In these past few weeks, a lot has come up in my life that spawns some overwhelm. This is something that I know we all deal with so it seems like just as good of a time as any to share some thoughts on the subject. I think it’s important to acknowledge that overwhelm happens when we get consumed by our thoughts and emotions surrounding what’s going on in our lives. I’m not discrediting that it can be stressful to have a lot going on, I’m simply saying that being mindful of our thoughts and actions during stressful times can reduce the sensations of overwhelm and despair.
The following scenarios are where I typically find myself overwhelmed & ways I shift my thinking or change my environment to prevent or stop the emotional shit storm that’s heading my way. What I don’t do is try to fight off the feelings because that leads to anxiety. I acknowledge that the sensation of overwhelm is creeping in and I go into life simplification mode.
MY TO-DO LISTS HAVE TO-DO LISTS (cause)
- I almost always have several plates spinning at one time. This could be family care issues, house projects, my own wellness objectives, creative endeavors, pet needs, work, etc. and I’m sure the same goes for most people.
SIMPLIFY: Be in the moment and ask,” what is the one thing that is going to matter or make a difference just for today?”
- When I start ruminating on ALL of the things that need to be done in ALL areas of my life I lock up. I become irritable, I start to blame others, and I quickly move towards meltdown mode. When this happens, I do nothing which fuels my anxiety and my inner critic starts in on the narrative that I’m incapable – and that’s a damn lie.
2. INFORMATION OVERLOAD (cause)
- I love to read, listen to podcasts, look at social media, check the news, and talk to my friends and family. But sometimes it’s just too much. I used to tell myself that I needed to do all of these things to stay informed, educated, and connected but there is a balance and sometimes it’s okay to know just what you need to know.
SIMPLIFY: Take a break for a day or two.
- I’ve been known to take a month off from (most) information input. I still talked to my friends and family of course, but I didn’t engage in stressful topics. During this time the only thing I read is fiction and I limit my social media to only one check a day. No news, no self-help articles, no podcasts, nothing heavy at all.
3. MULTITASKING (cause)
- Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multitask but neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t actually do more than one thing simultaneously. There is actually a stop/start process where the brain quickly switches from one thing to another. So switching gears from task to task or mindset to mindset burns out energy and mental bandwidth.
SIMPLIFY: Dedicate specific timeframes or days to do certain tasks
- I know this can be a challenge in a lot of scenarios, especially at work, but if you can group things together, your energy will be substantially less scattered. For example, I used to take a few clients a day and work everything else around those times. Now I have specific days I take clients and do nothing else work-related on those days because I am in a very specific mindset.
4. NAGGED BY NOTIFICATIONS (cause)
- It is so distracting when you’re in a meeting or hanging with a friend and your notifications are going off. Your mind leaves the moment and for a second processes whatever the notification was about. Sure, you can quickly piece things together and convince yourself that you didn’t leave the moment but like I mentioned earlier, your brain is going through a stop/start process.
SIMPLIFY: set tech boundaries
- I mentioned notifications, but maybe it doesn’t take a notification to derail you. So many of us are more addicted to our tech than we realize. All of these little things we give our attention away to deplete our ability to handle what’s in front of us, so when overwhelm is creeping in, try putting down the devices.
5. MAKING ASSUMPTIONS (cause)
- I’m a sister to many siblings, a daughter of a party-mom, a wife, a caregiver, a recovering codependent, a Virgo, and have been someone’s assistant in many of my jobs, if someone says something needs to be done I ASSUME they mean I need to do it. This has caused me to feel overwhelmed more times than I can count. As I mentioned before, it’s our thoughts and emotions that lead us down the treacherous path of overwhelm.
SIMPLIFY: Take a few deep breaths and ask, “how true is the assumption that I need to handle XYZ?”
- This also goes back to boundary setting. People are going to think out loud and talk about what needs to be handled, they may even ask you to handle it. It’s up to you to get in touch with what makes the most sense for you.
Sometimes we have more going on than other times and life can be stressful, but sometimes our thoughts about what we have going on create a sense of things being more than we can handle. Breathwork, meditation, journaling, and mindfulness are all tools to help prevent overwhelm. But when you are using all the tools you have and it isn’t enough, reach out to a therapist or life coach to address how you are responding to the stressors in your life.