We all know the feeling of sheer overwhelm when we have so much more to do than our tiny little plates could handle (as in “having too much on my plate”… no? Okay…).
The feeling of shutting down, feeling stuck, helpless, hopeless, not knowing how all of it would get done, often mixed with the feelings of frustration and anxiety…Yep, we are all just too familiar with that.
Since you’re reading this article chances are that you might be going through an overwhelming phase right now. Well, fret not, as we are here to talk about just that.
We’ll discuss in detail what practical strategies you can use in your everyday life to overcome the feeling of overwhelm and stress. Let’s do this!
1. If You’re Totally Stuck at Something, Take a Break
Have you ever experienced times when you felt so stuck at something that nothing in the world seemed to work at that particular moment?
It’s almost as if the brain is shutting down and can’t think of any possible solution. No matter what you try it just seems impossible to get through it.
Personally speaking, I’ve been there countless times and still continue to face such phases every now and then. And from experience, I’ll give you a miraculous solution to get unstuck and find a solution…
STOP AND TAKE A BREAK!
Yep, just moving away from the seemingly impossible problem and just taking a break can do wonders and miracles. It did for me.
2. Mentally Step Out of it
Often we become so immersed in the everyday urgent matters or overwhelming situations that we develop a tunnel perspective of things where we are unable to see other possibilities. Our focus gets so centered on the problems or urgencies that we can’t think of anything else or see the bigger picture.
I call this “The Hypnosis of Circumstances”
One of the most important things to do when you get overwhelmed by life is to take a moment to step out of all the frenzy and break out of the hypnosis of circumstances.
You’ll notice that your mind was taking several things and blowing them out of proportion in your head. Making them seem more overwhelming than they actually are.
Stepping out of the “hypnosis of circumstances” also allows you to see your life from a more balanced perspective. Realizing that not all is bad, that it’s doable, that there are several other options and possibilities that you can utilize.
This will help you center your mind and relax a bit.
3. Emotionally Detach Yourself From The Situation
One of the main reasons for being emotionally overwhelmed is that we’re too emotionally invested in the problem at hand.
Too much mental and emotional immersion into the problem really blurs out everything around us including the solutions that might often be within our reach, but we’re unable to realize it since most of our mental energy was focused on all that’s going wrong.
Here’s a simple exercise to mentally and emotionally detach yourself from the situation:
1- Close your eyes, take a few calming breaths, and in your mind’s eye, take a step back and step outside of your body.
2- Once you step outside of yourself, Move a bit further away and look at yourself as a third person. Walk either to the left or right and then turn towards yourself and see yourself from the side. Notice how that person (yourself) looks now.
3- Now notice the entire situation that person is in. Remember to see THAT person in the situation and NOT yourself.
4- As an observer, what suggestions and advice are coming up in your mind for that person?
5- Better yet, imagine that person coming towards you and then asking for your advice regarding the situation/problems/challenges that he/she is stuck in.
6- What advice and suggestions do you give to that person?
Now I’m sure it can be a bit distracting to read and imagine at the same time. So read these steps thoroughly a couple of times and then imagine with total focus.
You can repeat this exercise a few times daily to reinforce it in your mind. The more you do it the easier and faster it will become for you to reap benefit from it. (let me know in the comments below how did this exercise go for you, and what came up in your mind)
4. Go Take a Nap!
“Are you out of your mind Faraz? I’m here being overwhelmed and stressing over all the stuff I have to handle and you’re telling me to take a nap?”
Yes, I am 🙂
The thing is, when we’re tired, we are much less efficient at everything and tend to make more mistakes. Because of mental and emotional fatigue, we also risk getting into unnecessary conflict with people that might create even more problems that we’ll have to handle.
When you are well-rested and mentally fresh, you’ll be way more productive and get things done much more efficiently.
If you’re feeling stuck and feeling like shutting down, that’s the perfect time to go take a nap. You’ll be amazed at how it will do wonders for you once you wake up.
Sleep allows our mind to reorganize all the data that went into it during the waking hours. It can work wonders especially if you have been stuck with a particular problem and can’t seem to find a solution to it.
When you allow your mind to rest, the unconscious mind gets an opportunity to sort things out and look for possibilities and solutions.
It might seem a bit weird to you if you haven’t heard of it before but that is how many of the greatest solutions to humanity and revolutionary ideas and inventions came to the people seeking a solution to a problem (scientists, writers, philosophers, leaders, artists, etc.)
I’ve seen it work wonders in my own life as well. There had been many times when I was badly stuck and overwhelmed, but then I left everything and went to sleep.
Upon waking up, miraculously, ideas and solutions start flowing through my mind. There even had been instances where I saw the solution or an idea in my dreams.
Strange but true. Try it!
Also, make sure you’re getting enough hours of sleep daily. When life gets busy and when there is so much to do, the first thing that goes out the window is sleep, but what we don’t realize is how badly lack of sleep can affect our productivity and add on to the feeling of overwhelm.
Take sleeping as a job, a task. Make it a goal to get at least around 6-8 hours of good sleep.
5. Write Everything Down That Has Been Hovering Your Mind
When we feel overwhelmed with life, it’s often because there are too many things going on in our lives and our mind just can’t seem to keep up with all of them at the same time.
It is as if all of the matters, tasks, problems, and challenges are just hovering over our heads, zapping our mental and emotional energy from all directions.
Productivity is crucial to get our lives into order under these circumstances but we can’t be productive when our mind is trying to deal with everything at the same time.
This only makes us feel more exhausted and defeated.
Much of that can be avoided if we develop a habit of writing things down. It can be in the form of journaling or making a To-Do list.
When we write things down, it’s like dropping the luggage that you’re carrying on your head and storing it down on a piece of paper so that you can come back to it later, and your mind doesn’t have to struggle with worrying about everything at once.
It also helps you organize your thinking process and clear your thoughts.
Often you would notice that what seems to be too many things in your mind, are not actually that many when you put it on paper.
Take this as an example, when you hold a 1 kg weight for an hour, it will begin to feel a lot heavier than it is. The muscles in your arms might start to burn and ache, and you begin to feel tired.
A similar thing happens when things keep hovering over our heads for too long.
So don’t let them. Settle them down on paper. Pour your emotions out through journaling and organize tasks by making daily and weekly To-Do lists.
6. Talk to Someone Who Understands You
Sometimes expressing your feelings to someone whom you trust and who understands you can bring great relief and clarity of mind. Whether it be a good friend, parent, sibling or spouse, find a time when you can sit and talk to them about what’s going on in your life.
If you’re seeking advice, make it clear to them that you are asking for their opinion or suggestion. If you’re not seeking advice and just want them to listen to you, you might want to make that clear as well lest you find their advice uncomfortable or unsatisfying.
Just say “hey thank you so much for being there for me, I just wanted to share what has been going on in my life lately, so much has happened in the past few days.”
Make sure to talk to someone whom you find calming, reassuring, and kinda therapeutic.
Avoid sharing your worries and feelings with someone whom you think might not respond well to it, and talking to them might bring the opposite effect instead of bringing some relief and reassurance.
P.S. If you like you can vent out here in the comment section below. I read and respond to every comment. I’m here to listen to you.
7.. Cut Out All The Energy Drainers
For most of us, there are certain activities and certain people that unnecessarily drain our energy.
Identify such people in your life who waste your time and energy with unnecessary gossip, talking about all the negative stuff happening in their lives or in the world, who can’t stop calling you and talking to you for hours.
You must learn to say NO to such people if you want to conserve your time and energy for the important stuff.
If you find it a bit difficult to turn people down, feel free to check out my guide:
The Art Of Saying NO: The Complete Step-By-Step Guide To Reclaim Your Time, Energy, & Personal Space.
Apart from energy-draining people, there are certain activities in our daily routine that we often do without thinking much of it such as using social media, watching the news, texting, staying up late at night watching Netflix or Youtube…you get the point.
Such seemingly casual harmless activities can often contribute big time in us being overwhelmed and feeling as if we have so little time and so much to do.
As we are casually scrolling through our social media feed, taking a look at what is going on in other people’s lives, going through random posts and videos, feeling a variety of emotions, we are unknowingly using up a lot of our mental and emotional energy. Not to mention the countless hours it takes up throughout our day.
Every link, every profile, every post, every video showing in your recommendations that you decide to click, you use up your decision making energy.
Keep in mind that according to certain experts, we have a limited amount of decision making energy available to us every day.
With so much time and mental energy being subtracted from our day, it often contributes significantly to us getting overwhelmed with life.
I’m not suggesting to cut out everything and go cold turkey. Just be conscious of how much time and energy you’re spending on such activities.
Ideally, keep such activities later in the day, when you’re done with the most important tasks.
But if you’re going through a particularly tough and overwhelming phase of life, you could consider shutting these things down for a couple of days to remove all distractions.
I personally did it a few times and went on digital detox when life got too overwhelming for me, and it really helped me get my head straight and get my life together.
8. Take Charge By Taking Some Action
It’s common to feel paralyzed and feel like you have no control during overwhelming phases of life.
“It’s a mess”
“Where do I start?”
“How will I be able to handle this?”
“It’s too much to take in”
“Nothing is going the way I expected”
These are the kind of thoughts that might go through our minds when we feel overwhelmed by the frenzy of life making us feel as if we don’t have any control.
It’s okay to not have control over everything.
Having said that, the fact is, you do have control over some things. Especially yourself.
You can gradually begin to take charge of your life by focusing on things that are still in your control at the moment.
Start by taking small, doable steps. Take some action, even if it’s just a little. Even if it means taking simple steps to take care of yourself, your mental and physical health, and your spiritual well-being.
You’ll notice that by taking small, doable steps, you’ll begin to gain momentum and expand your influence over other things.
9. Pace Yourself and Don’t Overdo it
A lot of times we get this urge to go the extra mile and do it all at once. Normally it’s a good thing to go the extra mile every now and then, but trying to finish a big task in one sitting is an overkill that leads to overwhelm and exhaustion.
It’s a lot better to divide a bigger task into manageable chunks and spread it over a period of time if it’s not extremely urgent.
Pacing yourself is crucial to avoid exhaustion, frustration, and overwhelm.
Keep a specific time for tasks related to each area of your life. Be deliberate in giving yourself some leisure time when you chill out and relax completely without worrying about other things in the background.
When you deliberately set a time for each area of your life (including leisure and self-care), you avoid the lingering worry in the back of your mind and are able to focus on one thing in its own dedicated time.
Personally, I too have the tendency to go the extra mile and overdo stuff to the point of exhaustion. Often when I would dive into something, I would do it until I no longer could.
That might feel a bit productive in the short term, as in accomplishing a lot in one day, but very counterproductive in the long haul.
After diving head-first into a task and pushing myself day and night for several days, I would then get so drained and exhausted that for the next several days, I would be a complete couch potato and feel totally unproductive and useless.
After years of such frustrating cycles of going full force for several days and then being totally unproductive the next entire week, I realized the importance of pacing and keeping a balance.
Keeping a deliberate schedule for work, household tasks, self-care, and leisure. Dedicatedly giving time to each one.
This saved me a ton of energy and kept me from haphazardness, overthinking, over-worrying, and unnecessary stress.
10. Visualize the Negative/Self-Defeating Thoughts as Fragile Bubbles and POP THEM!
Notice all the negative and self-defeating kind of thoughts that subconsciously come up when you feel overwhelmed.
Visualize them as fragile soap bubbles, floating in the air passing by you and then just simply pop them with your finger.
This is a great simple exercise to de-stress and shift your state. The more you do such visualization exercises, the more benefits you’ll experience.
For many people, visualization can initially take a bit of time and some effort since in this age of digital technology, our capacity to imagine and visualize is not exercised enough as most of the visualization has been done for us in the form of videos and photos.
So take your time to immerse completely into the exercises mentioned in this article and add them to your toolbox to cope whenever you feel overwhelmed.
The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more possibilities you’ll have to fix things up and avoid getting stuck.
11. Imagine What it will Feel Like Once the Overwhelming Phase Has Passed
Another great visualization exercise is to imagine the positive outcomes and feel what it would feel like once you’re over it.
Everything is temporary and everything in the world has to pass at some point, so will your problems and challenges, or you’ll learn to deal with them effectively soon enough.
Think of that time when you’ve overcome your challenges. You don’t need to know how you will overcome them. Don’t worry about that, the “HOWs” will come to you along that way.
Just focus on the good outcome and notice how relieved you’re feeling once the challenges have passed and things are now beginning to settle down. How great does that feel!
12. Use Affirmations and Self Encouragement
When we get overwhelmed we often tend to indulge in negative self-talk about how stupid, lame, or dumb we are or how our life just sucks at the moment.
From a psychological point of view, that might not be the most empowering thing to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
It would make things a lot better when you replace that trash-talking with positive affirmations and words of hope and encouragement.
Say simple positive affirmations to yourself such as
“Things will get better”
“This too shall pass”
“Everything happens for a higher reason”
“I’m learning a lot from these experiences”
I have a list of 200+ morning affirmations from which you can pick and use your favorite ones regularly. Check them out:
200+ Morning Affirmations You Must Go Through EVERY DAY
13. Practice Deep Belly Breathing for at Least 1 Minute
As cliche and overly repeated as it may sound, we can’t deny the importance and value of simple deep breathing.
We sometimes try to look for complex ways and solutions to our complex problems, but often the relief lies in simple things and coming to the basics.
Breathing is the fundamental aspect of our bodily existence. In the state of anxiety, stress, and overwhelm, one of the first things that get compromised is our breathing.
You might have experienced the tightness of the chest area and shortness of breath during stressful states. Because of disturbed breathing patterns our brain receives less oxygen which negatively affects our cognitive abilities (which we need the most under such situations).
Next time, whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed, just take a minute or two to sit back and take a few deep breaths. You’ll be amazed at how better you’ll feel immediately with this simple practice.
P.S. Make sure you’re breathing deep into your belly and not just in your chest. Chest breathing is a flawed breathing pattern that most of us have unconsciously developed because of the modern lifestyle and habits.
By nature, we are supposed to breathe into our bellies in a way that our belly expands before our chest as we fill up air into our lungs.
If you observe babies or even other animals, you’ll notice that they all breathe into their bellies naturally, since that is the actual natural way of breathing.
We, adults, have blocked our breathing up to our chest because of all the subconscious baggage we carry around that has impacted our physical being as well.
A lot could be said regarding this, but to keep things to the point, just remember to breathe deep into your belly and notice the difference.
14. Take a Complete Day Off Once a Week
When we have so much to do, it’s common to get tempted to use up every bit of extra time to get things done on our to-do list.
I too am guilty of not giving myself a day off and trying to work 24/7. But I’ve found that taking a rest day can really add on to the overall productivity. It allows you to replenish your mind, body, and soul, and start fresh the next day.
Use this day off to spend time with yourself, allowing yourself to heal and replenish with some self-care activities or hobbies. Spending quality time with your loved ones. Spending some time in nature. Reading books. Praying. Meditating. Going out with friends.
Don’t worry about other stuff. It will get done eventually. Life goes on and the tasks will never end. If you wait for your To-Do list to finish before you get any rest and some time for yourself, then you might never find a chance to settle down and enjoy life along the way.
The busyness of life will continue to go on, but it’s you who’ll have to make a conscious choice to allow yourself to breathe and enjoy along this journey, and to create balance and harmony in your life.
Stress and overwhelm is a state of mind that can be overcome with the right approach and some simple strategies. Include at least some of these tips and exercises in your daily routine and notice the difference in the quality of your life.
Talk to you soon!