By Molly Gordon
How long do you stay tuned to a radio station when the music is drowned out by static?
Not long, I’m guessing.
But how many times do you stay tuned into the same problem in spite of the static caused by overwhelm?
Overwhelm is a physiological, mental, and emotional state that drowns out any clear signals that might otherwise come through.
No matter how hard you try, when you are in a state of overwhelm, you can’t see or hear what you most need to see and hear: the very next step.
Why do we stay tuned into overwhelm?
Have you ever noticed that the more overwhelmed you feel, the less responsive you are to solutions?
When well meaning friends and family members try to soothe or calm you, as often as not you may bristle.
(For years I saw my alter ego as a porcupine!)
If colleagues make suggestions, you may thank them while seething inside.
How dare they act is if you need help?
But of course, you do. (We all need help, but only all the time. But that’s another topic for another day.)
Overwhelm is a self-perpetuating state and a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think you are overwhelmed, therefore you are. Believing you are overwhelmed, everything seems overwhelming.
The body reacts with shallower breathing, contraction, and a flood of neurochemicals duking it out to see whether, this time, you’ll resort to fight or flight. And nine times out of ten, you freeze.
Beneath the obvious
So far this may seem glaringly obvious. But knowing that overwhelm breeds overwhelm doesn’t change things. In fact, it can cause reflexive self-criticism, heaping insult on injury.
(How well I remember standing in my booth at a craft show feeling like an insect pinned to a display board. I knew that my emotions were a force field keeping customers at bay, and I hated myself for that. Turns out, that was a lousy strategy for developing a more customer-friendly attitude.)
What the state of overwhelm conceals is always and only a variation of the simple thought, “I can’t handle this.”
Overwhelm will run you ragged as long as you entertain this thought without question. And overwhelm proves that you are right to believe the thought.
And the more you believe the thought the less likely you are to ask the one question that can restore you to sanity.
What, exactly is it that you can’t handle?
No one can handle more than one thing at a time. The moment we believe we need to do more than that, we start to get anxious.
As anxiety increases, clarity diminishes. And when you work for yourself, who’s going to break the vicious cycle?
You are. And you can find out how below in Three Keys to Shifting Out of Overwhelm.
Make your business an overwhelm free zone.
When you answered the call to share your work with the world, business was the farthest thing from your mind.
Now doubts about finding clients, pricing, and even delivering good work can cause you to take three steps back for every half step forward.
But you don’t have to struggle against doubt, anxiety, and lack of confidence.
Find out how to grow a business that fits “just right” in The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur.
It’s called a book, but it’s really a complete program for designing the right business and then staying in synch with that vision while you grow it.
Three (or Four) Keys to Shifting Out of Overwhelm.
The hardest thing about interrupting overwhelm is letting go of our attachment to it. It’s easy to become habituated to the neuro-chemical cocktail generated by getting wound up or falling apart.
Add to that the mood of righteous resentment that often accompanies overwhelm, and summoning the willingness to feel better can be remarkably difficult.
That’s why the first key to shifting out of overwhelm is looking for the payoffs.
Overwhelm has its privileges. Being overwhelmed is a permission slip to fall short of the mark. It generates so much heat and light that we may not even notice that we’re not actually doing any work.
Other people, we think, will have to see that whatever goes wrong is beyond our control.
The next time you are overwhelmed, go inside and ask what the payoff is.
Just sit with yourself and look.
This is not about accusation and blame, it’s about recovering your integrity and freedom of choice. You can always remain overwhelmed if you choose to. (Believe me, I know.)
The second key to shifting out of overwhelm is identifying and releasing resentment.
Here’s the deal. You can identify the payoff of being overwhelmed and still notice that you are attached.
The reason is resentment. Who wants to feel better when doing so will let “them” off the hook?
“They” include competitors who have it easier, people who should have bought your work, show producers that didn’t bring in enough traffic.
Your mother. Your father. The Pope. The neighbors whose barking dog keeps you awake at night. Trust me, you know who they are.
In some twisted part of our psyches (some might call it ego), we are convinced that letting go of overwhelm is tantamount to saying that what “they” did to us isn’t relevant.
That “they” are not responsible for our success or failure. That what “they” did to us didn’t actually hurt.
Some resentments go back as far as we can remember, and releasing those puppies is not a trivial matter.
Still, anyone who has the fortitude to live in overwhelm has the strength of character to let go of the past. What it comes down to is deciding you’d rather be happy than right.
The third key to shifting out of overwhelm is taking the next indicated step.
When the payoffs are revealed and resentments at lease provisionally released (might as well be realistic), the storm of static begins to quiet.
As it does, you can’t help but notice one thing to do.
It may not be what you want to do.
It almost certainly lacks drama.
And doing it is what moves you–mind, body, and spirit–out of overwhelm and into peace.
If you’re wondering what comes next, the answer will arise then, not now.
This fourth key to shifting out of overwhelm may be the most challenging and rewarding of all.
Stay in the present, the only place you can be, and cultivate an appetite of wonder toward what is and what’s next.
This article Copyright Shaboom, Inc. It originally appeared in the Authentic Promotion e-zine and is reprinted with permission from the author.
[Top photo from article: Jenna Avery on dealing with overwhelm. Lower photo: Josh Kornbluth, from his film Haiku Tunnel (2001). From article A positive mindset, not a doomsday mentality, supports being exceptional.]
Molly Gordon is president of Shaboom Inc., a “coaching and training company that delivers hope, help, and hilarity to Accidental Entrepreneurs so that they can build a business that fits just-right.”
She says, “Thanks to my checkered past, I’m able to draw road maps for other accidental entrepreneurs – people who love their work enough to risk working for themselves but who aren’t particularly business oriented and who have a deep commitment to personal growth.
“I love that everything I learn (and every mistake I make) serves this audience. From The Work of Byron Katie to Embodied Intelligence, ontological coaching to Process Work to integral theory and methodology, there is delicious synergy among my vocation and avocations.”
Visit her site: Accidental Entrepreneur’s Guide to Self-Employment Success and sign up to receive
her free 31-page guide, Principles of Authentic Promotion.
She explains that her business name Shaboom refers to how “business success and personal growth are intertwined. The more you grow and develop personally, the more you achieve the emotional, physical, and spiritual well being you want, the more successful you will be at building a business where the person you have always wanted to be can do work you have always wanted to do. And that’s very cool, indeed.”
Her programs include:
The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur, The Practical Path to a Business that Fits Just-Right.
A testimonial: “Before I bought the program, I assumed you were pretty touchy-feely, “think positive” kind of coach, not much real world application stuff. What I discovered is that you have really amazing insights into the issues that I personally have as a single-person business, and I’ve been doing this off and on for over 30 years…I’d recommend The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur to anyone who went into business because they loved what they do. Selling yourself and your skills is exhausting, demeaning, and often sucks the passion out of what used to feed your creativity and happiness. I’m thinking about my work in a completely different way and am excited to tell people my story once again.” – Dick Carlson, Columbia, SC, USA.
The Self-Employment Telesummit
Transform under-earning into the joyful creation of meaningful wealth. Hear presentations by 18 of the world’s top heart-centered teachers. “Many accidental entrepreneurs are skilled in their areas of genius, but they need to get quickly up to speed on all other areas so they can be successful at making money when they need it, which is now,” explains event creator Molly Gordon. “Meeting this need is what the Self Employment Telesummit is all about.”
Video: Inner and outer transformation are keys to self-employment profits – “You need both inner and outer transformation to profit when you love your work but don’t much love the business part. Profit Alchemy is a nine-month program that provides both.”