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7 Things To Do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

Constantly feeling like you're out of time? Can't seem to keep track of what you are supposed to be doing and when, or what your priorities are? If you are experiencing higher levels of irritability than normal, fatigue, memory loss, or increased anxiety, you are probably experiencing overwhelm.

We become overwhelmed when we forget the concept of time. This can also effect our ability to prioritize, and to see a process through. We are trying to do everything at once, because we feel that all of it has to be done right now. The anxiety that comes from overwhelm can often lead to a feeling of needing to be in control, and we end up bearing the weight of our responsibilities all by ourselves. WE have to be the one to do it all. These are fear-based feelings. Fear that we are going to lose something or someone, fear that we will fail if a certain task isn’t done, or expectation is not met. This can cause a huge level of anxiety, potentially resulting in other self-destructive behaviors. Here are some ways we can overcome overwhelm:

1) Take A Step Back- When you are starting to become overwhelmed, you have probably been letting all of your random thoughts and your mental “to do” list pile up in your mind. This takes you away from your present moment. You are constantly thinking about the next thing ahead, but have no plan to accomplish your goal. There is a Buddhist saying that goes “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

-When this starts to happen and everything is all jumbled and running rampant through your mind, the first thing you need to do is take a step back and regroup. Think of this as almost an out of body visual. So, pause, and visualize the things that have been running around in your mind almost as if they are on a table in front of you. The bill you have to pay, the errand you have to run, the person you need to call back, the difficult conversation you need to have, the problem you are trying to solve, etc. Visualize them outside of your mind. Take a deep breath.

2) Process- Once you have taken things from your mind and placed them outside of yourself, you can get back to being aware of your present moment. You then need to ask yourself some questions and become clear in your present position. So, where are you NOW? What have you already accomplished that you can check off? How much time did those things take? How much time do you have left realistically in your day or week to tend to the other things? Do you really actually NEED to do all these things? Why do you feel you need to? What simple thing could you have done to have more successfully managed your day?

3) Organize- THEN based on some of your answers here you can start to organize and prioritize. Start with the item that requires the most immediate attention that you are prepared to handle. Keep a schedule or timeline in mind while working your way through your list.

4) Prioritize- Maybe there is something pending that is a big “task”, however it has no due date, and does not affect anyone else if you don’t do it today. It might simply be something that you’ve been wanting to do that you have put on yourself. Something like that might be put more towards the bottom of your list, and things that require more accountability such as getting to work on time, turning something in by a certain date, meeting another person at a certain location at a certain time, paying a bill by 5:00pm today, might be things that are going to be higher up on your priority list because they affect other people and you are more immediately held accountable for those things.

5) Write It Down- Our brains can only store so much information, just like a computer. The more information we keep piling up in there, the more overwhelmed we get. This is when our ability to remember things starts to decline, it becomes difficult to think things through from beginning to end, and we struggle to form coherent thoughts. This is your brain on overload, and it is actively trying to clean things out to create new space for new information to be received. You cannot stop that from happening as long as you are alive, so instead, we need to help the brain clear the space it needs.

WRITE IT DOWN! Don’t leave it up to your brain to store everything. Once you have taken a step back, visualized, and re-organized, your next step is to get that information you’ve just processed written down somewhere so that your brain doesn’t have to actively hold onto it anymore. You can visually reference it, and process one thing at a time, because you no longer need to come up with a plan for everything at once. It doesn’t matter where this happens. It could be on a napkin on the floor of your car, in your notes on your phone (that’s where all my stuff goes), on a notepad you keep with you...whatever!!! Just write it out somewhere where you will be able to reference it conveniently.

6) Reflect- This part can't always be done right away, but is probably the most important. A great time for this practice is before bed at night or first thing in the morning. During this time you can review the previous day and reflect on things that went right and things that you want to do better with in the future.

For example, you were late for work because you spent too much time on something while getting ready (your hair, Facebook, picking out your clothes) or you fell asleep before setting your alarm, you forgot you had to stop at the gas station because your tank is on E, etc. Ask yourself how you could have helped that scenario? What can you do to not let that happen again and to have a more peaceful start to your workday?

7) Take Action- You could lay your clothes out the night before, stop at the gas station WHEN your fuel got low the previous day, set your alarm for each day of the week at the same time so you don’t even have to think about it, remind yourself that your hair is not what is going to get the project done at work that is due today.

-When you reflect and start taking action in this way, you are giving yourself an opportunity to better predict the events of your day/week/month and to be prepared to show up in your life with calm, positive, confident energy. Your days become more routine, and much less stressful. The things on your plate become much more manageable the less we have to REACT to them. The goal is to ACT, not REACT. Prepare yourself for what you know is coming.

When you do this, you create more space in your mind for higher thinking. You can then use this space for self-care activities such as gratitude, affirmations, meditation, prayer, or having a laugh with a loved one, which are all fuel for the soul. You start to become more balanced, day- to-day life becomes less chaotic and much more enjoyable!

Main Points:

  1. Visualize

  2. Gain clarity

  3. Regroup

  4. Organize/Prioritize

  5. Write it down

  6. Reflect

  7. Take action

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