The Overwhelm of Overwhelm

We’ve all had moments in our lives where we’ve been so overwhelmed with a certain situation that we freeze like deer in the headlights – it can be so overwhelming to be overwhelmed! It’s a negative feedback loop; you have so much to deal with, so many tasks on your to-do list, that you begin to recognise that feeling of overwhelm creeping into your mind… and then as you start to realise what’s happening the feeling of overwhelm creates even more overwhelm, and so the cycle continues resulting in even less action and even more fear, panic and anxiety!

Sound familiar?

Me too.

This is something that everyone battles with, and is especially poignant when it comes to entrepreneurs and business owners. Whether you’re a lone wolf director of a start-up, or the CEO of a multi-million pound corporate, it is a guarantee that overwhelm will come knocking at your door – either it’s hundreds of small things spread across a set of different situations that is so diverse in nature that the diversity itself is a source of overwhelm, or it’s the same few big things that carry so much weight and importance that the pressure of needing to get it right (whatever ‘it’ is) pushes you into that unresourceful state of panic and inaction.

It might even be the overwhelm of having to deal with a multitude of difficult or potent emotions as a result of a complex family situation, or the pressures and expectations of your social group.

Whoever you are, and whatever your circumstances, having clearly defined, tried and tested strategies for dealing with overwhelm and ultimately overcoming it is key to success in life.

I’m no stranger to this unforgiving beast either, and the first time I really remember this effecting me in a profound way was around 10 years ago when I started my first management role for my family’s construction business. I was tasked with managing the manufacturing facilities as well as managing all the purchasing and procurement for the business. We were always busiest in the summer, and I remember on this particular occasion being sat at my desk in the office at the end of the workshop staring blankly at the anything but blank sheets of paper in front of me.

Knowing I had a lot to do, and not wanting to drop any balls, I had diligently made lists and notes on every task that I needed to get done. I have always been a high achiever, and so naturally always expect a lot of myself, and so I was pressuring myself to get all this stuff done either by the end of the day or the end of the week… it was already midday on Wednesday.

Then it hit me like a truck; I felt anxiety, panic and a whole series of emotions that resulted in that distant wide eyed stare synonymous to a deer in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

Questions and thoughts were racing through my mind at a hundred miles an hour!

How the hell am I going to get all this done?

What’s the top priority? They all are!

This is too much! This is insane! I’ll never get all this done!

Looking back now, I know that stress hormones were flooding my system, and creating the kind of mind-fog that it completely opaque in nature. I could see nothing, I could do nothing, I was paralysed. It was like being sat in the passenger seat of my life, and watching all this crazy shit happening before my eyes, but way too much stuff going on to be able to even recognise the individual parts swirling in front of me. How the hell can I get anything done if I can’t even lock on to each individual task? My emotions were in control, and I knew that this was the first thing I had to deal with.

You see, our thoughts are right at the start of the chain, and at the end are the results we get in our lives. The simple equation goes as follows:

Thoughts – Emotions – State – Choices – Actions – Results

I knew that to get results, I had to begin right at the start of the chain described above and change my thoughts, because it was these beasts that were creating my current emotional state, and my emotional state was what was holding me back from achieving the results I needed to achieve.

It starts with how you think, so if there is an area of your life that you’re not satisfied with because you’re not getting the results you want then you need to use the equation above and change your thinking patterns to create a more balanced and positive emotional state so you can make choices and take actions that are in line with the results you want to achieve in that area.

Looking back at the statements and questions that were running through my head at the time, I can see that they were severely disempowering.  The thing is, the answers you get to the questions you ask of yourself are equal in quality to the quality of the question you’ve asked. For example, if you ask yourself why you’re such a failure at ‘x’, then your brain will come up with an appropriate answer to that quality of question – you’re a failure at ‘x’ because you’re not smart enough, you’re not committed, you don’t listen etc. But those are not helpful or empowering answers that will help us improve our ability to do something about it and move closer to success. Why? Because the questions were shit.

Would a better and more empowering approach be, ‘how can I do this better next time?’, or ‘what resources do I have available to me to help me do better at achieving my goals?’. All of a sudden, by changing the question you’ve opened up access to the resourceful parts of your brain that have answer to serve and empower you. You’ll get answers back along the lines of, ‘you could take an on-line study course in ‘x’ to help deepen your level of knowledge and understanding’, ‘you could speak to that friend of yours who’s been doing ‘x’ for the last 10 years and ask for some advice around how to move to the next level – they could even be an accountability partner to help hold you accountable to your stated goals’.

Can you see how by just changing the quality of the question, we are able to massively effect the quality of the answers our own brain provides to us when we ask of it? This is powerful, and a skill vastly under-utilised by most. You are NOT a slave to your mind unless you allow yourself to be – put yourself back in the driving seat, and learn how t work the controls… this is where a coach or mentor is super valuable, and you should endeavour to have one in every area of your life that you wish to move forward in.

The other great thing about changing and purposefully directing your internal questions is that asking empowering questions puts you in an empowered state rather than one of heightened emotion and disempowerment. This clears the brain fog, and allows clarity of purpose to enter the mind.

With this, we now have answers AND an empowering internal environment.

There’s one more piece to the puzzle; structure.

We have the answers, we’ve cleared the brain fog by removing the stress hormones from our system and creating an empowering internal environment, and now we need to order these answers in a way that will move us towards our ultimate goals. This cannot be done in a state of overwhelm because everything is swimming in a sea of anxiety, but when we create a calm blue ocean in which our thoughts can swim, we are able to start being logical and objective about the plan of attack.

When creating the structure that will move you forward, you must first re-visit your high level goals – the first thing to do is to check that what you have in front of you is actually important and is actually going to move you towards YOUR high level goals rather than someone else’s. This is a common problem; allowing ourselves to be hijacked by the needs of others and becoming a part of their plan to achieve their goals. Stay focused on your higher level goals, and make sure that what you’re doing is both in line with, and moving you closer towards, those goals.

Now you simply apply this thinking to the tasks in front of you, always referencing them back to your higher level goals. What is the one thing out of everything that is going to be most likely to move you most towards your goals? Put them in this order.

Another really important tactic is to look at everything you have in front of you (assuming you’ve already vetted the list and made sure it only contains items that are in line with and are going to move you towards your higher level goals), and to ask yourself which of those tasks, when complete, will make the others unnecessary, irrelevant or easier to achieve? This is a powerful technique that ensures you get the maximum result from your time invested. If there’s one task on your list that has the power to remove other things from your list altogether, or to make several other tasks easier and quicker to achieve, then that is the task you want to complete first to manage your time the most effectively!

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, the same 7 days in a week, and the same 365 days in a year – the only difference between you and Richard Branson is your approach, and the strategies you employ daily. One of the most important aspects of this is being in the empowered position of not allowing overwhelm to steal your precious time – time that would be better spent focusing on moving you closer to achieving your goals, your mission and your vision.

This, and this alone, is what separates the mediocre from the outstanding… and we ALL have the ability to be outstanding inside of us. Don’t add to the wealth in the graveyards of the world – employ strategies in your life that allow you to effectively extract the value inside of you to share and leave with the world.

That is exactly what I work with my clients to achieve using my Peak Performance Systems™ – to find out more, or book a free breakthrough session with me personally, visit


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