01 September 2007

Overcoming business overwhelm

Sometimes we all feel overloaded in our business. These are the days when it can start to feel just a little too much and everyone wants a piece of you. It can be very stressful and if left unchecked it can lead to more serious problems.

The following quick tips are designed to be used when you are in the middle of an overwhelm sensation and you need a little help to get through it. They only take a few seconds to read and a few seconds to action and there are bound to be one or two that resonate with you or that are easier for you to practise.

Bonus Tip #1    Close your door

We all need to regain some composure from time to time and a few simple minutes away from the maddening crowds and the stress and pressure associated with work can do it for most of us. Train your staff to understand that if your door is shut don’t interrupt unless it is an emergency. This will give you a sense of safety and protection in your workplace and those few precious moments to just stop and think about what is happening.

Bonus Tip #2     Shut your eyes and take some deep breaths

When faced with that feeling of the walls closing in, which can be caused by too much information for the brain to process, closing your eyes and taking ten deep breaths can help to restore calmness in a very short period of time. The less external stimulation you have the better. Find a quite place, get comfortable, close your eyes and make those breaths long, slow and deep. Do this as often as you have to.

Bonus Tip #3    Ring a friend who always calms you down

We all have someone whose very voice often seems to calm us down. They accept us the way we are, they don’t judge us or what we do. They simply understand us. Use this person in times of need. Call them, tell them how you are feeling and simply communicate. It is very therapeutic to simply talk through a feeling of being overwhelm –  and often just getting it off your chest seems to make it go away.

Bonus Tip #4    Establish priorities – what has to be done now

Another problem with feeling out of control is that we tend to freeze up – not knowing what to do next. All of our tasks seem to pile up and more just keep getting added to the seemingly endless list. One of the best things you can do here is to make up a list with everything you need to do. This is a great starting point because all of the information stops floating around inside your head and instead, it is in black and white on the page in front of you. Once you have the list, allocate priorities – urgent, not so urgent, kind of urgent, a bit urgent, bugger it (or something like that). All of a sudden, the overwhelming feeling of all of these tasks becomes a little less daunting as you realise that often, things aren’t as bad as you thought they were.

Bonus Tip #5    Have two big glasses of cold water

In time of stress attacks, we often reach for things that stress us out even more – coffee, tea, sugar, cigarettes and alcohol. Whilst there is a short term calming or comforting effect associated with these chemicals, longer term they make things worse. Most of us can relate to the craving for caffeine, followed by the feel jitters from too much coffee. Try to retrain yourself to have not one, but two big glasses of cold water when ever you are feeling stressed out or overwhelmed. The cravings for stimulants normally goes and in the longer term (the next few hours) you will feel much more calm and able to cope.

Bonus Tip #6    Ask for help from those around you

Let everyone close to you know exactly how you are feeling. Get the troops to rally around the flag and let them know how they can help you to get through this overwhelm situation. Sharing the stress, demands, tension will help it to dissipate and let you get on with regaining composure and calm.

Bonus Tip #7    Go and see a movie

As hard as it is to get ourselves out of the situation that is overwhelming that is exactly what we need to do. We suggest going to a movie – now that gives your brain time to relax and process and you get to sit in a cool, dark room, hopefully being entertained and enthralled. There are no other demands on you – all you have to do is sit. Alternatively you could go and sit in a park, lay on the grass, go to the beach or even the local shopping mall. Just make sure you change your environment and give your brain time to adjust and process.

Bonus Tip #8    Remember to be grateful for being busy

Often we look at these periods of craziness in the wrong light. Really, in light of the number of business that go broke every day in every city in the world, we should be grateful if we are full on and under a lot pressure to deliver. Of course there are times when the money is tight and that is why we are under the hammer and feeling overwhelmed but from experience, things can always be worse. Taking a moment to be grateful for what we do have rather than what we don’t have is a powerful way to battle being stressed out and overwhelmed.

Bonus Tip #9    Start saying “no” right now

Often one of the greatest causes of overwhelm tends to be our own inability to say “no”. Perhaps there are certain tasks or demands on you that you could say “no” to right now and they will make your life easier. Getting out of the habit of saying “yes” all the time out of fear of losing customers is a goof habit to break.  If meeting the deadline set by a customer will really stress you out and cause you to hit overwhelm say “no”. OK – you might lose a customer here or there but do you really want them if they won’t work with you?

Bonus Tip #10    Wipe your diary clean until you get on top of things

One practise used by many business owners in time of overwhelm is to cancel all appointments and meetings until they have got things back under control. Whilst this may sound a little drastic it is a very effective way to get some space to think and to manage your way through a stressful time. It lets you deal wit the issues in front of you with out others being added to the pile.

Bonus Tip #11    What is the very worse that can happen?

There is a wonderful book written by Dale Carnegie called “Stop Worrying and Start Living”. Like the very famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People” it was written over 60 years ago and it contains very practical advice about managing worry. One of Dale Carnegies key points was to imagine the very worse that can happen in any situation – think it through – and accept it. Most of what we worry about will never, ever happen, but if we imagine the worst, then accept that if this happened you would survive and move on, the threat and power of the situation is easier to deal with.

Bonus Tip #12    Get out of your environment

When the going gets tough – get out of there! If you are feeling out of control and overwhelmed in your environment, the most logical thing to do is to get out of there. Don’t get caught in the world of martyrdom which states you should battle on regardless of how you are feeling. Get out, calm down, get your head together and come back when you are feeling more able or better equipped to deal with what is happening.

Bonus Tip #13    Restrict communication to the essentials if you can

Often the biggest issue in those out of control times is that you don’t get a chance to take a breath. It might be a never ending stream of telephone calls, customers or staff coming through the door. If possible, let everyone know that you need to some time to manage a very important matters and as a result please hold all calls or interruptions. Urgent matters only should get through. Spell it out – try to restrict the information coming through so you get a chance to collect your thoughts and regroup. Turn your mobile off, avoid checking your email, shut your office – do what ever it takes to give yourself breathing space.

Bonus Tip #14    Take a long, hot shower

Not the easiest thing to do in most workplaces, but a long, hot shower is very calming and relaxing if you can make it happen. Remember there are often places where you can have a shower – health clubs, transit centres, hotels, sports centres etc. Taking the time to have a luxurious shower is an excellent investment in your own wellbeing at times of overwhelm and it will definitely help to calm you down. You just need to be a little organised to do it.

Bonus Tip #15    Have a big stretch (it really does help)

Stretching is very therapeutic. Stress makes us tense up, hunch our back and shoulders and generally get “smaller”. Doing some simple stretching, especially of the bigger muscles like our chest, our backs and our legs will make you feel much better. Do the stretch and hold it to get the best effect. You don’t need to be able to turn yourself into a pretzel to benefit from stretching – all you need is some room to move, a wall to lean against or a patch of floor to lay down on (and if you are lucky grab a few minutes sleep whilst you are there).

Bonus Tip #16    Eat a good meal (but not a heavy meal)

Another problem associated with the “out of control” phase is that we don’t tend to stop and eat a meal. Instead we eat on the run, generally choosing food that is fast and filling not nutritious and nice. Taking the time to order a good meal, but not one that is overly heavy, and then sitting down to enjoy in a peaceful, relaxing environment is an excellent way to calm down. In many parts of the world this is a ritual and for good reason. Ideally follow this meal with an afternoon siesta and you will feel fantastic. Well the afternoon sleep might be a little tough but at least try the meal.

Bonus Tip #17    Get a massage

For people who are really busy, really stressed out and starting to feel really out of control, sitting still is hard enough let alone laying down and getting a massage. But it is incredible how wonderful and recharged a good massage can make you feel. All it takes is one hour (anything less is not enough). Ideally, for those of us who lead constantly stressful lives, building time for a massage every single week should be a priority and one that will certainly pay off in every way.

Bonus Tip #18    Write down exactly how you are feeling

Often it is hard to pin point what has made you feel overwhelmed. Is it a sense of never getting on top of things, do you feel scared that you will go broke if you don’t get everything done, are you worried about keep good staff or do you really think that you are not capable of being good enough to run your own business. This is deep stuff but if you can hit the nail on the head as to why you are feeling overwhelmed it tends to diffuse the situation and you feel much better.

Bonus Tip #19    Make a list of everything you need to do – get it out of your head

Being overwhelmed normally means your brain feels full. There is so much going on, so many people fighting for your attention, people pulling you in every direction. You need to stop and get all of this “stuff” out of your head and onto some paper or onto a whiteboard. When there is a nice big list or a board full of information, you brain can do what it does best – process data and you can get on with doing what you do best – running your business.

Bonus Tip #20    Try and see the funny side

If you have only picked up one good tip from this book I certainly hope it is about having fun in your business. For some wonderful reason, a good belly laugh can do more to relieve stress and overcome overwhelm than hours of meditation or sedation. There are very few situations that are really that bad, after all, it is only business.

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