5 Reasons You're Overwhelmed That Have Nothing To Do With Your To-Do List

overwhelmed in business
"We must never let the noise of the world overpower and overwhelm that still small voice." -L. Tom Perry

A call with one of my clients this week got me thinking about the sneaky side of overwhelm.

You might already know I've had a close relationship with overwhelm and had to divorce it. I’ve shared before that there was a time in my business when I felt like the walls were closing in and as if I were breathing through a straw.

I was frantically and desperately trying to do #allthethings.

I’m a high-achiever type and action is my solution to pretty much anything, sometimes to my own detriment. What I know how to do is dream big, show up, and implement…which is a really great way to get things done. It’s also a way to avoid discomfort and fear.

A big part of my internal work to be able to UPLEVEL my business has been around breaking up with my addiction to overwhelm (which is why I’m so passionate about helping my clients do the same).

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling the flow and love for my business these days, but I very much know the gripping effects of overwhelm and how it holds us back and keeps us playing small.

What I didn’t realize until I was on the other side are some of the causes of overwhelm. Overwhelm is often thought of as piling too much on our to-do list, but more often than not, it’s less about what we’re doing, and more about what’s underneath the doing - that good old mindset. 

5 Reasons You're Overwhelmed That Have Nothing to Do With Your To-Do List

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1. On some level, it feels good.

Some of us subconsciously choose overwhelm because while it might not feel so great in the moment, on some level, it serves us. There’s often some sort of fringe benefit we get from feeling overwhelmed...hugs, sympathy, getting to avoid things we’re scared to face, attention…

I know none of us consciously want to feel overwhelmed; it isn’t anything we seek out. But like so many patterns and behaviors we choose, overwhelm can sometimes be a way to deal with the uncertainties the world throws at us.

Psychologically it can become a safe space we’re comfortable in when all else feels uncertain. We may not consciously love the feeling, but subconsciously and internally we crave it.

In fact, subconsciously, some people may create the drama of overwhelm to activate the part of their brain that allows us to focus (pre-frontal cortex).

2. We're Doing the 'Sneaky Procrastination Dance.'

Sometimes overwhelm is a part of what I call the Sneaky Procrastination Dance. This is when we busy ourselves doing all the things and avoid the very few things we know we need to do to move our business needle forward. 

In this way, overwhelm becomes a sneaky form of self-sabotage with the baked-in and acceptable excuse of being "too busy.". If we’re overwhelmed, stressed, and too busy, we can’t possibly have time to show up for the one thing we know we need to do and we give ourselves a get out of jail free card. Pretty clever. 

3. We think we’re not good enough.

Those not-good-enough and imposter syndrome thoughts are real.

For high-achiever types, one way to combat these feelings is to pile more and more onto the already toppling list. We figure (subconsciously) if we can just pile enough on our plate, we can prove to the outside world, and in turn, ourselves, that we’re good enough.

The problem with this approach is it leads to overwhelm, burn out, and tends to keep us stuck and stagnant which does a big fat zero for our confidence and self-worth meter.

Not to mention an outside-in approach to self-love and confidence doesn’t really work. 

4. We don’t know how to ask for support.

This has been a big one for me. My pride likes to think, “I can do this all on my own. I don’t need any help.” 

Blame it on fear of losing control or myriad other stories we tell ourselves, trying to do everything on our own is a really great way to stay stuck. And, you guessed it, overwhelm sets in when we dig in our heels and refuse to ask for support.

No one creates success or anything of importance alone. We have to be able to ask for support and to receive it. It’s near impossible to up level without outside support. 

5. Nothing less will do.

Sometimes overwhelm is the child of high expectations. 

I gotta tell you, expectations are a kill-joy in every area of life. I'm all for high standards, but expectations, which are often rooted in messages we internalized as kids, breed overwhelm.

In our attempt to reach an ever-moving yardstick as a way to measure our self-worth, overwhelm can become the status quo. In the never-ending quest to exceed expectations we can confuse overwhelm with self-worth, as if to tell ourselves, you're doing it right because it feels hard. 

Whatever the root cause of overwhelm may be, so often it’s not about the tasks we’re stacking up but the mindset and thoughts underneath. Overwhelm usually has more to do with being out of alignment and doing too many things that don’t feed our soul.

We often think the solution to overwhelm is to curl up in a ball with a giant ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, but the solution may lie more inward. Sometimes the answer to overwhelm is less about tuning OUT and more about tuning IN to what we need - then, doubling down.

Wishing you your version of success!

overwhlem to do list

P.S. Ready to ditch the overwhelm and build a kick-ass business you're wildly in love with? I'd love to support you! Click here to learn more and book a free consultation!

P.P.S. I'm teaching a FREE Masterclass: Cultivate a CEO Mindset on Monday, August 13th, and you're invited! Click here to sign up and grab your free seat!