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Five actions steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed

Wednesday, 14 March 2012 | By Polly McGee

Mumpreneurs should come with their own capes, such are the heroics that many women try and pull off in their management of business and family and all of the complexity and chaos that entails.


It is hardly surprising that overwhelm creeps up and can become debilitating in trying to cope with the stresses and strains that are part and parcel of both small business operation and being a mum.


Feeling overwhelmed is a macro condition, one that throws every little thing into a giant bucket of ‘OMG I can’t cope’ and leaves the sufferer feeling like Henny Penny as the sky caves in.


So, what to do when you wake up and want to pull the blanket over your head, smash your laptop, drop your phone in a blender and feel terminally hopeless about your capacity to have it all?


Here are five action steps to stop the overwhelm in its tracks, and get you back on the road to sales and a happiness surplus:


1. Stop and take stock


Firstly, acknowledge that you are feeling overwhelmed, and approve of yourself for being human and not a machine. Recognise that no business is worth your health being affected and that you have to prioritise yourself. Grab a cuppa and sit down and work out what has triggered the feeling.


Mentally become your own observer and feel in your body where the strongest sense of anxiety is, then take a deep breath and dismiss the stress, knowing that you are about to sort it out.


2. Prioritise your actions


Overwhelm is usually due to the cumulation of a number of things, rather than one large event.


Deadlines, commitments, meetings, decisions, mundane chores, all of these things can be the straw that breaks your optimism and can do attitude.


What do you have to do right now? What is the thing you can do that will release the most steam from your overwhelm valve?


Make a list of all of the things which are stressing you, and then prioritise them from immediate action to a not time or outcome critical situation.


Give yourself context: are any of the items actually life or death to you, your family or your business? Will they matter in a week? What is really important to you?


3. Address the first thing on your list


Whatever it is, action it.


Even if the action is to call someone and tell them that you will be unable to meet the deadline or respond to their query, but you are working on it.


Start working through all of the critical items and really ruthlessly work out whether they are in fact critical, or you have elevated them to this status.


Accept that feeling overwhelmed is totally your responsibility and that you are choosing to feel stressed, and so realise you can choose to re-frame your response.


Using your list make an achievable, measureable action for each item and cross it off when you are done.


4. Ask for help


Friends and family, not just buttons on Facebook, but actual resources that you can call upon.


Humans love helping, we are driven by the need to feel good, and this is easily achieved by helping others.


Nothing is served by you being in silent agony. Put out the call and delegate items on your list – even if it is organizing a play date for the kids so you can have a couple of clear hours to get your action items cleared.


By asking for help you also open the door for reciprocal assistance to others when they are in the same space as you.


So flaunt and celebrate your imperfections and get the team around to push you over the finish line.


5. Know your weaknesses


We all have them. Once you are through the panic of overwhelm, you can most likely recognize the small signs that, had you stopped and dealt with them, might not have accumulated into the moment where it was all too much.


Listen to your intuition and your body and use it as a touchstone for behavioral change.


Rethink your management and business style, and look for ways that work for you strategically to keep your mumpreneur world in chaotic, happy and productive harmony.


Overwhelm is a terrible feeling, and one that is easy to fall into when trying to juggle lots of competing priorities, feeling like everyone else is coping except you.


Sometimes you need to play hooky from the stress, and remember that some time for play, along with the action steps above, can take the overwhelm and reduce it to the manageable sum of its parts.