Overwhelmed: By life or by your mind?
Are you overwhelmed by your situation or is your situation overwhelmed by you? Confusing, I know. Basically, the first thing therapists do when someone says they are overwhelmed is figure out if it is the situation that is stressful by nature (not enough time, too many roles/jobs in life, too high of expectations) or if the situation Is ok but you are taking it as stressful (usually emotional triggers). It may sound simple to determine, but it can be tricky. Doing even simple tasks can be overwhelming if you are bombarded by an emotional trigger that has not yet been resolved. Worse yet, you cannot even know you are being triggered because the emotions cloud your ability to think clearly. So lets see what we can do.
1. Recognize you feel overwhelmed. You feel anxious, hard to breath, hard to rest, eating too much or not enough, sweating, feeling cold, hard to think, anger easily, and problem with finding solutions. So you feel horrible, now what?
2. Look at your schedule. Seriously, write it down with blocks of time for each thing. This takes about 5 minutes to do a week or so and can help you see if life is over scheduled due to time or due to the amount of energy that it takes. If you have enough time, with plenty of self-care and play time as well, then go to step 3.
3. Recognize how hard some of the tasks feel, not simply are, but how they feel. If you dread something, fist see if you really need or want to do the task. Stop doing things that do not match up with your life goals, values, or focus. This can even be going to a party when people will ask you stressful questions or buying someone a gift. Or even skipping a yearly event because it is a lot of prep to attend.
4. Do less of the same thing. Minimize time and effort on things that don’t get you more of the good things in life. This even can be trading types of housework with friends (you would be surprised who hates running errands but loves to fold towels). Get firm with yourself on what you do and to what extent. If you go to a party, do you need to bring a gift? Does it need to be personal or can you do a gift card? Can you skip the hair and makeup and just toss on a comfy go-to? Can you pick up food instead of making your famous appetizer? Do you have to hike 10 miles to see your buddies or can you meet for lunch after? Get creative, cut back on how much time and energy you put into getting the same benefit.
5. Do the things you love. Take the time, effort and energy to sink into the activities that you love, that match your life and ARE worth it. People, creativity, experiences. Make it worthwhile.
Get more from life by managing the feelings and realities of being overwhelmed.