person looking overwhelmed, what to do when you're overwhelmed

What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

We are a society that’s continually adding more and more and more to our plates. From to-do lists to ‘destress’ articles, ‘how to’ manuals to tips and tricks for making the most of our time, we’ve become so inundated with information, pressure, and expectations that we’re finding ourselves overwhelmed, even by the simplest of tasks.

We’re busy people. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. But when we’re so packed with obligations, responsibilities, and goals that we can barely function, we’re missing out on the ability to truly be our best selves.

Inevitably, we all face feelings of stress and anxiety due to being in way over our heads. Though this isn’t something to beat ourselves up about, it is something to work on, as the calmer and steadier we are, the more productive and positive we are—both personally and professionally.

Whether you’re struggling with balance, or looking for easy ways to calm yourself when you start feeling pressured, here is a list of things to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

1. Take a deep breath and re-center yourself.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, or when your list of responsibilities has gotten out of control, take a deep breath and try to re-center yourself on your goals and immediate to-do list.

Close your eyes, inhale deeply, then exhale slowly. Remind yourself that you are powerful, that you are strong, that everything in this life is temporary and you cannot control all that happens to and around you. All you can change is your attitude and response, so encourage yourself in the truth that you are doing the best you can. Build yourself with positive thoughts, bolstering you to get done what needs to be done.

2. Identify the root cause and take steps to eliminate it.

Once you’ve taken a deep breath and filled both your heart and mind with a sense of peace, identify what it is that’s at the core of your stress. Are you worried about a project? Relationship? Deadline? Future plan or place?

See if you can pinpoint the source of what’s making you feel overwhelmed. Then take active steps to remove this stress from your life. If it’s a deadline for a project, draft an outline of how you’ll finish projects and sub goals before that date. If it’s a conflict with another person, write a letter of how you feel to either show him/her, or to keep to yourself for clarity and confidence. Or, if it’s a bunch of miscellaneous tasks, construct a chronological to-do list that will help you figure out what to do first.

3. Delegate responsibilities.

If you’re feeling pressured in the workplace, take a hard look at your individual workload and see if you are able to delegate any responsibilities to others. Are you putting it upon yourself to not only get an entire team project done, but manage things outside of your responsibilities? Can you give someone you train, or someone under you, a bit more control? Can you level with a coworker about him or her doing a little more? Could you speak to your boss about what you’re doing, or maybe even request more time or pay?

If you’re feeling pressured at home, can you ask roommates, spouses, significant others, children, etc. to help you with the list of chores/responsibilities instead of feeling that you have to put everything on your shoulders? Can you communicate and be upfront about how stressed you’re feeling? Or simply ask for help as you find you need it?

4. Be mindful.

Take note of how you approach conversations, meetings, etc. Are you the first person to volunteer? To say ‘yes’? To add another item to your already pressing workload?

Be mindful of the way you act and react. This doesn’t mean that you change so you’re saying ‘no’, or pushing away new opportunities, but instead pay attention to how you’re feeling, what you have going on, and what you feel you can physically and emotionally handle at any given point. Learn what you can jump forward into, and what you need to hold back on until you’re ready or more available.

5. Take a brain break(s).

Sometimes one of the most effective strategies for overcoming feelings of stress is to simply give your brain a break. Humans don’t always work well without breaks, so if you can step away from your work or conflict and take a walk, read a book, surf the internet, be in nature, have a snack, exercise, etc. it can help with your perspective and attitude.

This isn’t a procrastination tool, and doesn’t mean you push everything off, making yourself more overwhelmed in the long run. Instead, it’s more about refocusing your attention onto something else, giving yourself rest from the stress so that you can go back to the task, activity, or issue with a sound and clear mind later.

6. Speak positively.

Perhaps one of the most important strategies for combating stress and being overwhelmed is to speak with self-love. If and when you are saying negative things, like “I can’t do this,” or “I’m worthless,” or “I’ll never finish this” you’re simply digging yourself into a deeper hole.

Half the battle is empowering yourself to move forward—if you’re giving yourself doubt, you’ll be rooted and stuck. But when you tell yourself things like, “I can,” “I am going to finish this,” “I am strong,” etc. you can give yourself the boost to actually move forward and accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish. Perspective is everything.



Featured Image Credit: Issam Hammoudiil