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Feeling Overwhelmed About Organizing
(Or Anything Else, For That Matter)?

We cover the topic of organizing often on this blog, and try to approach it from numerous angles so that we can be as helpful to as many of you as possible. Each of our lives are different; we all deal with very different realities. It is a safe assumption, however, to say that most of our lives are quite busy. The pace of modern life is hectic, and chances are – if you’re reading this blog post – you’ve got a lot going on.

Since our lives move so fast, there’s always so much to get done. Sometimes it may feel as if there’s TOO much to get done, and that life is zipping by at a pace that’s gotten dizzying. So what can be done?

Awareness is a great first step. Being able to acknowledge what is happening and what you are feeling and thinking is important. Sometimes it’s easy to put your finger on what’s happening: I’ve got a massive deadline coming up and I have so much to do to make that deadline, and I’m freaking out about it! Other times, it may be difficult to voice what you’re feeling. You know something is off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. And you may simply be going round and round in your head trying to figure it out.

So the first thing we’re going to tackle is that: Getting out of your head. Not an easy task, but definitely not an impossible one either. So here’s what you need to do: Schedule yourself a time-out. But we don’t mean a 1-minute toddler style timeout where you sit quietly in a corner thinking about What You Did. No. This timeout is meant to get you to stop thinking about the things you’re fretting about. Does this seem counterintuitive? Like you’ll never be able to find a solution if you don’t think about the problem? It’s not, however. Because it’s actually your brain that needs a timeout. Think of it like an old-school record needle that is caught in the same groove, just going round and round without moving forward to the next song. That’s what’s happening with your brain when you’re stuck. Over and over, the same groove, the same rut. We need to get you to the next song!
Think about what might get you to a place where you’re forced to pay attention to something other than the thoughts in your head. This part is going to be different for each of us. For some of you, it might mean going to see the latest action blockbuster movie, where you can sit on a comfortable movie seat and munching on buttery popcorn, and getting completely absorbed into superheroes and super villains for an hour or so. It might mean signing up for a grueling flow yoga class, where the only thing you’ll be able to pay attention to are the commands from your teacher as you move from pose to pose. Maybe an adult coloring book is the perfect timeout: Focus on getting those color combinations just perfect, but also – color outside the lines if that feels good and refreshing.

Or, do some good deeds. Many local organizations are doing amazing work in your community, and regularly search for volunteers to help supplement and enhance that work. Your work place might already have relationships with places that are seeking volunteers, or you can find opportunities online through your neighborhood listserv. Channeling your energy into good deeds is a wonderful thing; you’ll be focusing outside of yourself, and helping others. A beautiful combination!

It’s also up to you whether you want to schedule your timeout to be a solo endeavor, or to bring a buddy or two. That also depends on what you think will work best for you: If you bring a buddy, you can make a pact to specifically not bring up any of the things you’ve been feeling overwhelmed about. Because again, the purpose of this timeout is to give your brain a break.

And sometimes, one timeout isn’t enough. That’s OK! Schedule another one, and then another one. And really place all your energies and all your focus onto the task at hand. If you find your mind drifting, tell yourself firmly to stop. Grab hold of those thoughts, control those thoughts. It’s possible – and might take a few tries. (Remember that good habits come from repetition: Training for a marathon doesn’t happen overnight. You need to run, and run, and run some more. So if you find yourself slipping into your overwhelmed thought pattern more than once, that’s OK: just realize that you’re doing it, and tell yourself to stop.)

So what’s the end result of these timeouts going to be? If you’ve done them right, then you’ll come out of them feeling refreshed. The kind of refreshment that comes from doing something new and different, which stimulates different kinds of brain waves and activity.

And here’s the thing about our very, very, very intelligent brains: They are, in fact, always working. Even when we’re sleeping, even when we’re focused on other things. Our brains work on various layers, and sometimes our problem-solving layers work best when they’re allowed to churn along on their own. And so timeouts like the ones we’ve described are perfect for keeping your brain going in the background, which is where creativity and problem-solving so often occur.

And then you can really put your finger on what is overwhelming you AND the steps you need to take to solve that feeling. Because that feeling of being completely overwhelmed, in and of itself, can be completely paralyzing. Which means that you’re not taking actions, which means that you’re probably feeling guilty about not taking action, which means that you’re upset with yourself for feeling guilty and not taking action, and the cycle just goes round and round and round. If you find yourself in that type of swirl, get into a timeout stat! Run around the block five times. Solve five Sudoku puzzles. Clean the oven. Anything to get you moving, get you taking some kind of action – even if it’s not ultimately the action that’s going to help you accomplish all you need to accomplish.

And then – only then – you can sit down with a clear head and logically plot out the steps you need to take. To figure out what has you feeling so overwhelmed. Are you taking on too much? Do you need to scale back? Or do you need to manage your time better? The more precise you can be about what is overwhelming you, the more targeted you can make your solutions. And remember that our blog is here for you as a resource; we have articles on everything from organizing your kitchen to tackling that mudroom chaos to storing rain boots and taking care of your exotic leather boots. Browse our blog for ideas, and check back weekly for more.


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