The 12 Days of Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed for the holidays? You are not alone!
To celebrate the e-release of End Overwhelm Now on December 21, check the website daily from Dec. 13-24 for tips on coping with common causes of stress during ‘the most overwhelmed time of the year.’

On the 12th Day of Overwhelm….
Problem: You have to find the ‘perfect’ gift for someone.

Solution: Absolute language (such as perfect, always, everybody) puts pressure to perform when it’s probably impossible to find that ‘perfect’ gift. Instead, think about how you want that person to feel, or what you want them to know about how you view the relationship. Consider giving an experience (dinner out, tickets to a local attraction) instead of an object.

On the 11th Day of Overwhelm…

present-boxProblem: You think you have to say ‘yes’ to every request and invitation, so your schedule is totally overloaded

Solution: You may be saying ‘yes’ to please others, or you don’t like to disappoint, or you feel obligated, or you really do want to do it all. But when you say ‘yes’ to everyone else, you’re saying ‘no’ to yourself, your health and well-being. This holiday season, before saying yes to anything, respond that you’ll check your calendar and let them know. If it’s not something you truly want to do, be gracious in thanking them, and say that you’re unable to say yes. You don’t need to explain, and if they’re pushy, you can always respond with, “You’re important to me, and I’m sure we’ll be able to do something together in the near future.” Who is going to argue with that?

On the 10th Day of Overwhelm…

Problem: You’re beating yourself up because you think that everyone else has it ‘together’ and you’re the only one struggling to keep up with it all.

Solution: First, recognize that those types of comparisons to others just serve to pull you down – they don’t have a helpful purpose. People who seem to have it all together are probably struggling just like you are. Begin to focus on your strengths: what you naturally do well and enjoy doing. Maybe you’re not the most organized person, but you’re the person who knows everyone in the community, so you know how to get things done. When you feel good about yourself, you’ll have better focus and energy to tackle your busy life.

On the 9th Day of Overwhelm…

Problem: You’re stressed out and anxious with all you have to do. You had an already busy life, and now there’s so much more with the holidays, it’s overwhelming.

Solution: Just think about your ancestors for a moment. I realize that takes time away from your to-do’s, but this will only take a moment. If your ancestors couldn’t keep up with their environments (finding food, shelter, protection from predators), they died. This situation could be as recent as your parents or grandparents. Our nervous systems are still designed to worry about keeping up, but we now live in a world where we can’t POSSIBLY keep up with it all. So if you’re feeling like you’ll die if you can’t do it all, you know what’s happening. Take a moment to recognize that pattern, reassure yourself you’re NOT going to die, take a few deep breaths to relax you’re mind and body. Then focus on the next most important thing. It’s the best way to “stay alive.”

In Chapter 4 of End Overwhelm Now, I delve even deeper into this!

On the 8th Day of Overwhelm…

Problem: You really need to manage your spending at the holidays, but before you know it, you’ve overspent … and you haven’t finished buying gifts yet.

Solution:  We all have patterns of language and attention that either support us in sticking to our commitments to ourselves, or pull us out of integrity. We tell ourselves we “have” to choose a certain way. Or we focus on what we most fear: disappointing someone, or feeling outdone by the gifts that other give. Some people associate gifts with love; a smaller gift means you don’t care. Wholiday-clip-art-edited-lomira-quadgraphics-community-librarye make up these stories, and then we react to them. Instead of falling into the old patterns, start by getting clear about what is most important for you, and for the relationship. What are some ways to show love without buying things? Maybe a hand-made gift certificate for lunch out together, or help around the house, or a favorite prepared meal. Think about the cost of those credit card bills in January, and the stress you’ll have in the future. Compare that to the brief thrill of opening gifts. You may be paying for months for the few minutes of feeling special and important. Chapter 5 goes into detail about how Language and Attention create patterns of reaction.

On the 7th Day of Overwhelm….

Problem: You’re overeating and overdoing the eggnog (or other), then beating yourself up about it

Solution: It’s a paradox that we think we have to “punish” ourselves for certain behaviors, but that punishing often perpetuates the very behavior we want to stop. There are a few helpful options for this situation. First, think about why you’re overdoing it in the first place. Are you trying to fit in, are you making up for having no other joyful activity in your life, or are you trying to keep your energy up by pumping sugar into your bloodstream? Next, get strategic around your next danger situation. Make a decision about what you will and won’t do, then figure out how to be successful. Make a game of it. And any time you take an action to support yourself – skipping the sweets, or limiting the drinks, or getting to bed at a reasonable time – celebrate yourself. Feel GOOD about yourself, instead of feeling bad. It will actually help you follow through with positive behaviors.

On the 6th Day of Overwhelm…

Problem: You find yourself more reactionary (cranky, sad, thin-skinned) than usual. And  your energy is low, hyped up, or cycles between the two.

Solution: The holidays are a time when it’s easy to get physically and emotionally depleted. We have so much to do that we cut back on the sleep, skip the exercise, and make up for eat by eating the wrong foods and drinking more alcohol, or egg nog, than usual. Add to it the emotional drain of obligatory parties or missing loved ones, and you have the recipe for massive changes in your energy. Make a point of taking care of your body during this time. Even steps as simple as getting to bed at a realistic time, drinking enough water, and including healthy fruits and vegetables at every meal can make a difference. Let’s ring in the new year with health and vitality!

On the 5th Day of Overwhelm….

Problem: You’re focused on the things you can’t control, such as wishing the past or the present was different, worrying about loved ones, or worrying about what other’s might think of you.

Solution: The more we focus on what’s outside of our control, the more likely we are to become overwhelmed. The foundation of overwhelm is fear, and our natural reaction to fear is fight, flight or freeze. Instead, focus on what you CAN control. How can you make this holiday the best it can be? How CAN you show love and caring to others? What can you be grateful for? Gratitude is a great antidote for fear. Shift your focus from what you can’t control to what you can, and notice how your life changes.

On the 4th Day of Overwhelm…

Problem: As Christmas draws nearer, you find there’s more and more to do, and less and less time.

Solution: This is a pattern I call “stacking and lacking.” You’re stacking all the things you have to do, over and over, in  your mind until it makes your mind spin. Then you think about what you’re lacking: time, money, resources. That combination is a guaranteed result in overwhelm. Instead of stacking, write down your list so you get it out of your head. Focus first on the few things that will make the biggest difference. When you get momentum on those, and celebrate those steps, your brain will start to feel more empowerment, and you’ll be more likely to follow through in the best way you can. Recognize you may not be able to get it all done. Life will still go on, and in a few weeks, months, or years, you won’t even remember what you thought was so important today.

On the 3rd Day of Overwhelm….

Problem: There’s so much to do, or you’re so worried about something in your life, or it seems like so much is outside of your control, that you don’t take the action you know you need to take. And the more you avoid action, the worse you feel, and then it’s even harder to take action.

Solution: Your “freeze” reaction is a normal form of overwhelm. Your brain is pulled in so many directions that you aren’t creating the focus to follow through. One step is to chunk what you need to do into micro-actions: just the first step, just 10 minutes of activity, just the first phone call. Action begets action. After you’ve taken the first step, it becomes easier to take the next. In addition, it’s really important to celebrate that action. I don’t mean to throw yourself a party! Simply acknowledging yourself for getting started, tell yourself “good job,” or even give yourself a little WHOO HOO! We loved that as kids, but then we “grow out of it.” But when we make it feel good to take action, we’re more likely to keep it up. It’s how our brains work – if it feels good, we want more of it! So just take the first step, then celebrate yourself!

On the 2nd Day of Overwhelm…

Problem: With all the decorations and gifts and gift wrap, the special holiday dishes, and maybe even more people in the house, you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the clutter in your environment.

Solution: Our environments truly can contribute to overwhelm. Some people are more sensitive than others, but we’re all helped by an orderly physical environment. It allows our minds to relax, which reduces overwhelm. Take a moment to recognize what most tends to trigger you. One of my friends hates dishes in the sink, while another needs the counters clear. What most disrupts your energy and thinking? If some level of disorder is having that kind of impact, give yourself the gift of taking just a few minutes to create the order you need.

On the Last Day of Overwhelm…

Problem: You feel guilty about spending too much, eating too much, not doing enough for others, not doing things perfectly, or just about anything else.

Solution: Guilt is a normal reaction. It serves the purpose of helping us function together as a civilization. However, many of us take it far beyond what is needed to fit into our culture. It becomes something we punish ourselves with when we don’t meet our impossibly high standards. Yet, when I ask people if guilt makes them MORE or LESS likely to take the action they want, they always say LESS. And when I ask if it makes them feel BETTER about themselves or WORSE, the answer is always WORSE. So if guilt disempowers us and makes us less effective, why do we do it? Generally, it’s force of habit – it’s what we’ve always done. My favorite tool with guilt is to take a “guilt fast.” Just as we might go on a juice fast to detoxify our bodies, taking a guilt fast detoxifies our emotional selves. Try it from now to the end of the year. Any time you feel guilty, just tell yourself, “I’m not doing that this week.” Then CHOOSE some other emotion that will serve you better. Try out “determined,” “enthusiastic,” “courageous,” or even “HAPPY” (we do encourage people to be “merry” this time of year). If it takes you a few minutes to catch yourself in feeling guilty, don’t feel guilty about that, too! Celebrate that you caught it, and now you can shift it. Put a reminder in your phone and in your environment to stay vigilant for signs of guilt. When you can remove guilt from your life for even just 7 – 10 days, you’ll be amazed at how much energy you’ll free up. Give yourself this early Christmas present!


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