How to eat an Elephant ?

2013-09-14 15.28.07

Many times when people come to see me I find that they are in a state of total overwhelm. By that I mean that whatever it is they are coping with in life added to their normal daily living chores has made them feel almost paralysed and unable to deal with even the simplest of things. To some it feels like they are ploughing through treacle or trying to walk up a sand dune, a constant struggle.

It is a feeling that can creep up on you without you even being aware it is happening. It sometimes occurs because of simple things flinging your daily schedule out or it can be because of larger issues outwith your control .Often it is because we take on too many things to change at once. Thinking it is all or nothing and end up being able to do nothing. Whatever the reason the outcome is the same and that is we feel totally unable to cope with even the smallest of things that normally wouldn’t be an issue for us. The signs of overwhelm can vary but usually include one or a combination of being over emotional, weepy, angry, sad, easily frustrated and withdrawn.

George Millar a cognitive psychologist from Princeton University discovered that people can only remember seven plus or minus two things in their short term memory. So basically most people can remember a phone number with five digits up to nine digits but more than that they would forget .So if you are giving someone a mobile phone number to remember you would normally break it down into easy to remember segments. This enables the memory to store it and to be able to easily recall it when required. This is the norm for most people except when stressed. When stressed I have found that invariable the number of the things people can actually remember to do from their daily “to do” lists falls to three. That is quite a big drop from remembering a potential nine things down to remembering only three. The trouble is however that we are still trying to do as much as we would normally be able to do and get frustrated when we find that we do not seem to get anything done. This quite often then leads on to an overwhelming feeling of being useless or let down .It quite badly affects self-esteem and can be one of the main reason that we fail in our attempts to make positive changes in our daily lives. We set of with the best of intentions but load too many tasks upon our shoulders and go in to overwhelm and end up doing only the basic necessities and then berate ourselves for our failure to do more and so the negative cycle starts again.

So what is the solution? Funnily enough as most solutions go it is very simple .Reduce your task list. We are so used to filling our lives up with a lot of unnecessary tasks that we have come to believe that they are real and often lose sight of the things we need to do daily to give us the most benefit. In other words our daily “to do” lists are often cluttered with non-beneficial tasks due to old habits or tasks we believe we need to do but really are just wasting our  time. To develop better strategies for coping we need a short plan.

First we should list, yes list everything we think we need, want and have to do. This helps de clutter our brain as once it is written down we can stop worrying about forgetting to do it. Write absolutely everything down that you can think of. Then once you have that written down in front of you have another look at the list and prioritize it. Number it from most important down to least important .Once you have completed this new numbered list tear off the top three things you want to do. That is the three things you felt were the most important and then put the rest of the list safely away until those first three are completed. Then set about completing the first three things on your list whether by yourself or with the help of others and simply work your way down your list three at a time. Waiting to complete each set of three before going back to the list and taking off another three until all your tasks are done.

The next thing we should do is make sure that we remember to breathe. Sounds silly? Actually just simple deep relaxing breaths can quite quickly calm our brain down and help us regain control of our feelings and emotions. Simply breathing in through the nose and exhaling twice as long as the inhaled breath out our mouths and repeating this a few times will make a significant difference to how you feel.

Finally make sure you drink enough water. There are many health benefits to drinking water but when it comes to dealing with stress it is important to keep hydrated. If we are even slightly dehydrated e.g. by just half a litre we produce cortisol which is a stress hormone. If we are fully hydrated our bodies can naturally replenish its supply of the neurotransmitter serotonin a hormone which helps lift our mood naturally. More health benefits of drinking water can be found in this informative site:

http://www.na-newyorkcity.com/drinking-stress-away-the-link-between-water-stress-reduction/

It is this simple. Just three steps to being able to rid yourself of overload and take back control.

Remember the old joke “How do you eat an Elephant, one piece at a time”

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12 thoughts on “How to eat an Elephant ?

  1. Reminds me of the biggest lesson of ‘Getting More,’ a book about making successful negotiations. The best deals are always pursued incrementally, with small advances each step of the way.

    • I haven’t read that but will now. Thanks for sharing that information really appreciate it. I never really read business books just the self help positive thinking books pertinent to my work but guess that I really should. I am always telling people not all learning comes from same school, about time I took my own advice lol.

  2. Great insight here. I know that overwhelmed feeling well. 😉 I’ve found that to-do lists just stress me out, so I skip them. Then every once in a while, I write down what I’ve already accomplished, just so I can cross them out and feel productive. LOL Have a beautiful weekend.

    • Everybody has to find their best way of de stressing. It is really important to take note of your accomplishments and writing them down is a brilliant idea. It is too easy to forget how far we have travelled. Thanks for your comments. Your own blog is inspirational and I have enjoyed reading it. Hope that you have a lovely weekend also .:-)

  3. Great information; and a good post! I wonder, does it seem to help us remember more by using “association” techniques? For instance, if I want to remember the street name “Lyon,” I could associate it with “tigers or bears.”

    Then later on when I want to remember Lyon st. I can recall it by thinking of the other animals. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, have a great day…
    Scoop

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