Is Having Too Much Choice Leading to Burnout?

13/07/2016 12:50

I am a self-confessed magpie. I like shiny, bright, exciting, new. I want it all, and I want it NOW! We are lucky to live in a time, and place in the world where possibilities are limitless and choices are endless. We have choice about how we wish to live, choices to have lifestyle we most desire, and the possibilities to create through choice. Of course, it hasn't always been this way. I witnessed just how hard my own mum, and the generations before her, had to battle for the right to be seen and heard, let alone be taken seriously. My mum stood firm in her drive to hold rightful space, and for the life and career she strived so hard for. She was a role model for me, and I take nothing she did for granted. There's still a long way to go, and with it I recognise that by blazing the trail for us to take it all on - to be more, to do more, to have more - we are collectively reaching a danger point. We're tipping over the edge into an abyss of physical, mental and emotional burnout, with reports of over three quarters of women in the UK suffering from stress related anxiety.

It's happening everywhere I look around me: my clients come to me feeling bruised and broken from overwhelm, trapped in layers of fear of getting life wrong and FOFU (fear of f*cking up). I receive daily emails from people reaching out, desperate for the elusive balance. And on a personal level, I was witness to the result of being in constant 'push' mode for too long. My mum died just months into her retirement following a stress-related illness. Her body could no longer cope with the constant and raging pressure put upon it.

Although living in a world of limitless possibilities and choices is an incredible blessing, it can also feel like a curse. At times, everything can feel so grabby that it's tinged with the repugnance of self-absorption. Other times, the hotchpotch of confusion leaves us literally glued to the spot. Some of the time we can be so overwhelmed, that the idea of hiding under the duvet until it's safe to come out is incredibly appealing. And sometimes - just sometimes - we have so much choice that it can feel as though we have none at all.

So, how can we get on our best foot with all these choices we have to live a more even-flowed - or at least, counter-balanced - existence? Here's my take on the way to handle choice.

Less push, more flow

For years I was on constant push mode. Proving to everyone else, aside from me, that I was some kind of tornado of power and strength. Being depleted from always being in 'on mode' was my badge of honour. Now it's different. Somedays I hustle, some days I don't. Some days I have creativity bursting out of every bone in my body, some days there's none. On the days that I don't feel like doing any damn thing aside from looking after me, I do just that. That's how I honour my spirit.

Tuning into intuition
Understanding the distinction between ego and intuition has done wonders when too much choice is tipping me over the edge. When my thought process resemble a Spaghetti Western, and my inner dialogue is dialed up to 11, I tune into what's going on inside. As a starting point I ask myself 'Is this thought, voice, or feeling coming from a place of fear, lack, or overwhelm?' If the answer is 'yes', then my ego is most likely putting on a protection play-out. If the answer is 'no' I tune in deeper to find out what I need to learn and understand the deeper sense of what I really need.

Appreciating the present moment
When the overwhelm of too many choices is rough-riding my backside, it can be all too easy to forget that nothing is real aside from To do this, I bring myself back to the present moment - it's the greatest truth we have. With a conscious breath (inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4 and repeat) we return to ourselves rather than getting anxious about what's been, or what's to come.

Stop...Focus time
Multitasking is the killer of all productivity and rational thought. A study by the University of London has found that multitasking whilst carrying out cognitive tasks - such as emailing, or talking on the telephone - lowers our IQ levels to an equivalent of losing a night's sleep. The effects long term are even more damaging: multitasking causes production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which wears out the body over time. Focusing on one thing at a time is better for productivity, our bodies, and our brain's health.

Showing gratitude for what we already have
It can be all-too-easy to jump head-long into disaster movie scenario when thinking about changing from the status quo. I truly appreciate that, whilst I can worry all day long about what might happen, I have everything I need in abundance right now. As well as bringing me back to the present moment, this also allows me to look at things from a place of power, rather than from a place of lack.

Focus on Core Desired Feelings

Taken from Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map work, core desired feelings focus on how, and what, you want to feel more often - what makes you come alive. When I work with my clients we really tune into, and create a vision, for what they want their life to be in a fully-rounded sense. This enables us to focus (that magic word) on what needs to change today, so they can build towards those core desired feelings.

What to leave behind
Turning the CDF on it head. I will often start work with clients defining what it is that the don't want in their lives. It can often be an easier place to start if you you're feeling battered by too many options, false starts and 'failed' experiences. I encourage my clients to really go to town on all the things that they wish to give up and leave behind. By doing this, we get to the heart of what's most important for living a creative life full of technicolour shine.