Your to-do list seems like it’s a mile long, you know you should do something but you don’t know where to start, and you don’t feel like doing anything anyway. You’re completely overwhelmed by it all.
We all go through phases of feeling overwhelmed. It’s normal and you are not alone.
Here are the 8 steps I take to help deal with that feeling of being overwhelmed when it strikes.
1. Look After Yourself
OK, time to be honest, how much sleep did you get last night? Have you eaten enough variety of foods today? Been drinking your water? Are you up-to-date with any medications you might be on?
The reason you feel overwhelmed may simply be caused by your body trying to tell you it needs taking care of. Be it with a nap, food, fluids, medications, a shower, or something else.
The first thing you should do is take care of yourself.
2. Remove Yourself from the Situation
I know this can be easier said than done. Particularly right now as we’re in the middle of the CoronaVirus pandemic. Still, it’s a good idea to take a step back and put some distance between yourself and the stressor that’s causing you to feel overwhelmed.
Close the computer and walk away. Put on a film, TV programme or podcast. Sew, knit, sketch or paint. Read or listen to a book. Anything you like that is unrelated to the task and allows you to feel calm and distracted.
3. Move Your Body
Whatever you feel like doing. Going for a run, walk or cycle, doing a HIIT or strength workout, lifting weights, dancing, yoga, or simply just stretching.
Listen to your body and mind. The aim here is to just get physical, not to beat personal records.
Call, email, text or write a letter to a friend or family member. Even better still, if you’re in a situation where you’re able to, go and visit them. Meet up for lunch, have a coffee and catch up.
Just the act of talking to a person who you know cares about you can make you feel 10 times better.
Silence your surroundings as much as you can. So you’re not disturbed by them, turn off the TV, stereo, computer and your phone. Sit or lay in a comfortable position, soften your gaze or maybe close your eyes, and just relax. Pay attention to taking slow, deep breaths. When your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to your breath.
There’s really no time limit here, stay for as long or as little as you feel you need to.
6. Consider What is Causing You to Feel Overwhelmed
That thing, or many things, you feel like you have to do which are causing you to feel this way.
First, ask yourself if this task is something that actually needs to be done, because if it doesn’t you can let it go, at least for now.
Next, think about whether this needs to be done by you or if it can be done by someone else. If it’s possible, delegate the task or ask for help with it. Also, even if it does need to be done directly by yourself you can still seek help in the form of advice, encouragement, support and accountability.
Finally, consider when this task needs to be completed. I’m talking about real deadlines here, not ones you made up yourself.
“study for the exam next Monday” – this has a deadline, and it’s one you can’t change yourself.
“write a novel by the end of the year” – this is a deadline that can easily be changed because you invented it yourself.
Basically, your main focus should be the tasks that need to be done by you and have a deadline.
7. Start with a Clean Slate
If you need to do some work at your desk, give it a quick tidy and wipe down.
When it’s housework, follow the advice of Marla Cilley (the FLYlady) by “getting dressed to shoes” before you start.
If it’s a workout then put on your gym clothes and pack your bag (or get your equipment ready).
You’re just making the task that little bit easier to begin.
8. Set a Timer
You’ve probably heard the advice before to just dive in and start whatever it is you’ve been putting off. However, if it’s a long, difficult, or unappealing job then you probably still struggle to take that first step.
So, rather than tell yourself to “just do it”, try saying “just do it for 5 minutes”. This isn’t too long, but it’s enough to start working on the task. When the timer goes off you have a choice. You can either set it for another 5 minutes and continue, or you can reset it and go work on another task.
For me, personally, I find this method gets a lot of balls rolling all at once and I feel more productive. Sure, I may only get a couple of things done that day, but I’ve made more progress than if I were to work on one project at a time and start from scratch with each one.
You don’t have to go for 5 minutes as I do. Set it for an amount of time that you feel you’ll be able to start tackling a task without losing all track of time in it.
And there you have it. Those were my 8 steps for dealing with overwhelm.
Let me know if you found this useful, and if there’s anything you’d like to add that helps you then please share it below.