As an entrepreneur, I’ve had my share of overwhelming times where I felt like the sky was literally falling around me. This feeling isn’t unique to entrepreneurs, it can be experienced by anyone at virtually any point in life. Whether it’s family/relationship, work, financial, or just seasonal circumstances that are causing the stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, it can be very helpful to remember the following 7 tips:
The World Isn’t Actually Ending
This seems obvious, but the reality is that when we are stressed and reach the point of being completely overwhelmed, we literally feel like the sky is actually falling. You’re not crazy for feeling this way, it’s a normal response. It’s part of being human! [mks_highlight color=”#eeee22″]Humans have believed that the world is ending for as long as there have been humans.[/mks_highlight]When we’re overwhelmed, there are physiological changes that occur in our body. We enter the fight or flight mode where our body prepares to confront the perceived threat with everything we’ve got, or run like hell. This physiological reaction is an evolutionary survival tool that helped us as a species to survive. The problem is that our minds go through the same process even when the perceived “threat” or “danger” is not a matter of life and death. Our minds are incredible tools with built-in safety mechanisms/emotions that helped keep us alive for hundreds of thousands of years. The unfortunate side effect is that we treat all threats and dangers the same way. Whether it’s a poisonous snake in the grass, or low funds in the bank account, our minds go into the same process and they prepare us for the perceived danger that lies ahead. Our tunnel vision kicks in and we can’t stop thinking of the threat until it’s eliminated or no longer there. There’s no need to “fix” these feelings (you can’t, we’re hard-wired this way), simply recognize that these feelings are normal even if they’re exaggerated. If you look back to any stressful event in your past, you’ll realize that it wasn’t really the end of the world, no matter how much it seemed like it was at the time. It’s helpful for me to remember that virtually every problem I’ve ever had in the past is no longer a problem today. That helps me to know that virtually every problem I have today will not be a problem at some point in the future. When I start to get stressed or overwhelmed, I like to tell myself: “calm down caveman, this isn’t going to kill us.”
You’re Not Alone
Our stresses and worries have been experienced by every human being that has ever lived. OK, maybe a caveman didn’t know what it was like to have bills to pay and not know if there was going to be enough money coming in at the end of the month 😉 but on the flip side, I don’t know what it’s like to be hunted by a lion or other large animal either. The important thing to know is that you are not alone. Sickness, old age, pain, poverty, death, and failure have been braved by countless numbers of people for thousands of years. This information isn’t to minimize the scale of suffering you might be experiencing, but it’s helpful to know that EVERYONE experiences these things. In fact, it’s one of the very things that we ALL have in common. We all experience pain and suffering, therefore, we all know what it’s like. Knowing that you are not alone in your suffering can be very comforting!
There’s Always Another Perspective
“The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” – Captain Jack Sparrow
The feeling of being overwhelmed creates a convincing illusion. The illusion can be that everything is happening all at once. You’re losing your job at the same time that your relationship is falling apart. Or the illusion can be that this is only happening to you. “Why does this always happen to me?” During stressful times, it’s important to recognize that [mks_highlight color=”#eeee22″]it’s not what we look at that matters, it’s what we see.[/mks_highlight] It’s helpful to to try to pause and spend some time trying to distinguish the difference between what we’re looking at and what we’re seeing. (I promise, they are 2 separate things).
The Odds Are In Your Favor
“I have known a great many troubles…But most of them never happened!” – Mark Twain
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be pessimistic? Think about your spouse or a loved one, there can be 10 qualities about this person, 9 good ones, and 1 bad one, and we’re so good at pointing out the 1 bad one right? What about the 9 good ones? Instead of thinking “wow, my spouse has 9 great qualities for that 1 negative one, those are good odds.” Oh no, that’s not what we do right? We just obsess over that 1 quality we can’t stand or we wish we could change. We have this same tendency with how we view life. We are hyper focused on what we perceive as the negative situations in life and we often overlook the many positive situations we’re currently experiencing. I remember coming home from work one evening and being stressed about a specific work deal that fell through, I was really upset about it and I couldn’t shake it. After a while of being home and obsessing over the 1 negative thing that happened that day, I decided to try to list 3 positive things that happened. The results were instant. I felt so much gratitude for being in a warm cozy home, spending time with my 3 healthy children, and getting ready to enjoy a good meal. What could I possibly complain about?
“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful; it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” – David Steindl-Rast
Everything Constantly Changes
When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to feel helpless. We tend to feel that nothing we do matters. We feel this because we tend to attach a sense of “permanence” to the situation. We see no way out because we’re trapped by the illusion that this particular set of circumstances feel permanent. During moments like that, it’s helpful to remember that everything is constantly changing. Viktor Frankl survived Auschwitz and he said that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Regardless of how small the action, once you realize that you have the power to improve your position, the feeling of helplessness will start to go away. [mks_highlight color=”#eeee22″]What we experience mentally while feeling overwhelmed has more to do with our thoughts than it does with the circumstances.[/mks_highlight]
According to the Persian Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur, a powerful king once asked his wise men to create a special ring that would allow him to feel happy when he was sad. After some deliberation, the wise men created a ring and handed it to the king. The ring was etched with the words “this too shall pass”. While the ring had the intended effect to make him happy when he was sad it also became a curse because it reminded him that the reverse was also true. The lesson learned was that everything constantly changes.
I hope these tips help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed. I have to remind myself constantly of these things. Let me know what you think in the comments below.