Many of us live in a constant overwhelm, things come at us like a tsunami that we know we won't be able to control, yet we still try to fight it, be more efficient than a force of nature. That force of nature today is time and we try to win over it, unfortunately it's a battle of unbalanced forces.
Few months ago I started feeling more tired than usual, wanting to spend more time alone but not really knowing how to rest, comparing my life with others. I know that my lifestyle of traveling, meeting and socialising with new people all the time can be challenging but I had a feeling that more people experience this sense of overwhelm. Too much information, too much noise, too much of feeling connected but disconnected at the same time. One day I saw this book "The Age of Overwhelm" and I started reading it while being in one of the biggest dance festivals in Europe, it seemed like an appropriate time. In this post I want to share what reminders I found and what helps me to feel less overwhelmed every day.
Choices choices and more choices
Every day we are facing new choices, making hundreds of decisions: what to eat, what to wear, which project to start with.. We make decisions about the smallest things:
"Black coffee or cappuccino?"
"Americano or black black?"
"Erm.. Black black"
"Do you want milk in it?"
"Erm.. yeah ok"
"I don't know.. as much that it wouldn't pour over the cup?"
"Alright. Blend or single origin coffee beans?"
I mean, I can't complain, being a coffee geek, I love having a conversation like this (even though I usually know what I want before I enter the cafe), but I know many people get very confused in similar situations and understandably so, it's one more (or five more) decision we have to make in a day and it can get tiring, especially if we waste all of our energy on things that are not so important. In the result of that, when we have to make more important decisions, especially later in a day, our energy reservoir is empty.
"Decision fatigue" (a term created by the social psychologist Dr. Roy F. Baumeister) is real even if you don't feel it the same way as a physical fatigue. The research shows that if you had to make a lot of decisions in the first part of the day, the later decisions will be more irrational, your willpower (to resist that bowl of ice-cream for example) will be weaker. When the brain’s regulatory powers weaken, frustrations seem more irritating than usual. Impulses to eat, drink, spend and say stupid things feel more powerful.
That can explain why you feel SO tired after going shopping..
To avoid this decision fatigue, try to limit the decisions you make each day, plan ahead. Every day I write down 3 things I want/have to do so I know can't compromise on those. Instead of choosing to practice/exercise/work on a project - schedule it, put the time in your calendar (if you're using one, if not, I have no idea how you remember anything). Register for a course or an activity so you don't have to make a decision about it each week. Conserve your willpower, don't put too many meetings back-to-back and plan some time in a day where you'll be able to take a break.
If you don't prioritise your life, someone else will /Greg McKeown/
Essentialism is a way of discerning external noise and trying to listen to your inner voice. Being busy for the sake of being busy doesn't make us happy, you can work a lot, run from meeting to meeting but it doesn't necessarily mean you're creating something valuable (for yourself). Applying essentialist idea in your life can manifest in all areas: the work you do, the people you spend time with, the things you own, the free time you have.. You've probably heard of Marie Kondo, the amazing organising consultant that helps people to get rid of all the s*it that doesn't make them happy. She makes people put out all of their belongings, take one at a time and ask themselves "Does this thing make me happy? Does it spark joy in my life?", if not, they should thank it and throw it away. I think the same principle can be applied in life, take it all out, evaluate each thing and decide if it's worth keeping in your life.
Is the task you're doing the best exploitation of your abilities? Is there someone you could delegate this task and that person would do it more or less as good as you would? If so, then delegate. Maybe you don't need to respond to that email, to send that memo, to make those calls. Taking too many tasks, responsibilities can leave us overwhelmed. Ask yourself "Does this work bring me any joy? Does it spark something in me?". Of course my grandma wouldn't understand a question like that, her generation had to work to earn money, dot. There wasn't a question if working in a factory for 20 years could spark joy. But I do believe that for many of us the time has changed. My grandma is now replaced by a robot (I mean her work is) and we have to figure out how to use our abilities, our creativity for it's best use.
I'm not suggesting you should throw people away if you're not happy to have them in your life. But it's important to be aware which people you surround yourself with. Thinking about friends, there are 4 types of them:
Must friends: your best friends, those that you know you can count on at any time
Trust friends: people you feel really comfortable, you're always glad to see and spend time together
Rust friends: people you've known for a while already, they are not so close to you, but a part of your life
Just friends: those who you see regularly at your work, hobby, you enjoy their company but you don't feel the need to get to know that person better
If you know which friends are your must and trust and which ones are just friends, you can try to spend more time with people who are really dear and important to you. At the same time if there are people in your life that make you feel unworthy and you don't enjoy their company, put them in a trash bin (not a real one, a mental one, please).
Find activities that make you happy, apart from your work (!). Start painting, sewing, acting, singing, bodybuilding or whatever that is. Even if you know you'll be the worst at it. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing something that requires creativity is the best thing you can do with your free time and will leave you much more satisfied than binge watching a new TV show (even though "Dogs" on Netflix is adorable). Most importantly, find time for yourself. Replace FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) with JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out). Saying "Yes" to everything mindlessly can just make you feel you have no control over your time.
We don't need all those things to feel good about ourselves. You will be just fine if you don't get that new skirt or the newest iPhone xxx. Stop owning things and start owning yourself (that sounded really cool in my head). Last month I've done 30-days-minimalist challenge that helped me to declutter and realise how much I thought I needed versus how much I actually needed (more about it in a next post).
It's not a marathon
1969 movie "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" depicts a crazy dance marathon where days turn into weeks and competitors are slowly dropping out. It's such a great imagery for our overwhelmed lives, where we're fighting to win, to be the best at some sort of a marathon but we don't have any idea why and what's waiting at the finish line. Maybe we can try to make life more like a nice stroll where we have time to be present and feel
what's happening around us.