I’ve gone through a rough patch in my life recently where I’ve felt overwhelmed. It’s made me feel tired and my mind is constantly thinking.
When I saw my situation for what it was and realized I was suffering from overwhelm, I decided to implement some practical strategies to deal with the problem.
Many of us suffer from overwhelm and think it’s just part of life. What I’ve learned is that overwhelm doesn’t have to be part of life. You can be happy and not have to feel overwhelmed all the time.
Definition of overwhelm:
Having too many options or not enough time, and feeling stressed as a result.
What causes you to feel overwhelmed?
- Not dealing with problems and letting them mount up
- Not saying no more often
- Trying to impress too many people
- An overflowing calendar
- Not enough time to relax
All of these causes that lead to overwhelm are a choice. When you make better choices, you quit feeling so overwhelmed.
Here’s some practical strategies for dealing with overwhelm:
Messy offices and homes make us feel stressed which only makes our overwhelm problem worse.
Freeing yourself from stress by learning to throw things away, declutter and only hold onto material possessions that matter to you can help you a lot.
I threw away more than 50% of my possessions and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. Now I don’t come home to a messy environment and I only have the things that make me feel joy.
I’ve talked about, in another article, what I learned from doing no meetings for a month.
The feeling of having an empty calendar that I get to add events to is one of the best. Empty space when you’re feeling overwhelmed gives you time to deal with the situation.
Most meetings are not necessary and when you make your time harder to gain access to, people question their intentions and have to fight for your attention. This stops the “Let’s do a coffee catch up” requests that often serve no purpose.
With fewer meetings, you can focus your time on the problems in your life that are leading to overwhelm.
Listen to less and read less.
During periods of overwhelm, I find the temptation to read all the books on my list and to listen to all the podcast episodes I haven’t listened to, stressful.
It’s why I deleted all podcasts off my phone except for one and focused on 2–3 books — instead of hundreds of books like before.
Make time to relax.
I recommend the following:
- Lavender filled baths
- Long walks around your neighborhood
- Going out into nature
- Taking a scenic drive somewhere
- Holding a cup of warm liquid like tea
Work at your peak time of the day.
Mines 6 am. I get more done early in the morning, so that’s why I deal with all difficult tasks during this time.
“Finding the time of the day that you work best, allows you to get more done. Knocking off the most crucial tasks decreases the feeling of overwhelm”
The temptation is to focus our time on the easy wins, but they don’t give us the reduction in overwhelm we’re looking for.
Batch similar tasks.
Blogging on Saturday. Editing on Sunday. Picture finding on Tuesday’s and Thursdays. That’s how I batch tasks together that are similar.
I learned from a podcast with Jay Shetty that every time we change up the tasks we’re doing, we have to change our energy. The energy needed to write is very different from the manual labor tasks of posting on social media.
I write everything for the week on Saturday because the headspace I need to be in to do it well is very difficult to find every single day.
That headspace is flow and it requires an hour or so for me to drink some coffee, watch some motivational videos, relax my busy brain and make people feel the emotion through my writing. It’s also mentally exhausting.
If I tried to find this state every day, I’d burn out quickly. Working on certain passions takes a huge toll on your body and that might be why you’re feeling overwhelmed.
“The order in which you execute on tasks matters. Think about batching similar tasks carefully”
Yesterday I felt incredibly overwhelmed. Everything that could go wrong did. My work day was not fun and nothing I attempted to do worked out for the best.
This led me to be in an angry mood and I knew I wasn’t going to be useful in this state.
So, I packed up early and went and saw a movie that was very funny. I forgot about all my issues from the day and how overwhelmed I felt, and distracted myself.
At the end of the movie, I checked my phone and three of the problems solved themselves. I was back on top again all because I took time out and distracted myself from the overwhelm. Try it for yourself.
Learn to delegate.
Many requests of our time can be outsourced when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often, tasks are given to us and we accept them, but we don’t have to.
When we explain to the requester that we’re feeling overwhelmed, you’d be surprised how many times you’ll get them to change their mind.
You don’t have to do it all. All of us have people around us that can help and that will be happy to.
Multitasking is not helping.
By working on a modern computer, our attention is easily spread amongst multiple tasks. Trying to change from one task to the other is exhausting to the brain.
Multitasking has been proven to be useless. You need to focus on one task at a time. Set your computer up in such a way that you’re not easily distracted by popups and temptations like emails.
Turn off notifications.
Constant popups on your phone are increasing your feelings of overwhelm. We don’t realize, but much of the stress we encounter comes from our phone.
There’s always another notification, another person to text and another person to reply to.
Turn off all of your notifications and watch how it decreases your feelings of overwhelm.
The biggest one of them all is instant messaging. These conversations never end and you consistently have to think of new responses which wastes your precious energy.
Take a break from social media.
“Instagram made me smarter” says no one. You don’t need to be on social media all the time. By having to manage my own social media, I’ve found it to be problematic and its led to my recent episode of overwhelm.
I had three LinkedIn/Facebook groups I had to keep checking, hundreds of tags in posts, comments, likes and instant messages.
Beyond a certain point, these features of social media go from feeling nice to making you feel overwhelmed. I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong, but responding to it all is a real challenge.
The answer to this problem I’ve found is to batch check all social media twice a day. My goal is to get that down to once a day.
I intend on time blocking the exercise, so I’m not checking apps for hours on end. I’d rather be creating quite frankly and that’s how I feel I can help people the most — that’s my end goal after all.
Writing stuff down.
I tend to keep to-do lists in my head and that makes me feel overwhelmed. When I’m trying to solve a problem, my brainpower is wasted on mental notes and things I know I must remember.
Setting reminders on my phone and writing down lists helped me to deal with this issue.
The moment my brain feels overwhelmed from too many ideas, events or mental notes, I write them down. That way I can come back to them later in the day and be present.
Get stuff out of your head and onto paper or into your phone.
Use the unsubscribe button.
Everyone wants your attention and that’s part of the reason you feel overwhelmed. The need to keep up with podcasts, newsletters and group chats is challenging. Instead, unsubscribe on things you rarely get value from.
I get lots of newsletters but I only really read Tim Ferriss’s one, and Ryan Holidays blog updates. That’s why I chose to unsubscribe from all other newsletters.
Leave time in your schedule for blow-ups.
Something is always going to go wrong. That’s a guarantee. I found I was overwhelmed because when the inevitable blow-up came along, I hadn’t left time or space in my diary to handle it.
What I started doing was leaving one evening a week to deal with any blow-ups that may occur.
Having time to deal with problems reduces their burden.
“You can’t handle your existing feelings of overwhelm if you don’t make time for the guaranteed added challenges that are likely to find their way into your schedule”
Realize when you’re out of control.
During my period of overwhelm recently, I took a look at where the most pain was coming from. This is embarrassing to admit, but I was trying to write for more than ten online publications.
Having to post content in so many places was exhausting and only two of them were actually providing me the results I was wanting.
In the busy rush of overwhelm, I missed seeing how out of control this problem had become.
In my head, I thought I was only writing on one or two. I used the excuse “I’m on ten publications but I only focus on two of them so it’s okay.”
It’s not okay. Look for areas in your life where you’re out of control. The answer in my situation was to remove myself from almost all publications.
I told a few of them that they could auto-upload my articles so then that way it was hands off from my side.
We all have areas where we are out of control and being honest with ourselves about what they are is how we reduce our feelings of overwhelm.
Thinking doesn’t fix overwhelm.
So many people think about overwhelm and know they’re overwhelmed but never do anything about it.
The best way (above everything else) to deal with overwhelm is take action. Go out there and smash out the tasks that are leading to the overwhelm. There’s nothing more freeing that dealing with the problem at the source.
It’s easy to complain and feel overwhelmed and that won’t help.
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