What is overwhelm?
“Overwhelm” is technically a verb, but with the following meanings it’s easy to see why it’s become the latest noun in today’s fast-paced world.
- advancing sand dunes could overwhelm the village: swamp, submerge, engulf, bury, deluge, flood, inundate.
- Canada overwhelmed the U.S. in the hockey final: defeat (utterly/heavily), trounce, rout, beat (hollow), conquer, vanquish, be victorious over, triumph over, worst, overcome, overthrow, crush; informal: thrash, steamroller, lick, best, massacre, clobber, wipe the floor with.
- she was overwhelmed by a sense of tragedy: overcome, move, stir, affect, touch, strike, dumbfound, shake, devastate, floor, leave speechless; informal: bowl over, snow under.
In this day and age it is very easy to become overwhelmed. We are constantly having so many demands made on us that we often find ourselves in a state of ‘overwhelm’. It used to be the case that when you finished your day at work, you wouldn’t have anything to do with your work until the following morning when you stepped back into the office. There was also a time (remember those days?) when, unless you were at the office, no-one would be able to get hold of you. Business and life have changed – a lot.
Nowadays, we are available 24/7 – and not just entrepreneurs either. We can get emailed, messaged, texted, whatsapped, inboxed, skyped, facetimed, poked, pinged and called any time, day or night. (Gosh, just reading that feels overwhelming!)
Then we have our workloads, client calls, delivery of our product and services, taking care of our online presence, and so on. You get the picture. And that’s before we consider our personal lives and the roles we play there.
Most of the people I know are often at varied levels of overwhelm. I used to be there often myself until I learnt how to put margins in my life. When times get busy I still find myself there sometimes, frozen and staring into space like a deer caught in headlights.
What does overwhelm do?
In general, most people get paralysed in overwhelm. It is that feeling when everything is coming at you like a flood and you don’t even know where to next. Most of us either freeze or take flight. Finding yourself procrastinating and avoiding is a good sign that you are in overwhelm.
So how do I combat it?
- STOP THE BUS!
Stop spinning your wheels. When you are in overwhelm, you will be spinning your wheels but not really going anywhere and not achieving anything productive. Stop and take a step back. Go for a walk, go for a coffee. Stop what you are doing, take a step back from everything and take stock.
Look at all the things you are doing right now. Make a list if you have to. Look at your diary, look at your clients. What is the real problem here? Are you over-committed? Are you doing things that are not your responsibility? Identify why you are in overwhelm. Is it the type of activities, the workload, your emotional state, relational issues?
3. ACTION PLAN
Once you have identified what it is that is causing the overwhelm, DO something about it. If it is something you can control, like managing your diary or workload better, do it! Take control. If it is something you feel ill equipped to do, educate yourself and ask for help. Find a mentor or a coach. You don’t have to do this alone.
If you have no idea how to identify what is going on, and it is happening often, consider getting a coach. You may be in a crazy eight.