Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet.
This time of year is particularly busy at work. We have stacks of work piled on all available surfaces and there’s a continuous stream of chaos that often gets to be too much. This past week has found me feeling overwhelmed on several occasions. However, unlike in previous years, I’ve been able to intentionally take action to combat these feelings. Seeing how far I’ve come has been incredibly encouraging.
I wanted to share some of my daily schedule, along with some tips that have helped me actively combat stressful situations.
I arrive each morning a little before 8 am, a few minutes before we open up. I’m alone for the first 30 minutes or so and play instrumental music on low while quietly working on tasks from the previous day. My current playlist consists of piano arrangements from the Final Fantasy XV soundtrack (I haven’t played the game but the music is beautiful). This is also when I’ll make myself a fresh cup of coffee.
We get the largest influx of work in the morning. This is when the overwhelm starts to set in. If I don’t do anything about it, it gets progressively worse. But if I take action, it helps immensely. Here are a few tips.
1. Write out a to-do list.
When faced with a huge amount of work, its easy to get overwhelmed. When this inevitably happens, I pull out a notepad or a blank document and write out all the tasks I need to accomplish in order of priority. I always include meals and snacks on this list too (by putting food on the same level as work, I’m less likely to neglect feeding myself). Writing down everything that’s floating around in my head dispels the panic and gives me a game plan to focus on.
2. Stay on task.
Throughout the day, people will always give me more work. If its something urgent, I’ll do it immediately. However, 95% of these tasks aren’t, so I’ll move them to the side of my desk and write them on the bottom of my list. They still get done before the end of the day, but I don’t allow them to interrupt what I’m currently working on. I used to drop everything and work on every new task that came along, but that only lead to frustration. By sticking strictly to my list, everything gets done and it keeps me mentally organized.
3. Avoid distractions.
There are always going to be distractions, especially when you work on a computer. I check my social media and personal email on my lunch break, but otherwise I won’t even keep an internet window open. I also keep my desk as clean as I can. I have my glass of water, lip balm, and a few office supplies in front of me but the rest go into my drawer. I’ll only keep one stack of work on my desk at any one time, otherwise I get easily overwhelmed.
4. Monitor my energy.
I try to monitor both my energy and mood periodically to determine whether I need to take a break or grab something to eat. I always keep a glass of water or herbal tea on my desk and will refill them when needed. By checking in with myself every hour or so, I can usually circumvent complete overwhelm and exhaustion by taking breaks when I need them and staying well fed and hydrated.
These are just a few things that help me on a daily basis at work. Do you have any additional tips or tricks for beating overwhelm?
So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.
I had the most amazing opportunity to visit Ireland and Scotland last year. Both places had been on my bucket list since I was young and finally getting to experience them was incredible. They hold a special place in my heart and I want to go back again. Scotland especially felt like home.
I’ve included a few pictures from Ireland. As you can see, the green Irish countryside isn’t just a stereotype, it’s actually that green in person! The first image is from the grounds of the hotel I was staying at in county Meath. The next three are from Loughcrew, the site of megalithic burial grounds dating back to roughly 3500 and 3300 BC. The final two are from the Hill of Tara, containing a number of ancient monuments, and according to tradition, was the seat of the High King of Ireland. It’s a beautiful country and the locals were warm and friendly. Many of the days were overcast, and you always had to expect a chance of rain, but the weather was lovely and the temperature warm. As long as you had a raincoat you were good to go.
After spending some time in Ireland, I took a short flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. I spent the first couple of days wandering the streets of the Royal Mile, exploring as much as I could. The first three images are from Calton Hill, which is home to a few different monuments. The first is the Nelson monument, commemorating Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalger in 1805. The second is a view off the back of the hill and the third is the National Monument. It remembers the sacrifices of the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. The fourth image is from Edinburgh Castle. The next day I took a 12 hour bus tour to the Scottish Highlands to get a taste of the countryside. The fifth picture is a view from Loch Ness. The sixth is Urquhart Castle, which played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. The final image is from Glencoe.
I hope you enjoyed a small glimpse into my Ireland and Scotland trip. If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. What is your favourite place to travel? Where do you want to go next?
Many Introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.
Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.
How can you tell if someone is a people-pleaser? They’re typically the nicest, most generous people you know (disclaimer, not all kind people are people-pleasers, but some of us are). They never refuse a request and are always willing to volunteer their time and energy.
Need help moving? They’ll come early, help you pack up, move boxes all day, and stay late. Need an early ride to the airport? Look no further. *As with all my posts, these thoughts are based on my own experiences and may differ from your own. If you have anything to add, I’d love to hear from you!
People-pleasers are often motivated by one of two things (or sometimes both). Their behaviour is generally rooted in either fear of rejection or fear of failure. Fear of rejection stems from being afraid of getting left behind if they make a mistake or do something wrong. They work hard to be helpful and valuable to others. They try to keep the peace. Fear of failure stems from being afraid to disappoint others or the fear that others will view them negatively. They work hard to live up to impossibly high standards and feel validated by the positive attention of others. As a recovering people-pleaser, I wanted to share a few things I’ll be working on this year.
1. I will speak up for myself.
I’ve always prioritized keeping the peace at the expense of my own comfort and peace of mind. My default is to avoid confrontation. But if something makes me uncomfortable, I will say something. Speaking up honestly takes a lot of courage but it’s something I need to do. I won’t allow myself to be taken advantage of again.
2. I will actively combat stress.
Holding onto stress isn’t healthy and I’ve personally paid the price for this one. If I find myself overwhelmed, I will find one obligation to cancel, then use that time to take care of myself: to cook a healthy meal, do a workout, or enjoy some reading. I’m still working on creating a balanced schedule for myself.
3. I will enforce my boundaries.
I had a huge wake-up call this past August. You can read about it here if you’d like. I realized that I’m the one who is responsible for how I allow others to treat me. If someone takes advantage of me once, that’s their fault. But if it continues to happen, and I don’t say anything, it becomes my fault. You can’t expect someone to respect you if you don’t have respect for yourself. I’ve written down my boundaries and will enforce them.
4. I will say no more often.
It’s always easier to say yes. You avoid the inevitable ‘why not’ or guilt trips. But I need to start saying no more often. When someone invites me somewhere or asks for a favour, I always tell them that I need to think about it. That relieves the pressure to make a decision right away. Then I’ll take some time to mull over the options. Am I doing this because I want to? Am I trying to avoid disappointing someone? Do I have the energy? Am I even interested? Saying no can be scary, but its for my own benefit.
5. I’ll give myself a time limit.
I love helping people and its something I never want to stop doing. But volunteering for an entire day leaves me burned out, exhausted, and barely able to drag myself home. In the future, if someone needs my help, and I’m able to do it, I’ll let them know I’m available for a set amount of time. If the deadline arrives and I feel great, I’ll extend my stay, but will keep a close watch on my energy. I also like volunteering for setup duty, as I’m free to leave once things start to get busy.
Being generous and helpful is a wonderful thing. But I’ve experienced the health issues that come from internalizing stress and taking on more than I could handle. By caring for myself, I’ll be able to serve others at a greater capacity. Helping others should never come at the expense of anyone’s health, relationships, or happiness.
Have you had any similar experiences or insights?