Doreen opened the door. Immediately, overwhelm descended on her like a dark cloud that signals the storm. The room before her was full and disorganized. She did not know where to start or if she could even sort it out. To control the chaos before her seemed beyond her capability.
C-R-A-S-H. The sound startled Doreen and she looked around. “What was that?” She looked down at the books that were scattered at her feet. They had fallen with a crash when her elbow touched the shelf where they had been place haphazardly.
“Where do I begin?” Doreen sank to the ground and put her head in her hands. She was overwhelmed. “How did I get into this?” She felt like crying . . . .
In . . . out. In . . . out. Doreen took deeps breaths to calm herself. Then she stood up and took another look at the room. She felt more in control of herself. She renewed her determination to control the chaos before her. She made a start with the books on the floor. She arranged them in an orderly stack. Then, she looked at the shelf from which they had fallen. She started working on it. “Some of these things have to go,” she said to herself.
As Doreen tackled the shelf, she began to understand what had gone wrong and why the room was so chaotic. She devised a plan. She would tackle a little at a time until it was clear enough for her to reorganize the entire room.
Have you ever been in a situation that was so chaotic that it overwhelmed you? Sometimes, the chaos is of your own making. You were not diligent in keeping things under control. This may be your physical surroundings. It could be that you overcommitted. Sometimes you have so many different thoughts and you try to hold too much in your head. Your mind becomes chaotic.
What do you do when you feel that you cannot control the chaos; when you feel out of control?
Do what Doreen did. Acknowledge it, step back, start with what is easiest, assess, plan, and execute your plan — ASSAP (Acknowledge, Step Back, Start, Assess, Plan & Execute).
Acknowledge Where You Are
Acknowledgment is a prerequisite for controlling the chaos in your life. You see, you must have an accurate understanding of what you are dealing with to move past it. Thus, by admitting the true state of affairs, you position yourself to take control of it. If you ignore it or act as if it is other than it is, you will not be able to control it because you will be reacting to a false reality.
Thus, if your physical surroundings are overly cluttered, face it. If your life is chaotic admit it. If you are surrounded by people who generate chaos, be real about it so that you can do something about it.
Similarly, acknowledge your mental and emotional reaction to where you are and what is happening. If you are stressed or overwhelmed, admit it. If you do not know what to do and/or where to start, admit that.
However, this acknowledgment is not for the purpose of setting up a pity party or staying there. Rather, it is to release you to move forward. This requires stepping back.
Step Back to Control the Chaos
What is the purpose of stepping back? It is to give you the space to control the chaos. Stepping back may be physical and/or mental and/or emotional. What do I mean?
You may need to leave a room and its chaos to better absorb and process what is happening. Or, you may have to end a conversation that is hindering your mental clarity. Sometimes, it is momentarily shutting out the chaotic situations unfolding around you.
When you step back, you can go for a walk to clear your head, change your environment, be refreshed by nature. You can also do something as simple as move from standing to sitting or vice versa. There are many ways of stepping back physically.
In addition, step back from the emotion you are feeling. Take deep breaths. Pray and/or meditate and/or read something inspirational. Replace the sense of overwhelm with a sense of possibility and capacity to make a change.
Start With One Thing
Just make a start to deal with the chaos. If it is physical chaos, move one thing, then another, then another until you begin to have a sense of control. Remind yourself that, “Rome was not built in a day.” Celebrate each step and mark your progress.
If you are dealing with mental chaos, slow down your thoughts and choose one on which to focus. Quiet the others. In addition, journal and get those thoughts down. This also helps you to sort out what has become jumbled in your head.
If the chaos comes from overcommitting write down everything in which you are involved and start to withdraw from the unnecessary until you are in control of your life again.
When the chaos is external to you and beyond your control, recognize that while you cannot control it, you can control your reaction to it. Thus, use any of the techniques above to ensure that your reaction to it is not chaotic. And, as Joshua Becker points out in, “When the World Is in Chaos, Control What You Can,” control what you can. He gives a list of those things.
Assess the Situation
At some point you must assess what is happening and why so that you not only get control now, but prevent the situation from recurring. Here are some questions to help you do make your assessment:
- What is the root of the chaos?
- What is the most efficient and effective way in which to tackle it?
- Where did the breakdown in the system occur?
- How did things get this way?
- Why did this happen?
- Who is causing the chaos?
- Re people, what role do they need to have in my life?
- How do I change my reaction to what unfolds before me?
These are just some of the questions you may ask as you assess the chaos.
On a note of caution, do not start with assessing. This is a sure road to increasing your overwhelm and keeping you from getting control of the chaos. You must acknowledge and step back before you do any assessments.
Plan and Execute to Control the Chaos
It would be wonderful if you could prevent chaos from entering your life. However, it does. When that happens, do what Doreen did. Use ASSAP to control the chaos in your life.
Devise a two-fold plan to control the chaos. The first aspect of the plan pertains to solving the immediate situation. The second aspect of the plan relates to the long term, to ensure that things do not build up again to the extent that you are surrounded by chaos.
As you know, a plan is useless without execution. Without execution, it is something to be admired. However, because you want to control the chaos, you will executive your plan. Thus, in planning, be sure that your plan is realistic in terms of time frame and in terms of who you are.
Remember, planning and executing for long term chaos is about organizing your life. Check out these Top 5 Steps For You to Conquer Overwhelm and Stress.
How do you conquer overwhelm and stress?
Claire Annelise Smith,PhD, aka Dr. Claire, is the founder of Blazing Star Network, a Professional Training and Spiritual Coaching firm. She is also the author of multiple books and publications.
With two decades of executive experience under her belt, Dr. Claire understands the drive that keeps individuals going.
As an author, speaker, spiritual mentor and coach, Dr. Claire helps leaders organize their busy lives to have more time to connect with themselves, the people they love most, and God … without stress and guilt.