A lot of people are looking forward to the end of 2020, or maybe waiting for things to “go back to normal” or (in the US, and maybe the rest of the world too), waiting for the current election cycle to be over – maybe you’re waiting for so many things to just be over.
“I’m so over this”
I want to explore other ways that you may be over right now – maybe some of these apply to you personally, maybe you’ve experienced them in the past, or maybe you can use some of these examples as a metaphor of something else in your life that you really are over.
If you’re “over” anything right now.. (or even if you don’t think you are .. or if you’re not sure what I’m talking about yet) I want to show you how you may be creating your own over situation – and once you recognize it, you can take charge.. And really get over it!
I’ll show you where and why you may be overdoing it, and give you a general strategy (an idea) to overcome it.That’s right, I have this perfect idea for you which I’ll share after I describe the Overs!Then I’ve also got some specific, individual strategies you can use to deal the overs.
Here are some common overs: overwhelmed, overweight, overdrafted (or over budget) hung over.. What causes all of these overs? Let’s break them down.
To overwhelm something means to defeat it completely, to bury it, drown it or submerge it. But usually when we say we’re overwhelmed, we don’t mean we’re physically overwhelmed by something – like water or dirt or matter, we usually mean we’re mentally overwhelmed and we feel defeated and we feel like we’ve been overtaken by a force and are powerless to pull out of it or dig out from under it.
What’s Wrong with Overwhelm?
I think mental overwhelm is like putting your brain in a spin cycle. Once you enter that cycle, instead of feeling open and instead of thinking clearly, you feel threatened and need to defend yourself. Your brain is on high alert for everything that could or might go wrong and gives everything equal, urgent importance, regardless of how likely it is to happen. When everything is a priority, nothing can be a priority, so not only are you completely heightened emotionally, you also don’t have the thinking capability and decision making bandwidth to rationally and logically choose a course of action.
What Causes Overwhelm?
I can think of at least 2 ways this shows up – and you may have even more examples in your own life. Overthinking and overcommitting. And both of these can stem from not allowing yourself to make decisions and stick to them.
You may find yourself overthinking when you have a decision to make. You may worry about not choosing the best option. You might flip flop back and forth between the options. You might consider all the “what if” scenarios, then think of even more “what if” scenarios. The more you think, the more you think and pretty soon you’re overthinking what might have been a simple decision and you’ve added worry and fear and confusion and indecision and you feel completely overwhelmed.
So that’s an example of how overthinking can lead to overwhelm.
Another way I see people feeling overwhelmed is when they overcommit. This overwhelm can also stem from fear and worry -but this time, it’s fear of missing out, worry of letting someone down, concern over not doing enough, believing that you have to do it all or something terrible could happen. What do you do when you’re worried about all of those possibilities?
Maybe you tell yourself you’ll do it all, or you accept another task, or you add it to your list instead of declining to do it. And maybe you tell yourself you have to do it all, or you’re the only person who can do all these things, or you really want to do them all because you don’t want to drop any of them. And then when you see or realize everything you’ve committed to, you’re overcommitted and overwhelmed.
So, let’s check in – is there any area of your life, a decision, or something in your past that you think about over and over again, non-stop?
Or, if you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed, is it because you’re committing yourself to more than you really want to handle?
Would you be better off deciding to let some things go?This reminder about overwhelm is especially timely as we enter the holiday season.
Notice how you’re thinking about decisions. Notice how much you’re taking on and agreeing to. Check in to see if some decisiveness and then trusting the wisdom of your own decision can help you overcome overwhelm.
Another popular over that pops up during the holiday season and winter months is overweight.
What Makes Us Overweight?
This one is probably obvious. We all know the answer – it’s overeating. But if we all know this, why does someone overeat?
The biological reason that we eat is to fuel our bodies. But, there are plenty of other non-biological reasons why we eat too, right? We eat for entertainment, we eat for comfort, we eat for connection, we eat to soothe ourselves, we eat out of habit, we eat out of boredom. The list goes on.
A Solution That Doesn’t Solve the Problem
Whenever we eat for any of those reasons, we’re applying a solution (food) to a problem that it doesn’t solve in the long term. We might tell ourselves that eating solves this problem in the short term, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that food doesn’t solve the problems of boredom, discomfort, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, and distress. And we also know that we can feel connected, we can celebrate and honor each other and things that are important to us without eating.
Overeating = Overweight
Food is a requirement to fuel our bodies, but not for any of those other reasons.
Some people might point out that it’s not as simple as I’m implying here. And I’ll admit, I am simplifying for the purpose of this episode, but the main thing I’m pointing out here is that overeating can cause being overweight.
Going over budget!
Why would we ever go over our own budget? Or, if we know basic math, how could we ever create an overdraft in our account? Or what makes someone go over their limit on a credit card? In the most basic sense, it’s overspending.
Part of this might just be awareness. It’s so interesting when people start to track their spending and add up expenses they see how much they spend on things they don’t even care about or services they don’t use.
Overspend = Over Budget
Another reason why some people go over limit or let their accounts get overdrafted is because they’re willfully unaware of their money situation. They won’t look at their accounts. They don’t realize how much interest is being added to their debt.
And this is another great over to bring up just before the holidays.
There is so much more marketing and so many more expectations being launched at us during this time of year, so it’s easy to see how we could overspend and how we could slip over budget.
When do you get hungover? When do you overindulge? When you over drink, when you go overboard, when you over do it, when you go over your limit.
All these overs! Overthinking, overcommitting, overeating, overspending, overindulging. Why do we do these when these actions do not get us what we want? In fact, they get us the exact opposite of what we want and make us feel terrible.
A common culprit for many of the overs is impulse. The reason why you may agree to do more than you want to do is because you have the impulse to try to please someone. Or the reason you may continue worrying about something in the future that you can’t control is because your brain sends you a message, an impulse, that you should think more thoughts about this thing.
The reason you go for seconds, even though you’ve already provided your body enough fuel is because you get a craving, an impulse, for more of that delicious food.
The reason you decide to have a drink – maybe a commercial, or you see someone else enjoying a drink- and you get the impulse too.
The reason you buy that thing you don’t need, a sophisticated marketer put it right in front of you – as a product placement, or in an ad, or as a suggestion based on what else you put in your online cart or at the checkout line. Those things at the checkout line are literally called impulse items!
You might think I’m about to bring up impulse control. But, I’m not suggesting control – or will power – I’m suggesting impulse recognition and intention.
When you need to have control over something or power over something, that implies there’s some resistance there.
Saying you need to control your impulse or you need to have power over your own will implies that you’re resisting your impulse or will. And that intensifies it. Your resistance actually gives a lot of attention and power to the impulse or desire.
What if instead of resisting, instead of needing control and power, you could notice the impulse, recognize it as just a thought, just an offer- that you have the ability to accept or decline and then decide intentionally what to continue thinking or what you want to think instead?
I’m suggesting instead of getting the impulse: worry about this, eat that, drink this, buy that and then just following the impulse by worrying, eating, drinking or buying, you notice that the thought – the offer- that you might want to worry about something, or agree to something, or eat or drink or buy something is, in fact, just a thought, just an offer. Not a command. Not a directive. Not mandatory. You still get to decide what to do when you notice that thought, that impulse.
An Idea for You
So what’s the solution? How can you overcome all these overs? What can you do when you get an impulse? I have the perfect IDEA for you – literally- it’s an acronym that spells IDEA
Intentional Decision- Easily Accessible
I’m suggesting you decide intentionally what you want to think about, what you want to commit to, what you’ll eat and drink, how much you’ll spend, what you’ll buy, what you’ll bring into your home. All of it. You can decide, in advance if possible, intentionally. And make that decision easily accessible for yourself.
Write it down.
Make it into a Mantra.
Remind yourself why you’ve made this decision.
Tell other people.
Decide on your intentional decision and access that decision frequently so that when you are faced with an impulse, you already have the perfect answer, your IDEA – your intentional decision, that’s easy to access.
At the beginning of the episode I told you that I would give you a general strategy (that’s the idea) to overcome all the overs.. as well as some specific, individual strategies for the specific overs. Let’s talk strategy.
But before we do, I just want to tell you, my coaching philosophy is all about giving you awareness around your thinking- I don’t see my role as telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do, so giving these specific suggestions are just examples of what you can choose to think about or try on for yourself if you like. Some may work well for you, others may not be your cup of tea. These are all just for illustration purposes. I’m not telling you what I think you should do.
What’s an easy to access intentional decision when you notice yourself starting to overthink? Years ago, I learned this fun expression during a workshop that might work for you.
Repeat after me: “I am not the general manager of the Universe.”
It’s funny because it’s true and also because our brains actually need to be reminded of this. So, if you catch yourself worrying and flip flopping to choose the best option, and feeling concerned about things outside of your control, deciding to repeat that phrase to pause the spin cycle is an intentional decision you could make.
What about an intentional decision when you’re starting to overcommit?
You could choose a manageable number, like 3, for example and tell yourself you won’t do more than 3 things in a given time period (like a day or a weekend or getting ready for a family gathering). Then, when you realize you have more than 3 things on your plate, you get to decide which one is the lowest priority and drop it or delegate it or delay it so you can keep your commitment to yourself and not overcommit, thereby sparing yourself feeling overwhelmed.
How Not to Overeat
There’s an entire industry built up around creating intentional decisions not to overeat. And you can barely finish typing a search phrase into google without getting hundreds of suggestions. I’ll just share what’s worked for me. These suggestions have helped me not only avoid overeating, but also helped me lose weight.
Decide what you’re going to eat ahead of time and then decide that’s the only thing you’ll eat, no exception, no discussion, no negotiation.
Or, write down everything you eat so you can see it in black and white (you can do this on paper, on an app, in a google doc)- whichever way works best for you.
Tell yourself you eat to fuel your body and for no other reason. Promise yourself that you’ll connect with people, soothe yourself, and entertain yourself in other ways, that don’t involve food.
Some of these strategies may not seem easily accessible to you immediately, in fact, some of them may sound repellant to you. So maybe you’ll find a different intentional decision about overeating that’s easily accessible for you. Or, maybe, you can question your own resistance about why you think these ideas wouldn’t work for you.
A Few Tactics for Overspending
One intentional decision I think about is where I’ll put this new purchase. Sometimes when I start to visualize where it will go, I realize I already have something similar, or I’ll see that I don’t really have space for it, when that happens, it’s easy for me to move on and not overspend.
I’ve also set up my finances pretty intentionally and habitually so I’ve already decided that most of my spending goes on a specific credit card where I get cashback and I’ve decided that I pay the entire balance every month with no exceptions. So, when I get the impulse to buy something, I can mentally calculate to see if I can easily pay off the balance. If I have to think about moving money around, or if I have to wonder where I’ll get the money to pay for it, I’m usually able to overcome the impulse because of the intentional decision I made and have been following for years.
Those are just a few ideas for you to get over everything that’s overwhelming you, making you overeat, overspend, overcommit and all the other overs.
Can you see how making easily accessible intentional decisions instead of mindlessly obeying your impulses can help you get over whatever you want to get over?
I hope so! And I would love to hear your thoughts, your questions, your reactions and any resistance that might be coming up for you about this topic.
I’m making plans for the 2021 season of this podcast. I would LOVE your input!
In exchange for your time and thoughtful responses, I’ll give you some of my time and thoughtful responses. Let’s spend an hour on the phone together – 30 minutes for me to interview you about this podcast and 30 minutes for you to have coaching, brainstorming or tech tutoring with me.
Get the Companion Workbook
Want to see a digital image you can put on your phone, or print out and display somewhere to remind you of your IDEAs? It’s included in the companion workbook, along with many of the exercises and worksheets that go along with each of the other posts on this site – so no matter when you joined me, and no matter what you’re currently working on, if you download the companion workbook you should be able to follow along with most of the worksheets and exercises that I mention. Go get that pdf right now.