I had a free life coaching consultation with a woman we’ll call Baxter. She works as an assistant in the health industry and was having a hard time communicating with her colleagues and other folk she wanted to connect with.
Baxter had a habit of only exchanging hi's and bye's with these people. She was constantly hesitating what to do and what to say.
She didn't really have people to talk to about this except for family. She thought her people challenges were about more than just being shy. She identifies as an introvert living in an extroverted world.
"Valerie, I have trouble taking risks and getting out of my comfort zone. I want to switch careers. I want to help people. I want something more."
I told Baxter that second-guessing and overthinking comes from not trusting yourself, not trusting your own decisions. When someone says they're afraid of taking risks, it’s because they don’t trust that they will be OK emotionally if things don’t go the way they wanted.
I told her that I'd show her how to work with her mind and emotions so she's equipped to take regular healthy risks AND feel safe that she'll be OK, no matter the outcome.
I told her about my Confident Communicator Coaching Package. I painted her a picture of trusting herself and acting on her intuition, without second- and third-guessing herself.
I invited her to imagine having deep and meaningful conversations with her colleagues and also hanging out and having fun with them. She told me about the romantic relationship she ultimately wanted, with a partner who adores her and cares for her. And that she could do the same for.
I asked Baxter to consider that through coaching she would learn to trust her intuition and have the conversations and interactions that she’d been scared to have, while honoring and respecting who she is as an introvert and empath.
Aside from the inner work, I’d also teach her practical assertive communication skills and techniques.
This is the kind of thing that unfolds during a life coaching consultation. I prefer to call ‘em Powerful Coaching Conversations because that’s what they are. Whether or not a client moves forward with long-term coaching, magic and clarity happens inside the conversation. So does laughter, meditation, and appreciation.
Another topic of discussion inside the consultation is this:
What stands between you and a secret dream or desire you want, but don’t think you can have?
Several years ago, mine was staying up too late. I was unhappy with my office job, and my cathartic release was living vicariously through shows and movies. It was also a form of procrastination because the later I went to bed, the later I got up to do the rat race again. The downside was irritability, low energy, insomnia, lower outlook on life, anger, frustration, shorter temper, and the prolonging of what I wanted most.
Steep prices to pay for the temporary relief staying up late provided.
My desire was to create and flourish sustainable professions as a life coach, presenter, and teaching artist.
My desire was to design a work-life outside the traditional 9-to-5, a work life that utilized every talent and skill I love practicing. (Both of which I’ve done btw).
Change is possible. Inevitable. When you show up for it.
And, often, the only way people show up for that level of change is with weekly accountability and guidance in the form of coaching. That’s what I did in my own journey. And now this is what I help others do.
As a Certified Life Coach and Author, helping others create lasting change is my jam.
I offer complimentary consultations for up to 1 hour. During this powerful conversation:
You have nothing to to lose here, except whatever's holding you back from the life you say you want.
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.
My name's Valerie and I'm a Certified Life Coach with a background in teaching dance as well as facilitating diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development conversations and workshops.