Last week I talked about overwhelm, you know that intense and unruly feeling that something is too difficult to manage. If you missed the post, catch it here.
Anytime overwhelm kicks in, we immediately feel like an amateur, like we don’t know what we’re doing, we can’t do it, or worse, that it can’t be done.
This immediately causes us to turn down or push away opportunities, just to get rid of those feelings.
If you remember…
It’s not a given activity that makes something challenging, but the intense feelings of overwhelm!
Think about how many things you’ve let pass in life not because you couldn't do them, but simply to avoid the feelings of overwhelm.
That's why it’s important to manage these unruly feelings, otherwise they get in the way of your goals, dreams, and aspirations.
In order to do that, it helps to understand why overwhelm arises in the first places, and that’s what I’ll address today.
There are 3 main causes of overwhelm:
1. Too Much to Track
Every task requires a bunch of steps to finish. For example, “writing a proposal,” requires gathering information, which may require doing research and talking to people. Talking to people requires making phone calls, setting appointments, and attending meetings. Attending meetings has its own set of steps.
So, the simple task of “write a proposal” brings with it a whole host of steps. We don’t realize there are all these steps, but the mind is processing them in the background. You don’t notice the processing; you simply notice the emotional response to the processing. When the mind has too many steps to process, it gets overloaded, that’s when overwhelms kicks in.
2. Too Many Unknowns
Anytime we take on something, a host of unknowns arise. If I ask you to give me a ride, that immediately raises unknowns like: to where, when, how far of a drive will it be? Will I get stuck in traffic? Worse, do I have the time to be stuck in traffic? These are all unknowns the mind is processing.
If you think about it, we don’t usually get overwhelmed by things we know how to do, have done, or have seen work. It is usually caused by the unknowns, and more importantly, the potential effects of those unknowns, which is difficult to predict. The mind gets overwhelmed predicting all the possibilities. Again, you don’t notice the processing, you simply notice the emotional response to the processing.
This leads to the third reason…
3. Fear of Failure or Mistake
The main cause of overwhelm is from the fear of what will happen if you fail or make a mistake. If a boss gives you an important assignment, it will immediately trigger this fear, hey if I don’t do it right, I will get in trouble or fired.
Obviously, the more you take on, the more potential for mistakes. The more serious the consequences of those mistakes, the more fear you will feel. The more fear you feel, the more overwhelmed you will get.
These are the three main reasons for overwhelm
It is possible to be triggered by all three.
That is, if your mind is “tracking” a lot, there is a lot of “unknowns,” and “fear” is high, the effects of overwhelm will multiply.
Once you understand the causes of overwhelm, managing it becomes easy.