Five Steps to Freedom from Feeling Overwhelmed

Guest Article

As a small business owner, we all feel overwhelmed at times, and it can be a debilitating. It is not only frustrating and miserable, but it keeps us from achieving our goals and delivering value to the world.  My most recent experience was a couple months ago when I was trying to use social media to broaden my reach about my core message about positivity. I was learning how to do it effectively and found that it was time-consuming work. Because I was just learning, I was making painfully slow progress on my long list of things to do. As I fell behind, I started feeling stressed. After a week of making minimal headway, I was stressed, tired, and overwhelmed by my seemingly insurmountable list of things to do. One afternoon, feeling particularly stressed and upset with myself, I complained to my wife.

She looks at me and says. “Really Steve? Think about this a second…You’re getting stressed-out about positivity.”

Touché. That stopped me in my tracks.

She was right. I had to take a different approach. I decided that this was a perfect opportunity to use one of the tools in my book Head First! A Crash Course in Positivity: Eight Practical Ways to Increase Your Positivity and Improve Your Outcome. In my current situation, the most relevant tool was Principle Two: “Focus on the things you control.”

This principle works well when you are feeling overwhelmed. It’s a simple five-step approach to getting unstuck, unstressed, and moving in the right direction again that will work in any situation.

Step 1:  Place the elements of your situation into three categories

Take a sheet of paper and make three columns with the labels:

  • Things I can control
  • Things I can influence
  • Things out of my control

Now, break down your current situation into its component parts and put them into each category. In my situation of being stressed out about social media, I came up with the following:

Simply breaking down your situation into these elements and writing them down makes a big difference in your attitude and helps you become unblocked. It puts some structure to the problem and you can start to see the path forward. By writing it down and defining it, you have already started taking control of the situation. You will feel your mindset shift.

Step 2:  Awareness and acceptance of what you don’t control

Read through the items in column three to just simply to be aware of them and accept them. Don’t spend any energy on these things, just be aware of them so you can navigate around them.   In my situation, I had to accept the fact that social media marketing is effective and I need to do it, even if it’s a time suck for me.  Sigh…

Step 3: Focus on what you CAN control

Read through the items in the list of things you control. Pick one that meets the following criteria and circle it.

  • You are comfortable doing it.
  • It won’t take long to do.
  • It can make a small but real difference in the situation.

I circled “Making time to do social media.”   It was the easiest thing to do and it would be a small but visible step in the right direction.

Step 4: Take ACTION!

For that one thing you circled, write down what steps you can take to move it forward. The smaller and easier the steps, the better. Now pick one of those steps, do it, and cross it off the list. Pick another action and do it.

For my first thing, ‘Finding time to do social media, all I had to do was decide when was a good time, put it on my calendar and tell my wife the plan.  After thinking about how my days were going, I decided that the best time for me would be sometime between getting home from work and eating dinner. I blocked off 30 min each day, and told my wife so she could help hold me accountable… She would tell me… “No treats until you do your tweets!”

Once you take a few small steps forward, even if they are tiny, you start to separate yourself from your overwhelmed feeling. Once you regain control over the situation, you will regain your confidence and energy.

Step 5:  Move into things you can INFLUENCE

After focusing on what you can control and regaining your self-confidence, start putting energy into the things you can influence.  It is through influence that we have the biggest effect on the world, but you won’t be successful influencing unless you approach it from a position of strength and confidence.

Although it can be rewarding, influencing can also be time consuming and frustrating. To avoid wasting your precious time and energy, ask yourself three questions:

1)     Is it any of your business? Is it reasonable for you to try to influence it?

2)     Do you have the credibility to convince others to follow you?

3)     If you are successful, Is the expected benefit worth the effort?

If you answered yes to all three of those, then dive in. Do it from a position of strength, do it with confidence and be aggressive.

My step five was to start interacting with others on Twitter and Facebook trying to build engagement.  I crafted social posts that encouraged likes and shares from my audience.  It is hit or miss things, but as I do it, I get better reactions. Bit by bit, my list of followers is expanding.  By the time you read this article, I will probably have almost as many followers as the SmallBizLady, we’ll I can have a goal anyway.   I have an idea. Next time you feel overwhelmed, grab a pen and paper and give this process a try. Honestly, the hardest part is getting the energy to grab a pen. Momentum is a big part of this equation and by starting small and making incremental progress you gain momentum. Every moment you spend moving forward gives you more momentum, which makes the next step even easier.

Once you completed step five, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a distant memory and has been replaced with accomplishment, confidence and energy. Keep going! Get out there, do great things and make this world a better place!

About the author:

Steve H. Lawton is a positivity expert and author of “Head First! A Crash Course in Positivity.” Lawton shares his inspirational story alongside eight practical positivity principles that he took away from a major tragedy and instructions on how to implement them into your life. Follow him on Twitter @SteveHLawton

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