How to Overcome Overwhelm

Transform your business from chaos to calm

It’s Sunday. I’m on the beach at 6:45 am. You can smell the seaweed. I’m nervous – this is my first ever triathlon.

“3-2-1 GO!” And we’re off, straight into the mayhem of a mass start in the water.

Suddenly, there’s an elbow in my face. I’ve gulped in sea water. People ahead are being fished out by lifeguards.

There I was: overwhelmed, out of my depth, people hustling me from behind.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?

It reminded me of a time early in my career as Production Manager in the car industry. I’d felt overwhelmed with problems, totally out of my depth, and was being hassled by a bullying boss.

If you have ever felt overwhelmed, you’re not alone. According to the Mental Health Foundation, In the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.” That was for 2018; I doubt it’s improved.

As well as the negative feelings you’re experiencing, for the organisation it means poor productivity, higher absence rates, and lower retention.

What my early career taught me (and competing in triathlons has reinforced) is that when you’re faced with overwhelm, your number one task is to get back in control.

Three ways to get back in control

  1. Establish clear priorities

For the swim, it meant not drinking sea water, calming down and making forward, if slow, progress.

In work, do a brain dump onto a big blank piece of paper. Get all the worrying tasks out of your head. Then test each task with the question: “Would the world really stop if I didn’t do that?”

When I was a Production Manager, my mantra was: “Spend five minutes a day doing something to make tomorrow better.” For example, make one phone call, send one email, or simply sit quietly and think for five minutes. The positive energy from these tiny steps of improvement is incredible.

  1. Look after yourself

 In the swim, I reverted to breaststroke with my head out of the water.

In general, we know we should eat properly, exercise and get enough good quality sleep. Under pressure, it’s easy to let this slip.

I’ve been tempted by that glass of wine, hoovered up packs of biscuits, gone for more coffees than sensible. My Garmin body battery (which estimates the body’s energy reserves) has shown the unhelpful impact of alcohol in particular.

Whatever tools you use, find a way to monitor how you are. A simple 1-10 rating on waking up is a start. Build some exercise, like walking or running, into your day. Park a few streets away if you use a car, cycle, or get off the bus a stop or two earlier.

  1. Build your resilience

I’ve improved my swimming by having coaching on technique, doing lots of practice, and year-round training in the Irish sea. The latter is to experience harsher conditions than I’m likely to face in races. By doing all this, I’ve learned to control my breathing and keep calm using long out breaths.

To build your resilience in both life and work, find a safe environment where you can put yourself under pressure. Like low-risk situations in sports, public speaking clubs such as Toastmasters, or other hobbies where you need to perform.

We can all find ourselves overwhelmed at times, feeling out of our depth, or being hassled by those around us. So, if you or your team are struggling, apply my tips above to get back in control.

Want to know how I did in the swim? Well, once I’d settled into manageable breathing and pace, I made it round. Then onto the bike, followed by a run and a successful finish. Woohoo! The swim even turned out to be my best performing leg!

So, you can overcome overwhelm. But if you’re really struggling and need some help to see the wood for the trees and push away those unhelpful boulders, I can help. Do get in touch today for an exploratory, no obligation chat.

Call Hilary Now

+44 20 7373 2192

to discuss how she could help you transform your business goals into reality to start delivering value now.

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Copyright © 2024 Hilary Briggs

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