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3 Powerful Questions for Handling Overwhelm
4 weeks ago Posted in: Blog, Emotional Development 0

Margo, a very responsible woman in her first supervisory position at her firm, was handling a lot of demands in her job; learning her new role and building credibility with the people on her team, planning her travel schedule, securing a new apartment, planning her best friend’s wedding where she was maid of honor, and nurturing a relationship she values and wanted to cultivate. With all she had on her plate, Margo was becoming a more masterful multi-tasker. Juggling a lot of responsibilities at once helped her feel good; powerful, competent and knowledgeable.

Margo was all about making a difference. She could say “yes” to most everything and have it work out. Then, her boss gave her a stretch assignment – to take on the role of project manager for a large conference 4 months out. Ordinarily, this would be exciting. But, crowding out the excitement was a feeling of overwhelm. She didn’t see how she could manage it all. She wished she could have requested a postponement for this assignment, but this was impossible. She felt she couldn’t really put anything else on a back-burner either.

Life is often filled to the brim. Margo’s plight is a common one. I’m sure you feel overwhelmed and stressed out sometimes, too.

What to do then? Here’s an approach using the three simple and powerful questions to use when feeling overwhelmed to go from a stressed and overwhelmed feeling to clarity, calmness and a sense of direction within minutes.

1. What demands am I committed to prioritizing?

When you experience overwhelm, your feeling is telling you about your need to prioritize. Your attention is stuck on all the things you have done and all the things you have to do today and perhaps, even this week and month. This question helps us reconnect with the present moment and focus on the demands facing us right now. It helps us reconnect to what we are truly committed to.

Take a few deep breaths and spend two minutes just taking in what is right here right now. Notice things such as the computer in front of you, sunlight through the window that warms you, the sounds around you

inside and out and use all your senses to just focus on what is happening around you right now and nothing else.

By doing so, you can align yourself fully with what is happening right now instead of being somewhere in the past or future. While you still have the same things to do, this question focuses your perspective to the demands you are truly committed to prioritizing at this present moment.

What really matters most to you? What demands do you feel the most commitment to? What comes first, second, third and so on?

2. What is the most important thing I can do right now?

This may point up the things that aren’t quite as urgent as you felt while overwhelmed, but are still very important to you when considering your commitments, such as those who are looking to you for assistance or looking at and exploring new opportunities.

3. What tasks will address the demands I am committed to – in priority order?

It helps to consult your to-do list and add those things that focus on those critical few demands – those you care most about. Get right to work and do not think about it for more than a few minutes since that only makes it harder to get started. In the midst of overwhelm, it is common to fall into procrastination.

Focusing on one task at a time and taking breaks every hour will keep you working on each task at a time until you’ve addressed the first demand. Then, start working on the next task, which is now the most important one.

Margo did this and managed to enlist the help of her team as well. Focusing on the present – asking which demands she was most committed to prioritizing – freed her to think creatively. She found herself calmer, using her work hours in the best way she could and felt good about herself, her relationships and her work.

This habit of translating challenging feelings into your needs can take some time to get used to but after a while you’ll notice that it becomes more and more automatic.

So keep practicing even if you stumble. It usually takes at least a month to establish a chain of new habits/rituals. Be patient with yourself.
By Andrea Zintz, Ph.D., Strategic Leadership Resources LLC

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