In the past few weeks, heck, yesterday, how many times did you notice yourself feeling overwhelmed? How many times did you hear yourself utter the words, “I’m overwhelmed,” either out loud (to your plants and pets, of course!) or to yourself?
Overwhelm shows symptoms differently for everyone, but it feels like a universally recognized state of being.
And sadly, we’re all become pretty good at operating with high level of stress, so it’s become harder to notice when we’re in pretty deep and need support. We often don’t notice it until someone says, “Wow, you’ve been doing a lot.” We just walk around in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed, over-stressed, over-scheduled…
Let me put in an artificial interruption here. I can sense the spiral happening and your mouse moving to X out the tab.
Have you ever stopped to think about what that word actually means? Not the Webster’s definition of overwhelmed, which is actually pretty good. It says:
- overcome by force or numbers
- completely overcome or overpowered by thought or feeling
See, that’s pretty solid, isn’t it? But what does it actually mean to you? Allow me to offer my translation.
Overwhelm means when you have so many options, choices, or possibilities that you aren’t sure where to start.
This can apply as easily to your never ending to-do list as it can to complicated collections of feelings or emotions.
When I hear my clients tell me they’re overwhelmed, what I actually hear them say is, “I don’t know where to start.”
A marketer I know told me to stop using the word overwhelm in my writing, in sales copy, or generally in anything I put out into the world. (Whoops, sorry!)
Here’s why: she said that women don’t identify with the word.
Excuse me. I beg to differ.
I hear it used by clients and prospects daily. Overwhelm. Overwhelmed. Overwhelming.
So since I already know you’re using some form of the word, and since you’re probably a little stressed right now as you’re thinking of how overwhelmed you feel, are you open to a reframe?
Success tip: What if being “overwhelmed” was actually an amazing state of being?
What if it points to an endless stream of creative ideas that are overflowing from within you and never ending? What if the mere presence of the feeling signals that you are alive and have choices?
That feels exciting to me. Expansive.
So the only real question is…
How do I decide where to start in my exploration of my options and choices?
Ask that question is way more powerful (and empowering) than whining that you’re “busy,” “overwhelmed,” or “stressed.”
The truth is this: if you consider all the things on your list, and you’re totally honest with yourself, you probably don’t have to do any of them. If you strip it down, the entire list is optional. That means you get to choose.
There’s adventure in choosing where you’d like to begin.
Success Tip: Approaching life’s overwhelming moments with a sense of adventure helps you find the path to persevere.
It doesn’t have to be linear, organized, straight. It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone but you.
You can start in the middle. At the end. At any point that genuinely resembles the beginning.
There are no rules. No gold stars.
The simple reframe might help you to take a deep breath and follow joy, bliss, inspiration.
At least I hope it will.
This isn’t to say you might not have a project you want to accomplish that needs to be completed step by step. But that knowledge is your starting point. Lay out the steps of the project in whatever order works for you.
So here’s what I want you to do: notice when you start to catch yourself saying or feeling, “I’m overwhelmed” or any of its related cousins (because sometimes we don’t come out and say exactly what we feel).
Sit with it for a second and notice how it feels in your body. Then, take a deep breath, release it, and ask yourself, “Out of all the choices I have, what do I want to work on right now?”
How does “overwhelm” feel in your body and show up in your work? How does this reframe feel for you?