It is that time of year again. The holidays are upon us which means our calendars are overfilled and our to-do lists are overflowing. As a leader, the start of Q4 means that you are likely evaluating the annual performance of your team, focused on addressing any unmet 2018 goals, and engaged in 2019 planning and forecasting. All of the energy required to look back with intention and look ahead with enthusiasm, combined with the pressure of the holidays can easily lead us to feeling overwhelmed.
I recently shared some insights about the stress that is caused from being overwhelmed at a gathering of over 200 women at Lakeland Regional Health’s A More Relaxed You event. After posing the question, “What is being overwhelmed exactly?” I borrowed a simple explanation from a colleague, Kelly Wendorf, Founder and CEO of EQUUS. She explains that being overwhelmed “is the result of a finite resource – time – colliding with an infinite demand – things to do”.
This collision, over an extended period of time, leads to physical and emotional exhaustion among other unhealthy symptoms. Many high-achievers take the “power through” approach falsely believing that if they can just push through one more day, week, or month – something will give and things will get better. Yet more often, months later, after the infinite demand grows, we are left feeling depleted and overwhelmed.
So, when you find yourself in this state, how do you overcome it? Here are 3 simple steps:
- Get still.
- Re-evaluate what really matters most.
- Let go of the less important (for now or forever).
As you read this you may still be stuck on #1. Get Still? Really? In a culture that increasingly requires us to move quicker and do more to be successful, the idea that you actually need to stop and get still seems counterintuitive. And yet, until we stop, we are unaware of how out of balance and distracted we have become. Not stopping means we are likely running on autopilot, unawake, and making decisions that are not aligned with our deepest held beliefs.
It is impossible to effectively re-evaluate what is most important when we are on autopilot. Our thought process is careless and our judgment is clouded. Stillness – when we allow ourselves to settle into it – provides clarity and enables us to make wiser decisions and act on them with conviction.
Being clear about what matters most requires us to make conscious choices about what we need to release to create the space and time to fully execute upon what is most important. Like trees that “let go” of their leaves in the Fall, we too need to let some things go in order to flourish.
While I have practiced meditation for over 30 years, I continue to find it hard to get still. Lately, my to- do list overrides the permission I need to give myself to just sit still and breathe for five minutes each day. Even on a recent 12-day vacation with my husband where, by design, there was not a lot to do other than enjoy the great outdoors, it took me 7 days to truly relish being still for most of the day. Once I allowed myself to stop – physically and mentally – the cloudy became clear and a sense of great peace washed over me. I had finally fully dropped into our vacation.
If we want to lead ourselves and others with excellence, getting still and quiet in the midst of chaos is absolutely necessary for our overall well-being and our ability to be effective. In the words of Tim Kreider, The New York Times essayist, “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
As you bring the year to a close, celebrate the holidays, and welcome all the possibilities of 2019, I wish for you moments of stillness, inspiration, and peace.
Grow with purpose.
Emily Rogers is an executive coach, business consultant and retreat facilitator. She strategically advises and supports organizations and individuals in growing and realizing their full potential in purposeful and balanced ways. You can connect with her at www.emilyrogers.com.