Feeling Overwhelmed? How a Coach can Help

2023 has been a busy year, November and December are the busiest months for many sectors in South Africa, and many are feeling overwhelmed.

To be overwhelmed is ‘to feel buried/drowning/suffocating’. When you are suffocated by work, you aren’t just busy, you are also not breathing – which means you aren’t getting what you need.

A coach can help a person handle overwhelm in three steps.

1) By sitting there and listening.
When we spend time ‘in our heads’, we ruminate and think in abstract concepts, we just ‘get it’; but the moment we verbalise these concepts and ideas, we have to convert them from abstract to logical. Often, overwhelm causes us to catastrophise things, but forcing our thoughts to take on a logical form often means shrinking the problem/s down to something more manageable. The moment you sit down with someone who is listening intently and isn’t judging you, you have already begun the process of working through your overwhelm..

2) By asking questions.
Coaches do more than just listen, they ask questions. First you verbalise, then the coach asks questions, forcing you to reflect on what you have said. People often tend to paint themselves into corners, be it through their beliefs, their knowledge, and/or their choices; reflection makes a person engage with these factors on a critical level.

3) Plan and prioritise.
When a person critiques their beliefs/knowledge/choices, they start planning on how they will solve the present problem. No one person can do everything, and a coach can give guidance on choices and prioritisation – if something is both urgent and important, do it; if something is important and not urgent, hand the task over to someone for whom it is urgent (or risk holding them up); if something is important but not urgent, schedule it for another time; and if something is neither urgent nor important, discard it entirely.

We often think that everything is important and/or urgent, but when we take a look at our to-do lists, more than a few things always fall off at the bottom, and often without any real consequences.

This is the process coaches will often go through with their clients, but sometimes a problem will seem more obvious to a coach than to their client. In our day-to-day lives we usually operate on a conscious level, with our subconscious state only becoming clear during discussions with others and when interrogating ourselves. Fear is a good example as it manifests differently depending on the context; to be unhappy or uncertain, lacking in self-confidence, low self-esteem, anxiety, etc.

Emotions are meant to keep us safe, and they normally do; but emotions should be taken as data, not directives.

Once a coach has identified an emotion like fear, they set about investigating the source, and, once armed with a better understanding of the situation, helping them overcome it.