I know that I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed right now. I have never worked so hard and yet seem to be standing still. It is starting to affect me.
I’m guessing I’m not alone either. I know that many of you are working ridiculously long hours, doing things that you’ve never done before, and are not sure if you are moving forward or just spinning your wheels.
Being overwhelmed can quickly become all-consuming and gives us a feeling of being trapped, right? We feel that way because we have lost our control over this entire COVID situation. We can’t control the virus. We can’t control our friends and neighbors. We can’t control the decisions our company makes, and we can’t control how the government decides how and when we should reopen the economy.
A loss of control is overwhelming. We start to worry about everything in both our sleeping and waking hours.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”D78_m” via=”yes” ]Feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19? How can we take back control?[/ctt]
Here are some simple steps we can do so that we don’t feel overwhelmed. I recommend that you take the steps below twice. The first time you go through the list, think about your job. The second time is dealing with your personal life.
1. Breathe. We need to calm our bodies so that we can quiet our minds. We will manage this feeling of overwhelm, but we need to take a big breath of oxygen first. Repeat as needed.
2. Plan. Lists are an excellent way to get a sense of control back. You are going to create several lists.
a. A Master List. This list is for everything that needs to get done regardless of the deadline. Write down the big tasks and the little tasks. A massive brain dump. Be prepared that this list in itself is overwhelming as it will be substantial in size, and it will make you feel like you will never get control. Breathe again. Once we have the big brain dump done, we start to segregate it.
b. Today list. What part of that list must get done today? And when I say must, I mean that if you don’t get it finished today, you are going to lose your job. That list will be small. There may be a lot that you want to get done, and a lot you should get done, but let’s be clear, what must get done is what we are looking for. Put that at the top of the today list (not to worry, more things will get put on the list shortly).
c. This week. The same as the today list – what thing must get done this week.
d. This month. Follow the pattern. As you are segregating the big list, stroke things off as they move to the today, this week, this month list. That in itself is going to make you feel more in control.
3. Color code. We now have four lists with the master list getting smaller as items are moved to your individual lists. Everything so far needs to be indicted that it is non-negotiable. Perhaps highlight or use a red font/pen.
On the second pass through the list, ask yourself what ‘should’ get done today, this week, this month, and add that to your lists. Pick an appropriate color.
On the third pass through the list, ask yourself what would make you feel happy to get done today, this week, this month. Pick a color that makes you happy.
While the entire master list will not disappear with these actions, we have prioritized what can control in our immediate future. Go through the master list weekly to move things to the weekly or monthly list. Continue to add items to the master list as they occur to you.
4. Schedule. Put the red items in your schedule to ensure you have the time in your day to get them done. While there may be times we have to change our timing, at least we have protected a time to get the task done.
5. Be flexible. We know that what you have planned at 9 am is going to look entirely different by 2 pm. Expect it, build for it, and don’t beat yourself up when things go sideways. Allow yourself to prioritize as things change and don’t fall into the trap of beating yourself up mentally when things don’t go according to plan.
I remember when I was a new mother on maternity leave. In the days of Martha Stewart, she was my goal. I wanted to have the perfect house, the perfect baby, homemade cookies for when people dropped over, and I felt that I should be able to do that (as clearly, everyone else could do it!). I found myself frustrated when I planned to do something, and it didn’t happen. I considered myself a failure.
I needed to learn how to be flexible. Now that my babies are having babies, I can easily say I was too regimented in my approach to being Martha Stewart and that I was upset far too easily by things beyond my control. Hindsight is 20/20, but fortunately, the time my second son arrived, I had learned to be flexible.
6. Boundaries. I could easily work 12 hours per day, 7 days a week. I don’t work that way because I know that in the long run, that is not the answer. It doesn’t mean that I am disciplined about working only 8 hours per day, 5 days a week, because I feel I have too much work to do for only 40 hours per week. I set myself boundaries so that I can feel like I am getting as much done as I can without working 24-7. Some days I walk away after 8 hours and some days I don’t. I have committed that I will set boundaries and follow them as often as I can. I have accepted that sometimes I will be working when I know I shouldn’t be. I have boundaries that I have set. It is up to me to decide when it makes sense to bend those boundaries, but until you’ve set up what is reasonable, you can’t determine when you should bend them. You can’t feel in control to change the boundaries until you have the boundaries.
7. Self-Care. Control what you can control. I can control (within reason) what I eat, when I go to bed, how often I exercise, what I drink, and what I read. All of those things help keep me healthy physically so that I can be better prepared to deal with those things I cannot control.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”H5p3e” via=”yes” ]Don’t forget self-care when feeling overwhelmed by COVID. Keep yourself healthy is essential to control.[/ctt]
8. Reward. It is unreasonable to expect perfection. If you were perfect, you wouldn’t be suffering from feeling overwhelmed to begin with. When you have done something that feels good, and you feel like you’ve accomplished something, reward yourself. You decide what the perfect reward is. You’ve earned it.
You won’t necessarily get the daily or weekly list done consistently, but you will start to feel more in control and less overwhelmed. It will take time, patience, and perseverance, but it will be worth it!
I took my own advice and had a great weekend without spending time in the office. I had a momentary panic when I looked at all my emails this morning, but I followed my steps above and already feel better.