Feeling overwhelmed is all too common these days, particularly for business owners. It’s so powerful that unless you are proactive and active when this starts to creep in, it will take total control over your life including your health, relationships, work and finances.
It’s not unusual to feel like you’re alone when it comes to being overwhelmed. With so many people online appearing to have it all figured out, you fall into the trap of trying to be, do and learn it all.
When I get overwhelmed it feels like more than just a weight on my shoulders that I could lift off with a clear plan. It feels more like real failure - all those doubts of whether I’m good enough or whether I should just quit - and embarrassment.
Nobody likes to admit they’re not coping and that they’re not as successful as social media allows us to seem. Hiding away that things have become too much and that you don’t know what to do next or where to focus only sends us into panic mode - a reactive state where we can’t get anything done or find any clarity to break through this.
Even if you just get things onto paper, work with a mentor/coach, share it with someone you feel comfortable around or join a mastermind/online community, owning these emotions will help you to overcome overwhelm and move forward in a purposeful, profitable and powerful way. In business it’s always great to have work to do for clients/customers but sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and look at how much work you have actually taken on, particularly when you are feeling overwhelmed.
In today’s post I want to share with you some of my favourite ways to overcome overwhelm as a business owner. I’ve previously written about how to avoid overwhelm in the first place which you might like to read too. But here I want to address that it’s almost inevitable that overwhelm will come back around and/or that you might be feeling that way right now.
Side note: I’ve kept this post minimal but actionable so as to not contribute further to your overwhelm!
Stop and make time for yourself
Although you may think that you just need to keep going and plough through the work, despite deep down knowing that you aren’t really achieving anything, it is absolutely necessary to stop right there and then. Make time for yourself and try to relax so that you are in a better headspace to regroup and move forward. It is difficult as both your mind and body will feel tense but it is possible. I go for a 30-minute walk across the fields with my dog, leaving my phone behind so I can reconnect with the moment.
Empty your mind
As you are not in a positive state of mind and are no doubt lacking clarity and focus, you need to go back to the beginning of your journey. First though, you need to sit down, empty your mind and let go of all those negative thoughts. Write everything down in a list - things that are worrying you, tasks that you still have to do, deadlines that you still need to meet, ideas you may have, appointments/meetings you have coming up. I know I find it more overwhelming when I’m trying to create structure and get organised in my own head rather than in my journal.
Focus and re-evaluate the situation
Focus on why you wanted to start your own business, your dreams and the goals and intentions you have set to make everything a reality. Re-evaluate things - do your goals still apply and what benefit will they be to you? Work things out again and devise a new plan. You need to avoid procrastination so look at the 20% of what you do that bring 80% impact rather than the other way around.
Start again if necessary
Try to regain your passion and purpose for the business so it will continue to grow and you will be happy again as you are doing something you love. Identify what you are good at and who you love to work with. Set some working hours and have boundaries which will suit both you and your clients. Go back to the list that you devised earlier and remove things which aren’t truly effective or have the potential to be if you are now giving it your all. Don’t waste time – it took me a long time to learn this but you have to let go of anything that is out of your control.
Devise a ‘must do’ list vs a ‘to do’ or ‘should do’
Write down each vital task and how long it will take you to complete it. How can you leverage your time best? Prioritise the tasks. What are the most important tasks to get done today? If you can only get one to three core tasks done that day/week/month, what are they? Focus on one task at a time rather than multi-tasking. If you have a big project, break it up into smaller manageable parts. Tackle the hardest part first at the best time of day which suits you. Once you have completed this, you will gain a real sense of achievement which will motivate you to keep going. And don’t forget to celebrate that achievement!
Although you may feel that you have not earned the right to have time off, self-care is as important as completing tasks and meeting deadlines. It will also help you to overcome the feeling of overwhelm. Take regular breaks and have ‘me time.’ Going out for a walk each day will do you the world of good. Both you, your business and your clients will subsequently benefit if you feel good about yourself. But remember, self-care isn’t a one-time task reserved for when you’ve reached total burn out. It’s also a daily commitment to putting yourself first so you can really show up when you need to.
Delegate or outsource work
If you have taken on too much work ask for help. From virtual assistants to community managers, designers to photographers, an accountant to a lawyer, the financial investment of outsourcing can bring the biggest return for you in terms of your time and energy. I’ve talked in the past about feeding your ego and killing your career by going it alone and how big of a difference it made to my physical and mental health, and of course my quality of work, when I evolved Sparked Passion to be a small team.
Do not be a perfectionist or a ‘say-yes-to-everything’ person
Two important lessons to learn in business are not be a ‘perfectionist’ or a ‘say-yes-to-everything person’. You will never get everything completed if you are striving for something that doesn’t exist all of the time. You also need to say ‘no’ if you are not in a position to take on any more work or if you do not know how to do it even if the offer on the table is lucrative. Be honest to yourself and your client as they respect you so much more for that. Although it is good to step out of your comfort zone, there isn’t the time to learn everything and besides that there is too much out there to actually learn! Do not add to your feeling of overwhelm, instead say yes to things that truly matter to you rather than things that will please others.
REDUCE SOCIAL MEDIA OVERWHELM
There is so much going on with social media these days, that there is a chance that you could feel overwhelmed by all of that. I delete the apps off my phone all the time, then remember I genuinely need them because I work in social media! But what I can do is turn off notifications. As a community manager, I block out time for responding to engagements. You don’t have to go back to a person straight away but just soon enough that the conversation is still fresh. If you do find yourself overwhelmed by it and often comparing yourself, then just focus on 2-3 social media platforms for a short period of time just so that you are continuing to be visible without putting your eggs in one basket. I’ve seen so many business owners over the years appear to drop off the face of the earth or have spurts of content. Consistency is key, even if that consistency is only minimal. Right now I recommend utilising IGTV – Instagram’s newest vertical video platform. Being an early adopter to platforms like this give you a leg up, plus it’s where all of the attention is right now.
EMBRACE THE PHRASE 'A change is as good as a rest'
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “a change is as good as a rest” well that applies in business too. I don’t mean keep changing the business you are in but I do mean change the location you are working in every so often. A change in environment, in different surroundings can help stimulate your brain as well as relaxing and recharging your mind and body. Being around other people can also be of benefit as it can sometimes get lonely, particularly if you are on your own, working from home. Instead of in our office, my mum and I have spent the past few weeks working in the garden (admittedly sometimes a pub garden) during the heatwave under the parasol – since doing this I’ve been waking up more refreshed as I’m getting more Vitamin D, plus it’s soothing to work listening to nature.
IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP PATTERN
Some people can survive on just a few hours sleep each night but others need longer - I am definitely the latter (minimum 9 hours and it is VERY rare I’m up before 8am). If I’m working late at night, I find it hard to switch off and get enough sleep. Often I find I’m more overwhelmed simply because I’m not feeling refreshed or able to focus. Like mine, your mind will still be active if you work late and then go straight to bed, which will have an effect on the quality of your sleep. It is difficult to sleep if you are feeling stressed and worried so make sure you finish work at a reasonable time so that there is sufficient time to wind down and relax before going to bed. I now try to read as much as I can having recently finished Crushing It! and Ice Cream For Breakfast.
Just remember, you aren’t the only one feeling overwhelmed and by taking just a few actionable steps, you can absolutely overcome this feeling. It’s taken me years to find my routine and I still get overwhelmed but these are the principles I keep coming back to. I hope they can help you too!
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