The 3 Phases of Overwhelm and How to Deal

I was thinking about a recent FB post I made to my group about getting up on the wrong side of the bed. But it was more than that, I just didn’t realize it at the time.

It wasn’t just a bad mood, it was something else…something I couldn’t quite put my finger on – And I tried every finger, believe me.

It was like everything I did felt wrong. While I was eating breakfast, I thought – Maybe I should’ve showered first? While I was walking the dog I was thinking about 9 different things I needed to do from writing my newsletter to alphabetizing my books (seriously – I tried to make this something I simply had to do).

While I checked my email, I thought – should I work on my social media instead? Or there’s the cat barf I covered up with a towel that I’ve been ignoring all morning…and on it went until my brain was as busy as a dog in flea season.

The thoughts would not stop – All The Things I needed to do, should do, MUST do.

That was Phase 1: Overwhelm

Overwhelm is like a tornado, flinging you around inside your own head until you feel like you’ve been shot at and missed and s**t at and hit. You have to do everything and you have to do it all right now, but the more you do the more you have to do and the behinder you get.

And that takes you to the next phase of overwhelm:

Phase 2: Uncertainty

When you feel overwhelmed, you start questioning everything you’re doing, from what you decided to make for dinner to what workout you should do.

This is true of life, and even more true of exercise and weight loss.

When you feel overwhelmed by All The Things you become paralyzed. Just some of the things you may feel like you HAVE to do:

  • I have to diet – I know I need to watch my eating and there are so many diets…which one works? There are so many and I don’t even have time to research all of them so I’m like – I’ll just have some damn pizza because screw this.
  • I have to exercise – What do I do and how much? When do I find the time and how do I get motivated? What workouts work best and how do I find them?
  • I have to reduce stress because it’s making my belly fat, but I’m stressed about reducing stress! Where’s my wine, dammit!
  • I have to stop eating processed carbs and sugar because they’re making me fat, but I’m stressed so I can’t seem to stop eating them. Where’s my ice cream, dammit!
  • I have to sleep better to reduce my belly fat, but it’s like I try All The Things (cool environment, no caffeine, blah blah blah) but I can’t always control my sleep.

And all that uncertainty leads to the next phase of overwhelm:

Phase 3m: I’m a Total Failure

Okay, phase 3 is the place where we can stop this nonsense, because that’s exactly what it is. Feeling overwhelmed simply means you’re stuck in a loop for one or more reasons:

  1. Lack of information
  2. Uncertainty
  3. Conflict
  4. Lack of control

In the case of overwhelm and exercise/weight loss, all of these apply in different ways. You don’t necessarily lack information, you simply lack the RIGHT information. There’s so much information out there, that leads to uncertainty of who to listen to and what to try.

Conflict exists in all of these areas and that makes you feel out of control.

So what do you do about exercise/diet overwhelm?

  1. Stop and Regroup – Go back to the reasons you feel overwhelmed. Get out some paper and write down what’s going on in your head. What are you confused about? What are you uncertain about? Just getting it out can make it manageable.
  2. Go back to basics – You need to move your body. Period. You need some cardio and you need some strength training. Go back to that basic premise and ask yourself – What simple cardio or strength training could I do TODAY. Don’t worry about tomorrow. When it’s tomorrow, you can ask yourself the same question.
  3. Keep it simple – Again, the overwhelm comes when you feel like you have to do everything – Stress, sleep, exercise, diet, etc. Keep it simple and pick one simple thing you could do for a better diet – Drink more water, for example, or eat your salad before you eat anything else. For stress, just do something simple – Close your eyes and breathe, take a walk or listen to your favorite song. Pick just one thing to do and focus on that.
  4. Ask for help – Write out the questions you have and then hire a personal trainer, work with me to come up with a plan, or even email me your questions and I can give you some basic information.

The most important thing you can do is to keep moving forward, even if you’re not sure. Any exercise is good…it all counts. Remind yourself of that, take a deep breath and get to it.

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