Feeling overwhelmed? What a frustrating feeling. You might be panicking right now desperate to find a solution. Maybe your workload is too high and you don’t know where to start. Or you’ve read the news recently and feel scared about the future. Sometimes, life throws a lot your way. And rather than diving into action, you become paralyzed. Frozen in time. The good news is that we’ve all been there. So, that means, there is a solution to feeling overwhelmed. And today, we’re going to help you do just that.
How to Manage Feeling Overwhelmed
So, let’s say you’ve just gotten bombarded with projects all at once. There’s a mountain of it. And you don’t know which to tackle first. And instead of taking action, you’re in panic mode. Maybe you’re experiencing a panic attack right now, even. You’re procrastinating because you can’t focus. You can’t pick just one thing. In this case, you should meditate. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to take an hour of your time. You can meditate using the Declutter The Mind app in as little as little as five minutes with our Emergency meditation. It gives you just enough time to take that deep breath in to help you gain some mental clarity.
And if you find that you need to do that one more time, you can replay it again or try a ten minute anxiety meditation. I sometimes double up my short meditations when my panic attacks are really strong. So, don’t worry if you need to do the same thing. Panic attacks from feeling overwhelmed can be pretty intense. But the more you practice meditation, when you’re not feeling anxious, the more equipped you become to handle that anxiety when panic begins to arise within you during overwhelming periods.
2. Start Anywhere
Maybe today is a busy day at work for you. You still have your job while others in the company have been laid off due to COVID-19 or budget cuts or any other circumstance. The work is piling up higher and higher on your desk. The list would be impossible to accomplish even if you worked seven days a week on it. It’s just not doable. You’re scared of telling your boss that you can’t handle the workload because the time is sensitive right now. But you find yourself procrastinating and working on non-essential tasks because you don’t know where to dive in to start. You’re feeling overwhelmed and are afraid that the problem is getting worse.
In this case, I would speak to your boss about priorities. Be honest. Tell him or her that you’re currently feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Ask for feedback on what he or she thinks is the most critical thing to work on first to help you get started. That way, your boss is the decision maker that you continue to make happy. And you can finally get that clear focus started. It’s your first baby step.
3. Change Your Thoughts
The most dangerous place you’ve ever been is located in your mind. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the problem likely started in that little place where all your negative thoughts buzz about. The cool thing to note is that those negative thoughts, they came from you. So you have the power to stop them. Maybe you’ll need to shout stop when they try to take you down that rabbit hole. Or maybe you’re a bit gentler singing the song, “Stop, in the name of love before you break my hea–d.” Kidding aside, when you find that the vicious thought cycle is spinning out of control, focus on replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. For example, “I have so much work to do, I’ll never finish this” becomes “I have so much work to do, who can I work with to finish this” or “I have so much work to do, maybe I need to ask for an extension to meet this deadline, most people are quite understanding and flexible.” There’s always an alternate thought to a negative thought that can help stop you from feeling overwhelmed and find peace of mind.
4. Live in the Present
When you notice that you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, which time frame am I living in? Are you fearing the future? Are you overburdened by the past? Or are you in the present moment? By shifting your focus away from the past and future and practicing mindfulness, you can sit comfortably in the present. You may notice that in the present moment, you’re feeling a sense of panic. Acknowledge that panic. Hi, panic. Welcome back. How can I help you today? Take a deep breath. You are able to tackle everything you set out to do. No, stop it. Yes, you are.
This moment right now, you’ve got two options: react and act. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed to the point of panicking, you’ve already tried reacting and that didn’t work out very well. Now is the time for action. If you have a to-do list that’s miles long, start with number 5. There, we narrowed down your starting point. Chip away at it. And when that one’s done, head over to 3. And then 2, 4, and 1. If one were easy, you probably would’ve started it so save it for last.
5. Accept Good Enough
There are so many perfectionists in the world who feel overwhelmed because they’re trying to achieve something that isn’t attainable. Maybe I’m a bit lucky. Growing up, I was always told I was bad. “Be more like so and so,” the adults would say. And so instead of trying to be perfect, I aimed to be good enough to stop being called bad. Good enough is achievable. And there’s less stress in this zone. The moment you realize that you don’t need to be perfect to be appreciated, loved, promoted, or high-fived, you regain control. And instead of feeling overwhelmed, you feel empowered knowing that you are good enough.
6. Take a News Detox
Sometimes we start feeling overwhelmed when the world around us gets a little bit chaotic. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as being too informed. The information you take in can take a toll on your mental health. If you find reading the news or being on social media makes you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, it may be time to do a bit of a detox or social media detox. With all this COVID-19 talk going around right now, I’ve actually spent less time reading news than ever before. Instead of looking at trending articles, looking up daily statistics, or looking at the top hashtags, I’ve been reading books the last 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. And it’s made all the difference. If you constantly read about bad news, you’ll likely dream about bad news, and you’ll wake up with a bad mood. That’s a lesson from lived experience so take it in folks.
7. Distract Yourself
As we mentioned earlier in this article, changing your thoughts or at least replacing them with positive thoughts can stop you from feeling overwhelmed. Another quick solution is to distract yourself. And you’re going to need to come up with a distraction that stops the mind from wandering. Maybe that’s reading a book, watching a show, listening to music, doing a quick ten-minute workout, video chatting with a friend, playing an anxiety relief game, or focusing on the breath. You’ll want to make sure that the distraction doesn’t escalate your overwhelming feelings. So, listen to happy music which is scientifically proven to make you happier in about nine minutes or three songs– instead of songs that make you feel worse.
8. Release the Stress
When you begin feeling overwhelmed, you may notice a feeling in the pit of your stomach or a burning in the chest. Your body becomes consumed with adrenaline. It’s telling you something you know. You’ve gotta take some physical action. One of the most powerful things to do when feeling overwhelmed is climbing a set of stairs. If you live in an apartment building or a condo, take the elevator down to the first floor. Then, run up the stairs. You’ll likely notice that the adrenaline pumping through your veins allows you to scale the building fast. Maybe at the halfway point, you notice that you’re huffing and puffing desperate for air. Good. That means your breathing has distracted you.
Right now, you’re not thinking about how overwhelmed you are because you’re number one priority is getting enough oxygen to stay alive. Maybe you need to take a minute or so to catch your breath. But now you’ve released some of that nervousness and panic from your body. Plus, you just made a huge feat. You climbed a ton of stairs in record time. When you go back to your home, drink a glass of water. And maybe continue to catch your breath if you need to. But you’ll find that you now have a clearer focus so that you can tackle the problem that’s causing you so much stress.
9. Talk it Out
There is one tiny risk to talking it out when feeling overwhelmed. The risk is that you might communicate your negative thoughts to others further spiraling yourself on a downward path. When you talk about your anxiety to other people, make sure to tell the person that all you want from them are objections to your point of view. What you don’t want is someone who will make you feel worse or telling you that their negative thoughts are true.
Instead, you’ll want to find the most level-headed person you know. If you don’t know who that might be, you might choose to turn to a psychotherapist who’s trained at calming those overwhelming feelings. You should communicate the belief you have and the other person should ask you for evidence pointing to the truth of that belief. And they’ll likely point out that your evidence isn’t based on fact but on another belief. Eventually, the two of you should work out a plan of action that’ll help make the feeling of being overwhelmed more manageable. However, it all boils down on finding the right person to talk to so choose wisely.
10. Be Patient
Like every feeling you’ll ever experience in life, this feeling will pass. Avoid being a time traveler moving from the present to the past or future. Stay grounded in this moment. If you notice the physical sensations in your body which is causing you to feel overwhelmed, take a moment to sit with it. Sit still and feel the sensations course through your body as you breathe in and out. This pain and suffering is temporary. It will go away. I promise. But here in the present moment, you are safe. You will overcome this burden. You’re strong enough to handle this. There’s nothing you can’t tackle. Maybe you’ll need to pull in a friend to help out. Or you’ll need to lock yourself in a room to meditate for ten minutes. But ultimately, you’re going to process everything you need to, to regain the control you need to find peace.
Whether the world around you is in chaos or you feel like you’ve lost a sense of control, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. You can choose to practice meditation, avoid toxic information like the news, accept yourself as a flawed human, or focus on distracting yourself back to calm. Ground yourself in the present moment instead of time traveling to the past or future your mind creates. If you find challenging to stop feeling overwhelmed, despite trying several suggestions on this list, make an appointment with a psychotherapist to try some cognitive behavioral therapy to help you discover a sense of calm and truly declutter the mind.