What Really Helps When You're Overwhelmed



A couple of my executive coaching clients are going through a situation that you've probably experienced, too.  

They're feeling overwhelmed and frustrated — so much that they can't bring their key leadership skills to the table at work. And, what's worse, they can't see a way out.

What I do with these clients — and what I want to help you do with this post — is show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

When you are used to being a high performer who rarely (if ever) fails at anything, being in this place of overwhelm can be unnerving. Sometimes it's hard to know where to start when you're trying to escape it. With my coaching clients, I use an approach that helps make things feel a little more manageable.

The first thing to realize is that you'll need to address the situation on two fronts:

1)    Envision how you want your life to be different from the overwhelmed state you're in right now. If you did the life wheel and visioning exercises in one of the recent blogs, you have some great information to help you do this. You can return to these exercises any time you need to refocus.

2)    Now think about what you can do to improve things in the short term. Don’t worry about solving everything right now. Just identify the first one or two steps that will start moving you towards what you want personally and professionally.

Now let's break things down even further. For most people I've found that the first couple of short-term steps are often the same:

1)    Set some boundaries to create more capacity in your life. Start by identifying just one or two things that you will stop doing. You may already know what those are, and just may need to find a way to say no in a way that works for you.

2)    Your next step is to reinvest that added capacity. If you’re in a place of feeling overwhelmed, the best use of it is usually self-care.

Remember that if you're not taking care of yourself, you can't be there for anyone else. Women often have a hard time getting to this conclusion. But here's something interesting I've noticed in my work as a coach: The farther along women are in their careers, the more they recognize that self-care is a core leadership skill. Sure, experienced executives may get overwhelmed from time to time, but they've accepted the idea that we can't go nonstop — and they practice it. Science backs them, too. Did you know there's actually no difference in productivity between someone who works 55 hours per week and someone who works 70? Spending some time on self-care instead of working will actually make you more productive.

The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, take some time to catch your breath and go through the exercises in this post. Please also consider sharing this post with anyone else who might need these strategies right now, and subscribe to my newsletter (scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up) for a steady supply of tips that will keep you calm, centered and at your best.