Bash Overwhelm and Change the Stupid Made Up Rules
What is the purpose of this podcast? Tease the Happiest Holidays community and maybe even have a waitlist started..
Live intro - Hello my lovelies. Today we're talking about bashing overwhelm and changing the stupid made up rules we think we have to live by. Why are we talking about this right now? Because everyone I know seems to be dealing with overwhelm and chaos in some form or fashion, and it only seems to get worse when the holiday season comes around, and you know it’s coming for us sooner rather than later, right? So, I want to get ahead of the game and talk to you about it now.
Part of what prompted this episode was a situation I went through the other day. I wasn’t feeling great. I had not slept well for a couple of nights in a row; one because my own body woke me up way too early, and the other was a neighbor’s dog right outside my window at 4:40 in the morning. Let me just say, I have mostly stellar neighbors, but there’s occasionally one neighbor that is so very hard to love, and we’re dealing with that right now. Anyway, I’d had less than 9 hours of sleep in two days, so I finally went to bed early and slept really well. The result of that, though, was that I got up later than usual, which caused a bit of stress. I also normally empty the dishwasher from the night before first thing in the morning, but in my tired stupor the night before, I forgot to start the dishwasher. Yes, those are both small things and very much 1st world problems, but isn’t it often the little things that send us over the edge?
While I was getting more and more stressed about being behind, my husband was calmly getting ready for work, and the more calm he was, the more agitated I got because obviously, he should be getting frustrated with me or at least commiserating with me, right? As he was leaving, my husband said he hoped when I meditated, something I do every day, that I would break out of my funk and have a productive day. That man knows me so well, because when I’m in a funk, I rarely accomplish anything. So, I sat down to meditate, and I had the strangest thought. Out of nowhere, I got this idea that all the rules about me getting up at a certain time and having the dishwasher emptied by the time my husband heads for work are completely made up.
Now, I know this. We all do, but for some reason, it was a knowing on a deeper level, which led me to realize that all rules are made up by someone, and until we start questioning them, they can lead us to some pretty weird places, like living with perfectionism and procrastination which means never really living at all. The thing is that perfectionism and procrastination are the evil twins that spawn overwhelm. And they’re all from the family of made up rules, some by us and some by others who taught us how to be in this world from their own made up rules that had been passed on to them.
Friends, I have seen women put themselves through the most awful mental abuse because they “have to” clean their baseboards, all of them, with a toothbrush to have a clean house. The problem is that they can only bring themselves to do that when there is company coming, when they already have a myriad of other things to do, but they will lose an hour of sleep over cleaning those baseboards when most people wouldn’t even bat an eye at them if they never touched them. Do you see how toxic this can be? Look, if you love cleaning your baseboards and it gives you great joy, go for it, because I know people who truly get satisfaction from it. I don’t understand it, but you do you boo, especially if it makes you happy. What I’m talking about is some awful voice in your head that tells you that if you don’t spend at least an hour scrubbing your baseboards with a toothbrush when you are exhausted and need sleep, that you’re losing at life for some reason. It’s time to tell that voice to shut up and go to bed because no one’s judgment of your baseboards is worth your well being. Agreed?
Overwhelm is a condition created by the perfectionism and procrastination monsters in your head. You keep avoiding something because you think it will take so much longer than it actually will. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had that happen, and it occasionally still does. If you follow my Moving Toward Better Facebook Page, you know that I recently did a two week declutter challenge, and the second week I decided to work in my basement because my husband does the majority of our laundry, and this folding area was getting cluttered. I didn’t want to work down there, mostly because I didn’t want to spend the entire week working on that project, but I so appreciate him doing the laundry that I said I would. Do you know how long it took me to clear the entire section for him? Two 15 minute sessions, and the bonus was that I got my gift and wrapping area cleared for the holidays as well. That led to me scheduling a charity pickup, so the Monday after the declutter challenge ended, 40 items left our home, and I do a little internal happy dance every time I walk downstairs. Overwhelm conquered; this time anyway.
So what do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Most people would tell you to get up and do something, but that isn’t always the best strategy. I’m more inclined to tell you to sit down with a piece of paper and a pen. If you absolutely have to use digital tools, use the Notes app in your phone because you’re going to write down all of the things you think you want to do, have to do, need to do both by yourself or require help from someone else to do them. I promise you, it will be eye opening. You can either use separate sheets of paper to do this or make categories, whatever makes sense to your brain. Then I want you to estimate how long each thing will take to accomplish and what, if any, prep work you need to do to make it happen. After you’ve done that, pick one thing that you think will take less than an hour, set a timer for 15 minutes and see how far you get. I told you about the laundry table earlier. Here’s one that happened the morning I decided to make this podcast.
I recently purchased some new workout shirts. I keep all my graphic tees and workout shirts in the same drawer, and the drawer was full, before I purchased the new shirts.. I let that stack of new workout shirts sit for nearly two weeks because I kept telling myself that I didn’t have time to clean out that drawer. What happened is that the area I left the stack of shirts laying on my hope chest is where I lay out my clothes every day, and that little bit of clothes clutter seemed to multiply until I couldn’t even see the top of the hope chest anymore, so this morning I decided it was time to clear it off. Guess what? Including the time it took to pull out the shirts from the drawer I wanted to donate, toss the sports bra I wouldn’t dare donate and reorganize the drawer, it took less than 10 minutes. Two weeks of clutter rather than 10 minutes of follow through. Do you see what I mean?
And I absolutely understand that what I just said may be difficult for people who are task oriented to understand. When you start a job, you want to finish it, but those of us who are people oriented benefit from learning to not only tackle things like this regularly, we also need to make all of our big jobs a series of smaller jobs, so we can set ourselves up for a level of success, which is especially important if you’re not as young as you used to be and don’t have the energy you had even a few years ago.
My sister in law and I were talking about that recently, and it’s something I wish we’d both learned earlier. At some point in our lives, most people lose the ability to “do” for hours, even the fun stuff. My sister in law loves to work in her yard, and when we were younger, she would be out there for 8 or 9 hours and be ready to do it again the following week. Now, she doesn’t have the stamina for that, so she has to work on sections of her yard at a time or get help, and most of the time, she would rather do it herself, so she chunks it up. I was never one for yard work, but I would go to sports games, then go to the grocery, come home and make dinner and go out for the evening. The next day, I would be ready to go again. These days I still love doing all those things, but not on the same day, and if I do, you can bet I’ll need a rest day not long after.
This even happens on vacation. We used to be able to go, go, go, and have fun every day of vacation doing all the things. Nowadays, we build in some downtime to just sit and enjoy wherever we are. That may mean that we take a shorter trail than our kids so that we can sit and enjoy the scenery or people watching at Muir Woods. It could mean that we take a bus tour and order in for dinner so we don’t overtax ourselves, and it could even mean that we pick a day to just hang out or take a drive around the area.
The point is that we make the rules or rather, we chuck the rules out the window and do what makes us happy. The first time I ever remember that happening was when I got to go on a tour of England with my college’s men’s basketball team. I was in charge of publicity for the Men’s Basketball Team for our university, and they got an opportunity to travel through England playing various club and university teams. There were three young women who worked for the team, and we were invited to join the trip. For what a plane ticket would normally cost, I got to go to England and tour part of the country for 10 days, staying with families and having the time of our lives.
One day, we were touring the Tower of London, and we got news that Charles and Diana were coming to have lunch with the Mayor of London. This was not long after they got married and long before they had children. We were scheduled at the same time to be at what I swear our tour guide called the Black Tower but apparently is now called the Bloody Tower, and if we stayed to see Diana and Charles, we would miss the Bloody Tower. The coach of the team was a huge fan of Diana, and we all knew that seeing her would be a dream come true for him, so we skipped the tower in lieu of seeing the famous couple, and it’s a memory I still cherish because that coach passed away about ten years later at a very young age, and it makes me happy to remember how happy and grateful he was that day to see Diana. Rather than follow the rules, we made up our own, and we had a blast doing it.
So bringing this all back to overwhelm, procrastination and perfectionism, what’s a person to do? I’ve already told you how to handle overwhelm in the moment by making your list. That’s a great first step. The next step for many is to get help, and I’m not talking about hiring someone to help you, although there are people who can truly make a difference in your life by helping you rid yourself of clutter and get your home in order, whether that’s a cleaning person, a home organizer or a Feng Shui consultant if we’re talking about our homes. In business, if you’re in a position to hire someone, an assistant can be invaluable to overcoming overwhelm, perfectionism and procrastination. If you’re not there yet, get free help. How? By buddying up with someone who is willing to help you with what you need.
For example, I would love to have an assistant in my business, but the budget doesn't allow for one, although I’ve seen people hire assistants when they couldn’t even afford to pay themselves. Instead, a friend and I are accountability partners. We have different needs, but we offer each other support the way that each of us need it. I need something loosely structured that is very flexible. My accountability partner needs something more structured that provides some flexibility because the nature of her business is different from mine. We find what works for each of us and run with that. The great part about that is we’ve developed a sense for when the other is overwhelmed or giving into perfectionism or procrastination, and we can call each other out in an appropriate way and help each other get back on track. Cool, huh?
Your personality can play a huge role in all of this too. As most of you know, when I talk about the DISC personalities, including Driven, Inspired, Supportive and Cautious personality types, also known as DIS and C.
If a Driven person is feeling overwhelmed, things can get very tense. First, they hate feeling behind or that they can’t get things done in a timely manner. Perfection isn’t usually part of their makeup, but if they don’t like something, they can be quite the procrastinators. When they finally engage, though, they will burn through the task like nobody’s business, and when they’re in that mode, leave them alone if you can because any interruption will most certainly be met with frustration at a minimum and outright hostility if you break the flow too much.
If you are a D person, delegation can be your best friend if you can do that. If not, challenge yourself with a deadline and tell someone about it so you stick to it. Pledge to do something really unpleasant if you don’t live up to the challenge. You know you love a good challenge, so make it work for you, and give yourself an awesome treat when you succeed.
For the I personality, you often procrastinate because whatever you’re facing seems soooo booooring, and you hate being bored, but you can ask for help. You may not have help in your home or office, but there are a myriad of ways to co-work or body double and get more work done than you can imagine. Also, you are a personality that can use things like music to drown out the things that can distract you and concentrate better. I have a playlist of songs I’ve played hundreds of times. It’s a playlist of songs I love that I can actually sing while I create, and I don’t even realize I’m doing it. It is sometimes my greatest defense against what I call an ADHD day when my focus is not great. Honestly, I listened to that playlist creating this podcast. I’ve used music most of my life to help with focus, and I’m so grateful I figured it out.
The S and C personalities, being more reserved, can find themselves overwhelmed more quickly than the outgoing D and I personalities, but with the right skills, they can deal with it and be just as badass about overcoming it as the I and D personalities.
For the S personality, it’s often a matter of setting and following through on boundaries, which is difficult for the supportive person. When the S person struggles with boundaries, they tend to retreat, but when they do that, it multiplies the stress, overwhelm and procrastination. So, what does the Supportive personality benefit from? Communication, friend. Realize that everyone struggles with overwhelm, but the S personality sinks faster than others because of it, and if the S personality lets it go too far, they can tip into passive aggressiveness and then flat out rudeness. For those who are used to the Supportive person’s naturally helpful nature, they don’t know how to respond. If they return anger with more anger, the S person shuts down. If they ignore it, nothing gets done, so my dear S person, please communicate the moment you start feeling overwhelm because you are the most adept at knowing what overwhelm feels like, and if you ask before you get frustrated, you are much more likely to get it. The key is to communicate directly because you know you are the master of hints, and if you’re getting frustrated, the people around you aren’t getting it. I know you think they “should” get it, but they don’t think the same way you do, so please give yourself the opportunity to succeed by saying what you feel rather than hinting at it.
The C person is the most likely to deal with overwhelm from perfection because as we know, the Cautious personality wants everything to be perfect, and if they don’t have time to make it that way, they will ignore it until they have the time. Then, when they finally address the thing they’ve avoided, if anything goes wrong, there will be a meltdown. As I’ve said before, there are 24,000 plotting points on the DISC chart, so some C personalities have some of the more outgoing types, and some of them are more reserved. If the Cautious person is more outgoing, the meltdown can be epically dramatic. If they’re more on the reserved side, they will turn their anger inward. Either way, it doesn’t do anyone any good, and the cure for the C personality is the same as it is for the S personality, communication. The C personality, however, benefits from turning down the sarcasm, and you know how sarcastic you can be. While it can be stress relieving for you to be sarcastic, if you want help getting through your overwhelm, it pays to keep those sarcastic comments to yourself. Depending on your relationships, you can share them later when you get through the task, and hopefully you’ll have a good laugh about it then.
So, here’s something to think about. In most instances, overwhelm, procrastination and perfectionism are isolating and make you feel so alone, so the remedy to that is to get other people involved. In addition, having another perspective can help you find better solutions. If you can’t get someone to help, you know I’m a huge proponent of timers. Again, while working on this podcast, I used the magic of 15 minutes because my ADHD can get the best of me even when I’m in the zone because I go to research something and end up going down a rabbit hole and not finishing my work. The timer keeps me on task or redirects me when I’ve left the zone entirely.
As all of us know, the holidays are one of the worst times for being overwhelmed. My friend Jeannine of Sweet, Humble Home and I are working on a holiday bundle that will help all of you deal with the many tasks and personalities you’ll deal with this holiday season. To learn more about that, head over to the Moving Toward Better website and sign up for our email community.. Until next time, keep moving toward better and shining your light as brightly as you can. Love you all!
When was the last time you felt overwhelmed because of perfectionism and/or perfectionism? Overwhelm is toxic, but you can overcome it. Have a listen and if you know someone who can benefit from what you hear, please share this with them.
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