Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Do you know that one in four Australians feel overwhelmed? The number may be even higher, depending on what time of the day you are asked.
There are no set rules for feeling overwhelmed. There are no suitable times for feeling overwhelmed. And there are no preferences based on gender, income, or culture.
You see, it is not a matter of if or when you will feel overwhelmed but how to deal with feeling overwhelmed when it happens.
So, keep reading to find out what it means to feel overwhelmed, what the causes of overwhelm are and how to deal with it.
What Does It Mean Being Overwhelmed?
The alarm clock rings, but you are too tired to get up, so you hit the snooze button. After the alarm clock rings the third time, you get up. Because you slept in, there is no time to work out or have a proper breakfast.
The morning is about putting out fires, trying to remember all the thousands of tasks for the day, organise kids to school and yourself to work. And on top of that, you need to take the dog to the vet.
Because you left home late, you are stuck in traffic. There is no place to park, so you need to park away from your office and barely make it on time.You open your inbox, and now the day really begins. And it is only morning.
You may not follow the exact scenario, but there will be elements of it present in your life too. The amount of information you need to hold, responsibilities to manage, and emotions to deal with is overwhelming.
When you add the global situation, be it living in a post-pandemic world, the state of the economy, or the political conflicts around the world, no wonder you find it hard to cope.
But this is not the end, is it?
You obsess about what to eat to lose the extra kilos, how to manage the increased levels of stress, how to squeeze in a Pilates class to stay active, and how to find time to do it all.
Yes, overwhelm comes in many forms.
What Causes You to Feel Overwhelmed?
Overwhelm is often associated with stress. And usually, when you feel stressed, you will feel overwhelmed too. Both require a lot of pressure to occur and the feeling of the unknown.
In both situations, you will feel out of control.
Stress comes when there is a demand for change. You may be changing jobs, your financial situation may change, or you may be starting a family or going through a separation. And at some stage, you may think that you won’t be able to meet the demands.
Overwhelm brings an additional level of unpredictability, which can lead to anxiety or even depression.
Your overwhelm may start as a stressful situation, but with time you may have way too much on your plate. And when you think that you don’t have enough time, finances, skills, knowledge, energy, or other resources to do it all, you feel overwhelmed.
In addition, overwhelm puts you in survival mode. Survival mode means you are reactive to daily events rather than proactive. It means you take the punches, hoping that something will change, but you are unable to look for a different solution.
Overwhelm can manifest in different ways in your life. You may feel overwhelmed by a single event, such as a specific project at work or your current marital situation. Or you may feel overwhelmed by life in general.
Is Overwhelm Positive or Negative?
Everyone will feel overwhelmed at some point in their life. Any major change in life can cause overwhelm, whether it is the transition from school to university life, starting a new job, taking on a mortgage, or growing a family.
Feeling overwhelmed is normal and part of living. In this regard, being overwhelmed can have a positive aspect. Most likely you will know how to manage your feelings and how to handle the overwhelm.
But when you are unable to recognize your feelings, things become too challenging, or you feel like you don’t have the resources to deal with what is happening in your life, then overwhelm becomes negative.
The subtle difference is in how effectively you manage your emotions.
3 Great Ways to Overcome Overwhelm
Although being overwhelmed is a normal state, and you will feel it from time to time, it should not be a permanent state. When you feel that overwhelm has moved in, you need to take action. Here are three easy ways to deal with overwhelm.
1 Look After Yourself
Have you heard the saying You can’t give from an empty cup? Giving is a beautiful virtue, but if you don’t keep refilling the cup, you are soon going to feel overwhelmed.
Many of us feel selfish when we take time for ourselves. And if you are a people pleaser, putting your needs above others feels impossible. But you can’t only be giving, without looking after yourself, because sooner or later you will experience burnout.
So, how to prioritize yourself in the sea of priorities that compete for your attention? On a deeper level, you need to rework your self-worth story to recognise that you are worthy of prioritizing yourself. Understanding that you matter and your needs are important will help you to put yourself first.
The first step in this direction is to schedule some time just for yourself. Guilt-free, may I add.
Take out your calendar right now, and find some time you reserve for yourself. It doesn’t have to be much. Start with thirty minutes if that’s all you’ve got. But be intentional.
Remember, the only way to show up as your best self and serve others is when you are well-rested and nourished.
2 More No Less Yes
As you have already learned, you are feeling overwhelmed because you say yes to almost every task that comes your way. Your days are filled with to-do lists the length from here to Mars. You’ve got to stop saying so many yeses.
Imagine that you are a toddler learning to walk. In that precious moment, you will be saying three times more no than yes. No, don’t touch this! No, don’t go there! No, put this down! You’re doing it to protect your little one from hurting.
You need to apply the same principle in your own life to stop feeling overwhelmed.
If possible, say yes to commitments or responsibilities that light you up. Things that you enjoy doing and bring your pleasure. Of course, this is not always possible, but it will help you to realise what things you actually want to do!
Most of the things we do during our days we do out of obligation. So, what are you doing that lights you up, and what are you doing that is a burden? Is there anything you can delegate? Look around, as there may be somebody else who would be willing to take something from your plate.
As they say in business if it is not a hell yes, it is a hell no. Are all your yeses a hell yes?
3 Build Boundaries
Lack of boundaries is the main reason why you feel overwhelmed in the first place. It means that you let others use your time, energy, health, finances, skills, and knowledge. Overall, this is not a negative thing, but if you are running on empty, you will soon feel drained and hit overwhelm.
When you have no boundaries, you have no control over your resources such as time, and you take more than your fair share.
But a lack of your boundaries is also an indication that you may be taking responsibility for someone else’s lack of boundaries. If you have none, you let the other person push theirs onto you.
Don’t beat yourself up. You don’t want to be the bad guy and you simply want to avoid confrontation.
But when you take responsibility for somebody else’s boundaries, they never get the opportunity to learn that they themselves have no boundaries. This way they can’t grow, and neither can you. That is why setting healthy boundaries is not selfish.
How to Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed
Overwhelm comes in many forms and from many directions. You may feel overwhelmed because of your family life, work responsibilities, or social commitments. Or you may simply not be able to deal with your emotional state.
It is normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time, but feeling that way for a long time eventually will lead to anxiety, depression, or burnout.
Look after yourself because only when your cup is full, you can give some to others. You don’t need to do everything yourself. Delegate whatever you can and build healthy boundaries.
So, which way are you going to deal with feeling overwhelmed today?
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