A Head-On Look at Overwhelm
If you follow the trends of “focusing on the positive”, it may seem odd to you that I’m illustrating this post with a photo of a business woman literally hitting her head against the wall and experiencing (what I imagine is) overwhelm. Instead, you might have expected that I’d use a photo of someone in a zen-like state and then hoped I’d go on to tell you how to attract that state. Nope.
Even though I incorporate the Law of Attraction into my work and life, I’m not much for skipping over what’s so and I’m really not much for trends. I’m more about what works and as far as I know, what works is always about first looking squarely in the eye of what’s so. So let’s talk Overwhelm.
It’s a new year. You’ve got big plans for your Wellness Coaching business. You’ve printed out my 2011 Wellness Coaches planning calendar, looked through all 16 pages, seen the year’s worth of to do’s and gotten right down to it. You set your 2011 business vision, outlined your Q1 plans, started in on a huge list of marketing calls you’re committed to making, and you’re already juggling client work, writing blog posts and have outlined plans to develop new mp3 downloads.
Chances are, you have a ton of unread email in your in-box, a stack of juicy but unopened mail on your desk you’re dying to get to, and between it all you’re trying to fit in your own fitness routine!
(By the way, how’s your breathing right now? Just checking.)
You want to join a new networking group, spend more time on social media, order products, and sign up as an affiliate of your favorite big cheese. You also plan to hire a virtual assistant so you’ll be more efficient and work less hours. Of course you also have to place ads, read resumes and interview people… Whew!
How’d You Get Here?
Overwhelm. We’ve all been here. Some of us tend to hang around the place longer than others, but even the infrequent visitors know it well. And while your brand of overwhelm is as unique as your thumbprint, it’s just about as likely as the sun coming up tomorrow that your version of overwhelm contains some element where you’ve lost your focus.
In fact, I’d bet on it. You probably arrived here at Overwhelm by trying to get your arms around the whole enchilada of your Wellness Coaching business all at once. So, slow down. Breathe. Focus in on just this post for now. We have work to do.
What You’ve Tried
When it comes to “Managing Overwhelm,” you’ve likely tried many ways of rearranging the external circumstances in your business and life to get “it” (as if Overwhelm were an entity) under control. Guess what?
You’re not overwhelmed because you need to work harder to manage your current activities. And we know you’re not overwhelmed because you’re slacking in your effort to try to get “Overwhelm” under control. You do plenty of both.
Neither task works because they’ve both got a faulty premise…they both assume that the content and circumstances of your life cause “Overwhelm.” Not so. “Out there” is not where you need to look.
Where the Work Needs to Be
You don’t “manage Overwhelm” by manipulating the external things in your life. Actually, you don’t “manage” Overwhelm at all, and you can’t “catch Overwhelm” from your To Do list. “It’s not a virus” as my friend, mentor, founder of The Gremlin Taming Institute and author of Taming Your Gremlin®, Rick Carson is fond of saying. Rick also says, “Balance and Pleasure are primarily an inside job.” This is key, as Balance and Pleasure are the opposite states of Overwhelm as far as I’ve experienced. Balance and Pleasure are the Big Kahuna of life. So let’s look more closely at that “inside job” of yours.
A Trip Inside You
The question is, what is your brand of Overwhelm? What’s involved when you do it? No, I’m not interested in those things outside of you that you consider to cause you Overwhelm. Those things could look the same or absolutely different for each one of us and some of us would or wouldn’t Overwhelm ourselves in response to them. I am interested in what you do on the inside of you. How do you overwhelm you? What do you do to you?
Actually, I’m inviting you to participate right here in one small component of Rick Carson’s powerful Gremlin-Taming® Method. I’ve studied and practiced the full method for years and teach it to my clients. Here, I’m inviting you to do as Rick taught me and Simply Notice. Yes, I want you to Simply Notice how you Overwhelm you.
The Exercise (To be done when you’re alone and not driving.)
I’d like you to take a break right now and give yourself some time to do this exercise. Get comfortable to start. Turn the phone ringer off, put the cell phone away, and hang a privacy sign on the door. Great.
Let’s begin. Imagine I’m there with you right now. I want you to Teach me how you Overwhelm yourself. Yes, teach me. Only you know how you do it. And until now, you probably haven’t been aware of how you do it. We’re going to shine a light on the whole mess right here, right now.
Notice every detail of you and your experience of overwhelm one by one. Do so as if you were writing a guidebook on how to create your brand of Overwhelm. Take big time to notice. Get into your best Overwhelm state. What are you doing to you? What are you doing with your neck? Your shoulders? Your jaw? Your eyes? What pray tell is going on in that mind of yours? What messages of exasperation are you chanting over and over again to yourself?
Notice I’m not asking you what the external circumstances are that you’re using as a reason to overwhelm yourself. Nor am I asking you what you think “causes” your overwhelmed state. I’m asking you how you are overwhelming yourself. Only you do that to you. Exactly how, step by step, do you do this to you?
Go slowly. Play up, highlight, and exaggerate every smidgeon of the routine you go through. Don’t judge, just Simply Notice.
Stay with it and see what happens.
Need an example?
Okay, I’ll do the same exercise I’m asking you to do, right here. This is risky because you might be tempted to try out my exact method for “Overwhelm.” Please don’t. You have your own way. That’s enough for one lifetime. So read “my way of Overwhelming me” at your own risk. Then be sure to do the exercise for yourself. Meantime, here’s a description of “my brand” of Overwhelm:
My No-Fail Step-by-Step Guide to Overwhelming Myself:
1. First look at every detail on my new 2011 business plan.
2. Now scan my entire To Do list for the week.
2. Be sure to open my eyes really wide. Then wider still.
3. Alternate this with a frown, squinted eyes & a wrinkled brow as I…
4. Dart my eyes around the room from one thing to the next. (Tricky, but heck, I’ve been practicing for 54 years.)
5. Make my focus go rather fuzzy so I don’t see any one thing very clearly.
6. Make my breathing very shallow or even better, hold my breath.
7. Scrunch up my shoulders.
8. Keep staring at the clock and internally remind myself how little time I have to do “it” all, whatever “it” is.
9. Keep telling myself I’ll never get to “it” all and that others are going to get “there” before I do.
10. Say aloud how overwhelmed I am. Repeat 10+ times per hour.
Once I’m aware of my brand of overwhelming myself, and I exaggerate it just a bit, until I really see how I’m making myself miserable, 99% of the time magic happens. The other 1% of the time I just have to stick with it a bit longer. But the magic always happens. It will for you too. More on this when you come back from doing the exercise.
Now It’s Your Turn
Go ahead. Head on back and do the exercise. Really. I’ll wait.
About the Magic
Good job. If you took the time to do this, and played it up big time, something happened after awhile. You likely noticed that, like magic, things shifted. Rick calls this phenomenon The Zen Theory of Change which he describes on page 10 of Taming Your Gremlin as: “I free myself, not by trying to free myself but by simply noticing how I am imprisoning myself in the very moment in which I am imprisoning myself.” It’s magic indeed.
My number one recommendation for Wellness Coaches, and anyone else experiencing Overwhelm, is to take a breath, and Simply Notice how you overwhelm you right in the very moment you are overwhelming you.
It’s as simple, and yet as challenging, as that.
After You’re Centered Again…
The exercise above, truly a life-long practice, will take you quite far when next you Overwhelm yourself. When you come back to Balance, consider some of these tips for staying a bit longer in that Balanced state:
1. Breathe. Do it often:)
2. Put your focus on just one thing. Stay with that one thing for an extended period of time. Even if it’s 30 minutes. Just the one thing though. No distractions. No fuzzy focus on a million things at once (which is impossible anyway.)
3. Phone a colleague or shoot a quick email and declare that one thing you’ll be doing for the next half hour, hour, or more. (Make it short and sweet. Don’t get distracted with the call.) Tell them you’ll be leaving another message when you’re done. Or hire an accountability coach and do the same.
4. Take some time to re-look at your priorities. Frequently. Ask yourself: What’s important? Perhaps it’s time to revisit this, right now.
5. Get a copy of Crazy Busy by Dr. Edward Hallowell. Take your time and read it. (Jane Massengill, LCSW MCC, Director of the Gremlin-Taming Institute, told me of this book just days ago. I ran off and got a copy. I’m drinking it up. Thanks, Jane!)
7. I’ll say this one again: Get Rick Carson’s book, Taming Your Gremlin®. Go slow. Read it for just 15 minutes a night before sleep. Go ahead. I dare ya. And if you already have it, re-read it, or grab the sequel, A Master Class in Gremlin Taming. Seriously. Read or re-read either one or both. Don’t let your Gremlin tell you this isn’t important. It is.
• This post was born from your ideas. Many thanks for the requests and suggestions you sent or left in the comments on the We’re Refurbishing and Haven’t a Clue post. I appreciate you and your presence in the WellnessCoach.com community.
• As you can tell, I ask you to bring your whole being, body, mind and spirit to the party when reading my posts or working with me. It’s a physical experience that you and I and all the other travelers on the planet have this go-round, and I make sure we work with that physical experience. My approach was first built on years of study and practice of the Bio-Energetic work of Stanley Keleman at the Center For Energetic Studies in Berkeley, CA.
• I have grown since then and my work has been deepened tremendously by the year-long studies I did at Rick Carson’s Gremlin Taming Institute in Dallas, Texas. My work and writing continue to evolve through the on-going studies I do with Rick to this day. As you can see in many of my posts, as well as when you work with me, I fully embrace Rick’s Gremlin-Taming Method®, weave it into all I do, and am honored to be doing this work in the world.