You feel tired.
You feel lost.
There's so much to do, but you can't find the time to do it.
Others are light years ahead of you.
You feel like you will never be able to reach your goals.
You feel like everything is important.
Sounds familiar? Meet overwhelm - one of the biggest threats entrepreneurs face.
For me, overwhelm often appears when I try to make up for "lost" time or when I don't prioritize. I tend to get super excited about all kinds of ideas, projects and tasks that I have and I can't say I am very good at prioritizing them. You know, when everything seems to be "important", but it's actually not.
I am a recovering perfectionist, so to me, everything seems important more often.
But, recently, overwhelm kind of took me by surprise - I got overwhelmed for trying too much to over-deliver. Every article you read online tells you about going the extra mile, delivering value and all sorts of things, and it's all good until you care more about your clients than you care about yourself.
My advice is to find a balance between taking care of yourself, fulfilling your needs and delivering value to your clients and/or potential clients.
Inspired by my own story, I asked fellow entrepreneurs the following question:
"How do you deal with overwhelm and what do you do once it strikes?"
Here's what they said:
Julia Hook - Brand Strategist at strategicjuju.com
"I ask myself which tasks are serving my overall strategies, and I dump the ones that aren't. Or I delegate them. Or I put them off. I usually have three or four key strategies (in life and business) that serve my current goals and dreams. And if I ask the question, "does this task align with my strategies?" and it does not, then I find a way to get rid of it.
I also -- when feeling overwhelmed -- make my to-do lists at night before bed. I find that when I organize before sleep, I sleep more soundly. And I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, rather than feeling like I'm not up to the task, or worried that I'm going to forget something or let a ball drop."
Elinor Cohen - Business Coach & Strategist at justmecompany.com
"I usually feel the overwhelm in my stomach, as if someone has punched me. I've learned to be very conscious of this so I immediately stop everything I'm doing and take 4 deep breaths. I also meditate, making sure to banish all thoughts and focus on breathing.
But of course, it doesn't end there. I then do something completely different than what I was doing when that punch in the gut feeling came to be. I do things which I enjoy most like cooking, yoga, getting silly with my little girl, walking.
But what is most powerful for me is to do some form of physical exercise that will push my body out of its comfort zone - running or hot yoga for example - this helps shift my mind elsewhere."
Kevin Stimpson - Branding Expert for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners at strivengrind.com
"When I find myself getting overwhelmed, I either do something fun or extremely relaxing. To break the pattern of overwhelm, I must take a break. I usually work out, go for a walks, watch my favorite 30-45 minute tv show, or go for a quick drive with the top down to embrace the wonderful San Diego weather."
Roswitha Moti - Life & Career Coach at wellfitsyou.com
"The first thing I do and this is something I do with all major feelings, is to be aware of it. Yes, I am overwhelmed, or I am tired, or I am extremely happy. It's completely normal and that does not make me a bad person. People often think that if they feel negative emotions that means they are not as successful/smart/healthy/etc as other people. Not true. It is normal to get overwhelmed from time to time, as it is normal for your house to get dirty or for you to be hungry. It's a cyclical thing.
Secondly, I pause what I am doing. If the feeling that I am feeling is not one of joy, then somehow I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing, I got sidetracked and this is a way for my body to turn on the siren, so I listen. What caused this feeling? Is the overwhelm about a certain task or about a certain way of doing the task?
Thirdly, I take action. I observed my feeling, I know how I got here, now it's time to change something. Maybe to get rid of some tasks or maybe to do less in one day. Or maybe to accept that who I am and how much I do is more than enough."
Emily Wheean - Life Coach at momentsofmindfulnessmatter.com
"I always go through this five step process:
1. Get a blank sheet of paper.
2. Write out everything that's in your head. Pour it all onto the page. All your worries, fears and anxieties, even your to-do lists. I mean everything!
3. Circle your fears and worries, and rank them on a scale from one to ten.
4. Prioritize your list.
5. Make a plan and schedule it into your calendar!
Look at your values. What is important to you? One of my top values is wellbeing. But if I'm stressing myself out, taking too much on and pushing myself too hard then I'm actually going against my values. When you are not in line with your values it affects every other area of your life."
Alex Echols - Best-selling author and mentor for entrepreneurs at alexechols.com
"One of my primary ways I choose to deal with overwhelm is to focus on re-grounding myself in trust and belief that I am exactly where I need to be at this present moment. By putting forth this conviction, I believe my relationship with the Universe becomes stronger and stronger, which results in the overwhelm also fading away. How do I re-ground myself? By thinking about all the things I could be grateful for in that moment. Try it - it works.
Another way I deal with overwhelm is to get as objective as possible and to see whatever event or circumstance I find myself in, as exactly that: a make up of passing moments that will soon be no more. Whether it is in my business or my personal life, this simple reframe allows me to see the bigger picture for whatever is going on."
Kate Crocco - Psychotherapist and Mindset & Confidence Coach at katecrocco.com
"In my experience as a psychotherapist and mindset coach I look at overwhelm as a symptom. I like to dig deep and really see where this emotion is coming from. Is it fear? Is it anxiety? Is it perfectionism? I ask my clients to do a quick brain dump and journal everything that comes up for them around overwhelm. Nine times out of ten it is not the to-do list, it's one of the above. However, when we have long to-do lists, this can clutter up our minds and make it nearly impossible to make a decision.
This is when I have them create a second list of the things in their life that are taking up time but no longer serving them. Oftentimes we have unnecessary stuff lingering in our lives that add to the overwhelm such as one-sided relationships, things in our business that really aren't so important, mindless social media binging, etc. I have them identify 2-3 things that they can cut out off the bat or agree to cut down. What this does is open up more space for clarity and mental capacity to handle things more rationally. When our minds are cluttered with unnecessary stuff, it is so easy for fear, anxiety, perfectionism, and insecurities to rise to the surface and that's where overwhelm is created."
David Henzel - Co-founder MaxCDN and Founder at davidhenzel.com
"As an entrepreneur, you always bite off more than you can chew. The most important thing not to get overwhelmed is taking care of myself. My morning routine starts at 5:30 am with a quick meditation followed by one hour of hot yoga, keeping my mind and my body in shape. Nice side effect, I don't get colds anymore since I started this routine.
My biggest secret is acceptance. Not matter how bad or crazy a situation is, if you accept you can act. If you do not accept you just react."
Dealing with overwhelm it's not fun, but it's part of life, especially an entrepreneur's life. These are all great advice, but you need to find out what's working for you.
Try them all and stick with the one (or several) strategies that give YOU the best results.
Got a strategy that was not mentioned here? Share it in the comments below - I'd love to hear it.
Mihai Herman is an online business coach for creative entrepreneurs that want to have a positive impact in the world. If you're looking to grow your business, you can download his business & marketing bundle for creative entrepreneurs (4 ebooks) for free!