The Most Important Thing to do When Overwhelmed

Having too much work to do is nothing new, but the post-pandemic world seems to have even more responsibilities attached to it. This could be because stress takes a toll on the brain's ability to process at usual speed, but there may actually be more work to do, depending on your field. As musicians, my friends and I are so happy to be able to perform live again that the tendency is to overbook.

Whatever the reason for your increased workload, the feeling of being overwhelmed can drastically reduce your quality of life. You can lose the ability to make decisions strategically and end up wasting time on things that aren't the priority you think they are. Or the opposite may be true…you're paralyzed by thoughts of your to-do list and end up procrastinating because you don't seem to be able to start anything that requires productivity.

These are both the body's response to being overwhelmed. It's not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you. The guilt you may be experiencing by not getting as much done as you think you should may be adding to your stress, though, so try to stop that cycle of judgement.

When you feel yourself start to spiral in either of those directions, there is one technique that can help you be productive in spite of it. You can keep yourself from making poor decisions that end up in wasted time. You can keep yourself from becoming paralyzed and getting nothing productive done. This is your life. Own that you're in charge.

What's the one thing? Sit down and shut up. Seriously, sit in a room without distractions and just breathe. Clarity will come. Inspiration will come. The longer you wait to do this, the longer it will take to get to that point.  

Yes, there's more to overcoming long-term feelings of overwhelm. That's why I devised a course on digging deep to bulletproof yourself from burnout, which is what chronic overwhelm can become. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of when that course (Overwhelmed to Overjoyed) will be offered again.

Dr. Nancy Williams is a musician, educator, and leadership coach who specializes in helping musicians and creatives build cultures of joy that increase productivity and empowerment.

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