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When You’re Overwhelmed

Posted Jul 24 2008 4:20pm
Feeling overwhelmed is rough. Your emotions cloud your rational thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills. Your energy tends to drop and fatigue can set in, or energy remains but is more restless and unfocused. You can be exhausted but have trouble sleeping. On a deeper level you may doubt yourself, which affects everything.

There are times that one part of your life that is overwhelming, whether it’s a valued relationship, parenting, school, a full daily schedule, work, dealing with a co-worker or boss, finances, grieving a loss, being a caregiver, or coping with memories. But many times, several or all of the above may happen at once or within a short amount of time.

There is always hope, and there are some phrases that are cliche but still provide comfort and direction:

  • “One day at a time” - You can adjust this to one hour or even one minute at a time if you need to.
  • “No one is an island.” - The cliche uses “man”, but the point is that you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Allow or ask someone to help you when you need it.
  • “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” - Projects and responsibilities take time, and they don’t always fit into neat, exact time-frames. Don’t blindly expect them to.
  • “Just do it.” - Thank you, Nike.

Other ideas for what to do when you’re overwhelmed:

  • Take care of yourself. If you do, you will have more energy, more focus, and more patience to get through difficult times.
  • Connect with your spirituality. There is strength in faith when you feel like you have little or none yourself. And it’s interesting how that spiritual strength, even if it comes from outside of you, often seems to become your own strength.
  • Prioritize what you need to do. Make a list of essential things to do that day, no more than 7. These are 7 things you absolutely need to finish, start, or at least work on. If you can check all those items off the list then #8 is to make another list, taking into account your frame of mind, energy level, and time left in the day before getting decent rest for tomorrow. Another great thing about lists is you don’t have to use your overwhelmed mind to remember details, which often wears you out even more.
  • Break things up into pieces, which is easier than tackling something big all at once.
  • Change your perspective whether it’s reading a book, listening to music, watching something humorous, talking to someone, seeing your therapist, physician, or health-care provider, attending a martial arts or exercise class, going for a walk or jog, or meditating.
  • Pick a direction. People frequently lose their personal sense of direction when they are overwhelmed. If there are things you need to accomplish, get started somewhere.
  • Remember to eat and stay hydrated. Your mind and body need fuel for energy, and if you aren’t eating, are eating poorly, or are dehydrated, you are allowing the overwhelming feelings a good opportunity to stay around.

I’ll go back to one of the cliches above in closing: “No one is an island”. Ask for help. Everyone is busy, but overwhelmed is not a place you want to be, so allow someone to support you.


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