwhelmed? I’m sure we’ve all felt this way, at time or another. But how do you deal with it? I find that a lot of my clients, and my students, report an inability to handle these feelings of overwhelm, which begs the question: is it the tasks that need to get done, or the perception of them. There is a difference.

As one who is very busy, with my fingers in several things, I often feel overwhelmed, such as right now. I just finished teaching one course but started another, and I’m also on my last week for another course; I have a talk I’m giving next week, plus several others, and I run a coaching association, with a meeting next week. When I look at this, I admit my anxiety kicks in a bit as I wonder IF I will get them done. I know logically that they will, as they have in the past, but it doesn’t make me feel any different.

That is the funny thing with feelings – they set the tone for how we think and behave. Perceptions of our situations cause us problems  when we believe the stories we tell ourselves. I hear clients say ‘I can’t deal with this,’ or ‘I don’t know if I can get all my tasks done.’ Believing these statements will lead them (and you) exactly where you are now….stuck. I know these feelings and ‘stuckness’ as well.

However, I’ve developed a strategy that works for me, and hopefully, it will for you. Because I’m a very visual person, I need to see what I’m dealing with. The one strategy that works for me is to create a picture of the tasks I have to do, along with the dates. I take a piece of copy paper and made headlines for each task I need to get done, such as one for each school I teach at, each of the talks I’m giving, writing, networking, etc. Then, under each, I list specific steps I can need to take along with a due date. I find that this simple act helps me to be more aware, which helps to relieve any anxious feelings I have, and keeps me feeling in control and focused.

It’s not a hard exercise to do but the results you get from it will decrease any fears and feelings and help you to take action. As an added bonus, I talk to myself, helping me to remember times in the past when I said I couldn’t handle what was on my plate but they got done; this actually is effective to challenge any negatives thoughts and then bounces back positive feelings from previous accomplishments. These work well for me – they can for you, too. Staying in negative patterns doesn’t have to be the norm; you can alter your thought patterns, creating positive habits and getting more done.

If I Hear “I don’t want to do this” One More Time …..

Have you ever noticed how there are certain trends that come into your consciousness and that make you sit up and take notice? It could be certain numbers or people that all have the same resemblance and that can make you now be more cognizant.

As one who trends, I see this frequently; in my work with clients, I can often see five in a day who all talk about the same issue or situation. One that I noticed today involved two people – within minutes of each other – who had taken on tasks they wanted to do and involved higher performance in their jobs, and who both stated “I don’t want to do this” now that it was time to step and up and move forward. To be honest, the talk I did last week and that I mentioned, had me saying a few times “I don’t want to do this.”

Obviously, there is a lot of fear going on in these individuals that seems easier than doing the task they agreed to. They have learned to cope and adapt to being ‘safe’ by not engaging in these tasks but, yet, there was a desire to move toward them. Ideas can ‘sound good’ at the time but when reality comes, the terror of all past failures comes rushing in and now create the reality to deal with: what if I fail, what if I get laughed at, what if I get rejected, etc. It’s these perceived realities in our own head that hold us back – imagining the poor outcome before it even happens.

The way to deal? Stop focusing on the poor outcome and create the positive one that will most likely happen, or that you want to happen. Do you know the outcome to occur? NO – so why focus on something that hasn’t happened yet and begin placing that focus and intention on doing your best, working off of your skills and strengths, and only allow  ‘seeing’ positive actions and responses. It’s the old “feel the fear and do it anyway” mantra. A question to ask yourself if or when you get in this situation is:

Which do you want to face more: acting on your intention of which you don’t know the outcome (and having success), OR never trying and then having to face the resulting feelings that will arise (guilt, regret, shame,  or the like)?

Go back and look at what you committed to and why as this will reframe your negative thoughts to become positive. If you’re going to place your focus on a thought, why not keep it on the outcome you envisioned when you originally said yes to the task at hand?

An Exercise for Self-Validation and Self-Worth

I just finished an exercise, as homework in a coaching program I’m in, and I must say it was life-changing. I am not sure why this exercise at this particular time was so effective – as I’ve done them before- but it was. Right now as I’m writing this I feel freer, happier and more focused.

The simple exercise I was homework’d  with is to write yourself a letter. Easy, yes? Not so fast. The purpose is to write this as if your ‘other self’ is speaking to you about your life: your past, your present and your future; your past mistakes and how you dealt or overcame them; significant events or people who made an impact on you; your struggles and challenges; your successes. Literally, you can write what and however you want. No one is judging this (although mine was viewed by others in the program – scary) so you can talk to yourself as you will. For example, I was encouraging while pulling no punches or letting issues slide.

This type of exercise is effective as it allows you to go deep into your buried thoughts to bring those out; those that are lurking near the surface can now make sense. Those past hurts can be forgiven and put into a place we can now live with, and we can create the future we want with some safety. Through writing, which engages both sides of the brain, bringing out highlights in our life affirms and validates those experiences, particularly the positive ones. Self-esteem goes up from reading of these accomplishments so that now we want to continue to take action and move forward on goals we want to achieve. We’re not afraid to think big or take big steps to make our life as we envisioned it on the paper.

If you want to self-validate and raise your self-esteem, then I encourage you to start writing that letter to yourself; you may want to mediate a bit before, or sit in silence, as it will give you calm and the words to fly through your fingers. This is where rubber meets the road. You will feel some emotions that will feel uncomfortable but you get to write the ending – isn’t that great?

Winding Down and Gearing Up for the Next Challenge

Well, here we are – 4 days away from the  end of the 30-Day Challenge – how has it been for you? Further on your established goal, so that it now feels natural and easy? Progress being made? This is the time to ‘pour it on,’ as they say, and really finish strong.

For myself, I’ve kept at the writing (hopefully you’ve enjoyed them); I will admit that there were some days I struggled with the content – what would provide value. But, I pushed through and did it anyway – I just had to look a bit to find those inspirations. I found that once I did, then ideas flowed and the words came along with the feeling of accomplishment.

Right now, I’m thinking of my next challenge – it’s only 30 days after all; I made it through one challenge and can do it again. This is the mindset we need to take to calm our fear center and affirm our abilities so we can overcome any personal challenge we find standing in our way. I’ll hold off until Friday to reveal but this one will be a bit difficult for me; however, I realize that presenting myself with a challenge is the best way I can hold my self accountable and have ‘no excuses’ to not take action. I hope you are finding hte same. So push on- now it’s only 4 days to go; you got this!

 

How Comparing Yourself to Others is Detrimental to Your Health

One of the biggest roadblocks most of us experience, and which causes us to feel anxious or depressed – or even angry, is comparing ourselves to others. ‘I’ll never be as good as they are’ ‘They’re so much prettier than I am’ ‘The boss likes him better than me.’ Having thoughts such as this can hold you back from achieving your goals and stepping into your greatness.

I remember a story I heard a while back of a woman who was feeling very sad, unable to sometimes get out of bed to go to work; it seems the woman did not feel she was valued at work, reporting that other coworkers seemed to get all the accolades. She constantly worried about losing her job. Ultimately, she did after her performance lagged in her constant comparison and worry. She actually took herself out of the game, so to speak, by not believing in enough in herself and her value to show them to her organization.

Frankly, I see this over and over again – a business owner who is suffering as they tried an approach someone else did but was a ‘fit’ for their type of business; a job candidate who never goes after a promotion as they don’t feel ‘good’ enough; the manager who is overbearing to his workers, who he feels inadequate from some of his employees.

Feeling less than comes from comparing ourselves to others, which we learn early in life. It can start with a parent ‘encouraging their child to get all A’s in school as their sibling was able to, or we get scolded for something but then see our parents do the same thing. The typical brain response is to attribute an event to ourselves when we can’t make sense out of what we are being told, since our young brains are just learning how to process and sort information. Right and wrong are also just developing. Over time, we tend to believe these thoughts which seem to embed deep in our psyche.

We then feel inadequate, not good enough, and worry about any type of criticism. The results can include a host of emotional problems that may not be so transparent to others but leaves us dying inside. That little voice inside is always there for some, while for others it rears its ugly head during times of high stress or when confronted with situations that make us uncomfortable, such as when going for that promotion or even in our daily work-life. Cognitive dissonance comes into play as we search out for ‘evidence’ of those thoughts, so the coworker who walks past now becomes the person who doesn’t like us.

So how do you overturn these detrimental thoughts and stop the comparisons? I’m going to say that it won’t be so easy as these types of thoughts are deep in your brain and are now a habit. It’s the unlearning that will take time but there is hope – all is not lost:

  • Begin by assessing your situations for when you find yourself in a comparison mode; pay attention to your feelings as those will appear before thoughts  in our awareness. By paying attention to what areas you feel inadequate or not good enough, or your self-esteem drops, this will allow you to go back and reframe both mindset and actions and will feel more capable when you are faced with these emotionally trying times
  • Work to resolve past hurts, as it was hurtful when you were compared to someone else, even when done in a positive manner. Parents, other family members, and even teachers – those early influencers – want to motivate and have the best intentions but may not realize the impact of their words. Take ownership for how you feel, forgive, and let go. You will feel free and so much better
  • Validate yourself – you have a lot of good within, i.e. skills, interests, abilities, passions, etc. Brain research shows that for every negative thought we have, we need three positive thoughts to override it so take a cue and write down at least three positives attributes about yourself; these can include: your physical appearance; hobbies or aptitudes you have; passions you pursue; compliments others give you; actions you took to enhance someone else’s day or provide help; or when you were able to figure out or fix something on your own (a process at work, changing the oil in your car, etc.), or when you stepped outside your comfort zone and took action.

The key to unlearning and changing behaviors lies with being committed to the change and then being consistent in your new actions so that new habits will begin and then become the new habits embedded in the brain. Make a vow that this is one habit you will stop right now (the ‘next’ 30 day challenge?).

 

When Our Differences Matter

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the tragedies which occurred here in Orlando over the weekend; the first with The Voice’s Christina Grimmie being shot after a concert, and then the biggest massacre in U.S. history took place Saturday night. We still don’t have all the details despite living here. One fact, however, does seem clear at least in one respect, is that the motivation for this was a hate crime.

Apparently the shooter was so angry at those who had a sexual orientation different than he, that for some unknown reason he felt compelled to take action against them. This is a scary thought, that  a person’s differences can compel another to lash out against them in some way. Differences include: race, gender, religion, political affiliation and, one of the more recent generational differences, which is where there are presumptions and judgements to how one thinks and behaves based on their age. These judgements lead to conflicts of some type, which can get taken out of context, even leading to retaliations against a coworker or a boss.

While we need to practice more tolerance and acceptance, awareness is a key factor – knowing and understanding how someone is different can help to stop the presumptions and judgements of others. Differences don’t mean ‘bad’ – they just mean we are …different. Others are raised in a different environment and who developed their own opinions, beliefs, values and the like. Frankly, even in our families we are different and will never see situations the same because no one has our eyes and interpretations of events, which then lead to these beliefs we have.

It is when we are not willing to be more aware of the differences and be willing to understand and then accept them that problems occur. Our minds have this way of rejecting facts if our beliefs do not match, even if the proof is there. This level of denial that occurs, for whatever reason, prevents us from really seeing the truth so we fall back on what we know (or want to believe). Then, rationalization comes into play to justify our belief system (and resulting actions) to help us live with those actions.

When we make judgements, are intolerant, hold grudges, and then retaliate in some way (does not always have to be overt), then this is when our differences do matter. We cannot deny the fact that we are different but it will lead us to be more aware, open, accepting and tolerant of others. We will then develop strategies to interact more positively, in spite of these differences and have more harmony in ourselves, in our interactions with others, and in our lives overall.

 

Lessons From ‘The Greatest!’

The world lost another icon with the passing of Muhammad Ali, who dubbed himself “The Greatest” but was confirmed by many. He suffered for many years with Parkinson’s D

isease so peace and blessings to him and his family. But what I didn’t realize is how inspirational he was so I thought I’d share a few of his quotes as motivate during the challenge. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

“If my mind can CONCEIVE it, and my heart can BELIEVE it – then I can ACHIEVE it”I

“I am the captain of my ship, the master of my fate. If you don’t say it, no one will.”

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

“I hated every minute of training but I said…. Don’t quit. Suffer now and life the live of a champion.”

And his most famous: I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

I encourage you to really take these in and use them as inspiration and motivation to do anything in your life. RIP The Greatest!

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