Entrepreneurs are no strangers to the odd bout of existential terror. Usually, these period of stress and fear flair up only to die down rather quickly.
Sometimes, however, these stresses persist and can make you feel totally overwhelmed.
Fortunately, I have plenty of experience coping with the feelings of being overwhelmed by the responsibilities of my life. Over the years, I’ve learned three coping mechanisms that enable me to not only deal with feelings of being overwhelmed, but thrive.
Understand your priorities
No matter how talented or motivated you are, it’s impossible to do everything at once, so stop trying.
The best way to dig out of an overwhelming situation is to pick your top priorities and work from there. Prioritization is difficult for many entrepreneurs because everything seems to be equally important at first glance.
When we step back and practice mindfulness, however, we realize that isn’t the case. It’s always possible to prioritize things in your life; it just isn’t always easy.
When juggling priorities, it’s important to remember that matters of the heart, be they relationships, family, or personal fulfillment, are the most fragile. If you fail to keep these relationships healthy, there’s a good chance they’ll be irreparably damaged.
Work, on the other hand, is far more resilient. Even when you make a terrible mistake and drop the ball, it almost always bounces back. The key to happiness is recognizing which priorities are fragile, and which are more durable.
For me, priorities are absolute and fall into three categories. My first priorities are the needs of family.
My second priority is my company. For entrepreneurs and leaders, work needs to be a higher priority than it is for most people. The reason for this is that it isn’t just about dealing with your job.
As the leader of a company, you have many people who depend on you, including team, clients, and investors.
The third priority is personal fulfillment. If you’ve taken care of your family and your team, then you have the right to focus on yourself. Clearly defining these priorities makes dealing with even the most overwhelming of situations more manageable.
Find ways to practice mindfulness
When things start to pile up, and you start to feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, don’t panic. Remember to stop and be mindful of the present moment.
More often than not, the anxiety and stress entrepreneurs experience is due to what they think might happen in the future, not what they’re dealing with in the present.
Practicing mindfulness and focusing on the current moment can give you a reprieve from the thoughts and concerns that cause anxiety.
The benefits of mindfulness have been well documented, and a recent Harvard Business Review article points out that it takes as little as six seconds of mindful meditation for these benefits to manifest themselves.
Quieting your mind and moving away from the endless “what-if” scenarios helps to center you in the present and prepares you to deal with the tasks that lie ahead more effectively.
Accept the fact that not everything will be perfect
Last but not least, it’s important to learn to accept imperfection. Perfection is an unattainable goal, and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.
It’s far better to recognize that we live in an imperfect world and that sometimes our best is good enough.
This applies to both work and personal life. Sometimes, it’s better to let the housework slide for playing with your kid or to relinquish control on a project rather than micromanage it.
Learning to accept imperfection enables you to keep moving forward, and that’s precisely what you need to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Everyone gets overwhelmed from time to time, but it doesn’t need to lead to anxiety or excessive stress.
The trick is to make sure that you stay in the moment, pick your priorities, and accept imperfection. Once you do those three simple things, you’ll find yourself in the position to overcome the challenges you face and move forward with confidence.