I met with a friend today and she said to me, "I don't know how you do it! You have so much going on in your life, how do you juggle so many things and be successful?"
My immediate response was to make a joke about my level of overwhelm, and we laughed together in understanding as only two mothers who also happen to be entrepreneurs can do. Or, perhaps we were commiserating?! Who knows! But later, upon reflection, I analyzed how do I get what I get done, and why haven't I had a nervous breakdown yet??
I lead a very busy life--hence, why I haven't blogged in a while. My daughter just recently turned a year old. I bought a fixer-upper house at the end of February that I have been fixing one aspect after the next. I run two businesses. And, my relationship with my daughters father ended shortly after she was born, so I'm doing this unsupported by a partner. Phew... it's been a lot. When I focus on the parts, I start feeling an anxiety rise in my stomach and throat. I start feeling the restriction and resistance, and I know that easily I could become paralyzed with the dis-ease of overwhelm.
I think at one time or another, we can all relate to this feeling. I've worked frequently through the years with people who live in this state for a long period of time. It's gnarly. It's awful. And, it's terribly limiting.
Thankfully, with years of experience, I have developed some strategies that are very helpful. If you are experiencing overwhelm, give these a try.... I use them all the time and the only time I feel overwhelmed these days are when a friend points out how challenging my life is and I think about the details!
Life is Like a Painting
1. Think BIG PICTURE. What do you want to create? Write down the end result that you want to accomplish. This step is like painting the backdrop on the canvas. In my life, the big picture is seeing myself and my kids smiling and happy in a nice, comfortable home.
2. What THEMES need to happen to make the big picture come to life? The different aspects of the picture need a place to be developed. Where will those themes be located on your life's canvas? In a painting, it's like deciding where the mountain will go, where the trees may be, if there is a river that will run through the scene. An artist will often pencil in the ideas of what will go roughly where. You will write down the different themes. In my life, the themes are my daughters care, my son's care, my house projects (each one a different theme, be it construction or making dinner), my alternative therapy business, my rental business, my relationships with various people, my self-care, and the random stuff.
3. What DETAILS need attention? Ask yourself, can I delegate these details? If yes, do just that. If no, prioritize what needs to happen first, second, third, etc... to fill in the themes, which make the big picture come to life. In a painting, this is the rocks, the trees, the shading of lights and darks. Don't think about all the details on the whole painting. Only focus on the details of one theme at a time. You can't simultaneously paint a tree and a river. They have to be done one at a time, although you can bounce back and forth working with the flow of the painting. In my life, if I am in "cooking dinner theme" I can focus on making food and keeping my daughter occupied at the same time by the back and forth method of flow. But, I do not attempt to add any construction project at the same time, nor any phone calls. Too many details trying to be done at once = overwhelm. And, likely, a burnt dinner and cranky kid.
4. Keep the BIG PICTURE in mind the whole time. See your end result in your minds eye and on your paper, Take the time to step back from your life painting and reflect. Where am I needing to focus next? What "theme" is a little neglected or can use some fine-tuning? How's it looking? Pretty good, from my view! In my life, I acknowledge how my house is improving, the progress I've made. I acknowledge how my children are growing and learning. I give thanks and am grateful.... and, maybe most importantly, I cut myself some slack when I recognize that a detail in my painting didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped... or was forgotten altogether!
5. BREATHE. Enjoy the moments you take creating the masterpiece of your life. As far as we know for sure, it's the only one we get. Make it beautiful and don't waste too much energy on what it "should" look like. It will look best, uniquely yours!