Our to-do list is always going to be miles long! Overwhelm happens when what we are doing — what we are choosing to check-off from our to-do list — differs dramatically from what our heart knows will lead us to our ideal life.
Let me give you a small example that I hear a lot: I don’t have time to exercise.I can’t find a consistent time. I am always in my car driving kids to soccer, ballet, and play dates. There is just no time, and I am exhausted.
In this case your body literally knows it needs exercise to be its best, yet you are paying attention to all the things that you added to your list because you thought you had to.
I could tell you that I have friends like Dai Manuel who could give you easy 20-minute workouts you can do at home or Catherine Basu who has personal trainers that work with you through your computer screen. But you might raise other obstacles that are driven by overwhelm or the things you think you have to / should do.
Your overwhelm triggers might be different. It might be that you are always tired and you cannot sleep. It might be that you are always with kids so you cannot get your work done. It might be that there is never enough time to make healthy dinners. Or it might be that you are always working so you feel like your family and home are falling apart.
What I have found over and over, working with women is that we can only change our habits when we change our perception of time and our perceived limits that time brings into our lives.
I want to offer you 3 ideas and some tools that go with each that might help.
3 Steps to Ditch Overwhelm and Feel Great
First, let me tell you a bit about my obstacle 10 years ago. I had a perfect life on paper, but I was exhausted and very overwhelmed. In a total breakdown moment, I was able to pinpoint that I was 65 pounds heavier than I had ever been, always had a coffee in hand to get me through the day, and operated in survival mode most of the time. I always felt short on energy and time, and was at my wits end by the time I was supposed to get dinner on the table.
One day, seeing the huge stack of coffee cups on my desk, I decided I needed to change. I made the decision to feel great. I believed it was possible. I found support. I took action one doable change at a time. I now have the tools to be the best I can in every one of my roles, every day. It all starts with knowing what you want.
Know what you want
When you know what you want, you can choose things on your list that align with what you want and say no to what is totally misaligned. That might mean delayed gratification as you move toward a larger 10-year vision. For me, it meant getting really clear on family values—my own values, my spouses, and what we believed together. These things help us make decisions about what we take and leave. Get your planning sheets for what you want here.
What will it feel like when you get what you want? This is like the imaginary play you did when you were young. Maybe you haven’t exercised your imagination lately, but this is a great way to do it. See yourself living the life you want. Is there a word that comes to mind? A smell? A memory?
We can feel the finished result before we experience it, and that can help us stay the course to get there. Try writing out what you want as if it has already happened. I exercise daily and I have so much energy. We enjoy healthy, delicious dinners every night and feel nourished by the food and connection. Whatever your vision, write it out as a done deal.
Understand and learn how to honor your different cycles
We are expected to live in a go go go environment, always doing, always being productive. But we don’t work that way really. Think about natural cycles, the seasons, your menstrual cycle. There are different energies to different times of the year, the month, the week, even the day. When you start to recognize these energy levels and work with them, you feel less overwhelmed and can actually get more done.
Start by playing detective. Take notes in your journal or planner about your energy levels and what your body craves. Notice how imposed schedules, like the school year, weekdays vs. weekends, or holidays, affect you. Wonder how it could be different. Think about what works best for you. How can you adapt the imposed schedule to fit your cycles?
Know Your Why
You are going to feel really ready to make those big changes that you have been saving for “tomorrow.” This is good. You need to have this passion and conviction – your why.
Making change feels hard and there are lots of things that pull us away from what we want, but if you have a clear and compelling why, it can keep pulling you forward.
When I wanted to lose weight, I needed more than a surface answer. I kept asking Why until I found something that really resonated and motivated me:
- Why do I want to lose weight?
I feel uncomfortable in my clothes because they don’t fit.
- Why do I want to feel good in my clothes?
Because I how I feel in my body is getting in the way of how I show up in the world.
- Why do I want to show up in the world?
Because I have gifts I’m meant to share with the world and I need more energy and clarity to share them.
Keep digging to find your why. Then write it down.
Your why can give you great momentum, but then something happens. You hit a snag — for me, not knowing how to feed my kids and myself. Or it might be that you have a work goal and a kid gets sick, or you have a food goal and you go on vacation. Knowing your why can help you navigate through these times or pick things back up again.
Doable Changes from this episode:
- GET CLEAR ON YOUR VALUES. Take some time to get clear on your personal and family values. These can be a great guide when it comes to deciding what stays and goes on your to do list. Once you are clear, look at your list for the day or week. Get rid of anything that doesn’t align with your values.
- NOTICE YOUR ENERGY. Our energy changes throughout the day, throughout our cycle each month, throughout the different seasons of our year. Planning based on your own energy cycles is smart, but the first step is starting to notice your own energy patterns. Just notice your energy throughout the day. Are there times of ay you have more energy or feel more creative or contemplative? Are there specific routines or activities that drain you? How does your energy feel throughout the week? Where are you in your cycle? Track your energy to see what you can learn about your own rhythms. As you start to see patterns, you can adjust your planning.
- SET YOUR WHY. Dig deep to find your “real” why behind a goal or change you want to make. Don’t stop at the surface, keep asking why again and again until your change resonates and inspires you. Write your why on a sticky note and put it someplace you can see it again and again.