With a thirteen-year-old heading into Year Eight this week, I’m reminded that many of us first learn how to ‘do overwhelm’ when we’re confronted with a higher workload than we’re used to, at high school. Chances are that the first time you experienced a train of thought along the lines of, ‘Too much to do! I’ll never get it done! I’m going to fail!’ – coincided with first crushes, first zits and first periods.
Hemmed in by that four-part history project of research, a poster, constructing an Anglo-Saxon village out of twigs and doing a talk in front of the class, (which clashed with your netball try-outs and was weighed down by the fact that you were supposed to tidy your room) – perhaps you responded the way that any self-respecting teen girl would.
Drama! Lots of it. Panic, procrastination, denial, lots of ‘talk’, little ‘action’, lashings of ‘I can’t do this!’ – egged on by friends.
The drama-teen under pressure grinds to a halt – flapping around what needs to be done like a sea-gull – hoping a piece of fish will be tossed to her on a platter. The question is: when does she grow out of it?
In a recent workshop, I asked a group of professional women to list elements of their current ‘strategy’ when feeling overwhelmed at work. The group described a response that was almost an exact replica of the teen approach:
- I tell myself I can’t do it
- I whinge to my partner
- I don’t do anything
- I get irritable and take it out on people around me
- I lie awake at night
- I tidy my desk
- I make a coffee
In essence – I do anything but get on with it.
So – with my daughter teetering on the cusp of a vortex of ‘Eek! Overload!’ that – presumably – could suck her in from Year Eight until Thirty-Eight unless I equip her with some resourceful strategies NOW… I’ve done some reading. (I also watched a chick flick, tidied the linen cupboard and spent a couple of hours on Facebook – but that might be the drama-queen mum in me – running my old teen strategy for overwhelm in the unfamiliar face of mothering a teen…)
The good news is that I uncovered an idea for managing pressure that resonates fairly clearly. It’s attributed to Dr Paul Ware, and I discovered it in Dru Scott’s book: ‘Stress that Motivates’. Now – I warn you: it’s based on a baseball analogy (caveat: my entire knowledge of baseball comes from Madonna’s ‘A League of their Own’).
All it is, is an effective ‘time out’ process.
Confronted by ‘too much to do’, say to yourself:
If I am feeling overwhelmed, I protect myself by taking time out for a few minutes so that I can think clearly and creatively:
1. I relax and I breathe deeply
2. I accept my feelings and the realities of my current situation
3. I picture, in my imagination, how I want the situation to be
4. I take some action to get there. I do something purposeful even if it is not the total solution. I work towards a solution or mastery of the situation.
Where does the baseball thing come in? Just picture a baseball diamond to remember the 4-step approach:
Base one – Relax, breathe
Base two – Accept your feelings and the realities of your current situation
Base three – Picture how you want the situation to be
Home Base – Do something towards the solution
I reckon my thirteen-year-old will easily master this strategy, and I intend to master it by her side. It’s so much better, surely, than the ‘flap-deny-panic’ thing we were both heading towards in early high school – two-and-a-half decades apart…
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