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Entrepreneur SOS: Overcoming the Feeling of Being Overwhelmed

This guest post about Entrepreneur SOS from Cori Padgett is half of a perspectives exchange. To see Danny’s take on this, check out his guest post Eye of the Online Entrepreneurship Tornado!

Listen people – shit happens. OK?

Now it’s all out in the open. Life is messy, shit happens, and sometimes you just can’t help feeling overwhelmed by the weight of it all.

Maybe you’re on a tight deadline with work. Maybe you’re going through a rough relationship. Maybe you’ve got a family that lives to drive you batty. Hell, maybe you’ve got all three!

That’s OK.

No really, hear this.

IT’S OK!

We all have moments like that; it feels like the hits don’t stop and we’re doing our best just to stay in the fight, dodging left hooks and keeping on our feet.

If we actually manage to accomplish something productive or worthwhile to boot, then hot damn, we’re on a roll!

But 9 times out of 10, nothing worthwhile or productive gets accomplished. When we’re floundering that hard, the logical next step is to figure out how to stop sinking and start swimming back up for air.

That way we CAN accomplish all the demands on our time. But how can we do it?

Let’s start with these tips:

Sometimes You Just Gotta Breathe

It might sound over-simplified but one of the best ways I’ve found to whack my way out of the “weeds” and start feeling human and back in control again is to take a step back (sometimes a few) and BREATHE.

In and out, nice and slow, deep breaths.

Get up and go outside for a short walk. Enjoy the fresh air, clear your mind of all the clutter and… just breathe. Sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed and burdened is simply a symptom of an over-active mind working on too many problems at once “in the background”.

They might not be issues you are really concerned about, but in the back of your mind the motor is running, constantly tossing and churning out possible solutions, ready for when the issue DOES become one you need to be really concerned about.

People, this sort of behavior is EXHAUSTING. Literally! It’s like your brain never shuts down, never allows you to fully rest and recharge and as a result your mental capacity dials waaaay down to “stuck on stupid.” You can’t handle walking the dog much less kicking ass on that client project or handling the day to day issues that running a business requires.

I liken it to how your computer responds to commands when it’s got 50 programs running in the background. Long story short? It doesn’t respond or if it does it’s slow and inefficient. Hey… now that sounds kind of familiar now doesn’t it?

So take a time out, shut down all of those unnecessary programs and just breathe. You’ll feel better, I promise.

Take Back Control

One of the most frustrating feelings that come with being overwhelmed is the lack of control you feel over your situation. As an entrepreneur you often juggle many hats. You hold the reins, you are in control. But when you’re struggling through the weeds, I think it’s easy sometimes to forget you hold the power to change your situation.

One of the ways I personally find useful in helping to regain some control and perspective is to list it all out. I literally list out every single thing circling around in my brain that I want/need/plan to do. Whether it’s something I actually end up doing or not is not really the point.

The point is getting it out of my head and down on paper in effect let’s me “release” that thought and make room for a little more clarity in my brain. So a list for me might look something like this:

  1. Write new blog post for Big Girl Branding.
  2. Shave the dog.
  3. Buy almond milk ASAP.
  4. Write a guest post for X blog.
  5. Finish copy for client.
  6. Etc, etc. J

Once I’ve got my list made (I call it my accomplish list rather than my to-do list) I can then go on to the next step in helping me to regain control.

Prioritize Ruthlessly

Obviously once you’re done writing that list out it will probably be rather long. That can trigger a panic attack if you aren’t careful so remember step one… BREATHE!

Once you’ve got your list made it’s time to set some boundaries.

Trying to tackle every single thing on that list will only make your head spin. So come up with a number of tasks you’re comfy completing in a day. Make this a number you feel you’d be comfy at on a daily basis, if you were as productive as you’d like yourself to be.

For me, I shoot for the top 5 things I want to accomplish in a day. Now this doesn’t mean I actually have to complete all 5 tasks, but my goal is to at least get a running start on them and make a good solid dent. Maybe I only complete 3 of them fully, but the remaining two I get 50% done or 75% done.

I’m okay with that!

The trick is to whittle down your list each day to the absolute priorities that you want to accomplish. Focus on the tasks that move you closer to your goals and that earn you revenue in some way or make a long-term impact on your business.

And of course your karmic bank counts too, so you can make “giving back” a part of your priority list as well!

As you’re going through your list and prioritizing, take stock. There are probably some things on your list you can nix completely without too much heartache. There are also probably plenty of things on your list that are low priority and can easily wait a few more days, even indefinitely.

Your job is to prioritize ruthlessly and any tasks that do not help you grow as a person or as a business? Give ’em the boot. If you absolutely can’t escape them, hire someone to handle them.

When you can’t eliminate a task, you can’t outsource it, and you can’t prolong it indefinitely, renegotiate it. Ask to extend the deadline and then make sure you way over-deliver when you meet the new deadline to make up for your slacking, overwhelmed ways. 😉

When All Else Fails…

Cut loose.

Get drunk. Dance till you drop. Laugh with your friends and party like an aging rock star. Take a vacation. Go on a technology fast. Whatever it takes for you to completely disconnect from the feeling of helplessness being overwhelmed can inspire.

Then go back in a day or three and see how you’re feeling then.

Remember that it doesn’t matter how “scattered” you might feel in the moment. It doesn’t matter how overwhelming things in your life seems at times, whether on a business level or a personal level.

It. Just. Doesn’t. Matter. And it’s not nearly as big and bad an obstacle as you currently might think.

Ultimately YOU have control of the reins (well… except when God has them perhaps) and how things unfold around you. You influence your immediate surroundings to bring about perceptions that feel “realistic” for you.

Your thoughts and mental attitude shape your life. You choose how to react to pressures around you, and ultimately you choose how to handle roadblocks and whether or not you will rise above them or allow them to drown you like the proverbial rat and take away your power.

So…

How will you take back control of your life and mind today? How do you find your way clear of the weeds? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

About Cori Padgett-Bukowski

Cori Padgett-Bukowski is a wildly hire-able freelance "ghost" as well as the creative brains and dubious brawn behind her blog Big Girl Branding. If you'd like to harness her creative brains and dubious brawn to write for your blog, just stalk her on Twitter and ask her. I'm *almost* sure she doesn't bite. Well, like 95% sure.

19 comments

  1. Hey Cori!

    Awesome post and as usual a big thanks to my man Danny for featuring it! 🙂

    These are some great tips, reminds me of advice that the awesome Leo Babauta would give. I especially loved the “sometimes you just gotta breathe” section, that is so true! We get ourselves so worked up and involved that the only logical step is to take a step back, relax and recharge. With so much “noise” everywhere sometimes it’s hard to achieve that mental clarity, but we’ve just got to make a conscious effort to do it. Stepping back is seeing the whole picture, that’s impossible to do when we’re immersed in it all!

    Great post hope the Disqus gremlins go away I’d love to hear your thoughts! lol

    1. Okay, some technical gremlins seem to be messing with disq.us to prevent Cori from responding, but she’s sent her comments for me to post on her behalf:
      Gremlins be gone! Did it work? Lol thx so much for the kind praise Robert! 🙂 it’s definitely tough sometimes finding clarity, but often it boils down to a matter of choice. How you choose to feel, think, and act, and what you choose to focus your mind and actions on. Xo!

    2. You’re spot on, Robert – sometimes all the noise makes it hard for us to focus, and we’ve just got to breathe for all that noise to die down a bit.

      Here’s to the gremlins taking an early retirement… 😉

  2. Nice Big Girl! 

    Wow.  I kinda like the way that sounds. 🙂

    But honestly, we get so caught up in so much nonsense, it’s sometimes hard to remember we REALLY need to breathe every once and a while.  For me, I have to walk my dog Bailey.  Leave my phone home (every once and a while).  And set aside a LOT of meaningful time to make fun of my previous boss.
    *J

    1. Okay, some technical gremlins seem to be messing with disq.us to prevent Cori from responding, but she’s sent her comments for me to post on her behalf:

      Hey J! Hmnn leaving my  phone at home is a toughie for me. LOL I try once in awhile but I usually feel downright nekked without it! Although making fun of an old boss sounds peachy! 😉

  3. Hi Elena,

    Neat blog post, and very timely, too. I’ve been getting that crazy, overwhelmed feeling for the last couple of days. I think I’m going to get done whatever I can by 5:00 and then knock off early tonight, go over to a friend’s house, and watch a season’s worth of House DVDs. I haven’t had a break like that in a long time!

    1. Okay, some technical gremlins seem to be messing with disq.us to prevent Cori from responding, but she’s sent her comments for me to post on her behalf:

      Hey Debra! I LOVE House! Hope you followed through and took your break, let us know how it went! :0)

    2. Hey Debra, actually, Cori Padgett wrote the excellent post, and Elena wrote the very touching comment. 🙂

      Hmmm… I haven’t watched House in a long time. You’re giving me ideas… 😉

  4. Hey Cori – I love your no-nonsense/hardcore approach to getting over the hump. I share a similar attitude and rarely find that much else helps me overcome. Sheltering myself and feeling sorry gets me no where…well, maybe gets me more roadblocks.

    I think this summarized it perfectly:

    “Ultimately YOU have control of the reins (well… except when God has them perhaps) and how things unfold around you. You influence your immediate surroundings to bring about perceptions that feel “realistic” for you.”

    Thanks for sharing!

    Hey Danny – thanks for hosting this great guest post!

    1. Okay, some technical gremlins seem to be messing with disq.us to prevent Cori from responding, but she’s sent her comments for me to post on her behalf:

      Hey Jk, thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed the read. I find that when I focus on the crappy stuff, they just seem to compound. However if I switch my focus things begin to look much brighter. At the end of the day our thoughts are our own, and we control their direction, eh? :)Appreciate your comment hun!Xo!

    2. Hey Jk, thanks for stopping by!

      I think the sheltering and feeling sorry for ourselves has its place – for a few hours, maybe. But then it’s time to suck it  up and start climbing those mountains. 🙂

  5. Ah Cori … you are a breath of fresh air and fit so perfectly on Danny’s blog!!  You so speak my language and I’m incredibly appreciative of the way you look at life!!  I run and pray to clear my mind and it works! 😉 Your list writing is great, as I’m a big list writer myself – I’d be totally lost without doing that (though yours sounds much more fun! ;)). This is a superb post and I’m glad to have found you at one of my all-time favorite blogs!! Have a fabulous day!
     
    Much kindness,
     
    Elena

    1. Okay, some technical gremlins seem to be messing with disq.us to prevent Cori from responding, but she’s sent her comments for me to post on her behalf:

      Aww thanks so much sweetie! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post! I’ll confess I’m not the most motivated runner, but when I do I feel SOOO much better afterwards.  Lists are awesome, I’d be lost without them. My latest craze is using TeuxDeux.com.. just downloaded the app to my iphone too, need my check list to keep up with everything going on now that my dad is ill. :)Anyhoo so glad you enjoyed the read, thanks for dropping by and showing some love!Xo

    2. Yup, Cori really gets it, and she’s a valuable addition here. 🙂

      I’m a list writer, too – I’ve got lists for everything. And I use post-its – lots, and lots of them. 😀

      Elena, I’m honored that this is one of your all-time favorite blogs. I’ll do my best to live up to it!

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