HOW TO DEAL WITH FEELING OVERWHELMED
Full disclosure: 2015 has been one of the most overwhelming years of my life. Between self-publishing, promoting, and distributing my book; building and launching The WW Club; handling press and writing strategies for both ventures; hosting regular events in LA and a couple in NYC; juggling all my pre-existing work commitments (i.e. the ones that still pay my rent); and trying to maintain a social life/some sense of wellbeing, it's been an intense ten weeks.
The journey has been thrilling, but also insomnia-inducing in parts. Instead of getting freaked out by the sudden U-turn in my professional life (until this year, I'd never independently hosted an event in my life!) I'm trying to use this period to cultivate the survival strategies I'll need as my career continues to grow. High on the list? Learning how to calm myself the f*ck down - and fast. Here are a few tried-and-tested techniques, from my frazzled brain to yours.
First Things First
Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you cold? Are you exhausted? Have you had a shower and put on some proper clothes? Answering these questions might seem like a pretty basic way to deal with acute stress, but it's an effective place to start. How often have you felt utterly hopeless, negative, and anxious - only to realise one sandwich later that you were simply hangry all along? Or convinced yourself that you're a pathetic, sloppy mess - until the moment you hauled yourself off the sofa and out of your sweatpants? Despair, I read recently, if often just a case of low blood sugar. The next time you're feeling completely overwrought, make sure you've attended to your own basic, human needs. You're a mammal, not a machine.
Sorry to offer such a tired piece of advice, but did you also check in on your breathing? Moments of high stress can always, always be eased with the help of a few deep breaths. Better yet: Carve out 5-10 minutes of meditation time each morning, and you'll find those moments of 'Oh shit, I think my head is going to explode' will happen far less often in the first place.
Get It All Out (Then Cut the List in Half)
On paper, that is. Get a blank white sheet of paper and a nice pen (Paper Mate Flair is my writing tool of choice) and write down every single thing that's hanging in the tangled branches of your monkey mind. From laying out your business plan to sending your great-aunt a birthday card, there is no task too small. Just get it all down. In no particular order, either.
Spend twenty or so minutes on this, till you feel you can list no more, then walk away for a bit - maybe thirty minutes, maybe a day. When you go back to your list, look for things you can cross off. Do you really need to read that business book, or can you finish one you already own? Do you absolutely have to sign-up for that new yoga studio, or are your YouTube workouts serving you just fine? So often, we feel strangled by a neverending round of obligations, without realising that half of this work we 'have' to do actually consists of random tasks we've assigned ourselves (I am so guilty of this!) Give yourself a break, cut the extras, and get on with the important stuff instead.
Do Just One Thing
Once you've whittled down your master list, pick a task to tackle. Just one. Preferably the one that gives you heart palpitations every time you allow your mind to wander back towards it, because it's likely that that's the one causing most of your stress. Spend a chunk of time - even if it's just twenty minutes - working on it, and I guarantee you'll feel about 80% less stressed out at the end. If you methodically start your day by dealing with the scariest item on your to-do list first, you'll breeze through the rest of your tasks with a sense of smug, chirpy calm.
Take Responsibility for your Stress
Women often feel immense pressure to do everything quickly! And neatly! And perfectly! That's years of cultural conditioning weighing on our shoulders, and it sucks - but we don't have to succumb entirely. I know your job is demanding and your house is a mess etc. etc, but try to stay calm, see the bigger picture, and realise that actually, you're totally capable of getting everything done. And the stuff you don't get done probably didn't need to get done, or you would've done it (conscientious woman that you are).
Phone a Friend (or come to Work Party!)
This is particularly important for freelancers. Often, I wake up on a Monday morning, look at my to-do list, and think: Where the hell am I supposed to start? Then I go on Instagram (perfect displacement activity), see pictures of people* out in the world crafting immaculate to-do lists in Moleskine notebooks and sipping on their their energising, alkalising, green smoothies, and I feel more of a mess than ever before. In moments like this, it's essential to remember that most people feel in over their heads on a regular basis. Some are just better at throwing a filter on it than others.
Give yourself a wake-up call by checking in on a friend - it's likely she's feeling just as stressed out as you are - and maybe arranging a work date to keep you both going. If you're in Los Angeles, come down to Work Party and we can compare to-do lists while we look at the downtown skyline. Promise you'll feel better after that.