Here’s How You Beat the Dreaded Overwhelm
I couldn’t get out of bed this morning.
Last night, I’d made grand plans to wake up before the sun, sit at my desk, and plough through my workload. I had a million ideas buzzing around my head on all the things I wanted to accomplish. Interesting people to connect with. Stories to write about. Brands I could pitch to.
But today, when my eyes cracked open, I felt pinned down by the weight of my to-do list and dozens of swirling questions. How am I going to connect with this seemingly unreachable person? How am I going to become an expert in this area? How am I going to gain experience?
As someone who’s working for herself and expanding a different part of my creative business, I find my days are like a box of chocolate. I never know which emotion I’m going to get.
Some days, I’m lucky enough to draw out feelings of motivation where I feel like I can conquer the whole world. I know exactly what I need to move forward, and I’m able to put my ideas into action. But other days, like this morning, I feel like I’m suffocating under the weight of my audacious goals.
I’m willing to bet that you too have days where you can’t get out of bed. When it feels like the weight of the world is crushing your chest. When everything you want to do and need to do mix together to form this dreaded overwhelm that weighs down your heart and mind. When you’re terrified of the huge goal you’ve set for yourself.
On days like today, I usually like to listen to my body and rest. I take time for myself in the morning. If we weren’t in lockdown, I would have driven myself to a cafe to read or work.
But I also know there are times when I can’t let the dreaded overwhelm get the best of me. Clients need me. Deadlines are calling my name. Important life tasks need to be completed. If I ever want to see my vision for my life come to fruition, I can’t be chained to my emotions.
I ran a marathon five years ago.
Anyone who’s run one before knows that you can’t survive on a hope and a prayer. To last the full 42.2 km, you need to train and build up your body’s endurance so it doesn’t implode halfway.
Knowing this, I signed up for a group training session. Every Sunday morning at 8 am, I’d make my way down to the city and meet up with a group of adults to run.
As we ran through the streets of inner-city Melbourne, the coach would spout tips and advice on how we should prepare our bodies and our minds for the big day. Test your supplements before the day. Refine your routine. Don’t introduce anything new to your routine on the day.
Then he said this:
“Don’t think about the entire 42.2 km distance while you’re running. Don’t say to yourself ‘1km down, 41 to go.’ You’ll screw yourself out of finishing the race. Instead, break it down into sets.”
He was right.
On race day, when I started running and thinking about the gaping 40 km distance between me and the finish line, my burning muscles wanted to throw in the towel and call an Uber to take me home.
But when I broke the distance down into 4 sets of 10km to (roughly) equal 42 km, I felt instantly more energised. During the first set, I’d repeat to myself: 1km down, 9km to go. 10km is easy; you can do this in your sleep. Once I hit my first 10km, I’d start the second set. 1km down, 9 to go.
It worked like a charm and I crossed that finish line like a champ.
If the cliche is true and life really is a marathon, not a sprint — then I should apply the same advice and break my huge audacious goals into smaller, achievable sets.
Instead of cowering at the massive distance between where I am now and where I hope to be, I need to set the first milestone at a smaller distance and focus on reaching it.
I’m still a work in progress.
Despite writing this, I know I’ll set the first milestone and still retreat out of fear and overwhelm.
If you’re like me, and the goalposts are still a little out of reach, then maybe this quote will help:
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
I first came across this saying in someone else’s newsletter last week. The image of someone looking at a 300-pound beast, scratching their head over how they were going to eat it was so comical (and low-key disturbing) that it’s stuck with me ever since.
But I get it.
Just like how we can’t imagine running a marathon without our knees buckling, we can never hope to consume a gigantic elephant in just one mouthful. You do it by pulling out your knife and your fork, cutting yourself a small piece, and taking one bite at a time. (Apologies for the horrible visual).
Perhaps all we need to do today to beat the dreaded overwhelm and get out of bed is to commit to just one step. One tiny action. One small spoonful to start clearing the elephant off your plate.