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How to Deal with Feeling Overwhelmed Ways to Handle Overwhelmed

Overwhelm is an incredibly common but stressful situation. It can manifest in different ways such as losing your sense of control, feeling anxious, depressed and panicky. It can lead you to be unable to do anything at all, despite the importance of all of your actions on your infinitely long to-do list.

What causes overwhelm?

For many people, overwhelm comes from a constant state of rushing. Rushing is an incredibly negative action for our minds and bodies as it releases the stress hormone, cortisol. At the same time, rushing makes us unable to produce the happy chemical in our brain, serotonin. Serotonin can help to stop us feeling anxious or depressed. However, with heightened stress chemicals and no serotonin to regulate this stress, we end up on a downward spiral to overwhelm.

Overwhelm raises your blood pressure, increases your stress levels and has a significant impact on the functionality of your immune system, meaning you are more likely to get ill. Furthermore, you may feel increasingly forgetful, and unable to listen to people. You may feel completely scattered and altogether just not ‘you’.

How to handle overwhelm

  1. Make a list

Write down all of the things you do and are responsible for. Make lists for as many areas of life that you need such as at home, work, family, social, relationship and personal life.

‘Why am I doing this?’

For each item on your list, ask yourself why you do it. All the ones that you enjoy and motivate you should stay on the list. However, the ones you do because you didn’t want to say no, or make you feel bad, will drain your energy.

It’s time to get rid of the tasks that don’t bring you joy. Where possible, see how many of these ‘energy-draining activities’ you can just stop doing. For example, do you need to bake that cake for your community fete if it doesn’t bring you joy?

There are some tasks that you won’t enjoy doing, but you still have to do them. However, you can still use them to your advantage and gain back control. For example, if you’re doing something you don’t want to do at work, can you make a trade-off with another activity or swap with a colleague? Perhaps you can say; ‘because I am doing x, I don’t feel it’s fair I should do y too’.

For this to be an effective negotiation, plan and keep it clear in your mind what you want to achieve and what will be a successful outcome. Think about the areas you are happy to compromise on so that you come out of the negotiation in a better place.

People are often afraid to delegate because another person won’t do the task as well as you. However, with a delegation, you shouldn’t be looking for someone to exceed what you do, but that does it satisfactorily. If there are any tasks still left on your list that don’t make you happy, or you cannot use are a bargaining tool, then these are the ones to consider delegating.

For example, if cleaning your home takes up a whole day of your precious weekend, consider the value of your time compared to the cost of hiring a cleaner. At work, give more responsibility to your junior or assistant. They’ll appreciate the extra responsibility, and while they may not complete the job as well as you, they can learn, and it can save you time in the long run.

You need to take time to stop and take a break if you feel you are endlessly rushing from one thing to the next. Our creativity works best when we take a break and think about something else. With overwhelming, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees and to come up with the best solutions to problems you face. Let yourself stop each day and do something completely mindless, even if it is only for five minutes at a time. Your brain will thank you for its chance to switch off.

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