This may seem an odd statement, especially as I’m currently offering programs to help women solo entrepreneurs manage overwhelm. Please bear with me. It’s absolutely relevant, and not contradictory. In fact, if you are feeling overwhelmed right now, it is absolutely correct.
Let me explain.
Imagine you are being inundated by demands on your time and attention—emails that need to be answered, multiple work projects on the go, prospective clients to contact, your printer’s just run out of ink, your big presentation is tomorrow, your son called asking for money, and you have to decide what’s for dinner…and make it!
You feel like running away. Or screaming. Or curling up on the couch and binge-watching a show on Netflix.
It feels like too much.
“OMG, what should I do first?” “Why don’t I have more time?” “I should be more organized… I can’t do it all.” “I shouldn’t feel this way.” “I should be able to cope.” “If only I was better at prioritizing.” “I’m stupid.” “I should be in control of all this.”
These are some of the thoughts that might be running through your head. And in one way or another we’re telling ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling how we are feeling.
Which is nonsense.
And only adds to our stress.
On top of all our “to dos,” we now have guilt about how we feel about it.
And many of our “coping mechanisms” simply cover up what’s really going on.
We might “fight” it and get real busy in a non-productive way, not giving ourselves a moment to think or prioritize in a meaningful way, or say “no” to some of the “busy work” that doesn’t actually serve our larger goals, but only adds to the stress of having to get it all done. Every notification, text and email that comes our way distracts us. We’re busy, but not really getting anywhere.
On the other hand, we might “escape” or go “under cover,” spending time of Facebook, YouTube, or with a good book…. We hide from the demands on us, ignore them, hope they might even somehow go away. This might even sometimes be a valid, temporary, measure to give us a break. But it’s not the answer.
So, this is important:
First, know that having a lot to do, being in demand, taking on new ventures, putting yourself out there, is typically a sign of success! Feeling overwhelmed is a natural response, and is something most, if not all, of us go through. In Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong, she writes, “Day two, or whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re “in the dark” – the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.” This is when we feel overwhelmed, confused, and stressed. And that’s OK. It’s a place we have to go through – possibly many times over.
Second, ACCEPT what you are feeling. Don’t deny it. That will only add to your stress. “I shouldn’t feel this, be like this, react like this” is neither true nor realistic. You ARE feeling that way and telling yourself you shouldn’t be won’t change the reality. Accepting how you feel, however, is, paradoxically, exactly when things will start to change at the source. That moment of acceptance creates space for awareness, space to think more clearly, space to notice the body you are inhabiting, space to be curious about your experience so you can learn from it, space to notice your whole self, space to choose what matters and what does not.
In fact, none of the other strategies I recommend will really work if you skip this crucial step.
And so, it is of course true, if you are feeling overwhelmed that is of course exactly how you should be feeling. Don’t fight it or deny it. Accept it, acknowledge it, own it. Then you can move on.
If you have any comments, I’d love to hear from you below.
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