Today was one of those days where you are bombarded with things from the moment you wake up until 1am the next morning without so much as a two minute break. My day was absolutely packed today and as I sit here writing this at 1am its all I can do to keep my eyes open long enough to post this blog. The sad thing is I haven’t even begun to start on my to do list for today, nor have I been able to read all the emails I needed to, which is stressful. Yet all I can do is remind myself that some days you just have to do the best you can and then call it a day….
I’ve had plenty of days where I feel overwhelmed, and on those days I’ve often sought advice from others on how one can avoid feeling overwhelmed. In one article written by Margarita Tartakovski, she cites the advice of clinical psychologists Marla Diebler and Kevin Chapman and gives six strategies that can help:
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.
I would add to that – after you’ve done your best just call it a day and go to bed…which is exactly what I’m going to do right now. 🙂
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )