What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed

Life can sometimes feel like an endless checklist, with mornings spent rushing to work and evenings returning to chaotic homes, especially if you have children. Juggling work, health, friendships, and chores can make you feel like you’re stuck on a treadmill with no off switch.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Juggling packed schedules, conflicting duties, and the pressure to meet idealized standards can leave you feeling perpetually overwhelmed.

Why Do I Feel So Overwhelmed? 

If you’re experiencing a sense of being overwhelmed, it could be due to one or more of these factors:

You’re doing too many things.

Overloading ourselves with tasks can quickly lead to burnout, as we often pack our schedules to the brim without allowing any space for relaxation or recuperation.

You’re doing the wrong things.

Continuously pushing yourself to do more can lead to burnout, as you overload your schedule without allowing for breaks or rest. Similarly, engaging in tasks that don’t resonate with you can be draining, such as remaining in a job that causes stress and anxiety.

You’re in a busy season.

When you’re juggling too many tasks or responsibilities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. This can happen when your schedule is packed, you’re doing things you don’t enjoy, or you’re facing a particularly busy period in your life, like planning a wedding or having a baby.

Regardless of the cause, feeling overwhelmed means you don’t have enough mental, emotional, or physical energy to handle everything on your plate.

How to Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed 

When you feel overwhelmed creeping in, you can choose how to react. Here are 8 strategies to respond effectively and avoid getting stuck in the feeling of overwhelm:

1. Recognize the season you’re in.

In certain busy periods of life, such as transitioning to college, organizing a wedding, purchasing a home, launching a business, or welcoming a new baby, experiencing feelings of overwhelm is entirely common.

At times, even the everyday tasks can accumulate unnoticed. In such situations, it’s important to acknowledge that you can’t handle everything. And that’s perfectly acceptable because you’re human after all.

Make a clear separation between your present challenges and your self-worth. Temporary chaos doesn’t define your success. For instance, if you’re overwhelmed for a short period and your car becomes cluttered, it doesn’t mean you’re failing. Remember, this phase is fleeting, and soon you’ll have your car looking pristine again.

Don’t judge your worth by a temporary snapshot of your life. You’re more than just a messy car or a hectic week. Rather than dwelling on guilt, focus on making the most of this phase—it’s only temporary, and things will improve.

2. Focus on what you’re doing right.

Reflect on what you accomplished yesterday, and feel proud of it. You may not accomplish everything, but you can achieve much. When you spend time remembering what you’ve already done, you’ll be in a completely different headspace for the upcoming tasks.

3. Write things down. 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, putting your thoughts down on paper can be a game-changer. Whether it’s a simple to-do list or a journal entry, getting your tasks and thoughts out of your head and onto paper can provide clarity and relief.

According to productivity guru David Allen, “Your mind is meant for having ideas, not holding onto them.” By externalizing your thoughts, you relieve the burden of feeling like you’re forgetting something important, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

4. Keep two separate to-do lists. 

As you not down your tasks, maintain two distinct lists. The first one should include items you aim to accomplish soon, such as today or within the week. Reserve the second list for tasks that you can tackle if you happen to have extra time. This approach helps reinforce the idea that it’s alright if you don’t complete every task, easing the pressure on yourself.

5. Control what you can control. 

Take a moment to identify the specific stressors in your life, recognizing what you can control and what you can’t. Focus your energy on the things you can influence, while consciously letting go of those beyond your control. By acknowledging and accepting the limitations of what you can change, you can alleviate unnecessary anxiety and direct your efforts towards actionable steps.

Practice mindfulness and prioritize addressing the aspects you can manage effectively, fostering a sense of empowerment and calm amidst uncertainty.

6. Rework Your Schedule

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to rethink how you manage your time. Take a moment to reassess what’s most important to you and adjust your schedule accordingly. Focus on activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, and consider cutting out commitments that leave you stressed and drained. Prioritize what matters most to you to create a schedule that promotes balance and reduces overwhelm.

7. Learn to say no. 

Saying no and sticking to it can be tough because everyone wants to feel liked and needed. But constantly seeking validation can lead to taking on too much. The good news is, you can be kind and honest at the same time. Learning to say no respectfully is a valuable skill that allows you to set boundaries without sacrificing your well-being. It’s about finding a balance between being compassionate and assertive, prioritizing your needs while still showing empathy towards others.

Without boundaries, you’re at risk of being overwhelmed by life’s demands. Saying yes to everything can lead to resentment and regret later on. Setting boundaries means knowing when to say no, even in challenging situations. It’s essential for maintaining control over your time and avoiding burnout. By prioritizing your own needs, you can create a life that feels fulfilling and true to yourself.

Don’t hesitate to say no.

8. Make sleep a priority.

Think about the last time you woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. That’s the power of a good night’s sleep!

Make sleep a priority to enhance clarity and productivity. With sufficient rest, you’ll have the energy and focus to tackle your to-do list effectively. A few extra hours of sleep can provide a fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm for your daily tasks.

Empower Yourself with Time

Feeling overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time is tough. But there are ways to take back control of your schedule. By prioritizing what matters most and managing your time effectively, you can focus on what’s important to you.

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