Dealing with Overwhelm: How to Put an End to Feeling Overwhelmed with Life Once and For All Plus 29 Tips to Help You in the MeantimeOverwhelm. Everyone has felt it at some point in their lifetime. Some people live it every single day. It’s the opposite of feeling powerful. It’s unpleasant. It’s hard. It’s the thing that nearly pushes some people over the edge. There are some people who absolutely should be feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances because they have situations that are extremely hard and more than any one person can actually manage. If you struggle with overwhelm either periodically or on a regular basis the first thing you should know and understand deep in your bones is that it is not your fault. The second thing you should know and understand is that you, as a human being, are enough. You are good enough. You are perfect just the way you are and just the way that you are not. LOVE. You have to LOVE your imperfections.
Conscious Mind:This is the part of your mind that you are conscious of. You are aware of what you are thinking. You are or may be aware of what you are feeling. You are aware of what is going on around you. The conscious mind has been represented as being about 10% of your mind – give or take.
Subconscious Mind & Unconscious Mind:I am lumping these two categories together for the sake of simplicity even though they are separate and have distinguishing features. The makeup and operation of the mind as well as how to train your brain or mind is the subject for a future post. For the purposes of dealing with overwhelm, it is helpful to understand that the largest percentage of your mind is not something that you typically have access to that being the subconscious (or preconscious) mind and unconscious mind. Yes, there are steps you can take to access what is lurking in your subconscious and unconscious mind, but that’s not the subject at hand. If you understand that the largest part of your mind is not something that you currently have control over or access to – it can be helpful in cutting yourself some slack. And sometimes that in and of itself can be extremely powerful. It has been written that these two parts of the mind represent about 90% of the mind, give or take, which makes them powerful and will be discussed in a future post on neuroplasticity of the brain, training your brain, etc.
Sources of Overwhelm:I am owning this list as my own. This is my assessment of the general things that are the cause of overwhelm for people. I provide it here because to fix the issue of overwhelm you need to get to the source of the problem.
Mental-I am defining this as negative thinking, pessimism, and the lack of mental habits or practices that support inner mental peace. This includes negative self-talk, low self-esteem, the inability to effectively manage anxiety, fears or other emotional states, abuse from other individuals, and a host of other situations that are not conducive to happiness and love.
Physical-This category includes both environmental sources of overwhelm like a living place that is too messy, dirty, unorganized, possibly hoarding, and anything that does not provide you with a positive and peaceful way of living and it includes your physical body and health since being unhealthy can provide a constant source of overwhelm.
Situational or “Too Much on your plate”–There is a vast array of things that can leave you either permanently or temporarily with too much on your plate. This is a very common source of overwhelm for people. The kinds of things that can cause situational overwhelm include being a care giver of any kind, having a special needs child or special needs adult child, having a sick family member or friend, working multiple jobs, being the executor of an estate, going through a divorce, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, and the list goes on. These are situational sources for overwhelm and sometimes or more often than not you have no control over these events except to put in place a strategy for dealing with the overwhelm it causes and the event or situation itself.
Emotional-I am listing emotional overwhelm as the state where you are not or have not processed feelings that need to be dealt with typically in the areas of grief, loss, sadness, anger, resentment, betrayal. The emotional overwhelm may be caused by a situational factor or event listed previously that throws you into emotional overwhelm. This may or may not involve a trauma or PTSD. This could be from the death of someone, a significant loss of any kind like the loss of a job, a relationship, a home, a marriage, a financial loss, or any of the situations listed above. Feelings need to be dealt with and processed if you want to have freedom, power, and happiness. The power begins with you recognizing your feelings and then processing them appropriately.
Structural-Separate from the physical category listed above, I am including in this item the organization and time management practices and habits that give you a life that you love, or in the absence of the organization and time management practices leave you feeling overwhelmed as often as you are. Also included in this category is over-scheduling that process by which you schedule more than you can or should handle. In over-scheduling you are either making commitments that are too much for you given your life or are possibly just not appropriate given where you are in life.
Dealing with Overwhelm – LONG TERM FIXHere are the steps that I assert you will have to go through if you want to put an end to overwhelm in your life for good. Yes, it will take some time. And yes, yes, yes it will be well worth it in the end. Image your life and you are happy! Imagine your life and you are functioning well and feel peaceful. Imagine your life and things are working. It takes some effort to have that. It takes intentionality to have that. It just doesn’t happen overnight.
- Get an accurate (outside) assessment: Would most or some people be overwhelmed in the same circumstances? I say get an outside assessment for a few reasons one of which is that sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees and someone who cares about you and has been good to you should be able to give you an honest assessment.
- Determine the sources(s) of your overwhelm: See previously listed sources above.
- What are the habits and practices that will help you cope with life and then eventually flourish? Hint: You can read my previous blog posts for several ideas.
- What things could a TEAM, if you had one, do to reduce the load you are carrying?
- Who could be on your team? I have more to say about this, so keep reading.
- Make a plan on what needs to be done based on your accurate assessment and the sources of your overwhelm.
- Get supported and validated.
- Engage in self-care and start executing your plan with your TEAM (see below).
My Unconscious or Subconscious Mental & Emotional Process of Overwhelm:I have done a good deal of work, that means growth and development, to access my subconscious and unconscious mind. One of the areas that I worked on many years ago was the area of overwhelm. The following diagram is one rendering of what would happen both in my mind and with my emotions when I fell into a state or moment of overwhelm. For me at the time, I was dealing with 3 concurrent traumas and while I was functioning pretty well, there would be some incident or something would happen that would temporarily throw me into a state of overwhelm. By doing the “work” on myself, I was able to piece together the process for myself. Your overwhelm is likely to be completely different than mine. I have represented my personal overwhelm in a circle because this makes sense to me. Once I got that this IS my mental and emotional processing for overwhelm, my conscious brain took over and would tick through the process in a matter of seconds. It’s the most amazing thing ever! Back before I had this clear understanding of the overwhelm process for myself, being in a state of overwhelm could last for a few hours or if it was bad more than a day or two. Once my brain got this cycle, overwhelm was something that my brain could recognize as a temporary state that would pass almost instantly. It’s incredible. On the outside of the circle I have listed the thoughts that would run through my mind. On the inside of the circle I have listed some of the feelings that I was feeling when I was in overwhelm. Accessing your subconscious or unconscious mind will have to be covered in a separate post. You might be able to use my process to start to understand your own mental and emotional processing. This is very powerful stuff.
Creating a TEAMThis subject is worthy of a separate blog post and eventually I will do that. For dealing with overwhelm, however, it needs a little mention and some ideas. There are those of you who have overwhelming circumstances and you actually need help because you have more on your plate than any human could handle. It’s just a fact. You will have to deal with your feelings and emotions if you are going to allow and create a team for support. Let me share two examples from my own life. First of all, I’m not the easiest person to contribute to. I know this about myself and while I’m not proud of that, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Given that, it takes a lot for me to admit that I could use a hand. Back in the day when I was dealing with 3 concurrent traumas (can’t say more about that or trust me, I would), I had to ask for and accept help. I needed to go to the University of Buffalo Medical Library to do medical research, but I couldn’t see my way to spend the money for a baby sitter that was required with three small children. So, friends and neighbors helped me out for free so I could go do my medical research. This was a God send!! Then I had friends and neighbors who came to my house for my kids’ birthday parties when the immunocompromised health of one of the kids made it impossible to have kids around. These adult ladies would come and be the party guests when the kids were little and made birthdays a cause for celebration. Of course, it wasn’t the same as having kids attend the parties, but it was the best I could do given the danger that the common cold represented at that time. Here’s the kicker for those of you who have circumstances where help is called for – those who are helping you will get more joy and benefit from helping you than you could imagine. Let that sink in. If you can find your way to allowing others to help you, they will get equal or greater benefit. It’s what we call a win-win-win. They win. You win. And your life wins. Ask family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people at your place of worship, local community organizations or even your Facebook or social media peeps for the help that you need.
Short Term Tips for Dealing with OverwhelmThese are my tips for getting through overwhelm until you actually deal with the source of your overwhelm and execute a plan that fixes the problem at the source. These tips are not the long-term solution. You can also read my past blog posts which have content to help you move forward powerfully for practices on how to live an intentional life that you love.
- Live MOMENT to MOMENT-If you have a great deal of overwhelming circumstances then I suggest that instead of living day to day as is often recommended – you live moment to moment. One problem at a time. One moment at a time.
- Attitude Adjustment-Pay attention to what you are thinking. I mean really pay attention to the thoughts that pop into your mind. If you are having negative and disempowering thoughts then it’s time for an attitude adjustment because negative self-talk is not helpful when you are in overwhelm.
- Triage what has to be done-Create a list and triage the most critical and essential things that have to get done. Use this to ground yourself in the urgent matters that have to be completed.
- Ask for help-While asking for help is not easy, there are huge benefits for the people who are willing to help you not to mention the benefits you will receive.
- Beef up on your sleep and/or naps-While sleep is essential for all human health, being under high stress adds volumes to the significance of sleep. Do what you can to increase your sleep or grab a cat nap when you can.
- Take vitamins-Being under stress is hard on the body so I believe it can’t hurt you to take some extra vitamins if you are dealing with overwhelm. Of course, you should always check with your licensed medical provider before taking vitamins.
- Do things that make you happy-Figure out what makes you happy and add that into your life wherever you can. I understand that might not be an easy or simple suggestion depending on your circumstances, but I know that it can be done if you make up your mind to do it.
- Find a way to laugh-The more you can laugh the better. Whether it is a comedy show on TV, a Netflix special, reading something funny or laughing with friends or family – laughter is good for the soul and body.
- Socialize with friends or family-Compelling research speaks volumes to the negative impact of loneliness and social isolation, a problem often that comes with situations that cause overwhelm, so anything you can do to socialize is a plus. Ask friends and family to come over and help you and you can socialize while they are helping you.
- Pray or meditate-I find prayer very soothing and calming. If you don’t believe in prayer then you can meditate. Taking any action to calm your mind and soul is going to be helpful in times of overwhelm.
- Go for a walk-If your health allows for this, then try to walk for 15 minutes a day. Even if it just means parking further away from a store. The research is significant for the positive health benefits for just walking for 15 minutes a day. If you can do more walking than that by all means do it!
- Fill your mind and space with positive things-I highly recommend that you turn off the news and anything that is negative or upsetting. You are better off filling your mind and your space with positive and uplifting things.
- Go easy on yourself-Having some compassion for yourself will also be helpful. We may be wired to be hard on ourselves, or most of us anyway, but it is really not helpful when you are dealing with overwhelm.
- Dress up-Take a shower, put on nice clothing and do your hair and makeup (or other grooming). You will look better and feel better and that is always helpful.
- Have faith-In difficult situations it can be challenging to have faith, yet having hope, which is what faith brings with it, is essential. Believe that things will get better and they usually do or eventually do. Believe that things will get worse, and guess what – they usually do. Have faith that things will turn out and in the interim, do the work.
- Journal-Taking a few minutes every now and then to journal can be very therapeutic and can also help you access your subconscious or unconscious mind.
- Read an empowering or inspiring book-Fill yourself with things that lift you up and there are plenty of books that could fill this bill.
- Do something to “sharpen the saw”-Refuel and re-energize yourself. What does that mean? What do you do that fills your heart and soul? If you don’t know, then that is a good place to start.
- Look at what needs to change and make a commitment-Making a commitment to change your life for the better is empowering and inspiring to most people. Look at what you can change and get to work on that.
- Make signs to inspire yourself-I know it sounds hokey, but in my experience, signs can be very helpful! Have fun with this!
- Keep it in perspective-Perspective can go a long way to changing our attitudes and feelings. Everyone should know someone who has it harder in life than you do. It is jolting especially when you think that life is hard. If you don’t know anyone who has it harder than you, then you can certainly find people using the internet who have dire situations.
- Do little things to help others (or allow contribution)-Helping others gives you a good feeling. If you can’t find a way to help others, then consider allowing contribution to your life.
- Plan something to look forward to-Everyone loves having something to look forward to. If you don’t have something to look forward to, then make it up. I organized two reunions in the past so that I would have something to look forward to.
- Make up your mind how your life is going to go-It’s exceptionally powerful to make up your mind, in a decisive way, about how your life is going to go – and then live from that place.
- Fill your heart with gratitude-It’s hard to be unhappy if you are feeling grateful. And while gratitude might not come easy to you, it’s a practice that you can learn to become good at. Start by making a daily list of what you have to be grateful for.
- Smile-There are benefits to smiling and the more you smile, the better you will feel. You might have to work at it, but smiling more will help you.
- Don’t take things personally-easier said than done. If you believe that the things in life that have happened or that are happening now are happening for your benefit, then life will instantly look different. It’s much more empowering to believe that what is happening is happening for your growth and development, or for your good.
- Listen to music that soothes your soul or lights you up-music can be very good for you if it is the right kind of music for you.
- Start a new hobby or continue with a previous hobby-I am a HUGE fan of hobbies! They are good for people of ALL ages for so many reasons. If you don’t have any hobbies then consider exploring what you might really enjoy. Hobbies can bring you joy, happiness, peace and satisfaction.
Concluding ThoughtsWe live in a world of unhappiness and overwhelm. Sometimes we have no control over situations or events that happen to us, which rightfully leave us feeling overwhelmed and in many cases with more to do than anyone could handle. It does not have to be that way. The more you take control of your life and live intentionally, the more happiness you will have in your life and the less overwhelm you will have in your life. These are new practices and habits, new ways of thinking and doing life. If you have not lived with intentionality in the past then this is going to feel different. It might possibly feel very weird. You might be thinking that this is ridiculous and no one really does this stuff. Yes, I do this stuff. Yes, it works. Regardless of how it feels or what you think of the actions it requires to deal with overwhelm, it takes something to have a life that you love. I know that you can absolutely have love, joy and happiness even in times of great difficulty and suffering (more about that coming in a future post). We live life on a treadmill going through the motions. We live life in the grind of day to day operations. We want a different life but the question is what are we willing to do to have that wonderful happy life? I know how to be happy even when life slaps me down. I don’t have a perfect life, but I have a happy one. And I know how to be happy even in the face of dark times and periods of great suffering (coming post on that). I am here to support you along the way. What is causing your overwhelm? What are you doing to get through life while feeling overwhelmed? This is a critical issue that has to be addressed to have a life that you love. I assure you that any and all work that you do in this area will be richly rewarding. I want more than anything for you to be happy and have a great life. What can I do to support you in having that? Please let me know!