How To Overcome Overwhelm & Take Back Control

How To Overcome Overwhelm & Take Back Control

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

Stressed? Worried? Anxious?

 

There are times in your life when you can feel such intense overwhelm that it seems impossible to quieten your thoughts for long enough to be able to see a way through.

It’s hard to allow yourself to aside time to sit still when you’re spinning in overwhelm. But please, give yourself 20 minutes to complete this exercise to help you take back control.

It’s short and simple but very effective. It will help you identify what is within your control so that you can let go of what is not.

(Grab a FREE workbook to guide you through these tips.)

 

STEP 1: WHAT’S ON MY MIND?

Make a list of all the things that are contributing to your worries and feelings of overwhelm. Everything.

It could be that you’re worrying about work issues, lack of work or financial worries. You might be worrying about someone you care about, what’s going to happen during Covid, appointments you need to make, feeling tired, feeling unwell, things you think you should be doing, feelings of guilt etc.

ACTION: Take the time to write EVERYTHING down no matter how small, irrational or ridiculous it might seem right now. Emptying this list onto paper is a very effective way of clearing that incessant chatter in your head.

Done? Great. These are your WORRY ITEMS.

 

STEP 2: EXERCISE — CONTROL, INFLUENCE OR CONCERN

In your workbook, on the Circle of Influence image (page 6) you’ll see a larger version of the 3 circles or sections pictured below.

 

We’re going to categorise each WORRY ITEM into one of these three headings.

1. This is within my control (CONTROL)
2. I can influence this (INFLUENCE)
3. Everything else (CONCERN)

ACTION: Now work through the list of WORRY ITEMS you prepared in STEP 1. Which Section do they fit?

1. Circle of Control:

  • Do you have complete CONTROL over the worry item?
  • Can you resolve it on their own without needing anyone else’s help or input?

If so, write the Worry Item down within the first circle labelled “WITHIN MY CONTROL” and move onto the next item.

2. Circle of Influence:

  • Do you have PARTIAL control or can you INFLUENCE the outcome of the worry item?
  • Can you partly resolve the worry item or can you influence the outcome through their actions or behaviour?

If so, write this item within the second circle labelled “I CAN INFLUENCE” and move onto the next worry on your list.

3. Circle of Concern: Everything else…

  • Is the worry item COMPLETELY OUTSIDE of your CONTROL INFLUENCE?
  • Is there nothing you can do or say that could directly impact this worry?

Write this item in the outside circle labelled EVERYTHING ELSE

Work through your list and write each of your WORRY ITEMS in the circle that represents if you can CONTROL it, INFLUENCE it or it’s everything else (CONCERN).

 

STEP 3: TAKING CONTROL

Once you’ve placed all of your ‘Worry Items’ in the circles, take a few moments to review your Circles of Influence.

ACTION:

  • List the worry items you DO have CONTROL over
  • IDENTIFY one ACTION,however small, for each item.

TIP: It’s helpful to action ONE of these today…or even RIGHT NOW. You’ll feel instantly feel better.

STEP 4: PLANNING TO INFLUENCE

Now, let’s review the items you have INFLUENCE / PARTIAL control over:

ACTION:

Write down what steps you will take and exactly when you will do them — today or in the next few days.

 

STEP 5: LETTING GO

Finally…and most importantly…

LET GO of EVERYTHING ELSE!

This is the most difficult part for many of us. But remember, you’ve already assessed that you have no control over these items. So why hold on? Why let them take up time on you list and on your mind?

Let Go.

QUESTION: How does it FEEL to LET GO of things you have no CONTROL over?

TIP: If you’re using the Workbook, after striking out the Everything Else items, you could cut out around the edge of the grey INFLUENCE circle. Then keeping the CONTROL and INFLUENCE circles, scrunch or tear up the rest of the page and put Everything Else in the bin. This is a powerful way to LET GO.

Grab the gorgeous free workbook here.

 

Overcoming Overwhelm: Circle of Influence

Overcoming Overwhelm: Circle of Influence

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Stressed? Worried? Anxious?

 

This FREE Circle of Influence workbook will help you identify what is within your control so that you can let go of what is not.

There are certain times in your life when you can feel such overwhelm that it seems impossible to quieten your thoughts for long enough to be able to see a way through.

Give yourself 20 minutes to complete this exercise to help you take back control.

It’s short and simple but very effective. It will help you identify what is within your control so that you can let go of what is not.

 

STEP 1: WHAT’S ON MY MIND?

Calmly consider a list of all the things that are contributing to your worries and feelings of overwhelm.

It could be worrying about running out of food, worry about someone you care about, what’s going to happen, the dentist appointment you cancelled but can’t reschedule yet, homeschooling, feeling tired, work issues, lack of work, financial worries, feelings of guilt etc.

ACTION: Take the time to write EVERYTHING down no matter how small, irrational or ridiculous it might seem right now. Emptying this list onto paper is a very effective way of clearing that incessant chatter in your head.

These are your WORRY ITEMS.


STEP 2: EXERCISE

In your workbook, on the Circle of Influence image (page 6) you’ll see a larger version of the 3 circles or sections pictured below.

CONTROL, INFLUENCE OR CONCERN

One by one assess each WORRY ITEM and decide if:

– It is within my control (CONTROL)
– I can influence (INFLUENCE)
– Everything else (CONCERN)

ACTION: Next, work through the list of WORRY ITEMS you prepared in STEP 1.

1. Circle of Control:
Do you have complete CONTROL over the worry item?
Can you resolve it on their own without needing anyone else’s help or input?
If so, write the Worry Item down within the first circle labelled “WITHIN MY CONTROL” and move onto the next item.

2. Circle of Influence: 
Do you have PARTIAL control or can you INFLUENCE the outcome of the worry item?
Can you partly resolve the worry item or can you influence the outcome through their actions or behaviour?
If so, write this item within the second circle labelled “I CAN INFLUENCE” and move onto the next worry on your list.

3. Circle of Concern: Everything else…
Is the worry item COMPLETELY OUTSIDE of your CONTROL INFLUENCE?
Is there nothing you can do or say that could directly impact this worry?
Write this item in the outside circle labelled EVERYTHING ELSE

Write each of your WORRY ITEMS in the circle that represents if you can CONTROL it, INFLUENCE it or it’s everything else (CONCERN).

S T E P 3 : T A K I N G  C O N T R O L

Once you’ve placed all of your ‘Worry Items’ in the circles, take a few moments to review your Circles of Influence.

ACTION: List the worry items you DO have CONTROL over and IDENTIFY an ACTION,however small, for each item.

TIP: It’s helpful to action ONE of these today…or even RIGHT NOW, to help you instantly feel better.

STEP 4: PLANNING TO INFLUENCE

Now, let’s review the items you have INFLUENCE / PARTIAL control over:

ACTION: Write down what steps you will take and exactly when you will do them – today or in the next few days.

STEP 5: LETTING GO

Finally…and most importantly…

 LET GO of EVERYTHING ELSE!

QUESTION:  How does it FEEL to LET GO of things you have no CONTROL over?

TIP: After striking out the Everything Else items, you could cut out around the edge of the grey INFLUENCE circle. Then keeping the CONTROL and INFLUENCE circles, scrunch or tear up the rest of the page and put Everything Else in the bin. This is a powerful way to LET GO.

Grab the gorgeous free workbook here.

LSW Mind Cards: Positive Actions for Happiness & Fulfilment

LSW Mind Cards: Positive Actions for Happiness & Fulfilment

*This post may contain affiliate links which could earn me a small commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. For more details see my disclosure policy and privacy policy.

LSW Mind Cards might just be my new favourite thing.

They’re beautifully designed cards created to help you to become more mindful of your thoughts and feelings, take back control of your happiness, focus on the present and spread positivity throughout your life.

You get 45 gorgeous individually designed cards presented in a beautiful box.

The cards cover 5 inspiring, thought provoking categories:

* Kindness
* Ritual
* Gratitude
* Journal
* Reflection

I’ve written about all of these categories before, raving about the benefits of developing a daily practice incorporating all these elements. These beautiful, inspiring LSW Mind Cards give you the tools to guide you through that practice.

Each day, you select one of the LSW Mind Cards at random and take the action stated on the card. Building the habit of making positive choices each day will help you lead a more fulfilling and happier life.

Facing into mental illness

Facing into mental illness

Things don’t have to stay the same…

I met one of my closest friends when I interviewed her for a job, two and a half years ago. (Let’s just call her B, as her story isn’t mine to share). B got the job. Before she started, she asked me why I had such an interest in Mental Health. I shared that I had suffered with depression and anxiety, she shared her own experiences with mental illness. We bonded. And I can see now that before we even started working together, we had a more honest, authentic understanding of each other than most people will ever have.

That understanding has grown exponentially as we’ve supported each other through challenging work, life and personal experiences over the last few years. But we’ve shared them all with the same honesty and openness that created our friendship.

Mental Health in the Workplace

At the time, I was leading a mental health project in work. The company was introducing an amazing programme to actively support student residents with their mental health. I recognised that we couldn’t expect our people to deliver that support without giving them the necessary knowledge, tools, language and support to do so. We rolled out mental health first aid training, well-being initiatives and invited two well known mental illness charities to work in partnership with us.

But we had to find a way to start having conversations about mental health. Despite being so open about my mental illness with my immediate team, I had only recently shared my experiences with others on the executive team. I was asked if I would consider talking about my mental health on a video that would be shared at our annual staff conference event. I froze. I don’t do video. But I knew that this would be a powerful way to start conversations about mental health.

I didn’t realise just how powerful. The video was shown to almost 200 people in a darkened room, while I found an even darker spot to hide in the back of the room. That video opened so many conversations. In one evening, two older men spoke to me about their experiences of PTSD and eating disorders. Other people openly talked about self-harm and suicide attempts. It was as though, speaking openly about experience of mental illness had given others permission to share without fear of judgement.

It wasn’t one of my most enjoyable nights out! But it was liberating and really powerful for me personally. But still I kept some things back. In one-on-one conversations or in coaching, I would be very open. But more publicly, I kept parts back, just for me.

The impact on other people

But with my friend B, there is no filter. Never has been. And we’ve realised that’s been pretty powerful for other people. When I first met her now-husband, he had never, ever witnessed such a conversation. He was amazed at how we talked about mental health “as if you’re talking about a headache!” That threw the door wide open for him to start doing the same, which ultimately helped him in being much more proactive about his own mental healthcare and wellbeing.

Just last weekend, two lifelong friends visited me for a weekend and B came to meet them for the first time. Our story wouldn’t be complete without sharing how we’ve supported each other through major challenges over the past few years. I hope that we share the stories with a lot of humour, honesty, realism and compassion. But we share the stories warts and all.

When B left, my two friends commented on how open she had been (they know my story). They then spoke more openly than I have ever heard either be about their own mental health and challenges. It already sounded like they were adopting a more forward-thinking approach, both accepting that they didn’t have to settle for the current state and recognising that there were other options. These options wouldn’t be easy, they wouldn’t be certain to work, they might take time but both seemed to seriously consider that they didn’t have to ‘exist’ as they have been for another 20+ years.

Just one week later, they’ve both taken huge steps to make positive changes. One has already planned an extended career break to focus on herself and her family and work out what her future could look like if she considered part-time employment. The other has already been to counselling for the first time ever and has made an appointment with her GP to consider ceasing/changing medication (which isn’t working) and to work out if she might be perimenopausal.

Massive steps. Immediate action. Triggered by powerful conversations.

When I was leading the mental health project in work and filming the video, someone warmly joked that I was the “Face of the Mentals”. If finally having the courage to share my story, can help even one person feel brave enough to try to change their story, then I’m proud to be so.

I also realise through recent CBT that I emotionally detach when I talk about my periods of mental illness. It’s how I can get the words out without crumbling. But I’m working on that. Still I’m learning, still I’m growing.

Avoiding mental illness doesn’t help. You can’t run away from it, you carry it with you.

So lean in. Face in. Talk.

World Suicide Prevention Day: My story, my struggle…

World Suicide Prevention Day: My story, my struggle…

World Suicide Prevention Day

#WorldSuicidePreventionDay #SuicidePrevention #WSPD2019

 

*This post may contain affiliate links which could earn me a small commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. For more details see my disclosure policy and privacy policy.

 

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

And if I don’t share my real story with you today then I never will… I’ve been absent from social media for quite some time. Late last year, for the first time, I began to experience suicidal thoughts daily. This lasted for about 5-6 months.

I’m better now and have been for about 6 months. I just had to take some extra time away to make sure it stayed that way by continuing to protect my mental health, wellbeing, time and energy.


My story, my symptoms, my struggle:

Sometimes there may not be a ‘reason’ why you’re feeling this way right now. Mine was probably a combination of multiple triggers.

I left my career as HR Director 15 months ago. For about a year before making the decision to change careers, I was crumbling emotionally and physically, but I kept powering on. It’s only when I finally stopped that I felt the full traumatic effects of corporate burnout and PTSD.

And as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the menopause hit me…hard. Anxiety, depression, headaches, hot flushes, night sweats, panic attacks, joint pain, brain fog, memory loss, low libido, insomnia & more! I saw a few GPs who repeatedly insisted that I was too young (45 when symptoms started), regardless that my blood test results told a different story. These GPs sent me away each time with prescriptions for anti-depressants. But you know your own body, and I knew mine. I knew anti-depressants might alleviate some symptoms, but not the underlying cause, which I felt certain was perimenopause.

That meant I was going through a number of major life changes while dealing with the simultaneous avalanches of burnout, PTSD and intense perimenopausal symptoms. They share similar symptoms, such as anxiety, depression and insomnia, so together they dealt me a triple whammy.

I’ve experienced periods of depression and anxiety over many years, so I had reasonable confidence that these episodes would pass. The depression and anxiety ‘only’ appeared for a few weeks at a time but it was during those times that I became really concerned that I might not be strong enough to fight the suicidal thoughts.
6 years ago, I lost an ex-boyfriend to suicide. Over recent years, I’ve lost work colleagues and supported other colleagues who had lost close family members. I’ve supported close friends through periods of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. I worked in student accommodation and was responsible for supporting employees who were immediately affected when we tragically lost young residents through suicide.

Around this time, I attended a workshop on Postvention which promotes intervention on the basis that family and friends of the suicide victim may be at risk themselves. Perhaps, having had so many exposures to suicide and bereavement, I was more at risk myself.

I’ve been shocked and concerned by how women share that they’ve been having suicidal thoughts or ideations when they join our FB group and tell me about their current challenges. I hoped to reach personally and privately out to each and every one of them but the group grew so quickly, I’m not even close to reaching most of them yet.

I’m normally upfront in talking about mental illness. I’ve been involved with a few amazing mental illness charities and I fronted a campaign for mental health in the workplace where I spoke publicly about my own struggles.

But this time was different. The social isolation, guilt, sleep interruption and nightmares were unfamiliar symptoms.

However, it was the social anxiety that really isolated me. I’ve never been particularly active on social media so believe me, I know how bizarre it is that I set up an online business and Facebook group. I pushed myself too far out of my comfort zone into the world of social media at a time when I wasn’t well enough to handle it.

The social anxiety seemed to grow into a social media anxiety that led to me retreating offline and away from our FB group, which simply served to heighten my social isolation.

During this time I read The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and Brené Brown’s words affected me deeply.

“Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story. When we bury our shame, the story metastasizes.” I could recognise my shame growing but couldn’t find my voice to share my story.

Shame can’t survive being spoken. But I believed that to host a group and have a voice online, I had to be seen to be strong, to be invincible. I felt that I was expected to have it all sorted. When I didn’t.

It’s easy to look back now and recognise just how much I was going through…significant life changes, PTSD, spiritual awakening, menopause, setting up a new business on my own.

I felt I didn’t know enough about my own challenges to advise, especially when I was still finding my own way through. But what I’ve realised is that I’m going to be on this journey for life and sometimes I’ll lose my way. But I’ll always find my way back, or find my way onto another path.

Ironically, I realised much later that I went into hiding from the very group where I could have got invaluable support. And in doing so, I kept my story from those who may have gained strength or understanding from it.

So I kept quiet, then didn’t know how to find my voice again on the way out.

 

My road to recovery

Thanks to all the spiritual and soul work I’ve practiced over the past year, while battling these thoughts, I just gave myself permission to prioritise myself and prioritise my own health.

There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. So on a few of those days, I gave myself permission to just stay in bed. Permission to keep myself safe and allow myself that time to get well. Strangely, most times I gave myself that permission, I felt well enough to get up.

Alcohol: I had stopped exercising, wasn’t eating as healthily as normal, and found myself drinking in an unhealthy way. I wasn’t drinking huge amounts but I recognised that I was self-medicating with alcohol to escape from my own perpetual thoughts, and that’s when I sought CBT.

I self-referred myself for CBT. The programme I signed up to wasn’t right for me, but the counsellor was. I give gratitude every single day that he was brought into my life. So much so, that I’m now studying a Mindfulness based CBT diploma so that I can share some of these powerful techniques with others.

Avoidance: I tried not to allow myself to really consider how I might take action if it ever got to that stage. I also threw out almost every medication that I had in the house.

Perimenopause: I (literally) begged my medical practice for an appointment with a women’s health expert and started HRT (in my case Oestrogel & the Mirena coil for Progesterone). HRT very quickly worked miracles for me, my energy and my sanity and I will definitely write more about that later.

Exercise: Almost as soon as I’d started the HRT, I refound my energy for exercise. I now walk 4-5 miles in green spaces at least 5 times a week. Even in the rain. I get fresh air, exercise and the grounding benefits of nature.

Yoga: After my Yoga Teacher Training I’d stopped practicing properly for months. I think I was partly afraid of another injury after tearing my hamstring. Ironically it was another injury that made me determined to get back into shape and improve my strength and flexibility. And now I’ve rediscovered so many benefits of my daily yoga practice.

Clients: I also knew that I had a responsibility to prioritise my time and save my energy for my paying clients who had trusted me to guide them through their own challenges. It’s an honour every single day to be invited to share in someone’s journey and I wanted to be able to show up fully to serve them. Which brought me purpose, so important when you’ve feel you’ve lost your way.

If you’re coming out of a stressful or traumatic experience, please seek help to support you through the impact it can have on your emotional, physical and mental health.

In my case, I recovered through rest, CBT, HRT, a healthy, more active lifestyle, prioritising myself, my health and my clients.

 

What next?

So it turned out that I needed to follow my own advice and slow down, do the inner work (again) and do some heavy lifting in my personal life. This work is challenging but so important to do if you want to live a fulfilled and happy life and, now I’m out the other side, I can see how very necessary the process was, and I’m so grateful that I had all of the tools I needed at my fingertips.

That gave me the time to rethink my business model too. I’ve refined my niche and want to specialise in working with successful women who are suffering from corporate burnout or overwhelm and want to regain balance in their lives. I’ve been lucky that my new business has taken off so well but that’s given me the chance to realise that I’d prefer to work with even fewer people at any one time so that I can devote more time to holding out a metaphorical hand whenever it’s needed.

I had originally planned to work with a small number of 1:2:1 clients and deliver group programmes online but for now I’ve decided against the group programmes as I personally don’t want people ‘disappearing’ within a large group. I prefer to get to know them and their stories so I can be of service however they truly need be. And every person is different, I want to be able to intuitively adapt to that.

Now that I’ve stripped back my lifestyle so much, I’ve been lucky to realise that the most precious thing to me is time. Time for my daily practices and especially time I can spend over a coffee or glass of wine with close friends and family. I’ve been working about 5 or 6 hours a day and I’d like to keep working fewer hours, while making these coaching and personal growth tools and programmes accessible to many more people.

So I’m going to be giving away lots of resources and tools for free on my website and within this group, then I’ll be bundling some of them up into affordable digital courses.

“Life is difficult.”

That’s the opening line in The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (Classic Edition) by M. Scott Peck.

“Once we truly see this truth…once we truly understand it and accept it – then life is no longer difficult”. “Life is a series of problems… and it is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning…It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually.”

This year I have taken the time to reconnect with myself – mind, body and soul. I’ve really tuned in and learned to trust myself and I’ve grown mentally and spiritually. “Life is difficult”. But we don’t have to face it alone…

I’ve been away from actively participating in our FB group for such a long time but I have been checking in behind the scenes while I was getting myself back to full health. Thanks to all of the incredible ladies who have kept this group alive with your inspirational posts and quotes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I checked in and was brought exactly the message I needed, precisely when I needed them most. And thanks to those who have messaged me personally. You know who you are. I feel truly blessed to have such generosity of knowledge, spirit and energy brought into my life.

Yet, in choosing not to reveal my struggles, I missed out on the chance to get the support from this amazing, supportive movement of women and also to share my story with those who might recognise themselves in it.

I thought I had to be more. More spiritual, more learned, more educated, more experienced, more balanced, more successful, more visible, more everything! I was exhausted trying to be who I thought I should be, who I thought people wanted me to be. When my work is to enable women to find themselves and be themselves.

To “Be More You”.

So this is me. Authentic. Flawed. Vulnerable. Imperfect. Content. Exposed. Alive. And finally very much at peace with myself and my life…


J xx

 


How to help yourself if you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts:

  • Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Help and support is available.
  • Phone a helpline.
  • Seek medical advice.
  • Don’t make a decision today. You don’t need to act on your thoughts right now. If you’ve had these thoughts before, you’ll know that you might be better able to cope in a few days.
  • If you have a crisis plan or care plan in place, follow this. If you don’t have a crisis plan, you could make one.
  • Avoid any triggers, whatever makes you feel worse.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Get yourself to a safe place or be around other people.
  • Give yourself permission to stop. Just get through today, try not to think about the future.
  • Do something you enjoy, like spending time with a pet or getting out in nature.
  • Do something that will help take your mind off how you are feeling.
  • Longer term, consider counselling or CBT if it’s available to you
  • Get moving – unfortunately it’s when you feel least like exercising that you could benefit from it most. Try it is you can to release some ‘feel good’ hormones.

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