When things get crazy and out of control…
When was the last time you felt that way?
Not so long ago, am I right?
Stress, overwhelm, everything needing to be ready for yesterday, ugh….and nothing seems to be going in the right direction, stakes are high, emotions going higher and nothing getting done.
It can typically start like any other normal day, you are feeling the zen inside, you have repeated your mantra of: ’all is well, all is under control’ blah blah
And then, boom!
Before you have set one foot on the floor, your email box is flooded with inquiries and replies to all. The day has (technically) not begun and yet, you have the impression that you’ve already been working for several hours and there is no end in sight.
By now, you know you cannot control what’s happening around you.
Your job, your duty, what you can control though, is to take action and not let the overwhelm poison your motivation.
How? Read on!
Overwhelm, what’s in a name?
You heard it before, not all stress is negative. In reality, stress has been your best friend forever far more times than you think.
Let’s go down memory lane for a bit.
Remember that exam when you thought you didn’t know the answer and out of nowhere, they all popped in your head? That’s your friendly stress!
What about when you realized you were late for all sorts of deadlines; and all of a sudden, you are extra focused and the to-do gets done in a fraction of your usual time. Again! Same thing!
Stress is a jolt of energy that enhances your performance, big time. In these cases at least.
But you also know that when everything goes sideways, i.e. when you lose any sense of control on a situation, this is when no amount of positive affirmation will make you calmer.
This is the overwhelming stage of no return, when your body goes into fight and flight….as the only recourse to cope or deal.
In themselves, these strategies can work.
You can decide to eff it all (flight) or deal with the whole thing at once and fight to win the battle.
But it’s not always possible in a corporate setting. Nor is it, in fact, advisable.
Ignorance of a problem would rarely lead to blissful outcomes. As for anger as a management tool…
So how to calm the body and bring the brain back to a state of productivity?
Here are some suggestions…in 3 (+1) simple steps.
Step 1: Be the boss of you
More exactly, decide that you will take the first step before someone else decides for you. Why? You’re telling your body and brain that you are back in charge; you are in control.
There are many ways to take that first action. Answering emails can help, and so does going back to the to-do list. But before you do any of that, here is a suggestion: Take a breath…and before you fight me on this one, hear me out!
Step back…. Seriously
Remove yourself from the stressful situation.
When you are distancing yourself from the overwhelming environment, you are doing 2 things:
1/ a pattern interrupt and 2/ allowing your body to calm down, refresh itself and be able to bounce back.
And it can be done in a variety of ways that can go unnoticed to the trained eye.
Making yourself some tea in the kitchen, going to the bathroom, texting a friend, talking to a colleague, watching some kitten videos…all goes, as long as you are doing something different from the work in question and preferably something that you like.
Of course, best case would be if you can go outside and get some fresh air, but it’s not always feasible.
Step 2: Be the boss of your brain
Now that you had your moment (of calming down, venting, releasing…), you can come back to the situation with the intention of finding solutions, bouncing back, doing things differently, what works for you.
I love the idea of intentions; they make us the actors and participants in our lives, rather than being reactive to what’s happening around.
And there, take the time you need to reflect back and remind yourself why you do what you are doing.
The paycheck, the career, the promotion, whatever it is, remind yourself of your priorities and of what’s important for you, at this precise moment.
Rekindle your relationship with your motivation by keeping your eyes on the prize.
And if you can, write your why somewhere so you can go back to it often during the day.
Step 3: Be back to being the boss, the manager and the organizer…aka: the leader
Back to the big picture!
What needs to happen for this to get from a to z completion?
Write down or review your to-do list. And adapt.
Supervise and allow others to do their jobs;
A big part of the stress we carry is that we sometimes find ourselves pushing for things instead of allowing things to be put in place.
Let me explain! we are not meant to be passive and wait for things to happen.
But when we are in charge and in a situation of leading and managing, we need to do the tasks that are within our scope, communicate clearly what we are expecting from others, – with a deadline – and then let go of obsessing about who’s doing what right now, i.e. no micro-managing!
In other words: your job is to bring the task to completion; you have the competencies and skills to delegate and make it happen.
Now it’s the time to prove (to yourself and others) that you are in control.
Rince, and repeat the above until the day is over!
Time for the warrior to rest
And so the day is gone and you cannot wait to run outta here, pronto!
But before you take the French leave, I am going to suggest you do the following to allow your nervous system to cool down: as you are leaving the office, spend a minute visualizing in your head closing a folder or getting out of the revolving door and leaving the stress behind.
Go home and do something for yourself, something that relaxes you.
No offloading on the family or friends, please!
If you feel the need to explain why you need some space, communicate, without going into too many details, that you had a rough day and you’re going to ask them to respect your need for cooling down – anything that is not urgent will need to wait.
No housework unless you like that (I know it calms me), order some nice foods, unless you like cooking.
This is a great time to exercise the proverbial self-care.
If you still have work on your mind, write down what you need to do.
Do it, and negotiate with your brain that what is not within your control will need to wait the next day, so you’ll not indulge it with obsessing about it.
Have a bath, a healthy meal.
Beware of certain substances that you think relax you; they may actually take up too much energy from the body when it is trying to recover from the stress of the day.
Go to bed at a reasonable time.
And! before falling asleep, find in your head or write down 3 things that you are grateful for today. This gives your brain some love too!
Note to self: you can apply these techniques for many stressful situations; personal, in everyday life and whenever you feel overwhelmed.
When everything is out of control, we feel completely hopeless and helpless and this can make us even more depleted and stressed. Find a system that allows you to take control back, first of yourself, second of your mindset, then your behavior and ultimately the situation will change.