Dealing With Overwhelm

I get overwhelmed sometimes and I must admit that I’m not always the greatest at dealing with it. But I’m working on it. I have identified where some of my weaknesses are, and I’m trying new things to better handle it.

Right now, when I get overwhelmed, I don’t know where to start and it practically paralyzes me. So when I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed, I immediately take a step back and decide to take some time to relax instead. Letting my body rest and relax is better than accumulating the negative affects of stress, right?

Except, relaxing in the face of overwhelm is just a form of avoidance and it makes the problem worse in the long run. I need to relax, of course, but I need to be mindful about it, too. I can’t just relax when things get too hectic because then I would just relax more and more while the chore pile grew and grew to ever more unmanageable heights. I need to take steps toward the top of my to-do mountain with realistic mental-health breaks along the way.

I’ve tried scheduling things out during the week to help spread the busyness. Budget balancing on Mondays, vacuuming on Tuesdays, appointments on Wednesday, laundry day, etc. But I had trouble sticking with it. In reality, the circumstances of my life right now are just too unpredictable to fit in daily boxes. So I created weekly task-lists instead.

I find using a Bullet Journal helps in determining what is really important. If it gets written down, it is priority. (I only allow 1 page for my weekly to-do list, with items written on every other line. That creates a max of 15 tasks per week, or an average of 3 per day.) This helps clear some of the mental clutter. If something doesn’t make the list, it’s easier for me to remember that I don’t have to give it any mental thought power — at least until a later date. This gives structure, but isn’t too rigid. A rigid structure is inherently fragile; When there is more room for improvisation, there is more room to succeed.

When things get to be just too too much, and I find my frazzled mind is affecting my mood, I find stream-of-consciousness journaling helps a lot, too. I’ll take some time — maybe 20 to 30 minutes — to just write about how I’m feeling. I’m not consciously trying to figure out why I’m feeling a certain way, but sometimes it emerges on its own. I mostly just complain. I write about how things are (not great) and how I want them to be instead (wonderful). Just getting those concerns (complaints) out somewhere helps me get past them and move on. I no longer feel bogged down by the weight of the suckiness and feel free enough to do something, anything, and that sets me on my way to a more productive day.

I must say, though, that I don’t only journal to complain. I probably complain for a few pages once every few months. But I compile a list of daily gratitude every night before I go to sleep. I think this is important to note as gratitude journaling is also beneficial. If complaints are the only thing we’re writing into our expressive universe, our energy is unbalanced. Daily thankfulness (or other affirmative expression) tips our expressive energy scale to the positive, making it more likely for the wonderful to come into our lives.

Learning how to successfully deal with overwhelm will be a lifelong feat. As we grow, we learn, we change. It is important to adapt as we realize certain practices are no longer serving us and continually explore ways to cultivate the best lives for ourselves.

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