The Coach's Corner

The next time you’re overwhelmed

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #52

I was stopped in traffic this week when a moving company truck caught my attention.

In those long, drawn out minutes I witnessed two of the moving truck drivers pull up the gate of the enormous rig. Inside I could see a substantial pile of furniture and boxes. It didn’t take long for them to get the upper hand in this situation, removing the items one by one. Some were wheeled into a house, others were stacked on the sidewalk, all creating a sense of order. Then someone honked behind me and I realized I needed to keep driving.

As I moved through traffic, my thoughts went to the ‘mountain’ I often see in my mind when I face what I consider is a monumental series of events. It can feel like an immovable situation until I unpack what’s in the mountain in my head. I pull out various elements that are weighing on my mind and place those pieces into what I like to call ‘buckets.’

That’s when I can get a good look at what’s bothering me. Once I can name the issue it doesn’t seem so daunting because I get to decide what to tackle: now or later. The effort of removing these pieces from the mountain I’ve created in my head leaves me with a sense of relief. I know what’s in front of me. I know what to do.


The next time you’re overwhelmed

When three clients are facing a similar issue – I pay attention.

As Sheryl opened our session, she held her head in her hands.

I’m so overwhelmed. No matter where I turn, there’s a heaviness with colleagues, clients, unfinished projects and family. I’m not sure I’m up to the task.

After a breathing exercise, we wondered together how she might begin to look at this mountain of difficulty. What would she be willing to remove and consider? By inviting her to look at the items that were blocking her from taking any action, it was as if she pulled a plug on a dam.

For the next several minutes, Sheryl poked and prodded and filled five buckets with assignments, organization, sales, marketing and rest.

When I deal with bucket number two – I will actually solve the issue I’m facing in bucket three. Why didn’t I see this? One opens the way for the other!

Priorities were at the top of Craig’s list – leaving him feeling like he wouldn’t be able to accomplish key tasks to be ready for a major vacation in two weeks.

As we examined his mountain, he suddenly stopped.

Wait, let’s put a very difficult conversation in the first bucket.

He shared that when he recognized what was weighing on him most, it opened a way to put two other major pieces into two more buckets.

Craig, what just happened to your concerns that were so strong a few minutes ago?

It all felt like a blur – I hadn’t separated that they are clearly different issues that are bothering me. Now I do know what to do.

Finally, Kaila walked through some challenging scenarios in the leadership of her org. She described a fog, saying she can’t see through the problems to focus on what she does best: sell.

As she chose to address her mountain of frustration, she recognized that she’d been paralyzed by putting all of her attention on what others were doing.

I want to change up my buckets. In the first bucket, I know I can sell, that’s what I want to do. In my second bucket, if I don’t like a new system I don’t have to use it. And in my third bucket, I’m going to focus on how best to honor my clients.

Kaila was visibly lighter. The weight of what the ‘others’ had been doing is still there, but no longer at the top of her agenda. Now she’s choosing where she wants to put her attention, focusing on things she can influence.


What are you willing to remove and examine?

To manage the mountain that you create in your head – when you feel that everything is coming at you at once – it’s helpful to remove the most frustrating elements one by one.

Imagine that your sense of overwhelm has created a ‘mountain’ of sorts in your head. It’s so solid that you feel all the issues are connected and there’s no way through.

Now imagine a series of buckets – ones big enough to hold your frustrations. What will you be willing to remove from the mountain and put into a bucket?

Here’s how AI imagined it with my direction:

Credit: Canva AI

Once all the key stressors are in buckets – identify the separate elements.

This action alone can  dissipate much of the burden. Once you name these issues you get to choose how to proceed.

My takeaway

In the heat of the moment, I find it difficult to notice that the reason I’m feeling so stressed is because I’ve been stacking up words from colleagues, feeling the angst of a missed deadline, rushing too fast, forgetting a birthday, you name it! I really couldn’t tell you what’s bothering me because all of these elements are piled into a mountain of frustration.

When I choose to breathe and ground myself and pause, I slow down enough to decide it’s time to pick apart what’s at the heart of my discontent. One by one, I place these elements in buckets. I choose to dismiss the words, check in on what I can do to complete the missed deadline, slow down and call my friend with a belated birthday greeting. My anxiety fades as I recognize I’ve made my immovable mountain manageable.

At the end of the day I find, once again, that I have a choice.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

Maya Angelou


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