Learning how to overcome overwhelm is an essential life skill for any startup solopreneur!
Getting overwhelmed is unavoidable! It’s just part of your journey!
I remind them, “Feeling overwhelmed is perfectly normal as you get your business off the ground. Don’t avoid it learn from it.”
I’ve been working for myself for 20+ years and I still get overwhelmed more than I care to admit.
I still get overwhelmed when:
- I overestimate the amount of time and energy I have to get all the work I want to get done.
- I experience a setback, make a mistake or outright fail.
- I have too many ideas and I’m not quite sure which one to focus on.
- I say “Yes” more than I should say “No”.
- I don’t get enough rest.
- I’m learning something new for the very first time.
- I don’t know where or how to get started on a new project.
- I receive a lot of negative energy from other people.
- I give into my money issues and start to worry about money.
- I start comparing myself to others and don’t feel worthy.
I once stayed awake for 36 hours straight (without drugs of any kind) because I was SO overwhelmed by several challenges I was experiencing with my work!
You’d think after 20 years of dealing with overwhelm, it would disappear at some point. It doesn’t!
You just get better at:
- Recognizing it more quickly.
- Reducing how often it occurs.
- Moving through it more productively.
What Feeling Overwhelmed Feels Like
What does feeling overwhelmed feel like to you?
I get a tightness in my chest and sometimes even a pain in my upper left chest.
My mind is almost always racing with a jumble of thoughts or gets trapped in one loop of unproductive thought.
Honestly, I feel trapped. I feel like I’ve run out of options or have no options at all.
Sometimes my overwhelm is super intense and other times it passes as soon as it comes on.
The better you understand how you feel when you are getting overwhelmed, the quicker you can do something about it.
Too many people are unaware they are experiencing overwhelm.
They let it take over. As they give into more and more intense feelings of overwhelm, they become more afraid and may even send themselves into a full-blown panic attack (been there and it’s no fun!)
I believe it’s important to also note, overwhelm is not an exclusively “negative” feeling. It can also be a positive one.
People often feel overwhelmed by emotion when they instantly fall into good fortune.
They also get overwhelmed when they experience something they never thought they would like meeting one of their heroes, landing a dream job or finding their soulmate.
Your Body’s Stop and Reflect Response
Feeling overwhelmed is a good thing. That’s right!
It’s your body’s way of paying attention when you’re not paying attention.
Those feelings of overwhelm are your body’s way of communicating with you. It’s telling you to, “Stop. Slow down. We’re having trouble keeping up!”
I like to think of feeling overwhelmed as your body’s “Stop and Reflect Response”.
Your body triggers intense emotion to grab your attention. It’s asking you to stop, to reflect and to make a better choice or savor a big moment in your life.
Your body wants you to pay attention when:
- You are running low on energy.
- Your attention is spread too thin to focus on any one thing.
- You are receiving more sensory information than your brain can handle.
- You experience physical or emotional pain.
- You struggle to comprehend something that has never happened to you before.
- You are feeling out of alignment with your values.
- When you are faced with an unfamiliar situation or challenge.
When you don’t know when to stop to reflect on your situation, your body will do whatever it takes to stop you in your tracks!
How To Overcome Overwhelm In 5 Steps
Here is a 5 step process for how to overcome overwhelm by paying attention to your needs.
The first and most important step is to stop. Recognize you are feeling overwhelmed. If you don’t, you are more likely to increase the intensity of the feelings you are experiencing.
Again, it’s important to become aware of what feeling overwhelmed feels like to you, so you can see it coming sooner.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, you are less likely to be thinking clearly.
Trigger your body’s natural “Relaxation Response” by taking a deep breath right down into your belly. Then release it slowly. Repeat several times until you feel the intensity of your emotions starting to wane.
From a biological perspective, when you feel overwhelmed, your body’s nervous system is being overloaded. Taking deep breathes reduce arousal in the brain. Your slow breaths, slow down your brain.
#3 Ask Why?
Once you are no longer feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, “Why do I feel overwhelmed right now? What do I think caused this feeling?”
Remember, your body made you feel overwhelmed because it wants you to pay attention to a need that isn’t being met or your brain is being over stimulated.
Give your body what it needs: greater clarity and more information!
As you begin to understand what triggered your overwhelm, explore all the different ways you can fully resolve this feeling.
What physical needs weren’t being met? Do you need food? Rest? Water? Cooler or warmer temperature?
Where you overstimulated? Are there external stimuli like noise or light you need to reduce? Was your mind racing about particular thoughts? Did you have too much caffeine?
Were you experiencing too much unfamiliarity? Your brain LOVES certainty! It craves a sure thing.
If you are trying to make a big change in your life or try something completely new for the first time, there is a high probability your brain is going to trigger your Stop and Reflect Response!
#5 Take a Step
Now that you have a general idea about what made you feel overwhelmed, brainstorm some next possible steps.
Don’t take a big leap. Take a small, manageable step to move you away from your feelings of overwhelm.
This is what your body has been trying to tell you!
Stop, slow down and make a more intentional choice.
Choose to overcome overwhelm instead of riding the wave of overwhelm!
How To Feel Less Overwhelmed
You are definitely going to feel overwhelmed along your solopreneur path as I indicated at the beginning of this post!
See it coming, so you can do something about it!
Here are some ways to overcome overwhelm.
#1 Recognize your comfort zone boundaries. Take a moment to reflect on common overwhelm triggers. How can you start challenging your limiting beliefs about yourself? How can you start expanding your comfort zone boundaries?
#2 Break down your actions. How often do you get overwhelmed by starting a big project because you just don’t know where to begin? Start by clearly understanding “why” you need to do this project.
What actions do you need to take? Make a list of them.
Make a list of questions you have about moving forward on your project.
You can’t take all of the required actions at once. What’s the very first action you need to take? Then what’s the next one? Continue from there. It’s really that simple!
#3 Support your mental health. If you are feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis, stop and ask yourself, “Why?” What can you do about it? What are your choices? What activities can you do to feel more relaxed? How can you settle your mind?
#4 Take care of your physical body. Your body can take a lot, until it can’t. You will be able to deal with overwhelm SO much more effectively if you regularly get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy foods and move your body.
#5 Learn from overwhelm. The most common reaction to feeling overwhelmed is to deny it’s happening to you. I’ll admit, it’s made me feel “weak” in the past. I now understand it can make me stronger by getting more curious about it.
Overwhelm can help you understand what’s really holding you back and your options for overcoming challenges facing you.
Too many people are feeling more and more overwhelmed because we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking we need to do everything ourselves. We’re chronically anxious about squeezing the most from every minute of the day.
Want to overcome overwhelm?
Do what matters most to you.