You feel overwhelmed, stressed, and perhaps even burnt out. What do you need to do when you feel overwhelmed? Here some things you should keep in mind.
The last year has been extremely overwhelming for the majority of us. Trying to cope with the changes in our daily lives and the concerns about the state of the world, all while trying to take care of yourself.
It is hard.
It is so easy to become overwhelmed.
Balancing your 8-hour workday with the never-ending emails, your to-do list, family needs, health concerns, you need money now, and social expectations can lead to overwhelm quickly. The overwhelm can weigh you down and affect your day-to-day life.
A thing to keep in mind when you’re feeling overwhelmed: trust the process and don’t underestimate the power of small changes. A couple of small changes can have a big influence on your mood.
15 Things To Do When You Are Feeling Overwhelmed
If we want to reduce our overwhelmed and stressful feeling, we need to take small steps. What kinds of steps? How can we quiet our minds? How can we feel that we’re the ones in charge?
I want to help you with this:
After years of experimenting and trying things out, I am getting better at eliminating things that don’t serve me and saying no to things I don’t want to do. It is a work in progress, and I am not perfect in any way.
I still mess up, feeling overwhelmed from time to time. What do I do?
I try to control my environment and eliminate things like clutter, unnecessary to-dos, or events I am not interested in attending. It takes some time to know what activities or actions give you peace of mind. However, I would suggest it is more than worth it to figure it out.
1. You Are Not Alone!
The first and most important thing to address is: you are not alone.
There are millions of people on this planet having the same feeling as you do. People overcome their overwhelming feelings and continue to live their lives.
It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed. You are not alone. Plenty of people feel the same way. You are fit to overcome this. You have overcome this in the past, and you will overcome it again.
2. You Are Not Your Thoughts
Do you have any experience with meditating or mindfulness? They always teach you that your thoughts are like clouds. You can observe them, and you can watch them pass by.
You are the creator of your thoughts, which means that you have control over your thoughts.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is present in your mind, not something that necessarily is present in your life.
Realizing you are not your thoughts will make it easier to move past them and to tackle the issues that cause the feeling of overwhelm in the first place.
3. Find Something Else To Do
When you worry or feel overwhelmed, you are probably playing scenarios in your head of things that will never happen. Worrying is the negative thoughts that are taking over your brain and that are influencing how you feel.
Take a break when you notice the first signs of stress. Take a step back and ask yourself what you need, mentally and physically.
Deep breathing is also a great way to calm your mind when you’re anxious. Focus on how you breathe, and you will reduce stress immediately.
4. Listen To Your Body
Listen to yourself and listen to your body. If your body tells you that you’re doing too much or that you’re not doing the right things, it may be right.
If you are dealing with getting overwhelmed regularly, your fight or flight response becomes active. Did you know that stress also affects your hormones? You can produce cortisol, the stress hormone, which causes adrenaline and acute stress.
Stress overload can lead to worries, burnout symptoms, and even health problems in the long term. Stress is very unhealthy to the body.
Try to find the balance between listening to your body and shifting your mindset to something else. There are times where you need to sit down and rest, and there are times when you need to start to take action.
Try out what works for you in your current situation.
5. Small Steps, Big Results
It’s hard to sell small steps. People want drastic changes and believe that radical action is the way to get there. While I am all for radical action when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it is important to keep it doable.
You don’t want to overwhelm yourself and increase stressors with more steps to take.
Small steps are crucial. I find small steps to be one of my favorite coping strategies. It feels doable at the moment, without inviting chronic stress into your life.
It is the decisions that you make every single day that determine your success in the long term.
As an example: I quit drinking caffeine entirely two years ago. It was one of my leading causes of stress, without me knowing. I used caffeine to make deadlines and get things done. However, I became tense and often felt overwhelmed. Quitting caffeine relieved a lot of stress, and I feel so much better to this day!
6. Feelings Change When You Start
There are specific projects that can make you feel overwhelmed easily. A big deadline at work or a personal goal that you want to tackle.
In my case, my big project was going toward a more minimalist lifestyle. When you think that you want to declutter everything you own, it makes you want to sit on the couch and watch TV all day.
When those kinds of default behaviors kick in, I know there’s something I need to change. Often, just starting is one of the most important parts of that. 99% of the time, it isn’t as bad as you thought.
7. Don’t Pressure Yourself
Don’t pressure yourself into situations or things you don’t want to do. I know we are all very good at saying yes and trying to please everyone, but it’s perfectly fine to say no.
Keep in mind that meeting other people’s expectations isn’t your responsibility. It is your responsibility to take care of your life and to take ownership of your emotions. You don’t have to do that work for other people.
8. Focus On The Positive
Focus on the fact that the small changes you’re introducing in your life will affect you. Even if you can’t see it at this moment, the change will come.
It is important to be grateful and focus on the positive, even when not everything is going according to plan. Know that there is plenty in your life to be grateful for at this moment. Expressing that can instantly lift your mood and put things in perspective.
I know it is hard. Try it out and see what it does to your feeling of overwhelm.
9. Go With The Flow
Often, when we focus on specific goals or things we want to accomplish in life, we create expectations. Try to shift your focus from these expectations to go with the flow.
Be in the moment and try to focus your attention there. Focusing your attention on the present has the most potential of losing the overwhelmed feeling that you currently have.
10. Stop Keeping Score
If you go with the flow, keeping the score becomes less important. It can prevent a lot of discussions and overwhelm when you stop keeping score.
Imagine if it didn’t matter who washed the dishes last time, who sent the last message, or who got the biggest gift. Message your friends when you want to. Buy them what you want to. All is okay. All is well.
You don’t have to be even all the time. There are seasons when you have more bandwidth and can give more. There are also seasons when you have less bandwidth and aren’t able to give as much.
11. Slow And Steady Wins The Race
Slow and steady. But mostly steady!
Going slow and steady is more important than making drastic changes in your life and giving up on them after a short while.
You probably know the metaphor of the snowball. You make a snowball and push it downhill. Over time to snowball gets bigger and bigger and starts to roll faster and faster. Once you made a change, the next change becomes easier and easier.
12. Stop Caring What Others Think Of You
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it could be because you’re pleasing other people. It is not your responsibility to let other people feel good. It is their responsibility.
Let go of the opinions of others. What does it matter what others think of you? In the end, you live your own life, and your primary goal should be to meet your own expectations.
One of my all-time favorite expressions is the rules are fake. A beautiful reminder from @thelaminimalist to make your own rules and not follow any of the rules society has set for us.
13. Set Clear Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries for yourself and others is the perfect way to deal with overwhelm. Suppose you are feeling overwhelmed by work, set clear boundaries on when you want to leave. If you feel overwhelmed by your personal life, determine the energy or time suck, and set boundaries around it.
With your new boundaries, it is clear what you will and won’t do. If your new boundaries reflect your priorities, you will have more time to spend on your own projects. It will prevent overwhelm in the long term.
14. Do Not Give In To Perfectionism
If you are someone who identifies as a perfectionist, now is the perfect time to stop. You are feeling overwhelmed because you push yourself beyond your limits to deliver the ‘perfect’ project.
Keep in mind that done is better than perfect.
Perfectionism often leads to procrastination and more overwhelm, which is counterproductive. Keep in mind that good is good enough. You don’t have to overdeliver on every single occasion.
15. Be The River
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu
In a contest between a rock and a river, the river always wins. The river follows the path that is called on it by natural forces. The rock is stock where it is, pushing back against the river. Over a long period of time, the river can shape the rock. It can go over, under, around, or through the rock.
It is another metaphor to show that going with the flow, even when that flow is slow, is the easiest and most sustainable way to go.
Every day when you get up, you can decide whether you want to be the rock or the river. I spent many years being the rock, trying to resist or control certain situations. I didn’t trust the unknown. Over the last few years, I’ve learned how to trust and surrender to the flow that is our life.
I try to become the river more often than the rock. Why? Because that brings inner peace, which is invaluable to me. I appreciate my life more when I go with the flow and release control.
Conclusion – Overcome Feeling Overwhelmed
When you are feeling overwhelmed, know that you’re not the only one. Deal with the feeling and think about what you can do to overcome it.
Sometimes you have to let go of perfectionism, sometimes you need to say no, and other times you need to let go of what others think about you. Make small changes, and your feeling of overwhelm will decline.
As Bon Jovi famously sang: it’s my life. You determine what is important in your life and set boundaries around that.
When you feel overwhelmed, pause, and reflect on what is happening. You control your thoughts, and you can turn things around.
What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed?