This is the best tip I can possibly give. Take a moment to stop and really breath—feel your belly as it expands when you breath in and deflates as you breath out.
I used to have a really unattractive “smart watch” that I wore 24/7 (much to my fiancé’s delight, it broke). It was pretty basic, counting my steps and inaccurately measuring my heart rate. But it had an undiscovered feature that came to light one frustrating afternoon.
I was caught in the middle of having to be too many places at once, already running late because I ran out of gas for my car, and with enough worries to make my head spin. Then, the gas pump handle kept triggering the automatic release that tells you the tank is full. My tank was most certainly not full. It was completely empty. And my overwhelm bubbled up and over the top. I was about to start throwing cuss words, something you won’t typically hear me do.
But then something strange happened: my watch started vibrating. I looked down to see one simple word “Breath.” And then it counted for me, “Breath in 1 2 3 . . . Breath out 3 2 1,” and so on, repeated until I listened and my heart rate slowed. It allowed me to get a grip, fight with the gas pump a little longer, and eventually make it out to my next meeting with a clear head.
Breathing does wonders for us when we pause to remember to do so.
2. Stop multi-tasking. Get focus.
For years we’ve heard about how accomplished you are if you can do a million things at once. But let me tell you, it doesn’t do much for your focus.
According to Psychology Today, multi-tasking can actually increase chronic stress, depression, and social anxiety. It can even lead to memory problems.
Try picking the item on the top of your priority list and focus solely on that until it’s complete. Then, you’ll have the energy left to complete the next on the list. If it helps, set a timer for 20 minutes and commit to only focusing on one task at a time—no checking email, no responding to your phone notifications, no getting up for a snack. After the twenty minutes are up, take a quick break if you need to, and commit to another 20 until the task is done.
3. Prioritize your list
I’m a queen of lists! I have a friend from college who would take one look at my planner and laugh because of how many different post-it notes and sheets of paper I had inside. But the truth is, I didn’t learn the real magic of lists until very recently.
Here’s how you become a master:
- Make a list of all the things you need to do—big or small.
- Break your to-do items into manageable chunks. For example, if you really need to get another blog post up on your website, list the items needed to get there (research topic, write rough draft, finalize piece, gather photos, upload to site and add SEO, share to social media, etc.).
- Experience a little less overwhelm just knowing all your to-dos are in one place
- Get a new sheet of paper and prioritize! This is where the magic comes in. From top down, write all of the items in order of priority/urgency. Circle the top five things, and that is your must do! Don’t work on any of the other items until they are complete. Done and still have time, give yourself a break and good ole slap on the back. If you feel you must continue tackling, choose the next item on the list. Repeat again tomorrow.
4. Practice Saying No.
This is something I have to personally practice every single day. As a go-getter and motivated woman, it’s in our nature to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes our way. Keep in mind that you only have so many hours in the day! Know what your priorities are in life as well as what brings you joy so you can see how each opportunity aligns with your core values. It’s okay to say no to opportunities you don’t think you can handle or that don’t best serve you at the time they are offered to you. Sometimes no means “not right now.” (And sometimes it means “never,” and that’s okay, too.)
5. Remind yourself that you’ve pulled it off before, and you will again.
One of the greatest things anyone has ever told me was, “Kirsten. Relax. You always figure out a way to pull it all off. You will this time, too.” Okay, so maybe I wasn’t real interested when he said, “relax” while I was already in the heat of distress, but the rest really stopped my crazy train of overwhelm right in its tracks. I sat there and thought about all the times before when I thought I couldn’t do it, yet I did. I figured it out. Any time I’m overwhelmed, to this day, I think about that same thought.
Think back about all the times you “pulled it off.” Sometimes you have to adjust to make it work, and sometimes you have to be willing to let some parts go. But in the end, you made it through alive. And you probably learned a lot along the way!
If it helps, make a list and clip it inside your planner so you can always be reminded when you forget. You’ve done this before. You can do it again.
Here’s just one more for good measure: give yourself some grace. You’re amazing. You can do this. Pause, take a deep breath, and carry on.
Want a physical reminder of that you’ve got this in the bag? Check out this gold telescoping necklace with a secret inside just for you—a reminder that you’re already brave!