Managing Overwhelm

Stopping overthinking and falling down the rabbit hole that leads to overanalysing.

Getting Over Analysis Paralysis | Working with some young adults recently, I came to realise that whilst they had a variety of challenges there was a common issue that most were struggling with and one who had successfully overcome theirs | Ben Jackson | @benjacksoncoach

Who hasn’t found themselves overthinking and falling down the rabbit hole that leads to overwhelm and ultimately zero action?

Paralysis by analysis, that mental overwhelm, is something we have probably all experienced at some point.

When we’ve taken an idea or a concern and churned it over and over so many times that it actually stops us from there taking any action and we’re left just with the thoughts.

It can be a very challenging place. We are in a war between the thinking and the desire to take some meaningful action.

This overanalysing needs to change and the best way to do this is to challenge some of our assumptions.

We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action. – Dr Henry Link

How to beat down that overwhelm? To get out of that headspace I ask, “Is that true? Or are you assuming it to be true?”. I really want to get super clear that what’s assuming to be true may not always be accurate, or even realistic. It’s the assumption that stops so many from taking action.

For example, in one meeting at the beginning of the week, a client admitted they were embarrassed because they’d not shown up for sessions and hadn’t responded to texts or calls. And each time they didn’t respond, the embarrassment deepened. The embarrassment became guilt which then blocked them from taking action.

What were they assuming to be true? As they explained, they assumed there was a problem with missing a session. This then amplified as time went by.

The reality was that I fully appreciated that life gets in the way and understand that some clients face greater challenges in other areas of their lives. What they were assumed was not based in reality.

Reframe that limiting thought

Another client had concerns by a conviction they had. They felt it was a barrier to getting a job or into training. Certainly on initial hearing the offence sounded severe, but as I asked questions and understood the situation better we were able to deescalate its intensity. And while it was a fact and  wasn’t going away, she began to see it in a different light which allowed to her to not only acknowledge it but also see passed it.

This is sometimes all that’s needed to create some freedom from the overwhelm, to have some thinking and breathing space to get things moving again.

How to kill the overthink

This was borne out with an another client who had broken through the belief and assumption that had held her back. She crossed over to the other side and destroyed the assumption.

What she believed that she wouldn’t get a good reference from her previous employer. This, despite her leaving on good terms, had become a roadblock in her thinking.

She agreed that the way to disarm the belief was to challenge it, which meant she had to go and get the reference. When she did this, and got a glowing reference, she felt released.

What was, and is, interesting and something I get to witness often is that ‘release’ allowed her to achieve other things that she’d parked or ignored as being not possible.

I asked her what was the difference that made the difference? She replied quickly: “Be fearless”. Adding that it’s best not to overthink: “Rather than overthink, take some sort of action. Just get up and do.”.

Final thoughts

For her and maybe for a lot of people these ideas are worth applying. How often do we overthink something to the point we don’t take any action based on assumptions? When we can breakthrough these assumptions with fact, with real knowledge, transformation happens. All of a sudden that massive thing we thought was a problem becomes simply a memory.

So if you or someone you know struggles to move forward in a part of their life, perhaps all that’s required is to break the assumption and become a little fearless.

Let me know what you think down in the comments; I love to hear from you.


About the Author

As well as a personal coach, Ben Jackson is the owner of The Parent and Pupil Coach delivering behavioural change programmes for 10–16 year olds. He coaches for leadership and transition for career parents and is regularly contributing to webinars and articles. You can connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

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