How to Deal with Feeling Overwhelmed
There are times in every person’s life when everything seems to crash down at once. So many things happen, it appears impossible to keep moving the way you want. The feeling of being overwhelmed can be so paralyzing, you freeze up and do nothing at all. To get past that, here are some steps I’ve found that help.
Start by finding someplace to sit down and take a deep breath. Turn off the TV. Turn off the music. Turn off your phone. Just breathe deeply for a couple minutes and collect yourself. You need to slow yourself down.
Now go find a paper and pen. Start making a list of all the things running through your mind that need to get done. Don’t try to edit yourself. Keep writing and put it all down. Don’t stop until everything is out of your head.
Once you’ve finished writing, figure out which tasks you can get other people to help you with. You may not have to do everything yourself. Ask family, friends and co-workers to handle things and lessen your burden. Realize that NOT asking for help may be one of the reasons you got overwhelmed. Don’t pretend you have to do it all.
Perfectionists and control freaks have a hard time with this step. They want to hang onto every little scrap and take care of it all. But you’ve got to decide. Do you want to continue doing it all, but miss out on the other things in life? I don’t think anyone’s last words were, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.”
Now start prioritizing. Put a number beside each item that remains, starting with the most important to the least important. Make sure you’re considering things that need to be done.
As you go through the list, think about each item a second time. Ask yourself these questions. Does it REALLY need to get done? Does it REALLY need to get done by me? Does it REALLY need to get done RIGHT NOW? Only deal with the things that get a YES to all three questions.
It’s at this point when people get so focused on their list of “things”, they forget about themselves. You need to look at a typical day and map out what you’re going to do for yourself. Mark a time to prepare and eat at least three meals a day. Schedule short 5-15 minute breaks when you can relax and refocus. Insert at least 45 minutes for some sort of exercise activity.
Ignoring yourself will make you much less effective at everything else you do. If you skip meals, your brain won’t have the energy to think properly. If you don’t take moments to relax, your body will remain in a constant state of anxiety. If you don’t exercise, your body won’t have the long-term stamina it needs to keep moving you ahead. Ignoring yourself is the quickest way I know that you can fail.
Now you should have a list of the things you need to do, numbered from most important to least important. Transfer that list, in order, to a clean sheet of paper so you’re ready to start tackling your chores.
Don’t try to multitask. Everyone likes to think they’re good at juggling multiple things at once, but it’s simply not true. The human brain is capable of processing one thought at a time. If you’re paying the bills while listening to the television, you’re only giving the important task half your attention. It slows you down and makes you much more likely to commit errors.
Repeat these steps every couple of days, as needed. Then start learning how to say one of the most powerful words in the English language. NO. When someone asks you to do “just a little favor” think back at how much stress all those little favors created. Say NO and stay focused on the important things.
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