Recently I’ve been very stressed out. I’ve been in over my head. Too many things are happening at the same time.

Not only has work been crazy, but I also committed to a freelance writing project and signed up for a writing seminar – all amidst moving to a new home. Not to mention still trying to juggle being a wife and mother.

I really have no idea how I ended up with all of these at the same time, and as a result, I had a big meltdown last week.

It was a combination of feelings. I was feeling sad, anxious, tired and very irritated to the point where I ended up crying on my husband’s shoulder asking, “If I’m doing and pursuing the things that I love, why do I feel so bad?”

His answer was short and sweet. Bless him. “You’re overwhelmed.”

It was so clear but yet he was the one to spot it and not me.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? According Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, “overwhelmed” means to affect (someone) very strongly; cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with; or defeat (someone or something) completely.

Most people, at different moments of their lives, have experienced overwhelm. If you’re not sure if that’s what you could be experiencing, here are some examples that might help:

  • You feel someone is always on your back, and you don’t know how to deal with the situation
  • There’s a situation that you’re afraid of and you don’t know how to face it
  • You’re overcommitted and feel like you’re in over your head – trying to get too much done
  • You don’t know what’s happening around you, and it’s getting you down

Looking at these made me realize I was feeling two out of the four things. So the next question was – what now?

Thanks to a great talk with my soul sister Veena, I decided to divide the solution into two parts.

Here are my tips on how to get out of feeling overwhelmed:

Part 1: Deal with the Urgent

What’s urgent? Fixing how you feel (admit it, you feel like crap) so you can start to feel better. When you feel better, you can perform better at everything.

Here are some easy tips help:

1. Breathe: This is the simplest and yet the most valuable advice I can give you. Stress, anxiety, worries, all affect our body and our mind and they give us the idea that we are not in control. And, yes, we can’t control many things, but we can control the way we feel and react to the things around us.

So, first step is to breathe. Take two or three nice and deep breaths. More oxygen, less stress. You can also try the 4-7-8 technique. Read more about it here.

Anytime you feel a wave of overwhelm coming on, just breathe and repeat for as long as you need. It will help tremendously.

2. Make a short to-do list: Start your day by breaking down your tasks into small chunks and write this down. Instead of having one or two huge items on your to-do list, you will have several smaller tasks to check off – this gives your mind the perception that you’re achieving something.

Ideally, every task should take about 10 minutes to complete. Every time you have a spare moment, pick one and do it. Things will feel more manageable and you will feel less stressed. As a result, you’ll be more productive and get more done and you’ll end on a great note. Slay that dragon!

3. Live one day at the time: Don’t over complex your agenda and your mind by thinking ahead – start your day just by thinking of that day only i.e what you need to accomplish that day (based on your to-do list above).

Delegate what you can. Seriously, you don’t have to do everything. Figure out what you need done that someone else can do and ask them if they can help. Work smart.

Now, let’s dive into the second part of the problem – the part that’s most important.

Part 2: Get to the Root of the Problem

What got you here? Why did you make the decisions you did that landed you in overwhelm?

It’s important to deal with this issue and it will mean going into yourself so you can identify what really got you to where you are. Only then can you learn how to manage everything around you and the emotions that come with it, so you can avoid overwhelm in the future.

Here are some tips to help:

1. Get support: You’d be amazed at how many people are willing to help. Often, we think we are more “alone” that we really are.

Start asking for help and allow others to help you (for both work and home). We think most people will say “No”, and so, we don’t reach out and ask. But just give it a try – you might be surprised.

2. Learn to say “No”: Whenever someone makes a request of you, before you say “Yes”, think about whether or not you can actually deliver on the commitment you’d be making, without crowding out other commitments or leaving yourself totally burnt out.

If a “Yes” would put you over the line, let the requester know and respectfully decline. And even if the requester is your boss or your client, you can still say a version of “No”. Just frame it as, “That would be difficult, given my current priorities; let’s find another way to get this done.”

3. Reflect: Your distress can be a sign that you need to change something in your life. But only you will really know what that is and so it is up to you to discover it.

Take the time to understand what is your deep motivation behind everything and own up to any changes you need to make.

At the end of the day, know that everything will be alright – you just have to get yourself on the right track and set yourself straight again. Identify the problem and have an action plan to execute. Take it step by step, breathe, and soon, this too shall pass.

“Even from a dark night, songs of beauty can be born.” Mary Anne Radmacher

Do you have any tips to deal with overwhelm? Please share your thoughts with us. 🙂

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