Let’s get real. Feeling overwhelmed and like your to-do list is ten miles long sucks big time. It sucks even more when you’ve got a business to run, deadlines to meet, and clients to manage (never mind trying to have a life). Add that to the isolation that can happen when you’re working from home every day and you’ve got the perfect emotional storm starting to brew.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to get to that point! Sure, you’ll still have moments where you may feel like you’re barely treading water (you’re not the only one) but there are a few things that you can do to keep yourself from throwing in the towel or eating an entire pint of ice cream (again, you’re not the only one) and to help you get back to a place of productivity and business ass-kicking.
Now, I don’t mean to literally gtfo of your biz. Rather, I mean that the first step to fighting overwhelm is to get out of your head, your office/apartment, and most importantly, get OFFLINE. Getting out of the house and away from a screen can make an immediate difference, even if you’re ready to throw in the towel by the time you finally take a break. It’s easy to want to “just power through” it or start mentally spinning in circles worrying about every little thing. But forcing yourself to physically change locations (ok, and put on makeup and heaven forbid, a bra) creates a mental and physical separation from your work for a bit and helps you take things down a few notches. Bonus points if you can get a little exercise in the process, but don’t beat yourself up if the best you can do is go to 7-11 for a Diet Coke. It still gets you away from your work for a bit, and that’s the key.
2. Say no. Then do it again.
One of the key reasons I’ve found for a crazy amount overwhelm is that I feel like I have to do all of the things. Literally, it’s that heart-racing, omg-my-to-do-list-is-a-mile-long feeling. Know what doesn’t help that feeling? Taking on MORE responsibilities. For me, I have trouble saying no to small projects and friend favors. No one wants to be perceived as a jerk – but you won’t be able to help anyone if you totally lose it because of saying yes to everything. Read this article on saying “fuck yes” – I’ve tried to make “fuck yes or fuck no” my decision-making mantra. Does a new collaboration or project make you say fuck yes? Then do it! If not, it’s a fuck no and keep it off of your to-do list.
3. Take note of your triggers.
What immediately sends you into stress/anxiety/overwhelm mode? There’s a difference between regular stress or nervousness and that full-on “oh man I don’t know if I can do this” overwhelm. Think about what makes you feel the latter. It could be something like getting tons of emails from a client, or feeling like you’re trying to juggle too many projects. Maybe it’s not even business-related; you might get to that point of overwhelm because you’re stressed about how much housework you have to do, or because your kids won’t let you work in peace. Whatever those triggers for overwhelm mode are, write them out and then take a close look at the most painful/stressful couple of things. Is there someone you can outsource these to, like a VA? Maybe you can do a trade with a friend for childcare a day or two a week so that you can work quietly. Maybe you need to work with less clients (but with higher budgets) and change things up a little in your business model so that you can work smarter and not harder. Also, just being aware of the specific things/situations that really send you spiraling into anxiety mode can help you keep an eye out for them and avoid them in the future.
4. Get a support group
This has been one of the best ways for me to combat all those crazy moments in business ownership. Whether it’s a facebook group, a Slack group of your favorite business owners, or even just a couple local entrepreneurs that you’ve found from a networking event, it’s key to have other people who’ve been there to talk to. They get it. They’ve gone through it too. And best of all, they probably have some really good advice to offer you from their own experiences. Even if you’re in different industries, so many of these struggles are universal for business owners, so don’t be afraid to reach out!
5. Do one small thing. Then move on to the next.
Stop trying to multitask! Having multiple screens and six zillion browser tabs is a huge source of anxiety! Add on to that the 20 different ways people can get ahold of you and it’s overwhelm waiting to happen. Instead, close everything down, take out a pen and a good old fashioned piece of paper, and dump everything out of your brain. Seriously, it’s like brain vomit…just get it allll out. This is one of my favorite techniques (learned from this awesome skillshare class). He covers more in depth how to organize these “open loops,” but I like to just write everything out, highlight the top couple of must-do’s, and then tackle them one at a time. The one at a time part is the key— you get to cross shit off your list and by focusing on just one small task, it makes it feel so much less overwhelming than the feelings of “omg I have to do all of the things!” Trust me, I’ve been there.
Hopefully, this will help you keep back from that scary precipice of overwhelm next time things start getting crazy. You don’t have to apply them all – try one or two and see if they help! And when in doubt? Underwear dance parties to 90’s pop hits and corny movies are always a good solution. Or just shoot me an email and we’ll chat…you’re not alone in this!