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5 Tips To Help You Cope When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
Feeling overwhelmed can creep up on us slowly as we incrementally take on new tasks, responsibilities and hobbies until we abruptly become aware that we have too much going on. Or, it can appear like a sudden storm, disrupting our lives with unexpected demands, anxieties and burdens causing us stress and worry about how we will cope.
My experience of feeling overwhelmed began in August 2013 with my husband’s ill health, but even as things appeared to be improving there were more difficulties to follow as various family and work pressures built up into what felt like an unrelenting period of overwhelm and stress.
I know I’m not alone in experiencing these difficult periods, so below I’ve recounted some of the tactics I used to help me through this episode. I hope they can help you too.
If You’re Feeling Overwhelmed, Just Stop
It’s simple and effective, but so easily overlooked when all around you seems chaotic. If you do nothing else, this is the one action that will give you a little head space.
So do it now.
Now breath for a moment and let go. It’s ok, cry, shout, scream if you want, but allow yourself to stop.
Get It Out of Your Head
So you have to dos, emotions, conversations and just plain old rubbish ideas running around your head. There are so many thoughts that you can’t decide which, if any are relevant and which you should tackle first.
If this is you, just grab a pen and paper and start writing. Don’t edit or try to justify any of the thoughts that race out of your head and onto the paper, just let it all rush out until it slows and eventually becomes a trickle.
Now take a breath, and maybe go grab a cup of coffee, tea, water…whatever you fancy. Just take a moment to enjoy the fact that your head has been emptied.
Once you’ve got your drink, sit down with your list and take some time to actually read what you’ve written down. I bet the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s probably not as much stuff as you thought it was when it was all racing around your head.
What can you immediately cross off because now it’s out in the cold light of day, it’s just rubbish? Do this straight away, don’t overthink it.
Next, decide which items are for action and which ones are not actionable in a physical sense now because they require some thought before they can be moved forward or deleted permanently.
Of the items which can be actioned, which ones can be done today and which ones need to be postponed to a later date (because you need to see/speak to someone who isn’t available, the store is closed or it’s pouring with rain…etc)?
Your New List
Done that? Great, so now you should have 3 lists – Things that can be done today; Things that need to wait until a later date; Things that aren’t actions at this particular time (this list is probably very short!).
Does that feel better? Now your only decision is whether you want to get cracking with the action list or do nothing. It’s your choice and whatever you choose, ignore any feelings of guilt.
Talk to Someone
When we’re feeling overwhelmed, we often lose perspective. Things that used to be easy suddenly feel hard; things we used to enjoy lose their joy for us and also become part of the day’s challenges.
To regain some perspective it’s often useful to just talk it out with a trusted friend. Someone who knows us well enough to appreciate why it’s a struggle, but who can also take an objective view of our situation and maybe gently challenge our perspective.
Or be radical and talk to a stranger. There’s something cathartic about talking to a stranger. You’re safe in the knowledge that they have no pre-conceived ideas about you and even if they do judge you, your story or your motives, you’ll never know.
In any event, taking some time to talk about the overwhelm you’re feeling will definitely help to bring some perspective to the proceedings and will often give you enough head space to at least see the immediate issues that need to be dealt with.
Let Something Go
It may be difficult, but when we’re feeling overwhelmed, something just has to give. The choice to let something go can be temporary or permanent in the longer term, but for now, just make a gut decision of what you can let go without causing yourself (or others if appropriate) too much pain.
Be careful of your choice here and try not to let go of the things that give you some much needed support or relief from your current situation just because it will save you a little time. It’s just as important, if not even more so to get some ‘me-time’ during periods of overwhelm.
If it’s difficult to decide on what should go, make a list of all the things you’re committed to and work backwards, crossing off all the things that must stay until you arrive at the discretionary things. The things you’re left with should then be scrutinised for those that support you and those that don’t. Drop the latter, if only for now.
Related Post: 5 Tips For Creating A Sense of Wellbeing
Recognise and Accept that Some Things will not Get Done
So you’ve looked at a list of things that you’re going to opt out of, at least for the time being. This was the proactive thing to do. Well done.
Now try this: some things will just not get done – accept it. These things will not be of your choosing, they may cause you angst and frustration, they will also probably make you feel at least a little unhappy with yourself and your performance. This is both ok and tough.
It’s ok because your circumstances are forcing you in some muddled way to prioritise the really important stuff and it’s tough because you know this isn’t your usual way of being and you feel compromised. Again, that’s ok. In the words of the song ‘Let it Be’, somehow or other, these things will find their level and you will move on.
Specially Selected Resources from Amazon
Feeling overwhelmed is uncomfortable at best, and downright stressful at worst and there are many strategies which may help. The important thing is to find whatever works for you. The five methods above worked for me, although the list isn’t exhaustive. What other methods do you know of or have you tried. Please share your own tips on this important topic…thank you 🙂
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