What to do when overwhelm overwhelms you
There’s no doubt that the last few months have caused an upsurge in feelings of anxiety and burden. When there is home-schooling to fit in, and extra calls to our older relatives or friends who are copying with lockdowns alone, new restrictions and new technology, fluctuating workloads and disrupted routines, it can be hard to keep feelings of overwhelm at bay. For lots of us, a closing-in of our working environment – everything (and everyone!) at home – is adding to that feeling of crushing weight.
As crafters and makers, many of us are used to working from home. Our homes are where we have set up our workspaces, whether we are lucky enough to have a dedicated room or make do with the kitchen table. And while we know working from home has its advantages, we’re also familiar with its pitfalls. You know the ones… constantly thinking of everything (work, home, family) all the time – worst still, focussing on what we haven’t achieved (that pile of ironing that’s still waiting to be done), instead of what we have ticked off our to do lists. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought I was well-practised in the art of coping with those all-too-easy-to-fall-into traps.
But now add having to share our space with other family members, or no longer being able to spend a part of our day out of the house – catching-up with fellow creatives, taking work out to galleries, teaching, attending craft fairs and so forth – and suddenly the distractions of being at home become amplified and overpowering. For those of us who aren’t used to working from home, it can be even harder to adapt.
Distractions ultimately result in getting less done, creating that sinking feeling of constantly being on the back foot. And before you know it, you are experiencing full-on overwhelm.
Determined to get back on top of work, life and everything, I began trying to figure out how and why overwhelm creeps in, and what I can do to prevent it. This is what I’ve learned:
1. Empower yourself
I realised that I let other people’s expectations, needs and wants dictate what I judge to be urgent and important. All too often I prioritise the things I feel others have given me permission to do. For me, this means work for clients (and, I might add, household chores) become classed as ‘most important’, while my jewellery business gets squeezed in around these, leaving me feeling frustrated.
This translates into a negative pattern of thought: “I never have enough time to get everything done”. Once that mantra of “I don’t have enough time” sets in, it becomes easy for feelings of overwhelm to take over.
The only way to stop this is a shift in mindset. It’s not easy, and it may take time, but give yourself permission, set your own priorities, and, if it helps, write your own job description. Granted, that might sound a bit far-fetched, but sitting down to define your roles and responsibilities can be incredibly helpful.
2. Move yourself
Sitting at home feeling overwhelmed and worrying breeds an inability to get back on top of things, and get stuff done. When I feel overwhelmed I become paralysed. It becomes harder to galvanise myself, and my to-do list morphs into an unsurmountable challenge.
To combat this inertia it’s really important to move. Step away from your desk or work bench. Do some stretches. Go and make a cup of tea. Best of all, if you can, go outside for a brisk walk round the block. We’re not talking about having to make time for a two-hour hike here. Just changing your position can really help to shake off negative thoughts, introduce a little perspective, and help you feel ready to take control again.
3. Tackle one thing that’s really bugging you
We all have things that have been hanging over us; things that don’t get done because they probably only make a difference to us and aren’t a priority for anyone else. But that doesn’t matter. If something is bothering you, it’s important. So put a date in your diary for sorting out whatever is irritating you and give yourself permission to make it a priority.
Get it done and suddenly you will gain a little extra headspace for more positive thoughts.
4. Celebrate small victories
Take notice every time you make a mini win and write these down in your diary or planner. It might sound silly, but just reminding yourself of achievements, no matter how small, can boost your confidence and help to maintain a positive mindset.
For me, these range from “made a sale on Folksy” to “finally cleared some space in my work room so I have a dedicated surface for packaging orders”.
You see, when your small victory is also one of those things that has been bugging you, you’ll experience an extra boost of satisfaction!
5. Manage your time
I won’t lie, I find time management hard, and that’s why I will be exploring it in more depth next time . . .