Feeling overwhelmed? Five tips to get you past it.

When things get busy we often feel overwhelmed by what we have to do. It’s easy to let our energy become defused, and lose motivation and focus.

The trouble is – this is exactly when you need motivation and focus! So it’s important to take back control and move past overwhelm and back into being motivated and productive.

I’ve faced overwhelm a number of times in my career, and almost every client I have worked with has faced it at some point. So here are the five tips I’ve developed to help you get your mind and your motivation back on track:

1. Take a break. If you haven’t had a holiday in a while – take one – regardless of how busy you are. Spending some time not thinking about work and instead doing something you enjoy – even for one day, will make a difference. Anything that breaks your normal routine can stimulate new thinking.

2. Take care of yourself. Look after the basics – good nutrition, a decent night’s sleep and plenty of exercise. These are often the first things we let slip when we feel overwhelmed, but they are vital if we are to function effectively. So stop neglecting yourself. Make your health a priority and you’ll find you can perform at a higher and more effective level.

3. Refocus. There’s a great analogy that can help remind you of where your focus really is: imagine you and all aspects of you as the solar system. Who or what is the sun in your life at the moment, around which everything revolves? Where are you? And who’s orbiting you (that is, who’s looking out for you and supporting you)?

It should help flush out where your focus currently is. If this is different from what you’d like, it opens the route to explore why not, and make the necessary changes.

4. Find inspiration all around you. One thing I’ve noticed recently from a mix of a trip to the Science Museum, feeding swans in the park to an informal gathering of chamber music, is how skills and technology build continuously.

For example, the evolution from steam power to space exploration has countless examples of problems overcome, which create new problems, which are then resolved, and so on; birds have learnt how to grab bread out of people’s hands (and the smartest ones do it without nipping your fingers!); what can be a seemingly impossible piece of music succumbs to practice and gentle work, and allows you to consider tackling even more difficult pieces in turn.

5. Believe everything is possible! I learnt something important playing tennis a few years ago: imagine a fast return coming down the far side of the court. Your heart sinks and guess what – you don’t make contact.

However, when approaching the same fast return when I believed it was possible to get to it, I’d find myself moving faster, stretching just that bit more – and able to at least get a racket to the ball. It didn’t always go where I wanted it to, however, I was encouraged to keep trying and did start to win some points.

So here’s the learning – believe things are possible – until absolutely proven not!
By taking at least one of these five steps you will start to move out of overwhelm and if you can take two or three or even all five, then you’ll soon find yourself re-motivated, energised and back on track.


About Hilary Briggs

A management consultant with over 15 years of industrial experience having held senior management positions at Rover Group, Whirlpool Corporation and The Laird Group plc. For the last 10 years, she’s worked with SME’s to improve their performance. Hilary is Managing Director of productivity specialists R2P Ltd.

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