by Anita Mambo Cohn, LCSW
Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed more often than you’d like? It makes sense! We live in an age of high standards, high expectations, fierce competition, and information overload.
In addition you’re busy juggling and multitasking- working hard, caring for loves ones, and giving back to your community. You’re also trying to fit in self-care and nurture your passions and dreams.
With the advancement of technology, and the convenience of smart phones, comes constant access to the internet and social media. That means we’re much more hyper aware of what everyone else is doing around us. This can leave us vulnerable to comparison overwhelm, which further fuels, the overload we’re already feeling.
While there are so many benefits to being more connected to each other, and digital platforms can help us do this more accessibly, we have to be vigilant and remember that our lives are our own and that we are ultimately in charge of how we want to spend our time.
Until we start to break our usual habitual pattern of dealing with overwhelm, it will continue to take up too much space in our lives. Fighting against this takes mindful intention and conscious effort.
Studies show that meditation, moving our bodies, deep breathing, a change of scenery, and taking a break are very effective strategies for reducing overwhelm. Here are a few additional tips that you can add to your toolbox. They will not only help you reduce the overwhelm, they will help you create new lasting habits that will change your daily life for the better.
- Say “No” Every Now and Then
Say “no” every now and then. Perhaps there are a few things, on your list, that you feel you “should do” but you feel conflicted and resentful about them. Let’s face it! It’s impossible to do everything you “want to do,” let alone everything you “should do.” Perhaps you have trouble saying “no,” because you don’t want to disappoint family, friends, coworkers or colleagues. But people who truly care about your well-being aren’t always as fragile as you think and, although they may be initially taken aback (or even disappointed), they will start to accept the boundaries you set. If you are important to them, they will try to make an effort to understand.
- Reach Out for Support
We are wired for connection! Reaching out to others is so important when we feel overwhelmed. What is most restorative for you? Is it talking through the overwhelm and processing it with a willing friend or partner (be sure to reciprocate support in return)? Is it joining a community group or receiving support from a therapist or coach? These relationships, as well as having a forum to process, will help you get perspective on what is most important.
- Stop Playing the “Guilt Game”
You are playing the “Guilt Game” when you beat yourself up for being or feeling overwhelmed. Tell yourself that this is human and completely normal in this modern age. Replace the guilt with self-compassion and practice it daily. Challenge the inner critic, whispering in your ear, telling you you’re not “good enough.” Studies show that we are most motivated when we feel inspired rather than defeated.
- Laugh a Lot
Laughing can be a great remedy for taking yourself too seriously. Once you let yourself experience joy and lightheartedness, the overwhelm will start to subside. Try to get yourself to laugh each day, play with your kids or your partner, your pets, check-in with a friend and reminisce about something fun or funny you did together. If there is no one available at the moment, turn on the music and start getting silly. This will shake things up.
- Do the Thing You’re Avoiding the Most
Do the thing you’re avoiding and procrastinating the most. Sometimes this thing can be life-changing, like “following your dream,” but sometimes it can be small, like scheduling that dentist appointment . If it’s a life-changing-thing, I suggest doing a simple 10-minute activity, which I call “How Can I Start to Make Small Changes to Get to Where I Want to Be?”
- Take Media Breaks
Block out 2-4 hours and don’t look at your phone, computer, television, newspaper, etc. each day. Exercise, take a walk, call a friend, spend time with loved ones, nap or simply sit and daydream. Studies show that giving yourself time to process your own thoughts and present experience, without outside intrusion, actually can increase life satisfaction, and can ironically increase your productivity.
When we get overwhelmed, we sometimes forget that feelings are fleeting and temporary. Sooth yourself with the simple fact that there are things you can do to decrease your overwhelm and then start to access your toolbox. You have the agency to change the way you feel simply by truly believing you can make it better.
The more effort you make to keep overwhelm from taking over and dictating how you spend your time, the less impact it will have on you. Of course, overwhelm happens to all of us on occasion, but as you begin to actively take steps to reduce overwhelm, you will find that it will take less effort and less time to manage it. For more tips for your reducing overwhelm toolbox, check out these 10-Minute Activities.
I’d love to hear from you! Did you find any of the tips helpful? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.