How to Stop Overwhelm from Paralyzing You

If you suffer from the kind of procrastination that results from analysis paralysis, freezing when you are overwhelmed, today’s post will help you tremendously if you apply what you learned. I am using these steps to help me in both my professional and personal life because I was the Queen of Overthinkers Island until 2020 (they de-throned me and made me Princess because of the practices I share below). I suffered from analysis paralysis for years when it came to my own blogging, writing, exercise routines, eating habits, parenting choices, etc. You name it and I could find new ways to think about it.

Then I started implementing some small tricks into my daily routines as well as changed the way I handled large projects when they were given to me, and it’s helped me quite a bit. I hope they will help you as well.

The Effects Overwhelm Had on Me

When I used to overthink all of time, I was unhealthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. While you would not have known it from the outside other than that I have been overweight for the past 11 years, my health care team and I were finding new ways to deal with the amount of stress I carried, which was causing flare ups of Crohn’s and Rosacea. I would do well for a while, keeping the anxiety and overthinking at bay and then it would creep back in. I would replay conversations, rethink projects I had already submitted, and stall myself on writing books because I wasn’t sure it was really what the world needed to hear from me or what I needed to release.

Some of the ways it manifested itself physically were in headaches, body pain, temporary depression, isolation from others, and eventually leading to a full blown anxiety issue. I don’t recommend it for those not there yet because when it gets to that level, it’s even more uncontrollable and harder to stop without medication. At its worse, I didn’t want to go to church because I overthought every reaction with others. I didn’t like working with teams because I overthought every idea I shared, and I didn’t want to work on new projects because beginning anything was a weeks-long research ordeal.

You may be experiencing similar symptoms. I always recommend checking in with a healthcare professional to verify how bad it is for you. Through testing and exams, they can ensure you aren’t living with diseases or mental health conditions you aren’t aware of. Once you have checked in with them, here are some additional tips that I’ve implemented to help me produce more at work without overthinking (which is great since I work as part of a team of two right now), and in my personal life with my writing.

Actions You Can Take Today to Reduce Overwhelm

You can implement all of these, or just a few them. It’s totally your choice.

Break the Project Into Bite Size Pieces with Project Planning

When you are assigned or take on a project, look at it through the lens of a project manager. Set a timer and give yourself an hour (you can reduce this over time) to look over the assignment / project and break it down into pieces you can do in bite-sized pieces based upon the amount of time you have. For example, if you are a student with a paper to write within two weeks, break it down into the actions you can do each day. Here’s what it could look like:

  • Day 1: Pick a topic and identify research links
  • Day 2: Look through research links to identify which ones you want to use to support position
  • Day 3: Write the rough draft
  • Day 4: Write the rough draft (cont’d)
  • Day 5: Add in references and identify where you need additional resources
  • Day 6: Find additional resources
  • Day 7: Edit the paper
  • Day 8: Edit the paper (cont’d)
  • Day 9: Check the paper against the rubric. Identify areas where you need to enhance the paper.
  • Day 10: Edit for enhancements
  • Day 11: Wrap up the paper.
  • Day 12: Read the paper through start to finish. If it’s now good with rubric, turn it in.
  • Day 13 and 14: Use only if you still don’t line up with the rubric.

As a professional, you can do the same with large work projects. Think about the amount of time you have to work on the project and then break up the project into pieces that will fit into 2 days less than that time (when you have more than two days). In your personal life, you can do the same by breaking up housecleaning into 15 minutes tasks, healthcare into 10 minute exercise routines and one hour meal prepping sessions each morning, self-care into 30 minute reading breaks or meditation sessions each evening. Whatever works for your life and schedule.

Start a Filing System

Whether physically or digitally, folders can be a beautiful thing to help you organize yourself. You can do something as simple as create 31 folders (or 30 if we are in a 30-day month) and keeping a To Do List in each one that is only used to write down the bite-sized pieces you are going to work on for large projects / tasks, and the additional tasks that are due each day. Don’t work on anything else until those items are completed.

If something new comes in, you say no or ask the person if they would like to have another project reduced. If it’s a new client, you let them know you aren’t available to do it for the next X weeks but could complete the project by X date. If they need someone sooner, spend 15 minutes sharing with them referrals to others who do what you do or let them know that you won’t be able to help them because you are currently fully scheduled with other client work and can’t sacrifice their quality.

If you want to reduce paper and have less of a footprint, or feel you will get lost in your digital space by using digital To Do Lists, consider using the tasks section of your calendar software (Microsoft and Google both offer it with their workplace software packages) or an app on your phone.

Use a Planner

I shared in a previous post that I LOVE using The Happy Planner system of planners and journals. I love that they have extra pages I can add to track social media for clients and myself, journal pages for keeping notes on projects, and more. The act of writing in my schedule, considering what I have to do each day, and seeing the blocks fill up helps me not overfill my days. The journaling stickers give me a creative feeling so it doesn’t feel like work.

Note: I also use a notebook to go into more detail about projects and discussions with clients / work on projects. This helps me so my planner includes actions and the notebook has the details of them. I keep a separate notebook for each client / area. I.e., full-time job, coaching clients, marketing work, personal life.

Develop a Morning / Evening Routine

If it’s possible, develop a routine for yours mornings and evenings. This will ensure you get each day started on the right foot and each night ended in a great way. For mornings, do all the things that will help YOU be in a better head space and physical form for the day. For evenings, do all the things that will help OTHERS around you that you are responsible for and then take at least 15 – 30 minutes for yourself.

This may look like:

  • 5 am – 6 am: Exercise and Meditate/Pray
  • 6 am – 6:45 am: Breakfast
  • 7 am – 8 am: Get everyone where they need to be (work/school/etc.)
  • 8 am – 8:55 am: Journal your thoughts going into the day or read a self-development book (alternate days)
  • 8 pm – 9 pm: Prepare lunches and backpacks (if you have kids, take lunch to work, etc.)
  • 9 pm – 9:15 pm: Remove makeup and wash face, brush hair, prepare for bed
  • 9:15 pm – 9:30 pm: Write 10 things you are grateful for from the day
  • 9:30 pm – 10:00 pm: Meditate/Pray

You’ll fine tune your routine as you see what works for you. And it’s totally okay to have a different routine for the various nights of the week. For example, my Tuesday and Friday routines look different from Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday; while my Saturday and Sunday routines each look different from the weekday routines.

The best way to beat overwhelm is to tackle it before it happens. Identify the areas where you tend to overthink and implement solutions to defeat those projects or tasks first. This will allow you to feel successful, which will build your confidence.

Challenge

Implement at least one of these actions that will work best for you, or use them as a launching pad to think of what WILL work if none of them fit with your personality. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section in case others may find your ideas useful!

2 Comments on “How to Stop Overwhelm from Paralyzing You

  1. Both the divide-and-conquer method and the morning routine are awesome techniques to use to get over procrastination. It’s amazing how open you are to tasks of the day when you know you’ve done your ‘life admin’ stuff in the morning. Thanks for this useful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. While I am not a morning person, I see my days are going better when I complete the routine things in the morning and have that foundation on which to build my day. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

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