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“Being overwhelmed means that your life or work is overpowering you. Regain control by clarifying your intentions, setting realistic expectations, and focusing on your next step.” - Daphne Michaels


It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with our work at certain stages. Concept, narrowing down material, cleanup of elements, you name it… and the complexity of the rest of our lives often makes it even harder. For this week I’d like to pinpoint a time that we felt overwhelmed, and take a moment to recall and record what we did to work through it. If you don’t feel overwhelmed at any point at all this week (good for you!) I’m sure you can think of a recent time that you did and share that. I am particularly interested in the build up, and the actual thing that made us feel overwhelmed. I know for myself it’s usually the same few things…

My Answer:

I often feel overwhelmed when I have many different things to do. The easiest way to work through this is to make lists and organize all of the elements. I also find a need to communicate to those waiting on me to deliver things where I am in the process so I don’t feel burdened by what I imagine to be their expectations. Communication is always key.

Thoughts and Actions:

The key to dealing with “the overwhelm” is to prevent it from happening… to notice that you are stressed or taking on too much and deal with it before it becomes totally overpowering. But if that’s not possible… take small steps to break apart the load and remember you can only do one thing at a time. Here are some things that I find to be helpful:

Take short breaks during the day. Whether this is to mediate, relax, or shift gears… it often better for your brain than continuing to power through without stopping. Find what works best for you to recharge.

Make a list. When we write down everything that needs to be done, it helps us declutter our brain so that we don’t have to worry about remembering it all.

Say NO. “What you don’t do determines what you can do.” –Tim Ferriss 

There are only so many hours in the day, and it easy to say yes to too much… it feels good to say yes and it’s hard to say no. But saying no is a really important part of self care and maintaining priorities. Saying “no” doesn’t mean “not ever” it means not right now.

Talk to someone. Whether a professional or a friend, talking to someone about your feelings of “overwhelm” helps put it all into perspective.

Ask for help. Can’t do it all? Of course not… but you CAN and SHOULD ask for help when there is too much on your plate. Even if asking for help is just asking to extend a deadline or scale back the scope of a project.

And something else…

Blank Canvas Syndrome

BCS is a thing that is not wholly unique to artists but certainly is most commonly thought of as an artistic issue. It can be overwhelming starting something new. Especially a new project or job. I think we are all naturally good at plugging along and going through the steps we know well… but getting started can be hard because its overwhelming when we have too many choices, don’t feel worthy of the task, don’t have enough clear direction, etc… Sometimes, you just have to get started… even if you abandon ship and steer a new course, it’s important to have a start. Practicing non-attachment is a big part of overcoming blank canvas syndrome: you have to be ok with the process not being linear, or even being messy.

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