Overwhelm can affect us in so many ways. It can make us seem lazy, it can make us act rude, it can even make us mess up things we so desperately want.
When we are overwhelmed fight or flight kicks in. It’s a fear based reaction as being in the midst of overwhelm is a fearful place to be.
We can’t see a way out of the wood through the trees. We know that all we have to do is keep moving and eventually we will find a clearing, or maybe even the edge of the deep dense woodland that once seemed like it was all consuming, but this is easier said than done.
For me overwhelm has me procrastinating on jobs that I know would take a mear 5 minutes if I actually just started. It means I let the house work build up and the washing piles get so big that when I finally do it, it’s only due to the fact we have run out of pants and socks!
I want to hide in my bed and not speak to anyone. I want to run away from the world and every little thing seems like a HUGE MAMMOTH thing.
Simple things like replying to a client or even a friend get left “until later” as I simply can’t fit another thought or conversation in my head at that moment.
My brain is full of lists, worries, concerns, thoughts, feelings, excuses, reprimands, sorrows, jobs, to-do’s and so much more.
What this means is that in the end, all the lists and to do’s never actually get done. Or if they do, its only at the last minute and usually after lots of heel dragging and putting off.
It affects my ability to work. Having a studio and somewhere to get up and be everyday with people that held me accountable really helped me keep on track. I’m very flighty and susceptible to random thought changes and new flight trajectories anyway, so being responsible for myself means that when I get into the overwhelm state I haven’t anyone else on hand to help me break it down.
That’s all I need most of the time. Someone to help me see it’s not as scary or complicated as it appears. That if I just do A, then B will lead to C and on to D and so on. Eventually it will all fall into place.
But all I see in this panicked state, is that I need to achieve Z. But I haven’t a clue what A-Y are, or what order they need to go to get there, so as a result….. I don’t even start.
A few things that help me when I’m in this state of mind, is to:
- Write a list – Getting that list of jobs and to-do’s out of your head and onto paper is such a great way of organising your thoughts. Even if you don’t feel like its organised, being able to see them all in front of you will help when it comes to breaking down what actually needs doing vs what’s just taking up space and worry and can wait until another day.
Side note: If you don’t have a piece of paper to hand, don’t procrastinate and end up not doing it, you can also write on the notes on your phone, a cardboard box that’s lying around, a piece of loo roll…. Anything will do, just do it!
- Call a friend – A problem shared is a problem halved and all that jazz! I personally hate asking for help. I am so awkward about it and have some weird blocks about accepting help if it’s offered. I’m getting much better as I know that to let someone help you, is often helping them too.
We like to feel needed. We like to know we can offer something to someone that will make them feel better and help them out.
If you are struggling, call a friend for a chat, talk through your worries. If you need help with a job or situation you feel overwhelmed about, then ask for help.
If they can’t help then ask someone else. You don’t have to go through the worry alone.
- Break it down – Get your list from earlier, look at it long and hard (not so long and hard that you don’t actually do the next step and you run out of time) think about the most pressing of those jobs.
Highlight them, scribble them on a new list, number them in order of importance, basically just pick the ones that NEED doing right now, and make them a priority.
If you’re writing a new list all together with your priority jobs, then you can always write the non priority jobs on a seperate bit of paper too. Instantly your list is in half (visually) so that helps your brain and the overwhelm feel slightly less panicked.
- Meditate – There are thousands of videos on YouTube for mediation, a quick search can come up with many options, find a short one if you only have a few minutes to try and shift your overwhelm, and sit quietly with some headphones and relax. If you have more time you can pick a longer one.
The act of pausing and being in the moment stops our mind from spiralling. You don’t have to be any good at meditation as long as you at least try.
Find a guided one and the act of listening to them guide you will be enough to make you stop thinking about your own stuff, and listen to what you are being told to do. In turn stopping the flow of those overwhelming thoughts.
- Show gratitude – Overwhelm comes from fear as I said earlier, it can also come from worry and negative thoughts. If you are constantly on a loop in your head about all the stuff that is wrong in your life or that will/could go wrong, then breaking that habit with some positive thoughts will change the way you feel.
It may feel like a daunting task in the midst of everything you’re feeling, but forcing yourself to find 5 positive things about your life right now is a great start to showing gratitude for your situation.
Everything happens for a reason. Even the shit stuff is sent to us to teach us something. If you can find the lesson and the positive glimmer of light in the darkness, you can start coming out the other side. It may take a while and you may get lost along the way, but as long as you have gratitude in your back pocket to pull out when times are really tough, then I feel you have all you need to start moving forward.
I know that it’s not always as easy as the steps above. That even knowing what you ‘should do’ doesn’t change the fact that you ‘can’t’ do it. When the overwhelm is that deep, and its clinging on that tight, I get that you just can’t.
If you are there, and I have been there myself recently, then I want you know know that’s ok. Don’t read these tips and end up feeling even worse as you physically can’t make yourself do it.
All I would say if you feel like that, is that maybe you need to get some help alongside these tips? Maybe talking to someone about your feelings and fears will benefit. Maybe you just need a little bit more support to get out of the darkness and this needs to come from someone who is qualified to help.
No we can’t all afford to go to counseling or therapy, and the doctors may not be very forthcoming with asking how you feel, but keep trying. Places like Mind and the Samaritans are there to help.
Try and ask for help wherever you can. I know its hard and I myself struggled this week with being at the doctors for raging tonsillitis (a result of being so mentally and physically exhausted and run down my body made me stop) and felt it was finally time to ask for help and to try and get on the list to see a counselor.
But even when I was breaking my heart sobbing and struggling to get my words out, that my Dad has passed away last month, I was told it wasn’t related to me being physically ill and to come back in a week and talk about it then….. Wow! Really appreciate your support when that was the first time I actually felt brave enough to say the words out loud and I got shut down before I could even ask for help….. Thanks!
Even now writing this I have stumbled over the words, re-written it different ways and faffed about whether I should share this info at all, as it’s scary to open up about how you feel, but I have decided to keep it in here as I hope it helps someone else struggling know they are not alone.
As it happens a few days later when the tonsilitis haze had lifted and I was back in the land of the living again, I visited a local therapy business I know about, just on a complete whim, and while talking to them saw that they do bereavement therapy (she’s also really spiritual so it’s all interlinked together) and after a consultation with her, I decided to book a session.
It’s money I don’t have, but I know that I need to do this for myself, for my mental health and my ability to climb out of the overwhelming funk I have found myself in this year. It’s not just recent events that have me feeling like this, it’s been a long and hard road this year and having someone to talk to and having them help me pick out and work through each feeling as it comes up is going to be so beneficial.
As usual this blog got long. Standard. Haha.
It’s a bit about me, a bit about you and also a bit about how we can help ourselves when we feel overwhelmed by life.
I hope you find this information useful and that you know you are not alone.
Lots of love