Refocusing During Chaos

We have all had those days when we feel pulled in a million different directions. Your phone bursts to life with a cacophony of alerts, messages, and phone calls and you can no longer find the bottom of your inbox. Everything coming into your email feels like an emergency and everything on your to-do list seems like an impossibility as well as a concrete reminder of your inability to get it together.

As the demands of the day press down upon us with such herculean force, it can be difficult to maintain composure and prevent the overwhelm meltdown.

Today, I found myself slipping into this old pattern and having to regroup and employ many of the tools that I teach to my clients. I had several large projects that I wanted to focus my energies on and I suddenly felt like there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done. Hopelessness was sinking in as I stared blankly at my calendar.

As I focused on how to get to work and execute on my daily goals, I found that my eyes kept drifting off to my email inboxes, tracking all the new things that kept pouring in. Because I maintain three separate email addresses–one for my legal practice, one for my coaching practice, and one for my personal and nonprofit work, a simple review of my emails to “just seeing what’s going on” can quickly spiral out of control and precious time is lost. Here I was, feeling overwhelmed with my daily priorities and now that overwhelm was like a rising tide of panic as I glanced at each new message coming in.

For every email, I felt the desire to jump on it and respond immediately. I wanted to answer the pleas for support, redirect my legal team working on important projects, check in with clients, and just GSD. In addition to those impulses, came other emails eliciting frustrated brain chatter. As I was frantically responding to some emails, other emails had me mentally berating my staff, complaining about my nonprofit boards, and angry that people just wouldn’t leave me alone. My overwhelm was now compounded with the downward spiral of victim mentality and frustration.

There isn’t enough time! I am going to let everyone down! I’m so irritated with everyone! Why can’t they figure this out on their own!? Bah!

All of this was making me feel pretty rotten and powerless. Despite all that, I was glued to my emails, trying to salvage some “feel goods” by tackling those low hanging fruits. I was avoiding the bigger picture and chasing the endorphin rush of helping in small ways in that moment, responding to “simple emails” and inquiries. Nevermind that that little foray was going to cost me even more later on as precious time ticked away.

In that moment, I realized that keeping up with my email today was not my number one priority — maintaining my email was not even in my top three today.  So, I set a timer and agreed to check my email in 2 hours. Then I closed the window browsers and got back to work. Not only would those emails still be there 2 hours from now when I finished my priorities, but I had already scheduled time to triage my inbox today, as I do everyday. Despite my prior planning, my email had become a persuasive distraction in those moments of overwhelm and pushed itself right to the front of the line.

It’s easy to dive into your email, get organized, address a million non-emergencies, and avoid the larger projects that will actually make an impact in your life. It’s the difference between throwing a boulder or a handful of pebbles into the pond–how big of an impact are you wanting to make today?

We all have those moments where suddenly everything feels so chaotic and we feel hopeless and lost. It is in those moments that we have to stop, reconnect with our priorities, and step away from all the things we use to feel better amidst the overwhelm. We have to force our primitive brains to stop freaking out and believing that everything in our orbit is suddenly life or death. For me, in this case it meant shutting down my email and believing fully and wholeheartedly that nothing would happen in the next 2 hours that would destroy my career or my credibility. From that space I was able to redirect my energies and calm the chaos in my mind. And what do you know, I got those projects done and checked my emails and no one fired me, no one died, and the world kept spinning.

Part of the reason this redirection is so challenging for most of us is because of the things we tell ourselves when we pull away from our inbox. All those worries, judgments, comparisons, and worst-case scenarios. That is where coaching comes in because when you believe that you “need” to or “should” respond immediately or that other people are doing it better than you, you will never break this cycle. Challenging those closely held thoughts and beliefs is the first step to freedom and peace. Join us.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels