Estimated reading time: 6 mins
In today’s fast-paced world, feeling overwhelmed is not just a common experience; it’s almost a new norm. We juggle numerous responsibilities, face constant digital bombardment, and often grapple with the pressure of meeting high expectations. This relentless pace can lead to a state of being overwhelmed, a sensation that everything is just too much to handle. But what do you do when you find yourself asking ‘I feel overwhelmed, what do I do?’ How do you navigate these choppy waters and find your way back to calm and clarity?
Understanding Why You’re Saying ‘I Feel Overwhelmed’
To effectively manage the feeling of being overwhelmed, it’s crucial to first understand its nature and origins. Overwhelm is not merely an intensified form of stress; it’s a multifaceted experience where emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects converge. It arises when the demands placed upon us—be they from work, personal life, or even our internal expectations—exceed our perceived capacity to cope. This imbalance creates a sense of being swamped, where every task appears insurmountable and every decision feels like a burden.
At its core, overwhelm is characterized by a loss of control and a diminished sense of competence. The brain, inundated with stimuli and pressured by demands, struggles to process information efficiently and effectively. This cognitive overload can lead to a decrease in performance, making even simple tasks appear daunting. Emotionally, it manifests as a cocktail of anxiety, irritability, and sometimes helplessness or despair. Physically, it might trigger symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or tension, as the body reacts to the sustained psychological stress.
Understanding that overwhelm is a complex and multifaceted response is the first step in addressing it. Recognizing its signs and symptoms allows for more effective strategies to regain control and restore balance.
Strategies for Coping with Feeling Overwhelmed
Before I start, I just want to say that it would be very unhelpful in assisting you with your feeling of being overwhelmed by providing you with a huge stack of strategies to read, without saying the following: take a scan of the 15 strategies below and try to implement just one or two of them. I don’t expect you to take on board all of these, as it would be adding fuel to the flames. Take each on in turn, at your own pace.
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
The initial step in dealing with overwhelm is to acknowledge it. Denying or pushing away these feelings often exacerbates them. It’s okay to admit to yourself, “I feel overwhelmed right now.” This acknowledgment is not a sign of weakness, but rather a brave acceptance of your current state.
2. Break Things Down
When everything seems too much, break it down. Look at your tasks, responsibilities, and worries and break them down into smaller, more manageable parts. This can mean setting short-term goals, prioritizing tasks, or even just focusing on one thing at a time. Remember, you don’t have to tackle everything all at once.
3. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools in regaining your sense of control and calm. They help by focusing your mind on the present, rather than worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. Even just a few minutes a day can have a significant impact.
4. Set Boundaries
In a world where we are expected to be always on and available, setting boundaries is crucial. This might mean learning to say no, limiting your time spent on emails or social media, or ensuring you have downtime. Boundaries are not about shutting the world out, but about protecting your mental space.
5. Seek Support
You don’t have to deal with overwhelm alone. Reach out to friends, family, or professionals, and state it simply ‘I feel overwhelmed’. Talking about what you’re experiencing can provide relief and offer new perspectives. Sometimes, just knowing someone else understands can be a huge comfort.
6. Take Care of Your Body
Physical health plays a critical role in how we cope with stress. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and engaging in physical activity. These might seem like basics, but they are often the first things neglected when we’re overwhelmed.
7. Practice Gratitude
It can be easy to focus on the negatives when feeling overwhelmed, but try to find things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude shifts your focus from what’s stressing you out to what brings you joy and peace.
8. Learn to Prioritize Self-Care
Self-care is not selfish; it’s essential. This can mean different things for different people – it could be a relaxing bath, reading a book, or spending time in nature. Whatever replenishes your energy, make time for it.
9. Manage Your Expectations
Often, we feel overwhelmed because we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It’s important to set realistic goals and understand that it’s okay not to be perfect. Allow yourself the space to make mistakes and learn from them.
10. Embrace Flexibility
Life is unpredictable, and sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. Being flexible and adapting to changing circumstances can reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. This flexibility includes adjusting your expectations and being open to new ways of doing things.
11. Reconnect with Your Purpose
When we lose sight of the ‘why’ behind our actions, tasks can feel burdensome. Reconnecting with your purpose can reignite your motivation and help you see beyond the immediate stress.
12. Limit Information Overload
In the digital age, we are constantly bombarded with information. It’s important to take breaks from the news, social media, and even work-related reading to give your mind a rest.
13. Practice Time Management
Good time management can alleviate the sense of being overwhelmed. This includes learning to delegate, setting time limits for tasks, and allowing buffer time for unexpected events.
14. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
Remember that progress is more important than perfection. Celebrate the small wins and recognize that every step forward is a victory against overwhelm.
15. Reevaluate Regularly
Lastly, it’s important to regularly take stock of your commitments, goals, and personal well-being. This regular check-in helps you adjust your course as needed and prevents the build-up of overwhelm.
In conclusion, navigating through feelings of overwhelm is a journey of self-awareness and proactive strategy. It’s about recognizing the multifaceted nature of this state—acknowledging its emotional, cognitive, and physical dimensions—and responding with compassion and practical steps. By breaking down tasks, setting boundaries, practicing mindfulness, and taking care of your physical health, you can start to regain control over your circumstances.
Remember, it’s okay to reach out for support, whether it’s through friends, family, or professionals. Embracing flexibility and managing expectations are also key in adapting to life’s unpredictable nature. Celebrate small victories and focus on progress, not perfection. Regular self-evaluation is crucial in preventing the build-up of overwhelm and ensuring that you are on the right track. Ultimately, overcoming overwhelm is not about eliminating challenges from your life, but about equipping yourself with the tools and mindset to navigate them effectively. With patience, persistence, and self-compassion, you can turn overwhelming tides into navigable waters, leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life.
Next time you ask yourself ‘I feel overwhelmed, what do I do?’ then revert back to the above, pick one or two strategies, and put them into action.
A Book that Could Help You
I didn’t write this post to plug my book, but as you’re reading this in a probable state of stress and overwhelm, I would like to offer it to you as a way forward. My book, ‘Mental Wellbeing for Busy People‘ was written for people in your situation, and it will provide the tools and strategies, just as above, in a way that will help you cope. It’s available in kindle and paperback formats (hardback is imminent.)