How to go from Overwhelmed Mess to Calm Sophisticate

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As a modern woman, you probably have experienced that “drowning in obligations” feeling that seems to be our operating set point these days.

“I just can’t catch up,” one client told me.

“I can’t keep doing it all,” another said.

“I feel like all I do is run around from sun up to sun down,” another confessed.

Phrases, like these pop up continuously in conversations with girlfriends, family and my community.

What’s up with all the overwhelm?

As an advocate of leisure as a means to restore our souls (and sanity), I’ve been asking this question for years.

Why do we fill our calendars with so many obligations?
Why do we kill ourselves to try and reach goals?
Why do we try to be everything to everyone?
Why do we resist enjoying beautiful moments?
Why do we cram our lives with excess?

Perhaps Josef Pieper summed it up best in Leisure: The Basis of a Culture.

“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.”

In working with my highly ambitious clients (myself included), I’ve discovered that it’s always the intention behind our actions that matters.

It’s one thing to work from a place of passion, excitement and joy.

It’s a completely different experience to work in an attempt to prove yourself and gain the accolades from others.

I’ve done both, and here’s what I’ve learned:

You cannot do enough if your underlying belief is ‘not enough’. {click to tweet}

It took a trip to Paris many years ago to help me experience how I wanted to feel in my daily life.

When I stepped off the plane in Charles du Gaulle, little did I know that I was about to learn how to be a more calm, sophisticated woman who was going to learn how to live life at my own pace.

I’ve been practicing this way of being for years, and although I’ve yet to perfect it, what I can assure you is that overwhelm is not a part of my daily vocabulary like it was all those years before.

If you’re ready to become a calm sophisticate, here are some suggestions for you to try:

1. Go fast and slow.

France has a different operating system. It’s a mixture of fast and slow, a little bit of yin and yang, a little bit of speed up then slow down.

On the streets, women have a quick, confident pace until they arrive at the cafe to enjoy a leisurely 2-hour lunch with friends.

They will take the TGV (high-speed train) to visit the countryside with their family only to flaneur over the next few days.

They drive like a bat out of hell to get home after work where they enjoy sitting at the table to savor a glass of wine and dinner.

We don’t want to go through life as the tortoise feeling like we’re making little progress, but we can’t maintain the speed of the hare either.

The calm sophisticate knows how to move through life at her own pace, sometimes speeding up and other times, slowing down.

2. Know what you value

If you value everything, you value nothing.

One of the biggest reasons people are running around like the earth is on fire is because they haven’t stopped to define what’s truly important to them.

So, they try to do everything.

Take my client, Allison, for example. She was trying to climb the corporate ladder, be a mom to 3 young kiddos while also staying healthy and fit. This does not include her time spent on the board of a non-profit, managing her home and trying to have some sort of social life.

When she came to me, she was exhausted, confused and out of sorts.

“I can’t do it all,” she confided.

“Why are you trying to do it all,” I asked.

“Because, I’m afraid to choose.”

“Why?”

“Because that would mean that I’d have to let some things go,” she said.

“And,” I asked.

“And, I’d disappoint others,” she said.

This conversation went on, and what Allison discovered is that she was running her life out of fear — fear of what others would think if she said no or didn’t live up to their expectations.

Through our work, she decided that her top 3 values were family, home and peace.

By making choices that honor her values, Allison’s life looks very different today. She quit her job and is now working from home. She volunteers at her kid’s school. And, she confided she’s never felt more alive and happy in her life.

You must know what you value and be courageous enough to build your life around it, or you’ll be a scattered, overwhelmed mess.

3. Manage your mind like a CEO

If your main thoughts are similar to these….

I don’t have time.
I have to get this done.
I cannot possibly do this.
My life is SO out of balance.
This is way too hard.
She will be so upset if I don’t do this.
I can’t possibly say “no.”

…life will never have a sense of calm.

Yet, we think that our external world must change before we change our thoughts.

It’s quite the opposite.

Change what’s happening in that gorgeous head of yours, and things outside of you will be the reflection of what you choose to believe.

4. Listen to your body

When we’re overwhelmed, our mind tries to convince us to go harder and faster.

Just last week, I had a first hand experience of this. My blog post was due, and I couldn’t think of one word to write. I stared at the computer screen in a trance. I Facebooked, Instagrammed, and Googled (yes, I consider these verbs), because at least that meant I was doing something productive, right?

The truth was that I was exhausted.

So, finally, I listened to my body and took a nap.

Our brains and bodies function best when they are well rested and nourished.

If you are suffering from overwhelm, what you may really need is not checking off more boxes on your to-do list, but stepping away and giving your body what it needs.

By the way, after my little nap, I wrote my most popular blog post to date.

Listen and trust your body. It knows way more than your mind does.

5. Plan & Schedule

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Looking back at my most overwhelmed seasons in life, I discovered what was missing: a clear plan. 

Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they may have planned for you? Not much.”

When you know what you value and your top priorities, you can easily begin to say yes to what really matters and no to everything else.

A beautiful life consists of both strong yes’s and no’s. {click to tweet]

Then, here’s the important part:

Schedule what matters.

A calm sophisticate puts it in her calendar and shows up to honor what she’s declared important.

6. Realize that EVERYTHING is happening at its perfect time

It’s so sad to see how hard we are on our own hearts, beating ourselves up by telling ourselves that should be further ahead and more successful.

Then, we abandon ourselves to chase after the illusion that things should be different from what they are in this very moment.

When feeling overwhelmed, begin practicing the art of knowing that everything is unfolding exactly as it should. Things should not be any different than what they are right now. If it should, then it would.

This one shift will allow you to slow down and savor whatever moment you are in. That energy will bring you clarity about your next step.

There is no other place to be than right where you are. Breath and enjoy!

Why become a calm sophisticate?

Many people believe that if they’re not overwhelmed and worried about their lives, nothing will get done.

The calm sophisticate knows otherwise. Calm, non-dramatic energy is actually the space where problems are solved most effectively and life lived most deliciously.

If overwhelm sneaks in the back door (as it most often does), take some nice deep breaths and remember this:

Calm is always one choice and thought away. {click to tweet}

The overwhelm will melt like butter on a hot day, and all that will be left is your inner calm sophisticate who’s ready to take over her world at her own glorious pace.

So, tell me: which of the suggestions will you put into practice this week?

Remember, don’t use your quest to become calm to create more overwhelm by trying to do it all at once.

The calm sophisticate knows the power of small, daily consistent actions.

I’ll see you down below in the comments.

With Calm Love,

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5 Responses to How to go from Overwhelmed Mess to Calm Sophisticate

  1. Tonya,

    As you know from SCS, this is huge for me! I always hear you in my head saying overwhelm is a choice! Once I started creating my life through the plans I made…WOW! So much more time showed up and I became a “calm sophisticate!” Love this post!

    XO,

    Laurie

    • Laurie, isn’t it so empowering to know that we get to choose? That was a huge a-ha for me too. I thought that was just the way it was. To know I was creating it and I could choose something different was liberating.

  2. This is so true! I especially love the part when you say that we need to change our inside world before we can see a beautiful world. I have really been working on this! Each day, I am taking time to remember to discard the negative thoughts in my head, and just breathe. Now instead of filling my day with worries, I notice rose petals in the florist shop and the sparkling snow on the ground. Our thoughts really do determine our reality. Thanks for your inspirational words, Tonya!

    • So beautiful Dana! And, yes, we can either choose to worry or to focus on what’s going beautifully and well. The latter feels SO much better. Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you around :).

  3. I am so grateful for the FKL lifestyle. Each level builds me up and as I gain more inner calm and sophistication I am ready for the next adventure. The past year really changed me so much internally, and I regain my strength much faster now.

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