Burnout can feel a lot of different ways to each of us. For me, it usually felt like I was drowning in overwhelm. That there was too much information and too many asks and tasks coming at me, and I couldn’t stay above them.
And when I was in it? My mindset was always something in the flavor of “why me?” “How can this be happening to me?” “How am I supposed to function with all of this?” It makes sense to me why my brain offered me those thoughts, over and over again. But it felt awful. And the more I looked outside of myself for something and someone to blame, the worse I felt.
I was allowing myself to stay stuck in overwhelm.
I don’t mean that in a blaming way. I don’t say that to point the finger at myself and say that I “should have known better.” I was doing the best that I could. But what I wasn’t doing was focusing on making it any better. And that’s what I try to do now.
As an example, this past week I was feeling overwhelmed about money. Having been employed by others, or under the guidance of others during my education, I was used to resources, including assignments or money, coming from others on a predictable scheduling. So now, as a self-employed person, I have been needing to account for my own time, and figure out money coming in on my own. And I hit a snag.
The money I have coming in usually comes at the end of the month now. And I was paying myself at the end of the month (why? Because I had arbitrarily chosen to do this a few months ago). So the money coming in doesn’t hit my bank account until the end of the month, and the money going out was supposed to leave at the same time. But I can’t pay myself money that I don’t have yet. So…I was spinning in overwhelm, trying to figure it out.
And reminded myself, “I don’t do overwhelm anymore.” Because my coach taught me that nothing good comes from staying in overwhelm.
I realized that I just needed to change the day that I paid myself to sometime after the checks hit my account. Poof! Problem solved.
The magic was not in the solution itself. But in my stopping myself in the middle of the feeling of overwhelm to remind myself that nothing good comes from this feeling. Overwhelm had me wanting to skip paying myself this month. It had me wanting to sell things to put money in the account. My actions from the feeling of overwhelm? Not great.
But if I remember to stop and tell myself “remember, you don’t do overwhelm,” then my brain can jump to curiosity: how else can I solve the problem?
This is the reason why we practice code drills in medicine. It’s the reason why we run through worse-case scenarios. It’s the reason why we have protocols. Because if we are stuck in overwhelm and disbelief and panic, we make dumb decisions. Or no decisions.
So I’m here to tell you, that maybe you need to start choosing the you “don’t do” overwhelm too. When you feel overwhelmed, stop and remind yourself, and choose to get curious instead. “What’s my next step?” “What else would be helpful here?” “Who can help me with this problem?”
You’ll be amazed at what happens when you give up overwhelm. Just imagine…