I’m pretty much the champion of being overwhelmed.
Part of it is my anxiety disorder; that’s like a constant setting for me. But a lot of people I talk to, when I ask how they are, answer “I’m just so overwhelemed/buried/slammed” or some version of that. It’s not just busy, it’s being a little bit paralyzed by how much you have to do at work or at home or both.
So over the years, I’ve actually developed a few little strategies that might help you dig out when you’re feeling the weight of the world, and I thought I’d share them with you today.
1. Make Lists. GOOD ones.
If I can’t actually dig in and DO anything in that moment (maybe I’m working but my mind is buzzing about how many projects I have to do around the house), I make lists. Specific lists. Not just “paint the garage door” but something that looks like:
Paint the Garage Door:
- Pick paint color
- Go to Home Depot
- Don’t forget brushes and liner pans
- Reschedule riding lesson on Saturday
A list that has a specific “this then this then this” is very calming to me, because even if I can’t be acting on it in this moment, I’ve done the brain work of making myself a virtual roadmap of what needs to get done in what order. To me that feels like I have a plan, not just a task, and when I’m ready, I can just start at the top.
2. Read other people’s stuff.
One of the other ways I get overwhelmed is in getting so wrapped up in my spinning thoughts that I almost jinx myself. Especially if it’s something I’ve done a hundred times – writing a big piece of content, putting together a training plan for my dog – it really helps me to go back and read articles or books by people who are ‘experts’ in whatever that is.
It breaks me out of my own thinking cycles, and allows me to say “oh! I forgot about that” or find something that I didn’t think of before that can breathe some fresh life and inspiration into me.
Plus, even if I think I know how to write an ebook or put together a promotional plan for my website, it never hurts to reinforce what I know (“Hey, I’m not as dumb as I’m feeling right now”) or discover a trick or two that I can use next time around.
3. Eat the frog.
You’ve probably heard this before. When faced with doing things you don’t want to do or that overwhelm you, pick the hardest one and do it first. Yeah I know, that’s easier said than done.
But the trick is worrying about NOTHING ELSE AT ALL. Even if that becomes the single thing you accomplish that day.
Recently for me, it was time for me to pull my credit reports, review where they stood, identify the items that needed attention, and sit down with my budget to figure out a plan to pay the debt and send some letters to get a few things removed.
It’s not fun. At all. It was humiliating and scary and a lot of things all at once. But I told myself if that was the only thing I got done that day, that was totally okay.
I did it. And I felt awesome. Not because I magically fixed my credit report, but because I took back a tiny sliver of control over my own life that I very much needed, especially when I’m feeling anxious.
So much of anxiety and overwhelm is about feeling like things are spiralling out of your control, so find one thing you can do – even if it’s unpleasant – that makes you feel like the king or queen of your own universe again.
4. Speak it out loud to someone you trust.
Maybe it’s a sibling. Or a parent. Or a friend. Or a therapist. Frankly, it doesn’t matter.
Giving words to your feelings, out loud, can do an amazing job of diffusing their power. They’re much stronger in your head when they only have you to torture. When you give them oxygen in the outside world, a few things happen.
One, they automatically get weaker. Because you say them, and then you free up brain space to start figuring out the solutions. Two, if the solutions aren’t coming, whoever you’re speaking too can help you make them more rational and less terrifying simply by pointing out parts of it that you hadn’t noticed (if you’re looking for that kind of input; it’s okay to ask someone just to listen without offering solutions).
We call it “venting” for a reason; letting loose the pent-up pressure that’s happening with your feelings and emotions, and clearing space for more constructive and productive thoughts. I always feel better after I talk to someone and confess to feeling overwhelmed, and often they remind me of the things I already know: write it down, start small, do one thing, or even walk away entirely for a while and come back to it later since most projects or tasks are not life-threatening in that moment.
5. Put it away for a while.
I get overwhelmed a lot when I’m trying to write and the words aren’t coming. Or I’m staring at a cluttered house and don’t know where to start to tackle it. When something seems so daunting, I get frozen and can’t think, and then everything seems impossible.
As counterproductive as this sounds, I sometimes give myself permission to walk away. The laundry will still be there tomorrow. The blank page will be waiting for me. Whether it’s an hour nap or a walk outside or even a couple hours to go make art or ride my horse or something like that, walking away from the thing that’s got me in its grasp gives me a perspective on it that I mightn’t have when I’m in the thick of it.
Space and breathing room can make problems or challenges feel much smaller, and slow your brain down long enough to look at them from a new angle.
What do YOU do?
The more inputs we have, the more demanding our jobs, the more expectations we put on ourselves in a hyper-connected world, the harder it gets to manage the overwhelm that comes with daily life.
I’d love to hear what your strategies and tactics are to reduce your those feelings in your own life, and maybe help some of our other readers along the way. Sound off!