The Overwhelm Prescription

I don’t think the biggest epidemic these days is the flu.

No, the virus that’s going around these days is overwhelm (the American strain is Overwhelmus Americanus). If you’re not sure you have it, here are the most common symptoms:

Feeling buried or drowned by a huge mass of information, ideas and to-dos. The huge mass includes email, articles, Twitter, the media in general, the recession, and probably my Marketing Club.

The general response is: I have too much to do! There’s too much to read! I don’t know where to start! What if I miss something? I can’t handle all of this stuff! Get me outta here!

Look, I understand; I know.

Not only am I infected with overwhelm, I’m one of the carriers. I know that my eZine, and emails from me inviting you to a teleclass, or the aforementioned Marketing Club updates, can send susceptible people into an out-of-control spiral of overwhelm.

But I’m recovering from overwhelmitis, and you can, too.

So, first of all, put down everything else, take a deep breath and take just two short minutes to read my Overwhelm Prescription.

First of all, I’m not going to give you a long list of things to do. I started with that and then thought, “What am I doing? that will only overwhelm people more!”

No, the solution to dealing with overwhelm has little to do with doing, but a whole lot to do with who you are being.

A ton of email, information and projects triggers overwhelm, but they’re not the cause. You are the cause. That is, part of who you are might be called “Overwhelmed Janet” or “Overwhelmed Bill.”

When those triggers happen, “Overwhlemed You” goes into full overwhelm mode. You feel stressed, confused, panicked. Your heart rate goes up and blood supply goes to your limbs for the “fight or flight” reaction. You’re not thinking too clearly. You want to run away, or better, go to sleep.

Overwhelm is simply a reaction that is protecting you from a perceived danger triggered by all that stuff on your desk, in your email box and on your to do list. All that stuff’s not out to get you, but it seems like it!

These days, it’s possible to live in an almost a constant state of overwhelm. And if this is the case, productivity plummets, creativity ceases and your business stops being fun.

The best response we usually have to overwhelm is to get organized. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But all you are doing is temporarily removing the triggers. But triggers have the habit of popping up again. You face 100 emails one morning and overwhelm is looming large again, bigger than life.

So, is there an ultimate solution to overwhelm?

Yes, don’t focus primarily on the triggers, but on connecting with another You. Let’s call this “Focused You.” Focused You is more resourceful, more calm, more present, more balanced.

Focused You, is a part of you that is already developed. You have the skills and the ability to act from Focused You whenever you want. It’s just that you forgot. Overwhelmed You took over and reigns supreme much of the time.

If the purpose of Overwhelmed You is to keep you safe from harm, then the purpose of Focused You is act with clarity and intelligence. Focused you is interested in getting the job done, making a contribution, even doing marketing activities.

When you step into Focused You, even in a chaotic situation with a lot of overwhelm triggers, you can still be calm and centered. Then you can calmly make your priority list, handle your email, and get on with your work.

Overwhelmed You or Focused you, who will you be today?

The More Clients Bottom Line: Once you’re coming from Focused You, you can take the steps to get organized, create systems, do planning and other things that will mitigate some of the triggers. But you’ll know that it is Focused You that is in charge and that no matter what happens, you never need to let Overwhelmed You take over again.

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.