If you've been reading my site for a while, you probably know I work from home.
My entire business is online, and I run it from the comfort of one of the bedrooms now turned office.
I often work in pajamas and can get up to grab a meal or coffee without getting in the car. I can take a walk in the middle of the day, or go to lunch with a friend. There are weights and a rebounder in my office, so I take breaks to exercise whenever I want.
Beyond the freedom of working from home, my job as a coach, blogger, teacher, and author is extremely rewarding and satisfying.
I absolutely love making a difference in people's lives and helping them find the answers and solutions they seek. I'm still amazed that I can impact someone who lives on the other side of the world from me.
My business partner, Ron, is also my life partner, and we have the unique pleasure of working side-by-side in our online venture. Our interests and skills perfectly compliment one another's, and working together has only magnified my joy in being an entrepreneur.
I just described a pretty fantastic set-up, and it IS fantastic the vast majority of the time. But like everyone, I have times when I feel completely overwhelmed and frustrated with my work. It happened just last week.
On the positive side, our business is growing. On the negative side, our business is growing.
We have so many irons in the fire — from books I'm writing and publishing, to my various online courses, to working on a podcast, developing a niche site, and updating and redesigning my current sites.
As you grow in this online entrepreneurial world, more opportunities come your way, and more decisions and choices must be made.
Ron was reviewing a potential idea with me last week when suddenly my head starting spinning and smoke was billowing out of my ears.
I had no idea what our priorities should be.
I had no sense of direction.
I didn't know what to work on first.
And for a while I felt totally deflated.
Why aren't we as successful as that other guy? Why aren't we sure what course to work on next? How can I do all of these things well when there's so much to be done? Should we hire someone to help us?
Feeling overwhelmed and confused takes the wind out of your sail. Even when everything really is just fine, it feels daunting and miserable.
I had lost my compass in the whirlwind of options and actions I needed to take. So I took a few deep breaths and stepped away to take a shower — which is a great place to figure things out.
While I was there, I asked myself, “What would make me feel less overwhelmed? What do I really want?” I came up with a few answers which I'll share with you.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, here are 8 ways to beat worry and take control:
1. Step away.
When you feel the anxiety and stress of overwhelm, you won't accomplish anything by stewing in it.
You can't move toward clarity when your emotions are running high. Take a few deep breaths, and if possible, physically remove yourself from the situation. Go take a walk or a shower or whatever you can do to burn off some of the tension.
Sometimes you have so many plates spinning that you fear you can't just walk away because everything will crash and burn. If there are true emergencies, deal with them first, and then step away.
However, our sense of urgency is usually self-created. The world won't end if you take a break.
2. Address negativity
Once you've calmed down from the initial rush of adrenaline, take a few minutes to address your thoughts.
Feeling overwhelmed makes us think and say many negative things that aren't true. “I'll never get this done.” “I have no idea what to do next.” “I can't handle all of this.”
We feel so confounded and stressed that we try to give ourselves an exit ramp — a reason to just run away and never look back. By going belly-up and acting incapable, we offer ourselves just the excuse we're looking for.
Of course if you examine your thoughts and words, you'll see how they are just roadblocks keeping you from clarity and action.
You can figure out what needs to be done. You can handle what you need to handle. You are perfectly capable and can find the necessary resources to help you. But you can only do these things in a calm and positive frame of mind.
So consciously stop thinking and saying disparaging things about yourself, your abilities, or even the situation. Expect that you will find a way forward.
3. Determine your core values and key goals.
Whether you feel overwhelmed in your personal or professional life, having a touchstone for making decisions offers immediate clarity. When you know your core values, you can eliminate obligations or tasks that don't support those values.
When I was raising young children, family time was one of my core values. But I found myself over-committing to volunteer projects that pulled me away from time with my children.
Although it was uncomfortable saying “no” when asked to help, I learned I had to do that in order to honor my values. At work, you can define and use your professional values to recalibrate your commitments and how you spend your time.
Also, take the time to define or redefine your personal and professional goals for the year. Then break those down into monthly and weekly goals and actions.
Analyze whether or not your projects and tasks are moving you toward your goals. Delegate or eliminate any that don't relate to your goals.
If they are necessary tasks but not directly related to your goals, group them together and try to knock them out during a less productive time of day. Or put them off until your schedule is lighter.
4. Remove distractions.
I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of emails that arrive in my inbox and my addiction to checking them.
I've had to train myself to work on the most important, goal-oriented tasks before I check email, the stats for my blogs, or social media.
If I need to write or work on something that requires full concentration, I turn off my phone and shut down other browsers on my computer.
When you're constantly interrupted or distracted in your work, it causes low-level anxiety and irritation. You lose the “flow” of what you're doing, and your creativity and concentration are undermined.
You can't feel overwhelmed when you're completely focused on the task at hand. Set yourself up for a calm, successful endeavor by eliminating as many distractions as possible.
5. Seek support.
Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed, we need someone with an outside perspective to help us sort through our feelings and choices in order to gain clarity.
Find a mentor, coach, counselor, co-worker, or friend who has the expertise or ability to help you clarify your goals and priorities.
This support person can listen mindfully to your concerns and confusion and then ask the right questions to pull out the answers you seek.
They might also help you see t
hings from a perspective you haven't considered or give you valuable feedback on the direction you're going. You might find someone who can share resources, new ideas, or a different way of handling a problem.
6. Scale back.
During the times when you feel overwhelmed, try to simplify all aspects of your life. Reduce the amount of input, stimulation, and mental distractions entering your life.
Keep your desk and car clean and clear of clutter. Make your bed and keep your bedroom tidy so you have at least one calm and peaceful place. Don't make unnecessary purchases or commit to a variety of events or outside obligations.
You want to give yourself breathing room, so scale back to the essentials for a while. Give yourself some mental, physical, and emotional space to think, create, relax, and just “be.”
This will allow you to recharge and regain your energy and motivation. Protect and guard your time and energy.
7. Find helpers.
One of the best things I've ever done for myself was hiring a personal assistant. It felt very indulgent at the beginning, but now I see how it's helped my productivity and peace of mind.
I have someone who comes to my house once a week to go through my mail, pay my bills, handle household projects, run errands, and handle other various tasks.
I've always felt guilty hiring people to do things that I could do myself, but I've learned that I can't do everything — or at least do everything well.
Plus, I really want to spend my time working on my business, not doing these other tasks. It is a more lucrative, productive, and enjoyable way to apply my efforts.
Rather than trying to do everything and feeling constantly under the gun, find someone to take some of the burden off of you.
You can easily find virtual assistants, project support people, and all kinds of freelancers online for a very reasonable cost. Check out oDesk and Elance.
8. Keep refining.
Every day I ask myself, “What is the most important thing I need to accomplish today?” I refer to my goals and my action list and think about the priorities I've outlined with Ron.
We often have a morning conversation about what we need to do for the day and what we want to accomplish by the end of the week.
Often things have to shift and change. Something comes up, and we have to reorient our priorities. Remaining fluid and open is essential in a business that has so many moving parts.
On occasion we've gone down a particular path, certain it was the right direction, only to discover we needed to change course. I've learned to accept these detours as part of the process of learning and growing with a business.
Actually, the most important thing I've learned is that it's the process that brings the most fulfillment and joy — more so than the outcome. Of course it's fun and satisfying to be successful and make money, but it's the day-to-day endeavors and challenges that fill my cup.
No matter what goal I reach, there will always be another one, so I'm learning to see each day as an outcome to be savored and celebrated.
When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, I hope you will step back and prevent yourself from falling over the edge into full-blown stress and anxiety. Take a deep breath, re-think your goals and priorities, seek support if necessary, and allow yourself to enjoy the process. Life is just too short.
How do you deal with feeling overwhelmed? How do you calm yourself and regain control of your priorities and goals? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.