Overwhelm is a word that rarely exists in the male vocabulary. It’s often found in many different guises; stressed and swamped are just two words used to describe the feeling by men. Yet neither really have such a profound effect on our reality or impact our mental state as much as overwhelm.
Overwhelm can manifest itself into a whole host of other issues and often is the root cause of problems unrelated to what caused you to feel overwhelmed in the first place. It’s like cancer that spreads, becoming a much larger problem that entwines itself into a magnitude of problems that, without warning, become too much of a burden to deal with. Or at least, appear too much to deal with, in a rational and effective way at least.
What is overwhelm?
Forget what Wikipedia or the Oxford dictionary says. Overwhelm, in layman’s terms, equates to being stuck in a rut, not being able to see the wood from trees and not knowing where the hell to start. Basically, when the shit hits the fan.
Overwhelm can lead to frustration, panic, stress and, ultimately, in the most severe cases, depression. Whilst there is a lot of information available on the internet that can help us overcome it, it’s often generic medical talk designed to baffle us with industry jargon and bullshit. Which, often leads us right back to where we started and feeling....
Let’s not confuse the varying degrees of overwhelm. Having to hit the gym, pick up your dry cleaning, pop to the supermarket and buy your other half a birthday present can seem somewhat overwhelming. But, the reality is it’s just a ball ache and you merely have a busy day ahead of you. The result might mean meeting your mates down the pub for a few pints has to be less of a priority. But, you know what you have to do, where to start, and how to process your list of tasks. It’s not really overwhelm.... unless of course, you’re a drama queen!
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Waking up, yet again, in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep. Knowing you have £3,000 worth of outgoings, and yet only £2,000 coming in. Knowing you have to face the music and meet with your bank manager or suppliers. Working on that business proposal or loan application. Answering the emails and phone calls you’ve been putting off for days, if not weeks. And, facing up to the fact that your relationship with your wife or girlfriend is hanging on by a thread. Knowing exactly what you need to do, but not knowing where the hell to start, and yet day after day you sit staring blankly at your computer screen with bills and problems piling up, wanting the world to swallow you whole, so you can just forget about your reality and your complete fuck up of a life, not knowing if you want to laugh, cry or smash the fuck out of your laptop.....
That, my friends, is what you would call overwhelm!
At least from a man’s perspective anyhow. Typically, us guys tend to brush it under the carpet and pretend everything is OK until shit hits the fan and everything comes to a head.
It can however, be of varying degrees, and affect us on many different levels. Some more severe than others. But, if we are to summarise - procrastination would be; knowing what you have to do, but failing to take action. Whereas, overwhelm is knowing what you have to do, but not knowing how to do it, or where to start. In addition to that, overwhelm is severely more problematic because it affects many other areas of your life such as mood, sleep, work, and relationships. Not to mention your mental state and wellbeing.
Failing to take action
Overwhelm can lead to a lack of progress. Not knowing where to start can often leave us doing sweet FA. Burying our head in the sand and hoping it all goes away. But, we are all adults here and we have to face up to the cold hard truth... nothing will miraculously disappear unless we make it disappear. And, the only way that is going to happen is if we roll up our sleeves, take a big deep breath and take a “what’s the worse that can happen” approach. It might not necessarily be the answer you were looking for, but ignoring the challenges you face won’t make them go away.
However tough things get, it pays to remember, you're most likely faced with first world problems - debt, work related issues, relationship problems etc. As harsh as it seems, in order to put things in perspective. To get through the challenging times, it helps to take a step back and be grateful for your health, the relationships you have and the opportunities you have. We aren’t in the midst of war, you won’t starve to death, and you won’t be imprisoned for failing to pay your Netflix subscription. I know it can be hard to relate to, because we don’t experience such extreme circumstances such as war, famine or dictatorship, but when you’re faced with a cluster fuck of problems sometimes the only thing that can temporarily relieve the pain of overwhelm is realising just how lucky we are to live in a country like the U.K.
One man’s problem is another man’s dream. Whether you own a multimillion pound empire or work in Starbucks the shit life throws at us is all relevant. There is always someone better off, but on the flip side, also worse off. Whether you owe £100,000 or £1,000 it’s highly likely it’s relevant to you and your personal situation.
The strategies provided here are the basic principles of:
So, jump straight in and get started. Remember, progress eases the burden of overwhelm.
- Grab a pen and pad
- Down a large glass of water
- Close your eyes
- Take 6 big deep breathes
And let’s begin....
5 simple yet effective strategies that will help you beat feeling overwhelm.
1 - Organise
Make a list of everything you need to do, bills you need to pay, conversations you need to have, and tasks you need to complete. Prioritise them in a list of importance. Get everything down on paper. Some things might seem minuscule and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, especially compared to others. But, several minuscule tasks or problems combined will still play on your subconscious mind.
It’s highly likely that finishing a business proposal is far higher on your list of priorities than calling your phone provider and swapping tariffs or similar tasks. But, these small tasks, when combined, can cause undue stress leading to bigger problems. There is rationale behind doing this, so it's extremely important to ensure you get EVERYTHING down. Stick them way down the list, but get them on paper never the less. It might seem daunting, but in essence, it’s similar to talking things through with someone and getting things off your chest. Trust me when I tell you it gets easier from here on out.
As you begin to work through the more troublesome and problematic tasks, you will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you get closer to the supposed 'minuscule' tasks it will be a clear indication of the progress you’ve made.
2 - Prioritise
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that a roof over your head and putting food on the table is far more important than swapping phone tariffs and cancelling a subscription you’re not using anymore. Whilst working on a large task can have huge impact on your personal life or business in the long term, it shouldn’t take precedence over immediate things that could impact your life now.
A proposal is all well and good, but if your phone is going to be cut off if you don’t pay the bill, and yet you’ll need your phone to chase up the proposal, the priority is to pay the bill or work on how you are going to pay the bill before the proposal.
NOTE - common sense is often lost when feeling overwhelmed. “Why didn’t I do that”, “think of that”, or “if only”, are all things we think of in hindsight. Remember, we have a tendency not to think straight or apply common sense to the problems we face when stressed, depressed or feeling overwhelmed.
3 - Structure
Overwhelm often leads us to take a somewhat erratic approach to the tasks at hand. Without any formal structure we’ll soon find ourselves back down the black hole staring into the abyss. To effectively get out of your current predicament, you need to formalise a structure in which you are going to face the task at hand. This is where we do the supposed thing us men can’t do - multi-task!.
Dealing with multiple tasks and objectives is more than achievable, if we have a clear and defined structure in which we complete them. In the past, so called experts, have advised us to deal with one task at a time, but the reality is that can be costly in the modern world. Chasing up someone or something is all well and good, but doing nothing until you hear back is unproductive and a huge waste of time.
So, set out your objectives and make a tick list below each task or set a reminder to chase up the task. Doing this will allow you to move on to your next task and systematically work through your list. Each day go straight back to your list of reminders and follow up and action before moving on to the next.
NOTE - Be careful not to make list after list, as this will only lead you down the same path that got you into the mess in the first place. A simple reminder will suffice.
4 - Strategise
Don’t get this confused with prioritise. Prioritising will tell what you need to do, and strategising will tell you how you need to do it effectively.
The strategy you personally need to implement can only be formalised by you. And, this is where you need to take a long hard look at yourself. Ask yourself the following question:
Am I living a lifestyle that will best equip me with the tools that will help me overcome the challenges I face?'
It’s all too easy to fall back into lifestyle choices that help us to escape the stresses of life such as:
- Alcohol and other substances
- Fast food
- Missing the gym
- Digital distractions - Social media, Netflix etc
Facing up to the challenges of overwhelm can be difficult. But nowhere near as difficult as not facing up to your problems, I can assure you. Burying your head in the sand, and downing a bottle of wine along with a takeaway, is only going to impact you in a negative way the following day. It won’t do you any favours whatsoever. It will make you unproductive, tired, unfocused and emotionally unfit to deal with your problems.
Life is about balance and I’m a huge advocate of the CST - Common Sense Theory. Apply the 80/20 principle, but ensure you get it around the right way or you will end up fucked! If you are able and want to reward yourself with a few drinks or a night out after working hard all week, then go for it. But, it pays to ask yourself a few simple questions - Do I really deserve it? Can I afford it? And, will it benefit me in the long run?
5 - Action
Let’s take the old saying “Rome wasn't built in a day” and I’d be inclined to agree. But, it would also pay to remember that it also wasn't built by a bunch of lazy fuckers who sat on their arse drinking beer and flicking through Netflix. You can have the best strategy and tools for success in life but, unless you take action, nothing is going to change. We all fuck up from time to time, so don't beat yourself up over it. Draw a line under it and move forward no matter how uncomfortable it is. If you are feeling lethargic, lonely or depressed there is a likely chance that it is a symptom of your current situation and mindset. Tragedy aside, a lack of progress in one's life can often be the root cause of depression and frustration. Especially if, deep down, you are a driven and successful person who strives to make something of himself in life.
So, the final piece of the puzzle can only take place when you have completed the previous four stages. Now it’s time to get things moving. Follow these last few steps to get momentum and keep moving forward and persisting. I can assure you things will get better as long as your actions align with your vision and goals. This process might go against traditional teachings, but remember this isn’t just a time management or diary management exercise, this is a “how to overcome overwhelm” strategy. It’s about building up small wins that ultimately lead to a bigger win.
Could this be why male suicide rates are much higher than women? Let us know your thoughts Facebook
1 - Go straight to the bottom of your priority list, the lower value and less challenging action points, and complete the bottom 2 tasks. Get some easy wins under your belt to build momentum before you tackle the most important tasks
2 - Work for exactly an hour and take a 10-minute break - no more, no less.
3 - Continue this process for the remainder of the working day, taking only half hour for lunch.
4 - Finish at a reasonable time, as you would a normal day, try to have a relaxing evening and get to bed at a respectable time in order to wake up, refreshed, in the morning.
5 - Wake up and follow your usual morning routine, if you have one, and then jump straight in and repeat stage 1, adhering to your daily strategy.
They key here is to start each day with one or two less challenging tasks in order to get a few wins under your belt and build momentum. Get a few ticks on your list straight off the bat as it feels good and lightens the load for the day ahead. Once you have done that, it’s straight on to face the bigger tasks.
It also pays to remember that everyone reading this will have a different agenda and reasons for feeling overwhelmed. This isn’t a one size fits all solution. This strategy outlines the main causes of overwhelm and provides a blueprint that can be tailored to each and everyone's personal situation. Remember, we aren’t giving you the solution, we are merely giving you the structure and strategies needed to solve your own problems.
I have a book coming out on the 1st May called RESET, which provides additional strategies in order to create the foundation and mindset needed to overcome many of the challenges we men face today - sign up on the form below to get notified when the book launches.
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