I used to suffer terribly with OverWhelm. I’m such a ‘doer’ and ‘thinker’ and I am constantly bombarded with creative thoughts and ideas, but I rarely find time to act on many of them. In fact, some brilliant ideas will visit me at night, when I am lying there, busily thinking instead of sleeping (such a curse) and then they will leave me, never to return. I know they have been, for I have felt the sense of excitement and possibility they bring, but I either forget to write them down, or write them down and forget where I’ve written them down, or feel so OverWhelmed with the energy and time it would take for me to follow them through, that I just give up and release them back into the world for someone else to realise and make millions from. Spotify was my idea you know. Well, you don’t know, but I’m telling you it was. And Happy Socks, that was my idea too. There’s been loads more, I just can’t remember them.

OverWhelm is not the same as stress, which can actually be beneficial in short, sharp bursts. Stress can get you off the start line quickly and into the race, when hopefully you can find a more comfortable pace if you learn how to adjust your stride – we’re talking long distance here, obviously, not a sprint. But OverWhelm is debilitating. It stops you in your tracks and takes your breath away. It whispers quietly that ‘there’s too much here, where do you start? You can’t do any of this, you’re kidding yourself, just give up, ignore it, it’ll go away, go and do something else that has nothing to do with what you really need to do to succeed and achieve and feel a sense of accomplishment.’ See, breathless! Except tomorrow everything is still there, waiting to be done, but now you feel stressed too that you’re not getting anything done, and then frustration comes to join the party and the three of them spin you round, shake you up and then leave you in a heap for the next three to take over – anxiety, self-doubt and debilitation. Oh, what fun.

When I studied to become a Personal Development Coach, it was a journey of self discovery in many ways. You recognise stuff, I mean things like overwhelm and avoidance, so easily in others, so raising their awareness without responding to your own would feel pretty shabby really and rather inauthentic. So I’ve learnt how to manage OverWhelm. Most of the time I see it coming and I dart round it before it catches me. The trigger points will always exist, except now I sit quietly and observe my thoughts before my thoughts manifest and beckon OverWhelm in.

The best kind of OverWhelm I’ve experienced has been working with my web designer, Lucy Hall. She stirs me up into an excitable state of ‘wow, let’s do it’, ‘what a great idea’, ‘really, could I do that?’ and then left on my own for a few hours, I start to question ‘how the hell am I going to find time to do that?’ only to talk myself out of it.  She doesn’t see road blocks, she sees little hurdles. She doesn’t say ‘no’, she says ‘let’s try’. She doesn’t run out of time or patience or abandon brilliant ideas, she keeps them all spinning for you until you move beyond your OverWhelm and find your way back to your creative space, where all the magic happens. I normally need a solid 7 hours sleep before I can find my way back anywhere though.

I’ve lost count of how many websites Lucy and I have created together for my clients (I’m also a copy writer, as well as a Coach, Sports Therapist and Stretchologist. I’m OverWhelmed just writing that list). Lucy and I have a wonderful rapport. I can be serious and business-like when I am up against it and the OverWhelm has kicked in; then embarrassingly un-organised, then playful and silly when things finally start coming together and the end is in sight. She manages me with such ease and patience, but she must be totally exasperated at times.

So I am now going to offer you my top 5 tips for handling ‘overwhelm’. Notice, I have just downgraded it to all lower case to remove its pOWer.

  1. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Strip everything back and tackle one thing at a time. Juggling too many things invites overwhelm in.
  2. Break things down into bitesize tasks and modules so they feel more manageable. A series of little ‘wins’ will impact your day more than you realise, just remember to give yourself credit for them.
  3. One task may take longer than you think to complete. Allow for extra time. If you crack it quickly, this will give you a greater sense of achievement and act as a cunning deterrent for overwhelm.
  4. Be kind to yourself when overwhelm kicks in and things don’t go to plan. Don’t let the voice in your head tell you you’re failing. You’re doing the best you can do. And if you’re not, then maybe you need to look at your motivation levels and ask yourself if it’s really what you want to be doing anyway.
  5. And lastly. Sleep well. Sleep is the key to success. A rested mind is a productive mind. Overwhelm struggles to take control of a rested mind. I’m an insomniac by the way, but I’m conquering it, a bit like overwhelm, rather than it conquering me.

If you want tips on how to go about any of the above, hire a Personal Development and Wellbeing Coach (me!) – who can help you find some clarity and will hold you accountable.

Isobel Cripps

@abody4life – Stretchologist
@acoach4life – Wellbeing & Personal Development Coach
@thecutleryclub – Copy Writer, Lifestyle Reviews, Supper Club Host