How to stop feeling overwhelmed.
When I got back from a ten-day photography trip to Costa Rica, I was wondering, “what were you thinking?” I’d taken over 9,000 images, and I had to figure out a strategy to work through them. 😱
The beauty of digital photography is that it allows us to take a massive number of photos. The downside is that we take so many. And they have to be viewed, culled, and edited. That massive workload had me in a state of numb.
How to get inspiration?
Try finding what is common between Will Ferrell, baseball, and a bird.
That’s a stretch, isn’t it?
I was in a slump and needed inspiration. So instead of hunkering down and getting all this work in front of me done, I watched a lengthy YouTube interview with Will Ferrell.
Why? More cowbell!
Seriously though, I didn’t mean to get so sidetracked. I started with good intentions by reading a blog about efficiency to get inspired by the task in front of me. The blog offered useful tips, but almost as a farce, the author suggested the diversion of a Will Ferrell interview. I’m not sure it ended up with any particular efficiency for me. But it did get my creative energy moving in a positive direction.
A model of how to hold it together.
In the interview, Will Ferrell was in the throws of fielding many interesting questions from his movie, “Downhill”. As the discussion progressed, the interviewer had even more questions for Ferrell about baseball. All of this dialogue was interspersed with progressively hotter chicken wings until the Scoville level finally made Ferrell walk off the set. The way he kept calm and collected through the escalating torture was impressive. Thank God they had milk for him to sip in between wing sauces. Towards the end of the conversation, the interview transitioned to Harry Carey, a famed broadcaster of the Chicago Cubs. then the creative ideas started to flow for me like hot lava in Hawaii.
Back to focusing.
Well, that was quite a rabbit hole, wasn’t it?
I could have berated myself for being inefficient with my time and getting “nothing” done. Instead, I embraced what I was doing which was allowing for some creative time. Play is not just for kids.
I went back to my computer to look at those daunting 9,000 images. The one that I focused on was this one. One of many of the toucans that frequented the inn we stayed at during our Costa Rican rainforest trip.
This toucan is the Collared Aracari, pronounced “air” – “ah” – “carry.”
When you go to an ecolodge in Costa Rica, most of the lodges create perches so you can see the colorful birds reasonably close. You don’t even have to pay a lot of attention to view this bird. He makes a distinctively loud call when arriving at the perch, like that obnoxious character in the family whose voice instantly puts you on edge. The distinctive feathering, colors, and patterns remind me of someone wearing an old sweater vest paired with the ugliest sports jacket that really should have visited a dry cleaner at some point in the last decade.
I know you are thinking, these are all random thoughts. How does this tie into getting out of the state of overwhelm?
But you’re this far, so let’s keep the journey moving. I felt a bit of inspiration peeking out of the corners. I would try to tie all of these mental ramblings together. If this bird were not Harry Caray, but rather, Hairy Aracari and could announce to the birders at the ecolodge, here would be his spiel:
Hairy Aracari at the Ecolodge:
(as the announcer, first inning or rather, the first light of day):
“Hello again, everybody. It’s a bee-you-tiful day for bird watching. Or bee watching, if you’re into that sort of thing.”
(second inning, the second round of birds arriving at the Ecolodge perch):
“Here’s the pitch. Aw, how could the keel-billed toucan lose the banana in the sun? Guess he’s from the rainforest.”
(somewhere around the 5th inning and the game is a bit slow, the home team is behind — wait, we are birding — the perch has fewer visitors, and the brown-faced parrots keep hogging the stage):
“Now you tell me, if I have a day off during the season, where do you think I’ll spend it? At the Ecolodge! I still love it. Always have, always will. Plus they keep putting bananas out. I’d eat the moon if it were made of bananas.”
(after the 7th inning stretch when he has sung his heart out because the gigantic great curassow finally jumped away from the perch):
“I look at birding as a game. It’s something where people can go out, enjoy, and have fun. Nothing more.”
(bottom of the 9th, the sun has set, light is dwindling):
“I’ve always said that if you don’t have fun while you’re here, then it’s your fault. You only get to do this once. Live it up; the meter is running.”
Benefits of daydreaming.
I could have forced myself through all those photos instead of playing this game of connecting dots with my thoughts. Instead, I used different parts of my brain and in the end, had some insights and fun. My energy level elevated. This statement below really resonated with me. When we feel overwhelmed, we think we have too much to do. That isn’t it.
“Your feelings of being overwhelmed don’t spring from having too much on your plate, but from having too little, too little of what strengthens you. The specific activities that strengthen you have been drowned out by everything else.”
–Marcus Buckingam, “Find Your Strongest Life”
Get into the flow.
What strengthens me is imagination. Sadly, during those early years in the classroom, we were told not to daydream, that it was bad. But for me, when I embraced imagining this bird as an announcer, I got into a creative flow. I focused on my strengths. I became fully immersed and energized. And in the end, I sat down afterward and was able to work on the larger project. I satisfied my need to express myself, and therefore, I was able to concentrate.
We need to recognize the need for our subconscious mind to have the time to break through with guidance. If we keep trying to tackle the to-do list, we silence that voice and all the treasures it desires to share.
In addition, I whittled the bigger project of 9,000 photos into a bite-size effort: one photo. Then I was able to start taking action. That is so important. So often, and I am very prone to this, we stall in the thinking phase. Or shall we call it the “petrified” phase? I know I can tackle one photo. And usually, once I start on something small like that, I find I keep going.
Creativity reduces stress.
When we use creativity to our advantage, we gain so much. Our thought process shifts from seeing the overwhelming list of to-dos as obstacles to seeing them as challenges. The creative process enables you to decompress. Creativity also encourages open-mindedness and patience.
Now it’s your turn. Listen to music, make music, make a recipe, knit something, plant a garden, create that spreadsheet, develop jokes. It doesn’t matter what it is.
If you were a trooper and watched the Will Ferrell interview, perhaps you feel like you need to eat some chicken wings at this point. You can practice creativity to discover what will cool off your burning tastebuds. Good luck! But always remember as the late Harry Carey said, “the meter is running!”
Did these thoughts help you? Did you at least laugh a little? Cool. Let’s stay connected. Sign up below so you don’t miss out on more like this.
And let me know how you get out of overwhelm.
Ann Newman is a photographer, writer, and creator of Annstracts who brings readers inspiration through her abstract photos. As a former, professionally-trained salesperson, Ann understands that people want to solve problems or accelerate growth for a better future. Exploring the little moments in life with gratitudes gives her art a positive spin. You might find Ann near her home in Phoenix, bent down looking at the tiniest details of a bug, patting any nearby dog, or asking “why” an awful lot.