It's been a while since our last 'Men Tell Top 10' blogs, so it's time for another one! I don't care that you're not bothered, I'm writing one anyway!
When we relaunched this site back in November 2015, I thought one of two things would happen. One that it would either die on it's virtual arse, two - it would really connect with people and would take off or three, I'd lose the ability to count properly. Thankfully, the second one happened.
One of the consequences of our 'success' was that, after launch, things became very manic very quickly! Numerous phone calls from all sorts of new people meant my phone was red hot and an avalanche of new emails daily meant that I was snowed under trying to do everything that needed to be done in between running and developing the site, looking for funding, networking, writing blogs, inviting guest bloggers, research, public speaking, training, not to mention being a husband and a father and everything else that steals your time.
That said, I always thought that once the site had gotten over its initial hectic honeymoon period that things would start to calm down. Ten months later and that hasn't happened at all. As much as I love doing it, it can overwhelm me trying to do everything myself.
I find myself writing and replying to emails at all hours of the day and night (or weeks and months after they've arrived). We've become involved in all sorts of external projects that I never imagined we would (not that I'm complaining) and I constantly meet new amazing people doing incredible work in the region and nationwide. It's fantastic and daunting in equal measure.
With that in mind, I've tried to come up with 10 things I'm slowly learning to accept that help me and may help you too if life is all getting a bit much!
Being overwhelmed is something you can reduce, in fact it's a necessity. You don't have to be running your own mental health organisation to get something out of these, they'll work for everyone. If life in general is getting on top of you, try one of them, some of them or all of them..what have you got to lose! They are in no particular order, but let's start with....
1. Acceptance Is Key
I said these are in no particular order, but this is probably the most important to accept (literally) at the earliest opportunity.
As much as you might like to think you can, you can't do everything you want to do in the time you want to do it. No, you can't. Let's not fight this early in the post.
There are only 24 hours in a day. However much you try and cram into that time, it won't change so don't even try.
First thing you need to do is accept that you can't do it all in the time you want to do it in. It's just not possible. The more we have on our plates, the more we try and cram into the same timeframe and you can't. You just can't. Stuff takes time. Once you accept that, things will be much easier to cope with.
Instead of doing everything, prioritise the things that are most important and focus on those. Obviously that means some other things will have to go on the back burner, but you need to accept it and, more importantly, be OK with it.
Work out what's important to you, not just work stuff either, but everything. If it's more important that you spend time with your family, do that instead of answering those emails from that Nigerian Prince offering you millions. Accept that people may have to wait a day or two for a reply. In fact, make a point of mentioning it every time you give your email address out so people are aware. Choose the things that make you happy and prioritise those, whatever they may be.
2. A to ZZZzzzzzzz
Whilst we're on the subject of priorities, make sure that getting a good night's sleep is high on that list. If you're not well rested, everything seems so much harder.
Aim to get a good 7-8 hours a night (at least) and if you do have to be up at a particular time, plan your bedtime around that. If you want some help and advice in getting a good night's kip, take a look at our Man Kit page on sleep right here!
3. Men Tell Says Relax
Whilst you're working on that priority list, don't forget to include things that relax you. If you've got a son like mine, as much as I love spending time with him, it's certainly not relaxing!
Try and include those things that mean you can enjoy a little 'me time', or in your case 'you time'. For me, it's listening to music, playing video games, reading or playing my bass guitar, but whatever floats your relaxing boat, do them for an hour or so each day.
4. You've Got A Friend In Them
Once you've done that priorities list I mentioned above, I would suspect that spending time with family and friends is probably going to be up there, probably near the top.
Being able to take a little time out with your nearest and dearest is a great way to put things into perspective, especially if all the other 'stuff' is taking over your day-to-day thoughts. They have a great way of bringing you back to earth and helping you realise that there's more to life than work!
5. "No" is a Real Word. Use it.
One of my biggest problems when it comes to taking on more than I can chew (and I can chew a lot) is that I find it hard to say 'No'. Unless I'm being asked to get the drinks in or asked whether the wife's bum looks big in something, "No" isn't a word I find easy to say.
It might sound like a weakness but I like to look at it as a tick in the column of positive risk. "Can you help us with this" or "can you do that" will generally always end up with an affirmative answer. Why not! Who knows where it will lead and what might happen as a result. The flip side of that is my 'To-Do list' fills up pretty quick.
Of course saying "yes" to everything is a great way to be overwhelmed. Maybe not at first, but eventually it's going to come back and bite you on the bum (which definitely doesn't look big in that). Give yourself permission to say "No" when needed.
If you've got too much on, say "No" and explain why. It's not rude, it's self-preservation. Once you do, you'll find you have the time to do those things that really matter and that can only lead to a happier you.
6. Get Out More
It's very easy, when you're engrossed at your computer or drowning in emails and paperwork, to lose track of time. You start in the morning and before you know where you are it's lunchtime, or even home time, and you haven't moved from your desk all day. Cue a huge sigh of frustration.
Whilst it can be tricky, try finding some time for a little exercise. Even if it's just a brisk walk around the block, down to the local shop for a drink or a stroll into town for a sandwich. A little exercise can increase the levels of serotonin and endorphins in your system.
With a little regular exercise, these mood-lifting chemicals in the brain will make you feel less overwhelmed and reduce your stress levels. Plus you'll have a drink and sandwich!
7. Organisation Station
When I started the site, I used to rely on remembering all the stuff I needed to do. At least I think I did. I can't really recall.
From there I went on to writing a list in my bible - not an actually Bible you understand, just a book that contains ALL my genius ideas like a car that runs on pineapple juice and a velcro tampon - Copyright Me. All that used to happen was that I might cross one or two things off every day, but by the end of the day, I'd have added another 6 things to it.
In the end, I've come to rely on post-it notes and a mirror from IKEA (which I cleverly frosted up like a 21st century Blue Peter presenter). It's a system that works for me! All this waffle is my long way of saying that you need to organise and plan your work.
It might sound obvious, but don't leave work that needs to be done to the last minute. All that will happen is that you'll feel more overwhelmed than you do already, or you won't have time to do it, or if you do, it won't be done to the high standards you set yourself or you'll sacrifice a good night's sleep to get it done and we all remember what I said in #2 don't we! Where possible, plan ahead what needs to be done and when to eliminate all of that last minute chaos.
8. Time Travel
As much as all the things you have on your plate right now will probably seem incredibly important right now. Think ahead 5 or 10 year time. Will it still be so important then? Will it still carry the same gravitas in the future? The answer is probably not. If that's the case, then why worry so much about it now.
If you're ever in doubt, when you're feeling overwhelmed by the last 'thing', ask yourself "is what I'm feeling overwhelmed about going to even matter in 5 years time?". You might surprise yourself have many times the answer is "No."
9. How Do You Eat an Elephant?
One mouthful at a time. Ba dum cha! When you are overwhelmed by one, huge, seemingly insurmountable task it can feel like there's no way to tackle it....and you might be right. The thing is, you just need to look at it differently.
Instead of it being one huge 'thing', break it down into many smaller tasks that are much easier to cope with. You don't climb Mount Everest in one go, you take it one step at a time (unless you're the BFG); same here!
If you need to write a huge report, thesis or presentation, or whatever it may be, divide it up into smaller jobs that, when done in sequence, are more manageable and will result in you achieving your goal in a much calmer, much more ordered fashion.
10. Help! You Need Somebody. Help! Not Just Anybody.
If you're snowed under, it can be all-consuming with only you at the centre of the chaos. It doesn't have to be that way. If you are feeling overwhelmed, there may be an opportunity to delegate some of the pressure.
There are probably three ways to achieve this delegation nirvana.
- Outsource some of the other 'stuff'. If you're fully focussed on work, think about hiring someone to do all (or some) of the other things. For example you could hire a cleaner (great one here) or a gardener (Olympic one here) or maybe an assistant. Even if it's only temporary, if you can afford to get some professional help, do so.
- Remember those family and friends we talked about earlier? Yes you do! As much as you're there for them, they should be there for you too. If you need help, ask them! I'm sure they'll be more than happy to lend a hand. If they want to charge you for it, get better friends.
- If you think that it's all getting on top of you, there is a real risk that your mental health is going to suffer. Being overwhelmed can lead to anxiety, depression or worse. If you already live with those things, it can be made even worse and no-one wants that. Speak to your GP or mental health professional and take their advice. Your health and wellbeing is more important than deadlines.
Do you think any of these can help you? Have you got any others that you use to feel less overwhelmed? Let us know in the comments below.