We have all been there. Where we feel like we are barely hanging in there, barely managing everything that we have going on. We are trying to juggle all the demands in our life, feeling like if one more ball was thrown into the mix it will cause them all to come crashing down.
When we are in this state of stress and overwhelm, our brains are not wired to think rationally, they are simply in survival mode. We are often much more prone to be reactive and responsive rather than reflective and sensible. But it’s not our fault, simply how we were made to handle stress, you know the flight or fight response. When we get in this state we have a hard time making good decisions and making sense of everything going on.
When we feel we can barely think straight, it is so crucial to have techniques and tips in place to help us think more clearly. They can help us to see past the overwhelm and see how we are going to manage all that we have going on.
Here are some practical tips to help you get a better handle on your overwhelm and deal with the things that are causing you to feel that way.
Get perspective. Most of the things we stress about on a daily basis are not life changing, they are rarely even day changing. A lot of our stress comes from a thousand small, relatively unimportant things we have to do. When you look at them in context of the bigger picture of your life, if they don’t get done, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t let something that is going to make no difference in your life in a week's time steal joy from your present moment.
Write it down. It is hard when we have a million and one things swirling around in our head. Trying to keep track of them, let alone doing them all, is overwhelming enough. Simply putting them down on paper allows you to have space in your head for more important things. Simply write the to-do list, doesn’t mean it has to be done today.
Get ruthless. There are so many things in our life that we do out of habit or obligation. We do them without second thought because it's what we have always done or it's expected of us. But have you ever taken a moment to think if they actually need to get done, and if they do, do they absolutely need to get done by you? It is such a freeing feeling when you let go of something and decide you are no longer doing that thing. When reflecting on the things in your schedule or on you to-do list it is important to ask yourself questions like:
Is this something I genuinely enjoy doing?
Is there hesitancy or negative feelings around doing this?
Is there a story I am telling myself as to why you have to do it?
Is it aligned with my ideal vision for my life?
Is it aligned with my priorities?
Is this feasible for me to do this given my current situation?
Break it down. When you are thinking about a massive undertaking or a never-ending to-do list in its entirety, can be absolutely paralyzing. There is so much to do that you don’t even know where to start, so you just don’t start. When you break it down to extremely clear, action oriented steps, it provides a clearer path forward. To help with the initial hurdle of simply starting, make those first steps or tasks absolutely tiny, so small that they seem insignificant. There will be less reluctance to get started and once you start to cross them off your list, you start to build momentum and confidence to carry you through with the next steps.
Schedule it. There is something about transferring your to-do list on to your calendar that is so relieving. Even if the to-do list hasn’t changed at all, seeing it laid out in a schedule makes it seem more manageable. It proves to you that you have the time to handle all of the tasks.
Be realistic. When we are setting up our schedule and to-do list for the day, you need to be incredibly realistic with yourself. We often think things are going to take less time than they do or that things are going to go smoother than they do. Despite our best intentions, we end up setting these expectations for ourselves that are not feasible given our own time and energy constraints. It can be so defeating when we have had an extremely productive day where we feel we are on fire and crossing tons off our list, yet we don’t get to everything we planned on doing simply we set unrealistic goals from the start.
Reflect how you are feeling. Being in tune with how you are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally and reflecting that in what you take on in the day is crucial. When you are setting your plan for the day it is important to check in with yourself, asking yourself questions like are you feeling energized, are you in a good mental state, are you dealing with any physical discomfort. Next you have to plan your day accordingly, only planning what you can handle at that moment. And be aware that things change throughout the day, so you need to routinely check in with yourself and modify your day accordingly. Some days you might be bursting with energy and motivation and you can tackle a few extra things and other days you might feel exhausted and maybe emotionally a little raw, so you need to pair it back. When you do choose to take it a little slower, you need to let go of the guilt that is associated with doing less and stop the “I should be doing… instead of just..” soundtrack in your mind.
Next time you feel like you are barely hanging in there, take a few moments to try these techniques out. In the next blog we will pairing these vert tangible tips for managing our full lives with approaches to protect our energy and wellbeing when dealing with overwhelm.
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