Au Revoir, Overwhelm!

By Alice Inoue Posted in: Go Ask AliceImprove

In a world bustling with kids, school and home responsibilities, and full-time jobs, this proactive approach to prioritizing and delegating will help you handle the seemingly impossible

Dear Alice, Can you address overwhelm? I understand that clearing clutter is important, but can you suggest anything that does not take such a commitment of time and effort? I am a single mom and consistently need to put in at least 60 hours a week at work, have community commitments, family obligations, two young children, and caregiving responsibilities in-between. I have insufficient time to do it all, and as a result, I am in a constant state of overwhelm. Any advice you can offer is much appreciated!

Overwhelm is a word I hear more and more these days when meeting and talking to people. When we experience overwhelm, we can feel that a way out is impossible.

My No. 1 rule when it comes to overwhelm is to stop “hating” time and thinking it’s the enemy, otherwise it will continue to be a source of pain and perpetually in the way of your success. When it comes to any situation in life, perception can make a big difference, especially how we perceive time. Change your mindset to shift your perception that there is “not enough time.” When you take your focus away from the lack of time, you create the space to move away from overwhelm.

Affirm where you are productive

It’s important to memorialize and affirm your productivity. What do you get done each day? Where have you made a difference? What things did you complete?

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we didn’t do that we forget what we did do. At the end of the day, feeling productive gives meaning and balance to our lives. Feeling that we fell short is unfulfilling and self-fulfilling.

Do you have too many “shoulds” on your list?

Take a look at what is on your plate, especially what you think you “should” do — as a mom, an employee, caregiver, a friend, etc. We all have routines, things we “have” to do, yet it’s just as important to take the time to look for areas where change is needed.

As an example, I have a client who works full time in a corporate job and has four children under the age of five. For the past three to four years, she was going “crazy” and felt overwhelmed with all she had to do to be a “good mom,” a “good wife,” and a “good worker,” but felt she wasn’t performing her best at work, the house was a mess, chores were undone, and she had no quality time with the kids.

I had her sort everything in her life into three categories: 1. To Do, 2. To Delegate, and 3. To Ditch. As I expected, 99 percent of what she wrote fell into the first category, as she insisted that she could delegate or ditch nothing and that she “had” to do everything.

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Her list included, “clean house, prep lunches for family, grocery shop, make dinner, pay bills, iron work clothes,” etc. I suggested that she get some domestic help, but she said no, because she wanted to be a “good mom and wife,” and besides, she couldn’t afford it. I showed her that the things she listed were not truly priorities, and that she could delegate them if she wanted more quality time for herself and her family.

She resisted, saying that she didn’t have the finances, she would feel guilty, etc. I reminded her that if she didn’t change her strategy, she would continue getting the same results, and in another few years, she would still be in this same overwhelming situation. Nothing would get better until she chose to make a change.

Fast forward to today, one year later. Lily is a different person. She asked around and found a lovely woman to help her by taking care of food, cleaning, babysitting, home management, and shopping. She is still busy, but much more in control and spending more time on the things she loves. As a bonus, her finances increased because she was able to do a better job at work, garnering her a raise, which covered most of the cost for her helper.

Managing overwhelm

As one person, you can only do so much so fast. Do you set your expectations too high? If so, consciously relax them. If you’ve taken on too much to avoid displeasing others, remember, you are sacrificing yourself in the process. Do you ask for help? You’d be amazed at how many people are happy to step in if you ask. Do you have bad habits that lead to overwhelm? If so, create better habits!

Diminishing visual reminders in your home

I can’t end without mentioning something about your environment and what you can do to support yourself energetically. Take 30 minutes to put yourself back in control by creating a visually supportive reminder in your environment.

Have you overlooked or ignored anything “bulging” or overloaded in your environment — overstuffed shelves, overstuffed shoe boxes, an overstuffed pantry, an over-stuffed closet, or an overstuffed drawer? Pick just one thing that you see or interact with often and clear it out. When you take the stress out of your environment, you lighten up your energetic load as well.

Times are challenging. As you take on more and more, be conscious of prioritizing properly, and remember that you have a choice each and every day.

Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, a friendly educational establishment at Na Lama Kukui (formerly known as Gentry Pacific Design Center) on Nimitz Highway. At Happiness U you’ll find dozens of inspiring classes all geared towards personal growth, helping you live a more purposeful and ease-filled life. Visit www.YourHappinessU.com.