When I start coaching a client, one of the first things that they bring to the coaching relationship is the issue of being completely and utterly overwhelmed with everything. In many cases the feeling of overwhelm hangs around like really thick fog and doesn’t allow people to move in either direction in an empowered way. Sometimes the fog is so dense that moving anywhere becomes a huge undertaking. In these cases a lot of people prefer to stay put — which in turns creates frustration, stress, and feelings of guilt.
Overwhelm is unfortunately very common in today’s society, the society that places so much demand on our time. And overwhelm is even more common in families of expatriates, because they — on top of everything else — have to deal with additional issues. Issues of moving and relocation, of getting used to the unfamiliar and missing the familiar, of learning the language and learning a new life, of running a business and managing people in another culture …the list can go on and on. So what can an expatriate do to reduce overwhelm and to lift the fog around them?
I usually suggest two ways to deal with overwhelm:
(1) Take small steps. Just like when you are surrounded by fog and you are better off moving in small steps, getting rid of the overwhelm depends on your ability to proceed slowly celebrating each milestone as you complete them. What does it mean? Take a piece of paper and write out all your goals for the next 3 months. Don’t worry about how small or large those goals are — juts write them all down. Then look at the list. Find the smallest of them all and start with that goal. Small goals are easiest to reach and they give us the satisfaction of having completed something — and along with that satisfaction comes empowerment and energy to continue on. Which means you are no longer stuck in the fog unable to move — and that you are making a steady progress and defeating your overwhelm.
(2) Eliminate tolerations. We all carry with us things that we tolerate. We either tolerate them because of habit or we tolerate them because we don’t feel we can do anything about it, or we tolerate them for many other reasons. Tolerating things increases feelings of overwhelm. So, take another piece of paper and list all your tolerations. Look at the list and choose the one that seems the easiest to get rid of. Decide how you are going to get rid of it and commit to that plan of action. Once you eliminated that toleration, celebrate it and move on to the next one. By eliminating your tolerations you empower yourself with a new-found energy that fills the void left behind by the toleration.
What other ways are there to reduce overwhelm when living and/or working abroad?
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