Is everything piling up and up and up? Feel like your mind is going to EXPLODE? Just want to scream and shout?! Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Overwhelm is a bi*ch. It kills your productivity, gets those stress-levels rising and shoots that mental tension through the roof. It certainly stops But luckily for us, there are things we can do to stop it. To get our mind back into a better place, so that we’re able to work through everything we need to do, task by task. Here’s how to deal with overwhelm. Read it, apply it, and share it with others. Because we all need to take a step back from time to time, creating new positive habits in our life…
How To Deal With Overwhelm
STEP 1: BREATH
And I know what you’re thinking, “I have a million and one things to do and you’re telling me to goddam breath?!”
Well yes, yes I am. And focus purely on that. Just for a moment. Whatever you’re doing, just stop, close your laptop, sit down, shut your eyes even (who cares if you’re not on your own, self-care beats what anyone may be thinking!) and b-r-e-a-t-h. Deep breaths. If you struggle to do this, I recommend this 5 minute calming meditation from The Honest Guys.
Does that help? I thought so. If you want to know how to deal with overwhelm, you need to first change your state. When you’re het up – you can’t even think straight, let alone do anything else! If sitting down and breathing isn’t for you, get out in the fresh air, walk around the blocks a few times. Find what works for you.
STEP 2: ANALYSE
Now your mind is a little clearer, ask yourself: what is making me feel overwhelmed? If you can identify the cause, you can better map out a solution. And don’t just go for the immediate answer. For example, you might think –
“Well I’ve got loads of work to do of course…”
But are you always overwhelmed every time you have loads to do? Maybe not. So what is it really about? It could be financial pressure, things going on at home, something playing on your mind – which is making everything weigh up on top of you, causing this final workload to make you flip!
Common experiences that can lead to overwhelm include:
- Relationship issues
- Physical or mental health illness
- A demanding job
- Lack of nutrition
- Financial distress and insecurity
- Significant life changes (like a breakup!)
- Time constraints
- Death of a loved one
- Personal traumas
- Habitual lack of sleep
Or it could be a combination of the above. We can also feel overwhelmed when we have uncertainty in our lives or about a situation, when we don’t have the answers to tough problems or when our mind is simply racing with thoughts -and commonly- fears.
Analyse what’s happened or what is happening in your life which may be causing overwhelm right now; and how exactly you feel. Once you’ve pinpointed that, write it down.
Some things may be out of your control, but perhaps by talking about them, you can ease the weight of them. Almost everything can be worked through. But for now, you don’t need worry about that or have all the answers. Just get it out, identify, write it down, and push it aside for the time being. We’ll tackle it all properly shortly. For now we just want to ease the pressure so it’s no longer trapped inside your head. Remember, whatever’s going on, you will get through this. We will work it all out.
STEP 3: TAKE ACTION
Whatever is causing you to feel overwhelmed, do one thing right now that will be a positive step forward. No matter how big or small. So say it’s work overwhelm – finish the task you have in front of you right now, focus purely on that, get it done and out the way and you will feel a tiny sense of accomplishment that will help you through. Don’t jump from task to task or get distracted by whatever else might be going on in your life right now. Use your work as an escape where you can focus on that and that alone. Just give that one task your full attention. Start small.
Then, once you’ve done that, take a breather, feel proud and then look at the next thing you want to get done. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. In fact it’s the best way for how to deal with overwhelm.
Your stress and blood pressure build as you think about everything that you need to accomplish, on top of everything you have going through your mind. Too much to do and too little time. Or too much going on it means that even the small things seem too much for you.
You’re letting yourself feel bombarded because you’re living in the future and pulling in all your hopes, fears, everything into one… Take a step back, and just be in the here and now, working through – in order of priority – the things that you can do, one by one. Remember, every time you do something, tick it off your mental or physical to-do-list and allow yourself to feel good. Take another breather, then move onto the next thing.
You don’t have to have everything figured out at once. Take a step back and allow things to fall into place naturally. You’ve got this. Trust me. You just can’t see it because you’re letting everything haze your vision. So keep moving forward in the ways you can right now. And then take the rest from there.
‘You can do anything, but not everything…’
STEP 4: BE KINDER
Overwhelm can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure, so it’s extra important to pay attention to your mental radio and turn down the volume on your inner critic station. You don’t need to be so hard on yourself. The things you are probably saying are not constructive, helpful or probably even that true. Three quick things you can do to work on this:
- Develop an Awareness of Your Thoughts: If you want to know how to deal with overwhelm, you have to become more aware. See, we get so used to hearing our own narrations that it’s easy to become oblivious to the messages that we’re sending ourselves. Pay attention to what you’re thinking about and recognise that just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. You can actually build on this by replacing those overly critical thoughts with more accurate statements. So when you do find yourself thinking, “I never do anything right,” replace it with a balanced statement like, “Sometimes I do things really well and sometimes I don’t… And that’s okay! It makes me human!”
- Stop Over-Thinking: If you make a mistake, who cares? Let it go. In the big scale of things, it does not matter. If you’ve learnt from it, it’s actually a good thing – a key part of your development. If you feel bad about everything you ‘do wrong’, you will knock all levels of self-worth out of yourself, and that’s not going to put you in a good state. So when something happens, accept it then move on from it. You’ll actually find it frees up a lot more of your time, which will also help to reduce the feeling of overwhelm.
- Find Evidence: If you’re having repeated bad thoughts about yourself, take a moment to stop and think, “what evidence do I actually have that this is true?” And, more constructively, “what evidence do I have that this isn’t?” Find the positive things that throw your negative beliefs out the window! It will enable you to look at the situation more rationally and less emotionally. Sure, there will be elements of truth and areas you can improve – but there will also be a lot of things to feel good about.
Speak to yourself the way you would speak to a friend. Be a friend to yourself (in a way!) It will help you through almost any difficult time.
STEP 5: RE-FOCUS
Once you’ve calmed your mind, changed your state, realised what’s getting you so worked up, done one thing to make some sort of progress in the area and stopped being so damn hard on yourself – THEN (and only then!) can you look at how you can move forward.
‘Planning is bringing the future into the present, so that you can do something about it now…’
Often the route of overwhelm is trying to take on everything all at once. And unfortunately, no matter how hard you try – it will never be possible! And I know, it’s hard. When you have multiple passions, it’s difficult to accept that you can’t always juggle – for example – work, personal and creative projects, extra education, housework, friendships, dating, new relationships, errands, family time, “me” time, writing, hobbies, all in one go.
You also probably have a lot of dreams. And that’s a good thing! But by mapping all of the different areas of your life and the visions you have for each, into some sort of timeline, it’s going to significantly help you to deal with overwhelm. Then, you’re able to work through them one by one, you’re not missing out on anything, you’re just increasing the chances of everything becoming a reality… at a time that’s right for you.
Look at where you are now, all the different things you want to achieve, and where you want to ultimately be. Then map it out. The chances are, this plan will probably change. And that’s okay. Create it for where you are at this moment in time, instead of trying to work out every single aspect of your future. Then, you have clear goals to work towards, but the flexibility to enable it to change and develop as you go along.
Then, when it comes to day to day management – learn to say “no” to things that don’t fit in. Also be prepared to tackle life’s challenges as they come and go because it’s not always going to be smooth running but there is nothing that you can’t work through. Trust me.
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So that rounds up how to deal with overwhelm. Of course there’s heaps of other tips and tricks you can try – feel free to share these in the comments box below. But for now, let’s keep it nice and easy with these five simple steps. Wishing you positivity and productivity through this exciting stage of your life!