Tag Archives: overwhelm

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Focus on what’s important: train your mind – like a puppy!

Is your mind anything like mine?

It feels like a constant battle to focus on what’s important, not get distracted by what’s interesting, and filter out the noise.

How do you hold on to that precious mental focus to create more space in your day for what is important? Your email and news feed will always be crammed with interesting things. Your phone will always be begging for your attention. But, you always have the choice of where to put that attention. Practice exercising that choice, and it will get easier to focus.

Its not easy, I know! Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Set your priorities, and keep them front of mind. Make a small space in your day to decide where you want to focus. I like to set my goals for the day, jot down targets to achieve, and then fill in a daily schedule. I then check back in with that through the day to keep myself on track. The biggest benefit I get from this is reducing decision fatigue. Decide once, then just get on with it.
  2. Catch that wandering mind. As you work through your tasks, notice when your mind drifts off to play with something new and shiny. To stop this throwing you off task, instill a little discipline. Our minds are not great at focus. Imagine your mind is like a puppy wanting to play; gently but firmly return it to the task at hand, and eventually it will learn. Still distracted? Check in with how productive you are being. Do you need a short break, a brain-boosting snack, or a drink of water? Or maybe you’ve been focusing too long and need to switch tasks? Learn what your daily rhythms of focus and distraction are and work to those.
  3. Learn to say no, with grace. And I don’t just mean when someone interrupts us with a new demand (although this is important too). We are constantly making micro-decisions as we navigate our day. How good are you at owning your priorities and saying no to distractions when its appropriate? Often we are swayed off task by feelings and sensations such as boredom, fear of missing out, the excitement of novelty. If we are strong in our purpose, and clear about what it takes to achieve it, it is easier to turn down distractions and keep that puppy focused. If a fear of inconveniencing others leads you to undervalue your own priorities and be easily pulled off task, then check in with your sense of self worth. Do you truly value yourself enough to feel you are worthy of putting your needs equal with others?

Best of luck out there as you train your attention, reduce stress and create more space in your day for the important things. As you practice this skill you might notice how much time and energy you expend dealing with the frustration caused by distractions. Time and energy much better spent on your priorities!

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Enough is enough: Seven steps to get you out of overwhelm

Last year sucked. You felt like you were running on a treadmill you could never get off: Kids to get to school; work with its endless demands; food to prepare, washing to do, collapse into bed exhausted; wake up and repeat. You’ve lost yourself in there somewhere.

But, hey, it’s a new year and tomorrow is a new day. It’s time to make a change and no one is going to do it for you. Taking responsibility for your own wellbeing is scary – but in the end it’s the path to freedom. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Here’s how:

  1. Set time aside to take stock. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. You’re overloaded. You don’t have time to stop and think about things. Well it’s time to stop using that as an excuse for not looking after yourself. There is always going to be more to do in life than you can fit in. But you’ve only got one life, so spend it on the things that matter to you. Believe me, once you step away you’ll wonder why you thought all those things were so important anyway. Set aside some time and go somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed, or talk to a trusted friend or coach. Ask yourself the hard questions: What is not working in my life right now? In my heart of hearts, what do I really want to do about it? You may not like the answers you come up with, but stick with it – maybe that’s just fear talking.
  2. Look at the big picture. If something is feeling off in your life it’s important to take a step back and look at your life as a whole. Sometimes discontent in one area of your life can show up as problems in another area. Work through the Circle of Life exercise, which can be downloaded from my website here. Is your life in balance? What area is the source of dissatisfaction? What could you do to improve your levels of satisfaction in that area of your life?
  3. What is your why? Not everyone is driven by a particular passion, but if you lack a sense of purpose in life it can feel as if you are just treading water. Take a look back over your life – things that you’ve loved doing and things that you’ve hated. Can you see any pattern? Is there a particular type of activity that you are drawn to? Does this coincide with how you earn your living? If it doesn’t, are there ways you can bring that passion into your work and increase your job satisfaction? Even having a clearer understanding of what drives you can help reduce overwhelm by helping you focus your efforts on things that matter to you.
  4. Check in with your values. What values are fundamental to you? Maybe you value health and wellbeing, balance, or spirituality. Or maybe you need to have ambition, success, or recognition in your life to feel satisfied. If you’re not sure how to identify your values get in touch with me and we can work through it together. Are your values being met by your work or lifestyle? Are there any values that are in conflict? Maybe this is causing stress in your life. Understanding the values that are important to you helps you choose work and a lifestyle that meets your needs. When values are in conflict we may experience a deep sense of discomfort that makes life seem like hard work. Just understanding where that discomfort comes from can make a big difference to your sense of satisfaction in life.
  5. How healthy are your boundaries? If you are constantly pulled around by other people’s demands and you struggle to get your own work done because of it, you may need to look at your boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries and learning how to say no is really important in this day and age where demands are constant and information floods our senses. It can be challenging to assert your own needs in a way that doesn’t come across as aggressive, but it can be done. Think about any relationship where things don’t feel quite right: are you able to balance your own needs with those of the other person? Could you be clearer in asserting your boundaries so interactions don’t leave you feeling drained? Setting boundaries around things like use of social media or TV watching can also help reduce overwhelm. Ask yourself how much of that activity is as actually beneficial to you, and how much is draining. Then find ways to stick to the limits you set yourself.
  6. Get out of the busy trap. Your mind is running so fast that even when you don’t have much on you can’t relax. That’s the busy buzz of a constant adrenaline high. If you don’t give your body and mind time and space to relax and repair you’re on the fast track to burn out. The first few times you stop ‘doing’ and just ‘be’ you’re likely to find it really uncomfortable. That’s OK. Relaxing takes practice if you’re out of the habit. Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to do something that helps you wind down. A gentle walk in nature. A hot bath. Or listen to a meditation. There are lots of ways to learn simple mindfulness techniques that will train your brain to focus and relax more easily. You’ll find some of my favourites here on my website.
  7. Make a plan. Now you can see what the problem is, and you’ve got a better idea of which areas of your life need some renovating, so take some time to make a plan. Create a vision for where you want to get to. Plan out the steps you need to take to get you closer to that ideal. Pick a short term goal that is achievable and break it down into action points. How do you keep yourself working towards what you really want in life? Keep your vision current and visible. Celebrate the successes as you make progress. Notice what pushes you off track and deal with it, but don’t punish yourself. It’s OK to adjust goals and plans as you go, and nothing has to be perfect. Consistent, imperfect action will get you there more quickly than procrastinating until you feel fully prepared.

Getting out of overwhelm is not easy, especially if your stress levels are affecting your health. I know: I’ve been there. It’s a downward spiral. To make the change you need to seek support. Once you open up about your struggles you’ll find many of your friends and colleagues have been there too, and many have suffered serious physical or mental health issues as a result.

Don’t let that be you.

I’d love to know if you found this article helpful, if you have a question, or need a hand. Contact me on lisa@lifelab.co.nz, +64 21 1851248, or check out my website www.lifelab.co.nz. If you’re ready for some coaching, get in touch to book in for a free, no obligation assessment.

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