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Feeling overwhelmed? Try letting go

Peace begins when expectations end photo- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Just let go! The advice sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Your mind may be screaming back, “Oh, no! How can I possibly let go? There is so much to do and not enough time to do it all. I can’t let go! What if I miss a deadline? What if the kids don’t get dinner? What if the laundry is not done? What if? What if? What if?”

Yet research clearly shows us that if things are piling up and we are feeling overwhelmed, the precise prescription to feel better is to walk away for a bit. Or better yet, take a day off. You will return with a renewed attitude and uplifted spirits. By letting go, if only for a few minutes, you will also be able to think more clearly and be more productive when you return to your projects.

Another way to remove yourself from the feeling of being overwhelmed is to take an honest look at the expectations you have of yourself and others. Decide which expectations are inconsequential and then let them go.

Are you a perfectionist? I was too and it was literally killing me. Through a series of unpleasant events I got the message that not everything I am doing has equal weight. My business projects need to be a priority and need to be done very well. I hold myself to high standards for those. But other things in my life are simply not as important.

We humans think in patterns and love to categorize. To help me sift and sort the importance of each task and project, I created a little mantra for myself: “How Good is Good Enough?”

When I begin to work on something I quietly ask myself, “How good IS good enough?” This simple question allows me to choose how much time and energy needs to be put into the task at hand. Or if I will do it at all. My mantra also creates a huge sense of freedom as I let go of unrealistic expectations. The weight of feeling overwhelmed is lifted from my shoulders when I determine how good “good enough” really needs to be. Then I simply let go of the rest of the expectation.

Let’s try this out. Does it really matter if there are dirty dishes in my kitchen sink? How good is good enough? Since the morning is my most productive time, is it good enough to leave the dirty dishes in the sink right now and to spend my time writing instead. Really, will anyone die if there are dirty dishes in the sink? I release the expectation that in order to be a good person my kitchen sink has to always be clear of dirty dishes. (Where did that unconscious programmed belief even come from? How preposterous!) And then I say to myself, “No one is going to die because there are dirty dishes in the sink. Who cares? Let that go!” Then I take a deep breath and walk away from the dishes. The beauty is that this entire conversation with myself happens in a split second. My choices about where to spend my time and energy all come from asking “How good IS good enough?”

Now you try it. Will anyone die because the shoes by the doorway are in disarray? How good is good enough? Will anyone die because you chose not to look at your email on Sunday afternoon and to focus on family time instead? How good IS good enough? The mantra is a great stress reduction and work-life balance strategy.

In my garden greenhouse I have a rock that has a saying etched on it, “Peace begins when expectations end.” When I figure out which expectations I can put an end to and then release them, I sink into the most delicious feeling of peace and serenity. This is what balance feels like. Feeling overwhelmed is a thing of the past. At those moments I welcome the ease. Everything feels right with the world. My intention is to let go, release expectations and to create more of these Zen moments in my life. Ahhhhh!

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