Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Doing Too Much and How To Do Less

'I believe I can' - affirmation card

Hello my friends,

I have the most amazing amount of stuff I want to achieve at the moment!  I've taken on two creative business courses (which I'm doing and loving), am dreaming and planning new art work not to mention all the normal stuff that comes with family life such as the supermarket shop, the school run, cooking, keeping the house clean etc; you know the kind of things I'm talking about!

When life gets full up with things to achieve, I sometimes find myself looking for a fast forward button - I feel so much excitement about my projects and ideas, that I just cannot wait to get them all done and out there!  When I feel this happening, I realise I need to slow down and find my rythmn again.  It's just as easy to lose my momentum on something if I go at it head down and full speed, as when I take an age beginning a new project, and the ideas percolate for too long and lose their sparkle.

What happens when we lose our rythmn and go into overdrive?
My experience has been this:  

Life becomes jumbled and untidy 
I tend to eat rubbishy foods (like cookies, chocolate, heaps of toast and marmalade and kettle chips) 
I am late going to bed and spend way too much time on my computer.  
I rush my 'relaxing' bath and race through my day with each thought chasing the tail of the last one.  
I get crabby and irritable
I feel overwhelmed

Not too much gets achieved when I'm like that because there is no rythmn.  It's jerky, it's messy, and it's painful because it leads to feelings of frustration and failure.  When I expect too much too soon, I usually always feel the pain of these feelings and emotions coming up and I know that I need to move at a more gentle pace, and make time to listen to what I (my body) really needs.  Oh, and I need a plan too.

 A favourite waterside walk to relax

Getting outside is enormously helpful for me (as in calming and relaxing), and having a diary or planner for my deadlines is too.  Once I have stuff written down and I can physically see the dates I'm needing to get stuff done by, the urge to rush around like a wild chicken disappears.  I know I can realistically achieve stuff when I've planned for it and that naturally creates breathing space for the rest of life to resume it's regular (and happier) pace again.  I begin to cook healthy food, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and I can hold a conversation without frowning and snapping.  I feel more balanced when I remove the panic and urgency from my mind.

How do you deal with overwhelm, and what do you find works best for you when you're bogged down with busyness?  Please share your thoughts in the comments thread, I'll be popping in randomly to join in the conversation!

Thanks for reading, big love to you
Julia x

I will shortly be releasing a NEW Open Edition Signed Print of 'The Evening Stroll' which will be available at a special price to my mailing list subscribers for a limited time ~ sign up now to hear about it first, and to take advantage of the discount! (click the link with the envelope in the side bar - it's free and you'll also benefit from exclusive news, art updates, sale previews and regular discounted prices on my work) x

'The Evening Stroll'


  1. This sounds all too familiar and I'm not sure what my answer is... although I know I have eaten far too much toast and marmalade for lunch!

  2. I know what you mean, sometimes I feel like that too! I always find it best just to relax somehow (whether you think you have the time or not!), which normally, for me, consists of either going for a walk or visiting my veg patch! :) x

  3. There is something rather satisfying about a big pile of toast and marmalade isn't there?!! :D
    Gardening is definatly a great way to relax too, digging and planting really help me to switch off.

  4. Making time to get outside for a walk with the dog definitely helps, but I don't know how to maintain the state of calm when I get back in!

  5. I went into overload last year, and everything came crashing down - so I have to try to be realistic about what I can achieve, and not let my enthusiasm over-run the time available. Also mindful breathing, and trying to just be ...

    Pomona x

  6. So much of this chimes with me!

    I find I crave carbs constantly, and mentally I find my mind hopping from one demand to the next, with very little actually being achieved. And I take longer to get to sleep.

  7. Oooh me too (especially with the toast!)
    I trade with myself to allow guilt free time to make (otherwise known as my job!) . So, I divide the house etc up into sections and do a section a day. If I race through it I can relax in the workshop with a (vague) feeling that it's all under control, rather than the nagging feeling in the back of my head that I should be doing something else.

    The other one is a bigger deal...but we go to a holiday barn in v remote Snowdonia at least once a year for real quality time together as a family. It has no TV, no phone signal, no internet and we ban all electric games. It always grounds us all - we talk/play more than any other time of the year...and always come back with good intentions to keep it up!
    Nice to know I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed sometimes
    fee x

  8. Fee I love the idea of the barn, that sounds like such a wonderful experience to share as a family. Life is pretty fast paced these days, and finding that time together can be difficult to schedule!

    Belinda, I too crave carbs - BAD chocolate, you know the kind :)

    Pomona, Being realistic about achievements and our own expectations of ourselves is a great thing to bear in mind if it's getting too much, and mindful breathing is a very simple, and effective way of rebalancing. Thanks for the reminder!

    Iz ~ being outdoors really does help, there's something about fresh air and birdsong and the rythmical sound of our footsteps. Maybe some mindful breathing as Pomona suggested, might help during your walk, to help really balance you for when you return home?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this folks, really enjoying reading!
    J x

  9. I DEFINITELY start feeling crazy and overwhelmed and generally out of balance if I take on too much -- or if I stop being aware and go through the motions of everything instead of actually living.

    p.s. I wandered over here from the SARK forums!

  10. Julia...that's me!! I've just read it out to my husband to show him I'm not the only chocolate stuffing, computer hogging,tail chasing, messy thinking, chaos creating, mind whizzing, late to bed irritable mum in the world!!
    I find once I have made several lists (clung together with a paperclip!) I can begin to focus... as even though the length of the lists maybe daunting at least its all on paper and not whirring away in my head with the potential to be forgotten (my fear!). Then its really satisfying to cross off each item starting with 'make a list'!
    I have also started a 'positive things' note book in which I write those tiny or monumental cool things that have happened each day (although sometimes its retrospective!) Its great to leaf through.
    A coffee with my friend, a hug from my son or a calm word from my husband always gets me back on track too.
    Keep on keeping on top of the overwhelm!!
    Ali x

  11. I hear you!

    I had to experiment and explore and do a lot of journaling to sort out what it is that is going to keep me feeling energized.

    At this point, that is - morning + evening yoga, mid-day meditation, meal planning and buying enough for healthy meals for the week (amazing how much easier that makes things for me!).

    And being super organised in my business - but in a very creative/spiritual way. I use creative visioning to make plans that I am coming at everything with spirit and intuition and heart. That keeps me from getting overwhelmed in my business.

    I even created a project management system with glitter and intuition flash cards that let the heart of my business speak up in project planning.

    With all this in place - I am stunned by how productive I can be without feeling overwhelmed. But as soon as any of these pieces go missing - I fall totally out of balance and it all turns to pizza and stress.

  12. I like a good list when I'm too busy. I find it very satisfying to cross things off a list. If I don't write a list, I panic that I have too much to do and will forget something. It's just my way of being a bit more orderely.

    I think we creative people have these BIG creative surges and it's very hard to stop and calm down. It's a bit like being in hyperdrive and having lots of energy which we want to make the most of. I don't know about you but I have highs and lows. I always over do it with the highs and am exhausted for the next few days. Still learning to moderate those energetic times. :)

    I also try to remind myself to actually BE in the moment of every moment. It helps clear my head and I relax.

    Love this post Julia.

    Anne xx

    P.S. Being an Aussie, I do my toast with vegemite. YUM!!

  13. Betherann, so glad you hopped over from Sark! :) It's clear that we all need balance in our lives, we all seem to suffer the same fate if we take on too much don't we?

    Ali - we all do it don't we at times!! Lists and gratitudes are a fabulous way to stay positive and focused, thanks for sharing your ideas :)

    Andrea, I love your daily map for staying aligned and on track - especially the glitter part :D It seems such a simple formula to stick to, yet you're right - if we veer off track it's amazing how fast we can lose our balance.

    Anne - I love the way you describe Big Creative Surges! Just a few days ago I totally overloaded myself with a part of my business course. I was getting the warning signs but carried on studying, getting over excited at what I was learning and becoming very energised by it all. Consequently I was totally spent for a couple of days after.

    Really enjoying the comments that are being shared here, please join in if you feel you'd like to!

    J x

  14. That's all so familiar and timely for me right now. I am definitely in that mode.

    For me,to relax and find my space again, I need to do something physical, write a plan of action...and then do something I enjoy, like craft. I also find praying to be a really good way of calming myself down. It helps to know I don't have to do everything on my own.

    So much of coping is about getting the million and one tiny things that are buzzing around back into their proper perspective and remember that the world WON'T end if I don't get it all done!

    I'm really enjoying your posts. Thanks x

  15. I guess one of the main advantages to getting older and not having the good health you assumed you would have in old(er) age, is that you learn to 'slow down and smell the coffee'. You appreciate each day more, and rather than try and rush through it with all the things you want to do, you do it at a more leisurely pace, listening to your body and ajdusting the pace accordingly. You learn to be mindful, to be more in the moment than doing something with your hands whilst your mind has already jumped one step, or more, ahead. You take time for YOU and don't feel guilty about it. You sleep when you need to, and if that's for half an hour in the middle of the day or afternoon, so be it. And of course, being retired, there is nothing that has to be done to a time schedule... you can come and go as and when you please, late ups and lie ins are the order of the day too.

  16. Hi Julia..your post today makes so much sense and has been my experience too. Sometimes setting the small things in order and giving them the right space can make the bigger things easier to achieve in the long run!

  17. YES!
    I relate very much.
    I could go into specifics but I think ultimately it's about finding space for BEing as well as DOing. Also in my case I tend to multitask/multiproject and it gets confusing/overwhelming. I have learned that however 'urgent' everything seems, doing one thing at a time and doing it well/to completion is really helpful in avoiding the crazy x Helen

  18. Hi Julia! I love your Evening Stroll painting - I love foxes!
    I used to be too busy and trying to do too many things when I was young. Now I can't be very effective (hope that's the right word) and fortunately I don't take a stress about undone works - I do them when I can. That sounds lazy - I am. I can sit hours with the computer or a sewing machine - now and then stopping to watch my sleeping dogs - and eat chocolate, sandwich and drink coffee...
    oh no where this leads...
    Thank you for a wonderful post and paintings!
    xxx Teje

  19. I love this post - and I know these feelings too! In fact, coming here today has reminded me that the overwhelm is not far away ( I recognise that feeling of being restless and dissatisfied with my day), and I need to do something - today!

  20. Now you have made me crave marmalade on toast you meany :-) I do find I feel like this when a few extra things need doing, for instance we are off on hols soon as that has thrown me, so much to do but so much I want to do. I find pottering in the garden or down the allotment earthing somehow, I feel so much better after that, oh and of course a glass of cava whilst gardening.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this - it's a real insight and I'm grateful to hear the different ways you have of dealing with overwhelming and busy times!

    Love the cava whilst gardening idea, and taking one thing at a time (overload can make us feel like we have to accomplish EVERYTHING all at once!).

    I also relish the idea of getting older, and having less in the way of commitments - the idea of naps and lie ins sounds like a wonderful luxury to me right now (with a 3 year old who likes to get up at 6:30am!!!)

    J x

  22. Love you blog and your work, its so lovely!! Awesome work.

  23. Your blog is amazing! I am in love with it. I have to go now, but I want to come back to browse thru it.


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