Feeling overwhelmed can be paralyzing and unproductive. There’s no magic pill that will stop it, but rather, actions you can take to prevent it. Are you ready to discover how to stop feeling overwhelmed?
It’s pretty much a normal part of our culture: most of us want to do more, perform better, and exceed expectations. We live in a society that glorifies being busy and we believe that being bone-tired is a sign of a successful day. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
Unfortunately, due to these beliefs, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed or paralyzed by a seemingly endless to-do list. Consequently, we’re facing signs of burnout at an increasing rate.
Here are some strategies to help curb feelings of overwhelm while still being productive in your life.
Symptoms of feeling overwhelmed
For starters, it’s important to note that some people perform better with a small bit of overwhelm. This added pressure can allow us to rise up to challenges, meet deadlines, and do our best. It’s when overwhelm begins to take a strong hold on our emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing that the pressure has gone too far.
The symptoms of feeling overworked or overwhelmed can look and feel different for everyone, but here are four common traits.
Feeling dread (anxiety + resistance) or a paralyzing sense of anxiety is a warning sign that you’re experiencing overwhelm. It can feel like you’re in a hamster wheel of completing to-do lists to calm anxiety and then adding to your to-do list to also quiet those anxious thoughts. What a cycle to be stuck in!
Inability to make a decision
Have you ever heard of decision fatigue? It occurs when you’ve used up all of your mental resources and are no longer able to make a decision, no matter how small or inconsequential. If you’re experiencing this indecisiveness, it’s a good indicator that you might be experiencing overwhelm.
Lack of focus
Isn’t it ironic that when we have the most on our to-do list we also have the least amount of focus? This inability to concentrate is caused by a heightened nervous system because our bodies are in a constant fight or flight mentality. We’re too busy looking out for our next perceived threat instead of focusing on what we need to accomplish.
Constantly living in a ‘fight or flight’ mentality that’s often caused by overwhelming feelings can lead this stress to manifest in physical symptoms. Have you ever experienced a late or missing period during an extremely stressful time? You can thank your body for that.
If you’re someone who is struggling with physical symptoms such as migraines/headaches, digestive issues, cycle issues, or poor sleep quality, chronic stress and overwhelm may be to blame.
How to stop feeling overwhelmed
Easier said than done, I know.
I’ve found that in addition to external pressures – how our society applauds late-night workers, those who never say No, and encourage giving it 100% all of the time – we carry a sense of internal pressure.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I invite you to take a look at what is driving this need to do all of the things, all of the time. For starters, it’s possible your sense of self-worth is directly tied to accomplishing tasks or performing well at work.
Think this might be the case for you? It’s important to dig into this belief a bit more to uncover where it stems from. The below questions could be helpful to answer in a journaling entry:
- Is it hard for me to sit still?
- Do I do a good job of prioritizing my work?
- Do I feel I base my happiness on how much I’ve accomplished? Why or why not?
- Is my mood affected when I don’t accomplish what I think I should be accomplishing?
Also, in addition to examining the connection between business and self-worth, the below two tools are my favorite ways to stop feeling overwhelmed almost instantly.
The art of saying no (even when it’s very difficult)
Another effective strategy to stop feeling overwhelmed is learning how to say No. Instead of mindlessly taking on tasks and adding to your to-do list, take a few moments before answering Yes to really evaluate if that task is feasible for you.
Learning how to say No isn’t always easy, especially if you’re a recovering people-pleaser like myself. In order to stop saying Yes all the time, you have to first understand what’s important to you. Is it your time? Your freedom? Your work/life balance? Your sanity? Your nightly routine? Your financial health?
From there, you can begin to make more impactful decisions that support living a life that’s less overwhelming.
Here are a few sentences you can keep in your back pocket for the next time you need to say No:
- Thanks for the offer, but it’s not something I can commit to right now.
- I appreciate you thinking of me, but I can’t swing that at this moment.
- I’ve got too much going on right now and this isn’t a priority for me right now. Maybe another time?
- No thanks!
A solid meditation practice
It can feel pretty daunting to start a new meditation practice. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “I don’t meditate because I’m not good at it.” Let me tell you: there’s nothing to be good or bad at when it comes to meditation. You just simply are.
For me, meditation gives my brain ten to fifteen minutes to relax and just focus on my breath. It’s not always easy, but nothing that changes your life ever is, right?
If you’re not sure where to begin, I love the Headspace app. It’s a practical and easy-to-use daily meditation practice that guides you through different themes and ideas with every use.
It’s all about prevention: avoid feeling overwhelmed in the first place
As hard as it can feel to get ahead of your overwhelm, you can begin with small daily practices. Working on being more present in your everyday life can help increase feelings of gratitude and cultivate a connection between mind, body, and soul.
Also, I invite you to work on creating a healthy mindset. This mindset can carry you through difficult moments and you will be armed with strategies the next time feelings of overwhelm hits.