In order to cope with overwhelm, we need to understand what our baseline for feeling normal is. I know what my baseline is for feeling normal. Be aware of what feeling ‘normal’ is for you.
Overwhelm is a symptom of stress and has all sorts of biochemical responses as well.
When I’m aware I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed to the point it’s feeling a little bit unhealthy, then I step back. I walk away.
There’s a great book, ‘The Power of Full Engagement’. It talks about the athlete model and treating the business person, or the everyday person like the athlete. If you want to compete as a person at the highest level, there’s got to be a portion of time spent training, spent competing and a portion spent resting and recuperating.
It’s interesting to look at the Olympic model, they spend 1 – 2 percent of time competing, 20-30 percent of time training and this huge portion resting and recuperating so they can compete at their best.
Then, if you look at most business people and most human beings, we spend maybe 80 percent of time competing in life, maybe 3 percent of time training (if we’re lucky) and the remaining time in rest and recovery – which is a small percentage in comparison.
HIT TRAINING FOR OVERWHELM
When I was doing training with the special forces in Europe, we’d only train for a couple of hours at a time before we’d reach what’s called ‘maximum saturation’. When you reach maximum saturation you can’t input any new skills, because your brain and autonomic system is at its red line and you’re done for the day.
So when you get to that point you take yourself away from the range, and you go away and defrag. I’d go and meditate, I’d go and eat, I’d go and relax. Basically, I’d go and do whatever I needed to do to reset myself and come back. For me, recovery is really important.
So, to prevent getting to that point, I started doing what I called ‘HIT training for overwhelm’.
I’d do interval training. I’d do 90 minutes of strenuous training, of stressful engagement and then I’d have a 10 to 15 minute break of rest and reset. Then I’d go back into the stressful occupation until I hit the 90 minute mark, stop , do the 10 to 15 minute rest and reset again, and do this pattern on repeat, the 90/10 to 15.
What I found was, not only was I not hitting overwhelm to the point of maximum saturation, I was actually conditioning myself to deal with overwhelm a lot more effectively. So my exposure to overwhelm was becoming greater and greater every time. So overwhelm and stress was making me stronger and stronger.
My recommendation is, don’t see overwhelm as a negative, see it as a positive. It’s a form of conditioning, overwhelm or stress conditioning. Expose yourself to it for extended periods of time but when you reach maximum saturation, where you become fried and useless, it’s too late. You want to be preventing yourself from getting to that point by stepping away, resting, recovering and distracting yourself. Go to the toilet, go for a walk and then come back.
Come back to the overwhelm or stress conditioning, have a break…and repeat, repeat.
Over time, what you will notice is your stress muscle will become stronger and you’ll be able to deal with more overwhelm and more intense overwhelm for extended periods of time.
I’m at the point now, I do very little 90/10. Today I have a back to back day, all go and I’ll leave here at 5.30pm fresh as a berry. The reason I can do that is, I’ve spent the last 20 years conditioning myself to more and more levels of stress and overwhelm.
There are times now when I work for a good 5 to 6 weeks solid with only 1 or 2 days off here and there, before it starts to really impact me. Some people may say that’s not very healthy, however, I’ve built up to this capacity over years and years. It may be unhealthy if you’ve never done that before, but when you condition and expose yourself over many years, you cope with greater levels of intensity and exposure to stress.
It’s about understanding you can’t go and squat 280 cold or you might snap yourself in half!
When I first started working at that rate trying to keep up with others, I did burn out. In fact, I was hospitalised twice before I learnt the importance of conditioning and recovery and dealing with high levels of stress.
Condition yourself and recover – on repeat – until that overwhelm and stress muscle is strong. Condition and recover – repeat.
Hope that helps. KR