Amy Rees Anderson

Overwhelmed

Last week I was traveling out of town and then I returned home and ended up sick in bed for the remainder of the week.  I am not a person who is sick very often, and I am not a person who can handle slowing down very well, but this last week I didn’t have much of a choice and I was unable to do anything other than stay in bed, sleep, and recover.  As a result of missing an entire week of emails and meetings etc, I now face the week ahead feeling completely overwhelmed with how much I need to make up, all the emails I need to read and respond to, and all the appointments and tasks that got pushed forward into this new week from last week.  When I think about how behind I am I can feel my anxiety level rising and I recognize that I am feeling completely overwhelmed.

So having the “must find a way to fix it” mentality that I do, I did the best thing I could think of to help me cope with how I am feeling and I Googled it to see what advice someone else might have that could help me through my week ahead.  As is always the case, google had some great reference articles that gave me some awesome tips on how to handle the feeling of being overwhelmed:

An article written by Margarita Tartakovski, in which she cites the advice of Marla Diebler and Kevin Chapman, clinical psychologists, gives six strategies to help when you feel overwhelmed:

Suggestions for Preventing or Stopping Overwhelm

1. Accept your anxiety.

Has fighting your feelings of overwhelm ever helped you erase them? Probably not. More likely, battling your emotions only boosted them. According to Deibler, “It’s ‘normal’ to experience some degree of anxiety when stressors are unfamiliar, unpredictable, or imminent.” Think of acceptance as riding out a wave, she said.

2. Change overwhelm-inducing thoughts.

Thoughts of uncontrollability or unpredictability are the backbone of overwhelm, according to Chapman. It’s the unrealistic or unreasonable thoughts that spark our stressed-out reaction. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what we tell ourselves and learn to create helpful thoughts.

Let’s say you have a mile-long to-do list, and all you keep thinking is “I’ll never get this done.” That’s a damaging thought that can lead to distress and anxiety, Deibler said. And it paralyzes you from problem-solving and taking action, she said. But remember that you’re not a slave to your ruminations.

Ask yourself “In what ways might this [thought] be inaccurate, unreasonable or unhelpful?” Deibler said. Next, consider how you can think more realistically. Here, your goal is to generate alternative thoughts that will lead to positive emotions and behavior.

For instance, to revise the above overwhelming thought, Deibler suggested these alternatives: “I may not get it all finished today, but if I work on it or if I seek assistance, I will likely get it done;” “I know I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, but if I take a break, I may feel differently about this when I return;” “It seems overwhelming to me right now, but if I break it down into smaller parts, it may be more doable.”

3. Change your multitasking mindset.

“’Multitasking’ by definition implies that we are doing too many things at once,” Chapman said. He suggested readers shift their perspective. “We have to change our expectation that everything has to be completed right now ‘or else.’”

4. Focus on right now.

When you’re consumed with what may or may not happen in several minutes or months, you can’t appreciate the here and now, Deibler said. Instead, schedule time to plan for the future, so you can breathe in the present moment, she said.

5. Take a deep breath.

Deep breathing encourages our body’s relaxation response, Deibler said. Other calming and stress-reducing activities include progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, Tai chi and yoga, she said.

6. Take action.

To quell overwhelm, engage in an activity that you enjoy, such as listening to music, reading a book or taking a walk, Deibler said. And consider how you can solve the stressors that triggered your overwhelm in the first place, she said.

So facing the week ahead I will definitely incorporate these six steps to helping me through the week.  One thing at a time.  Doing the best that I can.  That is the only way to get through things.  With plenty of deep breaths and a whole lot of action :).  Have a great week everyone!
~Amy

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