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How to Deal With Overwhelm

Have you noticed how our brains tend to visualize everything that needs to be done all at once when, in fact, all you really have to do is take the next small step?

For example, an exam can be really intimidating when you look at everything that has to be learned, but when you’re in the middle of actually studying, it’s really not that hard.

That’s because you’re no longer getting discouraged by the anxious talk in your head. Instead, you’re just doing what you can in the present moment.

If you can stay consistent in this, taking only one tiny step at a time, the exam is very rarely as hard as you expected it to be.

This is why I rarely trust what my thoughts are telling me before I get started on anything.

I know that they are very likely making a bad estimate of what needs to happen and how hard it will be so I always try to just start and see what happens.

Here’s what my coaching client, Jason, wrote to me after receiving this advice:

Hey Pat,

I just wanted to say thanks for all your help so far. Lately I’ve been able to do and complete my daily activities like doing dishes and de-cluttering because I know not to think of the whole task at once but to think of it in achievable steps and when I start doing something, it’s not so bad.

Lately, whenever I try to accomplish a goal, I don’t even think of the whole picture of work that it will take to accomplish it anymore.

The next time you feel overwhelmed, you can either sit around or worry about it, or you can forget about the bigger picture and simply focus on what’s in front of you, at that very moment.

Lao-tzu wrote: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Take that first step. If you have a mountain of dishes, clean the first cup. Don’t worry about the next one until this one is finished.

Always stay in the present and concern yourself with only one step at a time.

The momentum you build will make it hard to stop and before you know it, you’ll cross the finish line.