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Olivia was a web designer who worked with small entrepreneurial businesses. She loved helping entrepreneurs create websites that were as beautiful as they were functional.

After a few years in business, Olivia found herself feeling out of sorts. She’d go to her computer to start work for the day and instead of accomplishing anything, she’d simply stare at the screen. She had to-do lists that were overflowing with tasks and plenty of requests from new clients for potential projects. But she still couldn’t seem to do anything.

When she complained about it to a friend, the friend suggested that perhaps Olivia wasn’t unmotivated. Maybe she was in fact overwhelmed with her business.

Thabo was a freelance coder. He’d been doing this for several years, working for a range of clients who used him for their projects, but lately had been finding it harder and harder to finish his projects. The coding took longer and he found more and more reasons to be doing something else instead, and then when he did sit down to code, he found he was making elemental mistakes all the time.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business, what type of clients you serve, or even the projects you take on. Any entrepreneur can become overwhelmed in their business. Here are twelve signs it might be happening to you…

Sign #1: Difficulty Focusing

You have difficulty focusing. You might sit down at your desk and not know what to get started on. It seems like everything is equally important, but you can’t work up the energy to get started or even care.

You might sit there lost in thought, unable to be productive. Hours pass and you haven’t managed to get anything done. Each day, you leave your work area feeling frustrated. As time goes on, the pressure starts to mount as one day’s unfinished work is added to the next. This can create a crippling cycle of overwhelm.

Sign #2: Procrastination

Procrastination can be another sign that you’re overwhelmed. You used to love working on certain projects but now you avoid them.

Anxiety can also be a direct result of dealing with overwhelm. You might avoid working on a task because the overwhelm makes you afraid that you’re just going to fail anyway. As you procrastinate, the anxiety continues to build because you get further and further behind on what you need to do.

To cope with this, you might try to work on several projects at once and rush through them. In the end, you don’t feel satisfied with the outcome of any of them. But now you’ve created a cycle where you procrastinate then you’re suddenly productive for a few days or weeks only to crash and burn.

Sign #3: You’re Irritable

Another sign that you’re struggling is irritability. The little annoyances that life deals you, such as having to wait in line, suddenly feel like catastrophes. You might realize that you’re snapping at people, including family and friends. You have little to no patience for things or people anymore.

Sign #4: Exhaustion

Overwhelm in your business can make you feel tired frequently. Stress depletes your mental and physical resources, leaving you exhausted even when you’re not sleepy.

This symptom of overwhelm can become a never-ending cycle. Being tired makes you feel more drained which makes the overwhelm worse. Even if you do manage to get some rest, you’re not refreshed and dread starting a new day.

Sign #5: Insomnia

Insomnia is a common side effect of overwhelm. You may notice that you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep – even when you feel exhausted. You can’t get your mind to shut off. You wake up worried about a client project or you can’t sleep because you’re struggling to come up with solutions to problems your business is facing.

Sign #6: Memory Lapses

You’ve started missing appointments and meetings. You didn’t get that one tiny task done for a client that you meant to a week ago. You can’t remember where you put that important file you needed.

Overwhelm can cause memory lapses and difficulty recalling important facts. As your brain is struggling to absorb and retain too much information, it begins deleting things that don’t seem as essential in the moment.

Sign #7: Frequent Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes now and again. But if you’re frequently making mistakes then it might be caused by overwhelm. Since you’re experiencing difficulty concentrating and problems with memory recall, it’s easy to make silly mistakes that you normally wouldn’t.

Sign #8: Negative Self-Talk

Many entrepreneurs struggle with negative self-talk from time to time. But what you may not realize is this can be one of the first warning signs of overwhelm in your business. You might stop believing in yourself and your abilities. All you can see are the projects you’ve failed at or the mistakes you’ve made.

You tell yourself that you’ll never be able to get that project finished or that the project is beyond your skill level and you should just give it up. But if you allow it to continue, negative self-talk can eventually affect both your performance and your profits.

Sign #9: Changes in Your Eating Habits

The truth is that overwhelm affects every area of your life, including your eating habits. For some people, being overwhelmed means they don’t feel like eating at all, so they skip meals or don’t eat enough. This brings on physical symptoms from not getting enough calories or the right amount of nutrients.

However, some entrepreneurs deal with overwhelm by eating too much. It’s easier to turn to food when you’re upset as a way of trying to manage your emotions. But since overeating leads to shame and guilt for many people, it can make you feel worse about yourself.

Sign #10: Unexplained Stomach Upset

Many people who develop overwhelm start to have physical side effects because overwhelm is stressful and stress harms the body. You start to feel sick to your stomach or you may have other gastrointestinal issues. These can range from mild discomfort to more severe problems.

Stomach aches and nausea are both common results of overwhelm. This is because your body begins to release more of the stress hormone, cortisol. The excess cortisol leads to constipation, stomach cramps and even diarrhoea.

Sign #11: Isolating Yourself

Withdrawing from social situations isn’t uncommon when you’re overwhelmed. Maybe you don’t want to hang out with your friends. Perhaps you don’t have the energy and you don’t feel excited about the prospect of doing anything. You might even cancel events that you used to attend regularly and loved.

There are two reasons you might be doing this during times of overwhelm. The first reason is that you feel you can’t handle one more thing even if that thing is enjoyable. The second reason is that you might feel as if you deserve to be punished since you’re so far behind on your workload. But both of these reasons are keeping you from what you really need—contact with people who care about you.

Sign #12: Giving Up Self-Care

If you’re overwhelmed, the first thing you might let go of is self-care. You stop eating healthily. You miss out your exercise class. You stop taking time to read before bed or to journal.

On the surface, it seems like a good plan. If you stop taking care of yourself, you’ll have more time to focus on your business and your projects. But what you don’t realize is the business ceases to exist without you. If you’re not taking care of yourself—your most important asset—then you might as well be burning your profits.

 

Good News: It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Maybe you’ve been overwhelmed as long as you’ve been in business. Perhaps you simply think that this is the way life is for entrepreneurs. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can live free from overwhelm and actually enjoy your work again by just understanding how to overcome it.

If you’d like to work on reducing, or even eliminating, your feeling of overwhelm, click here to send me an email and I’ll reply with a free copy of my Battling Business Overwhelm workbook to get you started.

 

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