By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
I spoke with one of my graduate students this week. In addition to attending graduate school, she also directs a large outpatient hospice. She told me that she was feeling so overwhelmed. She had recently lost several staff and was frantically trying to makeo sure that her hospice patients received the care that they needed. Her experience is not uncommon. We often have so many balls in the air that when one or more drop, we move into crisis mode. When this happens, we can become very anxious and feel overwhelmed. These feelings can lead to panic and sometimes we become immobilized with worry. Here are five important actions to take when you begin to feel this way:
- Stop focusing on the big picture
While it is important to begin with the end in mind with most activities, this can cause greater stress in the moment if you are overwhelmed. A one day at a time or one activity at a time is often a much better way to start. As an example with my graduate student, I pointed out to her that her primary goal at this point needed to be to staff her department and make sure patients were cared for. Long-term strategic goals need to be put on the back burner. Things will get better if you believe that this is only a short term disruption.
- Slow down and do something even if it is just a small step
When I feel overwhelmed, I will often make a list of three things I can do right away that need to be done but won’t further stress my panicked brain. Focusing on small doable things at first is a good way to shut out the noise of everything that needs to get done. Overwhelming anxiety is an important indicator that we need to slow down and readjust our center.
- Lower your expectations
Most leaders that I know have very high expectations of themselves often much higher than others have of them. Perfectionism can be your worst enemy. I find that students are sometimes devastated when they receive a B in a course. I tell our new students to expect that they will not be great in every course they take and may not receive all A’s. We all have our strengths – it is important to know them and lower your expectations in situations where you are entinot playing to your strengths.
- Ask for help
We often think that we need to do everything ourselves. Sometimes if you ask for help, you may be surprised at the generosity that others are willing to provide and even good advice on how to move forward. If you are not going to meet a deadline, don’t suffer in silence – let the person know that you cannot meet expectations that you committed to and explain why.
5. Learn to say no
When you feel overwhelmed it may be that you are doing too much. We may feel the pressure of our culture telling us to get involved in everything and say yes to everyone. You may look at your calendar and find that there are meetings you attend when your presence is not essential. This is the time to reconsider what is essential in your role and what is not.
Michael Hyatt, a well known leadership expert, talks about the importance of recognizing that when you feel overwhelmed – it is a good reminder that you are not in total control of your life. Overcoming our stress and the panic of feeling overwhelmed is an opportunity for us to become more resilient as leaders and develop our character. It can also help us to be more empathetic with others when they are having this experience.
Read to Lead
Michael Hyatt (2015). Escape the Overwhelm Podcast.
© emergingrnleader.com 2016