How To Get Over Overwhelm by Jackie Yun

Guest Post By Jackie Yun  @JackieYunTweets












Photo courtesy of via Benjamin Miller

“Jackie will have a full report and recommendation for a financial and accounting system on your desk in 2 weeks”.

That was the confident voice of my boss’ boss.  I had no such confidence.  I had no clue how to start, what to do.  I was just a programmer, not a senior business analyst, not a manager.  I had no background in finance or accounting, unless a couple of classes in college counted.  I was just a few years into my professional life.  Back then, there wasn’t much on the Internet, nor was Internet access easy.

Shaky, sweaty and hunched down.  I felt overwhelmed.  While there was no Staples® Easy Button™ to push to meet this or any challenge, I did discover that there are things I could do to get over the overwhelm.

Make Your Environment Work For You > Not Against You.

When my boss came to my cubicle to find out about the meeting, I was so stressed that I burst into tears.  With a comforting hand on my shoulder, he sent me home.

His actions were precisely what was needed.  In her book, The Power of Place, Winifred Gallagher tells us that “our environments are not just backdrops to our lives — they affect how we think, feel and act”.  She cites Roger Barker, founder of environmental psychology, who further clarifies: “once the environmental particulars of a modus operandi work their way into our nervous system, they help close our minds to better options and incline us toward knee-jerk reactions.”

In other words, when you’re overwhelmed, just getting out of your current surroundings, where the negative triggers are located, can change your perspective.

Going home isn’t always an option.  Instead, go to a nearby coffee shop or book store, take a stroll in the park, or even go down to the cafeteria and grab a snack.  If you can’t go somewhere, use the Internet to your advantage and let great photography take you away from those negative triggers for a few minutes.  I love the sunrise pictures Leia Cator (@mscator) tweets.

Your Body Speaks. Help Your Body Say the Right Thing.

Christine Caldwell writes: “I feel the presence of fight/flee/freeze somewhere in my musculature and physiology.  When I isolate, I also feel my defenses. In fact, that is all I feel.” ~ from her book, Getting Our Bodies Back.

When you’re overwhelmed your body feels it and it screams that to yourself and all who see you.  How can we move our body from feeling overwhelmed to one that says it is open and ready for the challenge; not contracted, small or ill?  Use your body’s 5 senses.  Engage in yoga to re-gain flexibility, taste the warmth in a cup of tea to give you resilience, breathe in the fragrance of lavender or rosemary to give you calm or fortitude, or listen and watch Rocky Balboa in his “Gonna Fly Now” scene for the “I Can Do It” stance and feeling. Why not even get up and do that scene with Rocky?

This tweet from Tony Richards (@tonyrichards4) is a clever way of remembering the impact our body’s actions have on our psyche:

║            *Behavior wags the tail of feelings.*

Stop Your Mind From Reaching The Red Zone.

The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, tells owners to make early corrections for their recalcitrant dogs. Past a certain point, the dog won’t heed anything you say or do, his mind is in the Red Zone.  Humans can be like that, too.

Before your mind reaches “The Red Zone of Overwhelm” try settling into meditation (something that leaders should have in their toolkit as evidenced in the HBR Post, The Power of Pause, shared by Rick Ross, @RickRoss10), read poetry and find balance (Terry Del Percio, @WorkIntegrity, tweeted an NPR piece describing how poetry gives peace to the author’s life), or playfully use prompts such as @AnitaBondi’s Interplay Inspiration Deck to gain a different perspective on the situation (and no, I’m not an affiliate, but I am an Anita Bondi fan!).  If overwhelm has not completely hijacked your amygdala, try to engage logic.  Break down the challenge into smaller pieces to see where this takes you.

Reach Out – Your Relationships Can Help.

If you’re in overwhelm, your focus is narrowly centered on yourself; not surprising, given what your body and mind are doing.  Instead of looking inward, look outward.  Look to connect with your network of support.  Your network of support are the positive people who have your best interest at heart, who will uplift you and help move you forward.  Your network can be comprised of friends, relatives, mentors, coaches, colleagues or even kind strangers!  My boss and my husband each gave me learnings that I’ve kept with me throughout my career with good impact:

  • • Even though time is of the essence for almost every project, there is time to stop to recalibrate. Make sure you take that time.
  • • Figure out what you can do, then humbly without apology make your offer, their decision is not a reflection of you ~ and remember, you don’t have anything to prove.

Use The 4 Quadrants To Give You The Answers

James Flaherty, founder of New Ventures West (my professional coaching alma mater) introduced the concept of the 4 Quadrants as a way to evaluate a snapshot of a coachee’s integral state.  It’s a very revealing model when you look at someone from the perspective of their 4 quadrants: environment, body and behavior, individual consciousness (what I’ve been calling the mind), and relationships.  As we’ve seen, it is also a framework to help you get unstuck, such as when you are in overwhelm.

If you’re stuck, take the time to analyze each of these quadrants, see if you are out of balance, and then do work within those quadrants. Soon, you will be liberated and be open to the possibilities!

To Will and all you followers of Will’s blog, much gratitude to you for including me in your day’s reading.  I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve gotten over overwhelm or become unstuck.  Do you use a special framework like the 4 Quadrants?  Do you think the 4 Quadrants would be helpful to you?  Please share your feedback in the comments below. We can learn much from each other.

Jackie Yun is an Integral Coach ® and Former IT Executive.  For more information about Jackie, follow her at @JackieYunTweets

Connecting with your children


Will Lukang, PMP, CSM, CLDC

Art work with my daughter

I used to be a workaholic and felt that my career was what defined me.  I often talked about work and everything seemed to revolve around work.  I got married in 1996. A few years later my daughter was born and everything changed.

A few years before that, I was working with someone who told me that he wished he had spent more time with his children when they were young, because by the time they become teenagers they do not want to have anything to do with you.    Back then I was not sure what it meant to me, but I figured that it must be really important and it took it to heart.  I’m really thankful that I did just that.

Just like any new parent, I was so excited, but then soon realized that it takes a lot to be a parent. Nonetheless, I really felt blessed to have a daughter.    Here is my top ten list of connecting with my daughters:

1)      Spend time with them. By this I mean really spend time playing with them whether  that is with their kitchen set or MacDonald store.  Do I really want to do this, at first I said to myself. No, but I thought about it and decided that I have a small window to do this and this soon shall pass.

2)      Treat them like adults and talk. This meant talking to them about choices, options, tradeoffs and letting them make some decisions.   This all depends on their age.  Small decisions early on and it will grow slowly thereafter.  They need to learn that they have the choice and making the right choice is important and essential to their growth and development.

3)      Love them like there is no tomorrow. Always tell them that you love them.  Let them know it, and don’t take it for granted, and mean it.     I always start my day by kissing them on the forehead and telling them that I love them very much.

4)      Say No to them. Be honest and say no to them on things that do not make sense.  Do not spoil them and shower them unnecessarily.   Let them handle rejection and help them cope with it.  By giving in to them, we are not teaching the valuable lesson of living in the real world.   Guide them to learn to cope with what the future might throw at them.

5)      Listen to them. Learn to listen to them and lend them your ear.  Truly spend the time and understand what they have to say.  As an adult, it is a challenge to do this because we often feel the urgency to get things done just to move on to the next thing.   Listen to their stories and ask questions about them.     I cherish every story they tell and immerse myself in it.

6)      The most memorable gift does not have to be expensive. I remember few years back that a friend of mine gave my daughter a snail rocking chair.  Once we opened the gift she was ecstatic and played with the rocking chair.   About half an hour later, she was playing with the box.  For the next 10 days the box was all she wanted.    I had to throw away the box because the box was ripped to pieces, but she still insisted on keeping it.   To this date, when she sees a box, she still remembers that instance – amazing.

7)      Keep the notes and drawings that they made for you. It might not look like much, but when they see you keep their drawing and notes, it gives them a sense of accomplishment.  It also shows them that you recognize their work and appreciate them.

8)      Help them accomplish things incrementally. Help them with their projects and show them the ropes.  Make sure to participate and engage them in the activity.   This also provides you the golden opportunity to make an impression on them and develop lasting memories.  This helps them develop their confidence, which is essential for their future.

9)      Don’t compare your children. Growing up in a Chinese family, my parents often compared me to my siblings.  Unfortunately for me, I was not smart compared to my sister and brother.  The more they talked about it to their friends, the more I felt it was really true and I started to doubt that I could really accomplish anything.  Fortunately for me, by the time I reached my third year in high school, I had a teacher that believed in me that help turn things around.

10)   Support them and guide them. While as parent I want my girls to be good at everything, I try to resist the urge to push them too hard.  I always emphasis the fact that they need to try their best.   When they didn’t make the next level in swimming, I would embrace them and say that there is always next time and try your best and don’t think about failing.     Be sincere about it and let them know that when mistake happens, you’ll not be the first one to judge them but rather you’ll be the shoulder to cry on.   Teach them to dust things off then get back on the horse and keep on trying.   Teach them to never give up and the value of hard work.

So far I’m enjoying every moment that I spend with them.  Don’t get me wrong, there are days I wish they would listen to me and do their homework.  But at the end of the day, I think about the opportunity I have and how I took advantage to connect and make an impression on them.

Someday we all shall pass. I want them to remember the time we spent together, the laugh, the horsing around, reading books and not the expensive gifts they receive.   At the end, the goal is to live life with no regrets.   It all starts with realization that there is still time and acting on it.  It is never too late.