If you are an entrepreneur, be it a coach, consultant, freelancer, or small business owner, chances are you’ve had to deal with overwhelm.
I can tell you after over two decades in public relations in all capacities, it’s a thankless job. We work 60–80 hours a week, most weekends. As long as the media is working, we’re working. It is literally nonstop. We have to deal with demanding and often low (or no) paying clients for whom we would throw someone off a cliff if it meant we could get them coverage. We are always at the mercy of very fickle members of the media, which unwittingly hold the key to whether we will get to keep our jobs or not. It truly takes a Teflon mindset to be a PR professional.
After a near nervous breakdown in late 2019, I decided to throw in the towel and retire my tech PR practice of nearly 20 years - after the one last Consumer Electronics Show, of course. I was running on all cylinders. I was doing PR, running a nonprofit animal rescue, and planning my escape by transitioning into coaching, which meant taking classes and courses, getting certified, and learning new marketing techniques.
Needless to say, I practically went into full shutdown mode. Something had to give. I couldn’t continue to be all things to all people, constantly having to be in emergency response mode because everything had to happen like yesterday. I couldn’t continue waking up to dozens of emails, texts, and phone calls every day- each demanding my attention and immediate response. Forget about having any kind of morning routine. There was too much work to do from the moment I opened my eyes. My only discipline was that first cup of bullet coffee before I turned on my phone.
And, truth be told, I had started losing my passion for PR. Getting a new client, creating stories and pitch angles, and the neverending stream of events was no longer exciting to me. I will say, I still do get a thrill when one of my stories gets picked up, and that will probably never go away.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up on the whole hustle culture mentality. You see these highly successful entrepreneurs who glamorize being busy. Those in their groups practically shame those who actually have a life outside of work (because they must not be working hard enough if they have time to go to happy hour).
So how do you get past being overwhelmed and avoid facing burnout? Let’s start with defining it first.
Overwhelm happens when the intensity of your feelings becomes too difficult to manage. Indications of overwhelm include:
- Always feeling buried.
- Constantly feeling like there’s never enough time.
- Feeling overloaded, swamped, or inundated.
- Feeling overpowered or defeated.
- Feeling lost, trapped, or stuck.
If you recognize any of these emotions, then you’re likely feeling a bit overwhelmed- or a lot overwhelmed. But fear not, my ambitious, hard-working friend. There is something you can do about it so you can excel in your job, career, or business with clarity, calm, and an improved mental, physical, and emotional outlook.
I was never one to ask for help. I’ve always been the type to figure things out on my own, which is probably what got me into trouble in the first place. I was too ashamed to ask for help because I thought it made me look weak. That was a big, fat limiting belief that I needed to eradicate. Once I admitted that I needed help and could no longer go it alone, I set out to find the best possible solution. I poured through self-help books and videos, taking what resonated with me and left out the rest. I dove into learning and education. I started seeing a therapist who specialized in EMDR therapy. I also have a business coach who helps me flush things out when I’m feeling stuck and stressed about my business.
I’m not saying you have to hire a therapist, but if you feel that would help, then call, but do get some sort of help either with a therapist, mentor, or through a personal-growth strategy that works for you.
No doubt there are plenty of mundane and repetitive tasks that can be passed off to a virtual assistant (VA) or automated. Because social media is a big part of my job, it’s tough to stay off of it, but I had to learn to manage my time and exposure to it. I started automating my social media tasks and scheduling posts for the month. I also automated my invoicing with retainer clients and use email automation software for list building and maintaining my database.
We hired a social media manager for the rescue. I have a VA for things like conducting research, setting up email nurtures, and lower-level writing projects. This frees up my time so I can stay focused on my core competencies and better serve my clients. That in turn will help with growing and scaling my business.
I use Awesome Outsourcing for my VA needs, but you can also look on Upwork or Fiverr.
Contrary to our internal belief systems, self-care isn’t selfish. It is actually the best thing to do for yourself and those around you. Once I began a better self-care practice, which included healthier eating habits, regular exercise, meditation, and taking time off, I noticed that I had a lot less anxiety, stress, and frustration. Taking time off was incredibly difficult for two reasons: FOMO and fear of losing my job or a client. With the rescue, it seemed impossible to take time off because we deal with life and death situations every day. I felt that if I took a day off, then I wasn’t saving a life, then the guilt would set in, and BAM! I was right back at it.
Taking time for yourself is one of the most selfless things you can do, so find, nay, make the time for it. Make yourself a priority and everything else will somehow figure itself out.
One of my favorite stories on boundary setting is about Russell Brunson, the founder of ClickFunnels, and Tony Robbins. Russell had asked Tony if he would set up a sales funnel for one of his new books on ClickFunnels. He said he needed a week of Tony’s time to shoot the video. Tony said he could have one hour. This is a man who knows how to manage his time and say no.
Learning to say no is one of the most beneficial habits you can cultivate- and should. How many times have you said “yes” to something and immediately regretted it? Guilty as charged here. Once I learned to say no and set clear boundaries, I had more time and mental space to focus on more important matters. The reason why I didn’t say no before was that I was afraid of disappointing someone or seeming selfish, especially because I truly do enjoy helping people. It’s in my nature, but seeing how many hours I spent on helping people with issues with their dog or their business, their website, or relationships, it got to the point where I had become the dreaded “yes” person. I kept telling myself “I should get paid for this.” And I was right.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a time to help and a time to set your boundaries, lest you begin to feel taken advantage of, which diminishes your sense of self-worth. Say no when you know you should, and if the other person gets pissed off, then that’s their issue.
If you feel you should get paid, simply say: I would love the opportunity to help you with this, but I am tapped out on gratis work. Happy to discuss fees. This might be difficult to say to a friend or family member, so in this case, simply be honest. Tell them you would love to help, but your plate is full, and you are happy to refer them to someone (who they would likely have to pay).
Do a Digital Detox
In a previous post, I talked about how multitasking fries your brain. Your mobile devices are the main culprits of brain fog. We are constantly on our devices checking email, texts, being on social media, watching the news or Netflix, or working on a big project. There was a point when I felt like my phone was literally glued to my hand. It was excessive and created a great deal of stress and overwhelm. I had to cut the invisible cord. I no longer watch TV and check my phone at the same time. I turn my phone off at night. I put it on airplane mode while I’m working.
I now engage in actual physical interactions with people more often. This was challenging while we were in lockdown, but now that things have opened up, it’s easier to get together with people. I also limit my Zoom activity. This could be tough for those who conduct most of their meetings via Zoom, but it’s essential. See if you can do a good old-fashioned phone call, or discuss things via a chat app such as Slack or Facebook Messenger.
At the end of the day, nothing is worth losing your health and well-being for. If you are constantly trying to please others and working your arse off to prove yourself, you’re going about it all wrong. You don’t have to work all hours or see how hard you can push yourself to feel valued. You can’t be good for others if you’re not good to yourself. If you take a step back from it and look at the bigger picture, no business endeavor is worth risking your mental and physical health and overall well-being.
To sum it up, if you want to reduce overwhelm do the following:
- Practice self-care.
- Set clear boundaries.
- Learn to automate and outsource.
- Step away from the devices.
- Hire a coach or a therapist — or both.
Oh, and give yourself some grace. You will realize that you are that much better off when you do.
Want to learn how you can overcome overwhelm and create a life and business you love? Let’s chat! Click here to schedule your FREE Limitless Life call today.