Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Have you ever thought that there is not enough time in the day for all the things you have to do? Have you ever had moments of panic thinking you were meant to do something, but you completely forgot what it was? Have you ever had times when going to bed you listed all the things you wished you completed in a day?
Here it comes: have you ever felt overwhelmed?
Your to-do list keeps growing, you juggling parenting responsibilities, work pressure, financial strains, social image, your health, and something else but you can’t even recall what it was meant to be?
I know how you’re feeling because overwhelm is real.
I used to struggle with it too.
If you do a Google search on how to stop the overwhelm in your life, thousands of articles pop up. There are so many great techniques on how to stop the overwhelm that well…it’s overwhelming to pick one.
You know that I’m all about clarity. I felt overwhelmed for a very long time, and I used a lot of different techniques to stop feel that way, but somehow either the relief was temporary or it never came. Because, you see, how can you pick a technique to stop something if you don’t even know how it started and what it's caused by?
So, let’s dive in to uncover the underlying reasons why you feel overwhelmed all the time.
The overwhelmed that cannot be stopped
First things first.
You can’t create a roadmap if you don’t know your starting point. And I’m not talking here about listing all the techniques you could use to stop the overwhelm. The first thing you need to understand is that overwhelm cannot be stopped. You can manage it, organise it, prevent it and some can be beaten but you cannot stop it. Overwhelm, like stress, cannot be stopped because it is a part of your life. In order to stop something, you need to have the powers to do so. And overwhelm and stress are two components outside of your control. You can’t know what will happen tomorrow, how the weather will be, what the economy will do, and if the stock market will plummet or not.
But you can manage how you react when overwhelm shows up. And to do so, you need to identify where the overwhelm comes from first. There are 5 main reasons why you feel overwhelmed all the time. So, let’s look at them now.
The main reason why you feel overwhelmed is due to expectations. Expectations are the standards you hold yourself and others against. It’s OK to have expectations of yourself because this is the way of progress, but once the expectations become unrealistic, that’s when the overwhelm starts. You are the creator of those expectations, so you need to check with yourself if the tasks you planned to be accomplished align with your goals, fit within your other commitments and if you allocated enough time and resources to do them.
If any of the answers is no, then your expectations are not realistic.
I’m a queen of to-do lists, and it’s not unheard of me to have a list of 10 or even 15 tasks for a day. And you know what? It never happens. Unless I bend time and space (which I’m coming to the realisation I may not have the powers to do!) I will never accomplish that. Once I realise that the expectations, I put on myself are unrealistic, I can breathe a bit easier. I can accept that I need to scale my to-do list and that there is always tomorrow.
So, how about you? Are the expectations you set realistic with everything else that is happening in your life right now?
Another trap with expectations is that often you may be focusing on fulfilling somebody else’s expectations rather than yours. Do you feel social pressure to start a family, buy a house and climb the ladder of corporate career? We all heard of having it all. And I strongly believe, you can have it all, but it has to be your all. So, check with yourself if what you’re putting on your to-do list is what you want to do, or is it something someone else is wanting you to do? It’s very easy to fall into the trap of wanting it all for somebody else.
#2 Lack of boundaries
Our basic human desire is to be liked. Oh, and we want to be liked by everyone! So, we say yes to everything and everyone because we so want to be liked! I’ve heard once someone saying that you’re not like a vanilla ice cream – some people love vanilla ice cream, some like it and some hate it. You’re the same: not everyone needs to like you, so you don’t have to please everyone by saying yes to everything.
To beat the overwhelm you need to set healthy boundaries. It doesn’t mean to start saying no to everything, but it is to rationally start using your analytical skills and look if what you’re saying yes to brings you joy, you benefit from it the same way the other person does, help you to move forward and most importantly if it aligns with who you are and who you want to become. If you’re saying yes, just to please somebody or you’re afraid of saying no, because you may upset someone, you know you rather should be saying no.
Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It means you not only care for yourself, but you care for others too. Remember, you are not like a vanilla ice cream.
#3 The good and bad busyness
With the constant noise, incoming emails, notifications, and calls, it’s hard to imagine how ‘not busy’ looks like. For many of us, being busy means we’re important, we have meaning and place in this world because we’re doing something. We wear ‘busy’ like a badge of honour. Is that you?
There is nothing wrong with being busy, after all, productivity is the vehicle which moves us forward. But when busy becomes unproductive, creates feelings of anxiety and we forget who we are, then it’s bad busy. Just to keep yourself busy for the sake of being busy, is counterproductive. And unfortunately, but that’s what a lot of us do. You pick up another project at work, put your hand up for organising the next social outing, or handling the bathroom renovation so your commitments add up. But why do you do it? Why are you so afraid of standing still for a moment and just be the way you are? Because at the end of the day there is nobody to give you brownie points for all that you did. It’s up to you to feel happy and live the life you want to.
So ask yourself if your busyness is making you happy or overwhelmed?
#4 You’re not patient with yourself
In the world when you can get anything, anywhere and now, nobody wants to wait for anything. So many of us are addicted to social media because of the instant gratification we experience. We want everything to be working out now, and if it doesn’t, we feel like a failure. But looking at nature, you can see that there are seasons, it takes time from planting a seed to getting a seedling and then a full-grown plant emerges. You need time for the things to work out, to plan, design, execute and then see results. If you feel overwhelmed, that there are more and more things to do, and less and less time to do them, you lost the virtue of patience. Understanding that things take time and accepting that some things take longer but that’s OK, will help you to beat the overwhelm. Be patient with yourself and with your progress.
#5 You want to be perfect
There would be no overwhelm if only you were perfect. Right? Perfectionism is something I struggle with the most. It is the constant need of being perfect in everything. And to be perfect you need to set high expectations of yourself, you need to be saying yes to everything and you need to take up more things to be kept busy. And this all equals to catastrophic events of never-ending overwhelm.
The need of being perfect comes from our upbringing where we think there will be a reward for being the perfect daughter/son, student, worker, mother/father, partner, and so on. And then we have the social media – where we only show the ’perfect’ side of us, our tidy home, our organised life, our exotic holidays, and loving family. The pressure to be perfect is so big that if we’re not presenting ourselves as perfect beings, we feel less of ourselves.
But perfectionism doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion to think you can ever be perfect and have it all together all the time. You need to allow for some things to not be perfect, to be enough the way you are, in the messy house, with your ups and downs in life, being able to afford going to the local beach instead, and have a tough conversation with not-so-much perfect family.
Embrace the life you have, the challenges you encounter, and the imperfect you and you’ll look overwhelm straight in its eyes.
There isn’t anyone who doesn’t struggle with overwhelm. And although there are fantastic overwhelm management techniques out there, you need to first understand that overwhelm is a state of mind most often than not. There are reoccurring reasons why you feel overwhelmed and only by diving deeper to see what hold they have on your life you can beat the overwhelm.
What are the expectations you set for yourself and others? Are they realistic with what you already have on your plate or are you always in a race against time and space? Have you checked if the expectations you set are yours only or are those somebody else’s expectations of you? Don’t fall into the trap of living somebody else’s life forgetting what matters to you most.
Have you set healthy boundaries and say yes only to tasks that are important to you? Or are you trying to please everyone because the fear of disappointing others is too great? The boundaries you set are a win-win not only for you but for others too because they let you focus your attention on your priorities.
Keeping busy is the mother of progress, but if you’re only keeping busy to not think how overwhelmed and unhappy you are, you know it’s time to slow down. Is your busy a good busy or bad busy? Do you need to put your hand up for all those extra commitments or can you take some needed time-out?
How’s your level of patience? Are you allowing yourself enough time to accomplish things and grow? Are you letting nature to take its course or are you getting annoyed because things take time and you can’t see progress instantly?
Letting go of wanting to be perfect, having everything in perfect order, and doing everything perfectly will beat the overwhelm. Let go of the illusion of perfectionism, and you let go of overwhelm too.
Overwhelm is a state of mind, and the way to beat it is to take control of your mind. Analysing what is the deep reason you feel overwhelmed all the time is the starting point to doing something about the way you feel. You don’t need to let expectations, commitments, lack of boundaries, lack of patience, or perfectionism to run your life. You have the power to change that and live life on your own terms.
So, what’s your reason you feel overwhelmed all the time and how can you beat it?
Have you joined my newsletter to get the latest on how to manage stress and overwhelm, how to be productive without the busy and how to make healthier lifestyle choices today?
Find out more about Anna Doktor Wellness Coaching at www.annadoktor.com.au