Escape that Overwhelmed Feeling
If I had a nickel for every time someone expressed feeling of overwhelmed to me, I’d be a millionaire! Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but overwhelm has reached epidemic proportion! I bet you’ve felt it a time or two! It’s not a great feeling. It limits your capacity, blocks creativity, and hijacks your sense of calm!
It’s not just everyone else who has been touched by feeling inundated – like they are up to their eyeballs with responsibilities and activities! I’ve felt that way too! Perhaps you’ve experienced some of these indicators that overwhelm has you cornered:
- Rushing or hurrying
- Can’t say “NO”
- Nervous habits like nail biting, sewing machine leg, or pacing
- Eating too much or too little
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling hopeless
- Loneliness, isolation, or withdrawal
- Avoidance or Escapism
- Complaining or being negative
- Unfocused or a tendency to chase “shiny” objects
- Health issues – your body’s way to telling you to get a grip!
- Resorting to alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax or wind down
- Feeling stressed or anxious
Pause…look back over that list. How many of those symptoms are you experiencing right now?
There are a host of reasons for feeling overwhelmed to set in – reasons like this:
- Being Bombarded
Today you it’s possible to access information in all sorts of ways, and there are numerous ways that information is pushed in your direction. The excess of information is overstimulating! And a whole lot of that news is not positive – bad news overwhelms!
- Social Media
It isn’t all bad, but it has the potential to suck you in and gobble up hours, not to mention how it fuels unwanted feelings like not wanting to miss out or comparing yourself to others that leave you feeling overwhelmed.
They ding endlessly with all kinds of notifications which keeps you from focusing. And phones provide easy access to social media, games, email, and all sorts of other distractions.
- Unrealistic Expectations
What does your “to do” list look like? Is it never ending? If you don’t have a “to do” list, storing all that information in your head will also contribute to overwhelm.
Trying to do everything perfectly? That’s an impossible goal! You are loved and worthy despite what your perceived imperfections, mistakes, or never being good enough tell you!
- Putting Off Self-Care
What’s the first thing to slip to the bottom of the list? Activities like resting, engaging in exercise, eating well, or regularly participating in activities that you love doing. Self-care is a necessity – not a luxury! It’s what will energize you and increase your creativity and sense of calm!
- A Silence Allergy
Silence is rare – it’s a noisy world! And many are allergic or don’t tolerate silence well, yet the constant stimulation is overstimulating!
- Poor Boundaries
The inability to say “no” is just one example of a poor boundary! Maybe healthy boundaries were not taught in your family or your Fear Monster has you striving to please others rather than appreciating your limits.
The truth is as David Allen says, “You can do anything, but not everything.”
Anything new takes you out of your comfort zone and that might be overwhelming. Examples of transitions are moving, a change in relational status, a new job, new season in life like becoming an empty nester, or starting a business.
- No Support System
Family and friends can be a huge source of support especially in the midst of challenging circumstances. That’s why it’s imperative that you cultivate your relationships – being disconnected can lead to feeling like you are drowning when times are hard.
Being disorganized or having too much stuff contributes to feelings of overwhelm. It is also visible reflection of what’s taking place in your mind.
Your Fear Monster will keep you stuck and unable to move forward. Sadly, the world doesn’t politely wait for you to gather courage, so while you are paralyzed, all sorts of scary demands are stacking up and that’s a pretty overwhelming place to be!
- Lacking Self-Awareness & Mindfulness
If you don’t understand yourself, your limits, or your needs, your choices will leave you feeling inundated or defeated. And without being present or making time to process life you will be on overload before a real problem of significance arrives on the scene. It’s not energizing to be bogged down by the past!
- Unfinished Projects
Being a starter, but not a finisher results in projects looming over your head that steal your energy.
When you ignore stuff that bugs you rather than proactively dealing with those situations, it doesn’t take long before it adds up and overwhelms you.
Life has a way of throwing curve balls – money troubles, work issues, relationship problems, health challenges, or unexpected events popping up. There is no denying that circumstances like that can throw you off your center and leave you spinning!
Here’s the truth:
Overwhelm is a whole lot less about everything that’s coming at you on the outside and whole lot more about how you think about it!
Here’s another way to say it because the truth is that important: “You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” – Timber Hawkeye.
What’s comforting about the fact that feeling overwhelmed is a “head thing” is that it’s something you can do something about!
The next time you feel overwhelmed practice these 8 simple steps!
1. Admit That You Are Overwhelmed.
You can’t change what you won’t acknowledge!
2. Identify the Perceived Source of Feeling Overwhelmed.
What do you see as the cause of feeling overwhelmed? What are you blaming?
3. Determine the Thinking That’s Behind Feeling Overwhelmed.
For example, you might see the demands of work as overwhelming when, in fact, you’re striving to be enough, and feeling like you must work day and night to prove that you are worthy of this leadership role.
Your thoughts are the real source of your feelings!
4. Re-frame Your Thoughts.
For example, I am abundantly loved by God! I don’t have to prove myself by working excessively! I know that if I want to perform at my best, I must limit the amount of time that I work.
Shift your thoughts to the positive; to what you are grateful for. What you focus on grows!
Take a break, pause, regroup! Ask for God’s help!
6. Determine Your Priority.
What’s most important may shift in the course of your day, but if you begin the day by identifying your top three – the three most important tasks to complete that day that will move you closer to achieving your goals, you’ll be in a better place to adjust the course of your day should the unexpected pop up.
7. Create a Plan.
Not just a plan to tackle your priority, but a plan that includes making space for activities that energize you. It’s impossible to perform well or resist the pull of overwhelm when you are running on empty!
And your plan should include some constraints – like bumpers in bumper bowling, to keep you on track. Maybe it’s setting specific hours for work. When time is up, you’re done! Or maybe it’s limiting the number of projects you juggle at one time. Anything that will protect you from getting overwhelmed.
And finally, break down your next steps into smaller more manageable steps. This will not only give you direction, but it will allow you to see progress sooner and eliminate feeling like the project as a whole is looming over you until it is done.
8. Take Action!
It doesn’t even have to be a big one – just a baby step towards your goals, then another, and another! Keep your focus and soon you will leave that overwhelmed feeling behind!
Overwhelm ignored never shrinks. It grows! It leads to feelings of defeat!
What overwhelms you and how will you escape that feeling and keep it from growing?