I was inspired to write and record this particular blog post because I was neck deep in overwhelm just two weeks ago. One week later, I was no longer overwhelmed. And it’s not because I checked off all the items on my to-do list. I consistently felt vibrant, grounded, and back to normal from 4 specific practices I do when overwhelm sets in.
Now I’m sharing these practices with you. I call them practices instead of tips, because when you adopt a practice as a way of life, when you do a practice consistently, your life changes. Tips, however, they come and go. You might use them once or twice. Maybe they help and maybe they don’t. But a practice, now that sets you up for lasting change.
Without further ado let’s dive in.
Overwhelm feels like clenching ass cheeks real tight
I used to be a frustrated employee. Several years ago. Working in stale office (and retail) environments for years. Wanting out. Feeling stressed. I gotta leave this place. I have to stop doing this kind of work. I should be somewhere else by now.
But I didn’t feel ready to leave. Not yet. So I still had to show up to the job. Meanwhile, I’ve got personal concerns and a bunch of errands I need to take care of and things I would much rather be doing instead. I tell myself that I don’t have time for all of this.
Now I’m overwhelmed.
Stop Overwhelm Practice #1 - STOP
One of the first things I learned about masterfully handling overwhelm was to watch my language and STOP saying, or thinking, phrases like:
Did you catch the words I used in the paragraphs above? I gotta leave this place. I have to stop doing this kind of work. I should be somewhere else by now.
How do I FEEL when I constantly declare these utterances?
I feel stressed, tense, anxious, and worried.
What do I DO when I feel stressed, tense, anxious, and worried?
I stress out some more and find other things to feel tense, anxious, and worried about. I basically prolong my experience of overwhelm.
I bet the same happens for you. But don’t take my word for it; test it yourself.
Then I experimented with other phrases, like:
Examples: I get to leave this place when the time is right. I choose to show up to my job until I’m ready to leave.
How do I FEEL when I think and speak like this?
I feel empowered, encouraged, inspired.
What do I DO when I feel empowered, encouraged, and inspired?
I look for productive means to improve my situation. I imagine possibilities for my future.
Overwhelm doesn’t just happen. There’s a string of messy thoughts that, left unchecked, butt heads at the same time then ‘all of a sudden’ you feel overwhelmed.
In those instances remind yourself: It’s OK. No problem. This is what humans do.
Now with awareness, pay attention to how you feel when you say and think all kinds of things. Watch what you do when you feel the way you feel. Emotions are powerful allies and guideposts to navigating your day.
Overwhelm looks like hiding in plain sight: hiding from others and especially yourself.
“Damn, I’m swamped. There’s too much to do and too much on my mind!”
I used to think that overwhelm 'just happened' and that it would only go away if I crossed off all the items on my to-do list. I’ve come to realize that’s all bullshit.
Feeling overwhelmed is a choice.
And there are more productive and efficient ways to deal with this emotion.
The dictionary defines overwhelmed as “completely overcome in mind or feeling” and “overpowered or crushed, as by superior forces.”
Two weeks ago I felt overwhelmed. The change in sunlight threw off my energy levels. I had a ton of stuff to do for business and for my job. An exchange with a family member two weeks ago still left a bad taste in my mouth. I still had to find a new doctor. And then some. And more.
Which brings me to...
Stop Overwhelm Practice #2 – SIMPLIFY
Instead of plunging into tackle-obstacles mode, I PAUSED. I breathed deeply. I asked myself: Of all these things on my massive action list, what is the most important thing to do TODAY?
This question trims the excess fabric and forces you to put your attention on what actually matters. This question begs you to be efficient.
The truth was, I did not actually need to do all the things I set out to do. And I definitely didn’t need to do them all in one day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’m willing to bet that some of those actions are not as urgent as you’re making them out to be.
Simplifying invites you to clear the fluff, to clear the unnecessary busywork. Humans have a tendency of prioritizing fluff. Because getting down to business is scary and uncomfortable as all hell.
So we say we need to run this errand immediately and send that extra email now and work on the website instead of calling your cousin to clear the air and discuss the gnarly exchange that happened last month.
Or we say we have to proofread a co-worker’s dissertation instead of calling that life coach and taking the first step to get out of your current sucky job and find out what you actually want to do instead.
WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL AND RELEVANT ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY?
Do that and forget everything else. This is how we simplify. This is how we take back control of our day.
Overwhelm sounds like “Can’t stop. Can’t rest. Gotta handle this mess…now!”
Two weeks ago SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) hit me hard. No sunlight upon awakening hit me hard. A messy conversation with a family member kept catching me off guard. And I still have to show up for work. Still have a list of to-dos. OVERWHELM.
Amidst the angst I realized that I hadn’t scheduled enough time to complete some of the stuff I chose to do, like find a new doctor. I operated under the assumption that I would just fit this in sometime in some nebulous somewhere.
Stop Overwhelm Practice #3 -
Slowing down means giving yourself more time than you think you’ll need to complete what’s important. Yes indeed. Slowing down also means it’s OK to do less today.
After a period of self-reflection and coaching, I realized that NOT allowing myself double or triple the time I thought it would take to look for that new doc, was, unknowingly, contributing to my feeling overwhelmed.
Not giving yourself enough time à Procrastination à Feeling guilty and obligated. Guess what that means? More overwhelm!
Slowing down means allowing yourself to move in a more manageable rhythm. It means finding your flow and traveling with it. It means designing your schedule to take deep breaths.Often.
When I literally breathe deeply, I expand my diaphragm and create space in my body. Adding more time to complete actions + decreasing how much I’m doing in a day is the equivalent of taking deep breaths in my schedule.
When you slow down your actual breathing, your cortisol levels drop. When you slow down your schedule, your overwhelm dissipates.
I choose to give myself the gift of breathing. Deeply. And often. How about you?
Overwhelm tastes like hot cheetos, salmon, cherry lemonade, escargot, chocolate chunk ice cream, and Heineken all together now, all at once.
When my overwhelm was no longer a thing last week, I felt calm, centered, focused. I’ve been waking up before my alarm energized and ready for the day. Creativity has been flowing. Feeling steady within myself. Scheduling and doing the most important actions and discarding the fluff.
Stop Overwhelm Practice #4 – SOCIALIZE
Of all the practices, I think this one made the biggest impact. I isolate when I’m in my head. Overthinking and overwhelming. It’s easy to make social time a non-priority.
I’ve been through this several times before and each instance I’m in an emotionally heavy place, QUALITY CONNECTION eases it. Pretty much. Every. Single. Time.
So a week and a half ago, I kept my happy hour appointment with colleagues, even though flashes of “maybe I should cancel” crossed my mind. Because at that time I was still pretty f*cking overwhelmed. We spent hours laughing, sharing stories, and enjoying each other.
Quality connection eases tension and creates space for ascension.
I didn’t have plans two weekends ago, so I reached out to multiple friends until one of them said yes. We spent a glorious afternoon in meaningful conversation. Then we explored a mind-bending immersive art installation.
Quality connection eases tension and creates space for ascension.
That family member I had issue with? I called my mom and told her what was bothering me. She shared my burden. I felt lighter.
Quality connection eases tension and creates space for ascension.
When you feel overwhelmed, it may seem counterintuitive to go have fun and connect with your beloved humans. Instead, lots of folx effort harder to get things done. Bringing in some levity is work/life blend or work/life harmony in practice. Tending to my social life positively influenced my work life.
You might say to yourself, “But I can’t afford to take a break and go be with people.”
Umm, you can’t afford not to. To keep pushing ahead without rest and joy leads to burnout. Then you’ll be incapacitated a whole lot longer than the 3 hours it took to spend time with people you care about.
My quality social and family connections contribute to my increased energy. My joie de vivre returns.
Overwhelm can sneak up on you.
When you realize you’re in it, you get to stop it.
When you develop mastery over your mental and emotional experience, you have the energy and focus to do the most important things, not only on your massive action list, but the most important things in your heart.
As a life coach, I help people like you take control of overwhelm so they can focus on, and actually accomplish, the things they say they want most.
I support folx in finding their flow. I help them design the career of their dreams while taking excellent care of their health and relationships. I help them conduct their life based on their natural rhythm…and not anybody else’s.
I’d love to help you do that too.
If these things don’t come naturally to you, but you want it to, let’s talk it through. Just REACH OUT TO ME and let’s create something new.
May you feel good on the regular and kick ass on the daily.
You want to leave your current job. So you applied to another job. But honestly though? You’re not crazy about that job either.
You wish you could pursue other interests and ideas instead. You think the answer might be to start your own business.
But how do you know which idea to go with?
Consider these three things.
Combine your interests into one idea.
That’s what I did.
I explored desired possibilities as I worked in full-time office jobs I wasn’t particularly crazy about. I considered my love for and experience with inspirational speaking, acting, on-camera hosting, emceeing, life coaching, writing, and performing/teaching dance and fitness.
I had pursued several of these independently, but I wanted to experience all of them in one setting.
My business Feel Good Kick Ass began as a hybrid movement and coaching service in 2015. My signature offering was the Rock Your Life Danceshops™, for which I was, and am still, proud of creating. I inspired and coached groups of people while entertaining them in the context of a dance/movement experience with content I wrote. Boom! All my interests in one idea.
Explore a hybrid possibility for your own endeavor.
Seek outside perspectives.
If you can’t see a way to combine your ideas, involve someone else in your process. Your proximity to your own circumstance might prevent you from seeing what a skilled problem-solver can see. With a little help you just might figure out the hybrid model for your new career or business. Let me make it real easy for you. Message me for a free consultation.
Just pick one.
If you prefer to choose one path but don't know which one to pick, be careful not to set up residence in the contemplation zone. This is where you vacillate for a ridiculous amount of time. Two years go by and you're still thinking which interest to pursue.
Massive indecision ensures you'll never have to risk failure. Letting yourself stay stuck in confusion is a clever way your unconscious mind keeps you safe. New endeavors mean danger to the primitive brain. Your rational thinking mind knows you're OK. Go ahead and choose a path.
Imagine that all your interests were guaranteed to be successful. If that were the case, which one would you enjoy doing more? If you knew that, no matter what you did, your path was going to thrive and be prosperous, then it’s just a matter of selecting the more appealing path.
I learned this decision-making technique from my coach Brooke and it has helped me. Try it.
If you desire further assistance with making decisions, be sure to read my other articles Why It’s So Hard to Make Decisions and How to Make Confident Decisions.
Think of "starting a business" in a less anxiety-producing way. Starting a business can feel daunting and overwhelming, especially when you already feel upset about the current unhappy state of your work life. I invite you to make a small tweak in your thinking.
Instead of putting all that pressure on yourself to start a business in order to get out of your current job, do this instead:
As you shift your perspective about your job into one of empowerment, the urgency you feel about leaving will decrease. Less anxiety means you'll have more vitality to create your new endeavor.
The first interest I explored, prior to creating Feel Good Kick Ass, was developing my written and spoken voice as a mindset coach. I produced weekly episodes for a mindset blogcast every single week for 11 months straight.
The next interest was introducing life coaching components in the dance/fitness classes I was already teaching.
After that, I explored renting a yoga studio and starting a meetup group to facilitate what became the Rock Your Life Danceshops™.
Somewhere in there I also explored working with one-on-one clients privately. And so on.
For you, explore one thing then the next. Include a few free clients to boost your confidence. Then work your way up from there.
To sum it up:
The only way to get it wrong is by not doing anything. You’ve got this.
I work with clients for 9 months to 1 year as the most impactful thing you can do to catapult your career fulfillment while feeling good about yourself. If you're ready to propel forward, stop dipping your toe in the water. Just jump in. Complete this questionnaire or send me a message and we’ll book your complimentary powerful coaching conversation.
I felt the life drain out of me when I worked 40-hr/week office jobs.
I lived on the other side of town so my commutes sucked. On top of that, no matter how much effort I put in to create expansive opportunities to thrive at the job, something was still very off.
The jobs, in and of themselves, were good jobs. But I wasn't the best fit for them.
My body was there, but my mind and heart were elsewhere. This dissonance affected my sleep. It contributed to my stinky morning moods. But I wasn't ready, nor in a position to, resign just yet.
I thought about this long and hard. I shared about it with trusted confidantes, including a colleague in another department.
I had a teary-eyed breakdown in front of her. I just didn't know what to do.
Then she asked me a powerful question: “Valerie, why don’t you propose a 30-hr per week schedule instead of 40?”
My mind was blown. The idea had never crossed my mind. I didn't even know I could do that.
I immediately felt relief at the suggestion. So I ran with it...in steps.
Step 1: Confirm the Financials
I had recently been granted a promotion so I was already earning more than I had been a few weeks prior. I calculated expenses and income to make sure that a 30-hr/week income wouldn't be shooting myself in the foot. My findings: I could afford to bump down to 30. And even if the numbers didn't pan out favorably, I knew how I could earn the difference doing work that was more in my wheelhouse.
Step 2: Collect Data
For 2-3 weeks straight, I kept a daily log of how much time I spent fulfilling my duties and responsibilities. From the time I sat at my desk to the time I left for the day, I accounted for every minute. If I was going to ask for a reduction in hours then I chose to provide undeniable justification for it. My findings: It took me 30 hours per week to do my job. Not 40.
Step 3: Make the Request
I showed my manager that I only needed 30 hours to fulfill my duties. I made the case that for me to be there longer was inefficient and an unnecessary expense on the department's financial resources. I didn't make the request about me. I did not say, "I really don't like these commutes. I'm not sleeping well. And I'm feeling depressed." I focused on the value my request would bring to my employer.
Step 4: Enjoy It
My 30-hr request was granted. I worked 6 hours a day instead of 8. My schedule rotated between 10am-4pm and 11am-5pm instead of 9-5 and 10-6. Yes! I felt mad gratitude to my colleague who made the suggestion. I appreciated my trusted confidantes in holding space for me to process my desire. I thanked myself for following through on this act of personal care and wellness. My mornings were no longer filled with stinky moods. They were glorious. I filled that time with edifying activities, including taking action to build my business.
This experience taught me that I didn't have to adhere to other society's expectations of what a work schedule should look like.
This experience taught me that I could be a great employee AND prioritize my well-being.
In fact, I am a great employee BECAUSE I prioritize my well-being.
This experience taught me that so much more is negotiable than I can imagine.
What do you need to negotiate in support of your well-being?
I help professionals experience vitality at work, and beyond, by prioritizing their personal wellness.
Contact me if you're ready to live like this.
I used to work in different administrative capacities for several years and in one of those jobs I experienced a huge mismatch between the person I was, the value I brought to my position, and my job title.
I actually wrote about it a few weeks ago in When Your Job Title Doesn't Match Your Identity. That post is the precursor to this one. Definitely check it to get the full backstory leading up to asking for a promotion.
I prepared for my promotion in a very particular way.
Ask yourself, "How can I best support and provide undeniable evidence for my promotion request?”
Watch the video for the specific method that worked for me.
It could work for you too.
If you’re ready to accelerate your career satisfaction and increase your vitality, then let’s talk about one-on-one coaching. Reach out to me and let’s do this.
You don't like your office job. But you don't think you're ready to jump ship...yet. Or you vacillate between I need to get the f*** out of here and Well, maybe it's not so bad.
When I worked in admin, and retail, I wish someone could've just given me the answer. And I wish that answer came from someone who knew what it was like to have the job I did. It was excruciating being in that in-between space. And I stayed in that space for years.
Well, I've created a quiz to help you move forward and take the next step. Take the quiz below. You'll receive one of three suggestions about what to do next.
If you want forward traction, do the suggestions.
When I was in the I-don't-know zone, I worked with multiple business coaches to help guide my exit plan. None of them had my experience though. None of them spoke the language of admin or retail. See the thing was, I didn't just need help with getting the hell out of the job and creating my life coaching and dance workshops business. I needed guidance with navigating excellence at the job while I sought greener pastures. That's a whole 'nother ballgame.
That's why I created this quiz. For admins by a former admin.
Have fun! And do the work.
"Oh, you're just a [glorified] secretary." A co-worker once said this to me when I was as an administrative professional. Now, that comment hurt.
Part of it was my immediate reaction to the outdated and sexist overtone of this person's opinion. The other part of it was the very real internal conflict I experienced in having a profession that didn't match the way I viewed myself on the inside. I also had a profession that was out of alignment with the work I wanted to be doing in the world.
I saw myself as an intelligent, confident, talented, capable, creative Ivy League graduate who happened to have this admin job as I worked to create my parallel careers in life coaching and dance/entertainment. I didn't necessarily want to be working in admin, but there I was. So I chose to make it work.
First, there's nothing wrong with having any kind of job title - as long as you want that job and it works for you, just as much as you work for it. But if it's not working, if you still feel unseen and overlooked, then we've got a problem. Maybe one time the name wasn't a big deal, but now it's really bothering you. You feel that you can, and do, bring so much more to the table than this one- or two-word label captures.
My fellow professional, you're experiencing cognitive dissonance. It's when you have conflicting beliefs about yourself. On the one hand you have this job title and to some degree you agree that you are this title. On the other hand, you're absolutely not that job title. You believe you are something else. And you want to live into this something else more and more. Hello internal conflict!
(Sidenote: Here's a quick way to tell how you really feel about your job title. When you think of the name, do you experience pride or shame? Do you slump your shoulders and frown or do you lift your head as if wearing a crown?)
But it's just a name. What's the big deal? You are not your job. This shouldn't matter, right?
Forget should or shouldn't. This is about what does or doesn't affect you.
It matters because this boils down to identity. You spend so much time in your job, doing the roles of that job. So even if you don't consciously take on the identity of that job name, you are, in fact, adopting that job as part of your identity. It also matters because how you and others view you may adversely impact your job performance.
I think this experience might be more common than people admit or acknowledge. I went through my fair share of this, until I decided who I was, who I wanted to be, and showed up in that way. Eventually my job title changed to match this decisive version of me. In fact, my internal conflict and cognitive dissonance dissipated before the original job label did. And it can for you too.
Know this: You're not alone.
Know this: You can dramatically alter your experience without anything on the outside changing first. Here's how.
Write down every task, responsibility, and way of being that goes above and beyond the job description you were originally hired for. Write down every way in which you are proud of how you show up, e.g. You proactively present three solutions for every problem you bring to your boss.
Write down every accolade a colleague has shared with you. Acknowledge everything.
Reflect on the inventories you've written. Marinate in the proud, accomplished, and successful feelings that emerge. THIS is your identity. Bring this essence with you to work everyday. Let this energy fuel your daily actions. It soon becomes crystal clear that you've outgrown the original job title.
Do you know what time it is now?
Time to request your promotion!
The internal conflict you experienced before was just growing pains. You couldn't articulate it then, but you just needed to shed some old skin. As you fed and nourished yourself with your preferred identity, your self-perception grew. And now you're ready to wear the skin, to wear the clothing, that actually fits.
I went through this process of filling myself up first, of bringing my best self to the table and the natural next step was to get a promotion. I created a case for it. I presented it to my manager. They initially said, "I'll take this into consideration." I followed up. I was told, "Not yet." I kept following up. I kept showing up above and beyond that official job title. Then my manager said, "Yes, and I've got something better for you." My new job title was a step up from the one I asked for and my new compensation rate was higher than I had requested.
Decide who you are. Be that. The job title will follow.
Do you show up to your desk everyday thinking about how much you don’t like your job, worried that you’re not making the impact you want to make with your gifts and talents? This is what I help clients with. I help professionals take control of their work life and feel confident about the direction their career is going while experiencing fantastic health and great relationships. I’m going to help you figure out how to view your job and career through the lens of possibility and opportunity instead of dread and disappointment. Book a call with me.
One of the things I love so much about working out is the abundant training ground it provides for all areas in life. In this video, I show you how to apply the discomfort you experience from exercise to fuel your career growth.
Contact me if this message resonates with you. I have a knack for helping people clarify what they want, create goals based on those desires, and then chunk 'em down to bite-sized action steps, all while managing their mind to keep motoring when the tides get rough.
My name's Valerie and I'm a life coach. I help frustrated office employees find and flourish their dream careers without sacrificing health and relationships.
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