On a cold, blustery day I walked into one of the cities many quaint coffee shops to pick up a hot drink to warm my hands. Once inside, I peered up at the delicately written chalk menu as the barista asked “What will you have today?”. A sudden sense of panic came over me as I stared at the dozens of options and combinations that I could order. Kindly I responded, “I need a couple more minutes”. My brain went into chronic decision fatigue. Too. Many. Options!
Every day we’re faced with thousands of choices. All these options can be really draining and overwhelming. Our brain and body can get to state of burnout (Definition according to dictionary.com – Burnout: fatigue, frustration, or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity) and we no longer have the energy and mind power to make wise, thoughtful decisions. We can end up going through each day reacting to the choices and decision that are thrown at us, because we lack vision for our life. Your life is purposeful and there are ways to prevent, and even find your way out of, the overwhelm that fatigues who you are created to be.
In the interest of keeping it simple, I’ve broken the action steps into 3 key takeaways to apply in preventing overwhelm:
Know Your Values
If you don’t know what is important to you, it’s hard to figure out how to prioritize your life. What do you value most in life? When you’re feeling overwhelmed, taking a step back to evaluate how you are prioritizing and making decisions can give you some clarity into the big picture of your situation. Get your thoughts and ideas out of your head. Talk it through with a trusted friend, write out all the pieces you’re being overwhelmed by. Releasing your overwhelming thoughts onto paper can help you process the situation and see it as a event instead of being overwhelmed with emotion in every part of life.
Evaluate Your “Best Yes”
Be honest with where you are at in life, be willing to set boundaries and say no. I read this great book called “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkurst (thebestyes.com and Questions to Ask When Making a Decision). She writes that when we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. What are you currently saying no to that you need to be saying yes to? Or saying yes to that you should be saying no to? Learning to discover what is essential can be freeing. Finding the “best yes” is not alway an easy black / white answer. Often it’s a choice between better and best. The decisions you make shape your life and indicate what is important to you. You are not truly able to multi-task. You just get little bits of yourself split between many different tasks. The idea of focusing on many things at once is a myth. Spend time evaluating what is essential and don’t try to be doing a thousand things at once. Your yes, or your no, can be the difference between transitioning from overwhelm into burnout, or from overwhelm into a place of feeling empowered and victorious by the responsibilities you’ve been given.
Celebrate the Little Wins
It’s important to have fun and enjoy life. Taking time to reflect and celebrate the progress you’ve made can be an encouragement. Reward yourself for choosing to make healthy choices and being good to yourself. Keep a heart of gratitude for what you’ve learned, and serve the people around you. When the focus is not completely on what you are doing it can bring a new perspective. Allow yourself to feel, and experience, life from the “shoes” of another person. Celebrate your life, and what you’ve gone through, by sharing it with others!
For one of you savvy ladies who has ordered coffee hundreds (maybe thousands) of times, the plethora of choices on the cafe menu does not seem like a big deal. You have your usual drink and, maybe, even the barista exactly knows what you want when you walk in the door because you’re a regular customer. When you practice, and have experience, with the choices you are faced with it makes it easier to not feel overwhelmed by them. It is possible to exercise and grow your decision-making skills so that your fatigue thresh hold is higher. It is still important to take time to rest and reflect on how you are making your choices to evaluate what effect it’s having.
Question: What are you feeling overwhelmed by today? How can you look at that situation from a different perspective?