How to Get OVER Overwhelm in 4 Easy Steps
Feeling overwhelmed, is a common experience that can make us feel like we’re carrying 10 boulders all while trying to dodge the 10 more that are coming straight for us. It’s typically when we feel like we can’t handle one more thing and like we might blow! Many of my clients are looking for answers on how to not feel overwhelmed, which I often say can and can’t be accomplished. Let me explain.
When you feel overwhelmed, it’s simply your body responding to too much stimulus. Your nervous system says, “aahh! Too much!” and starts to go into “survival” mode, otherwise known as fight, flight, or freeze. As your body gets more agitated it has less tolerance for additional stimulus. This is when you begin to feel little frozen or stuck and like one more thing will make you blow! This being said, to expect ourselves not to ever experience overwhelm is an unriealistic expectation that sets us up to feel like we’re failing, which leads to more overwhelm. If we can start by understanding that our nervous system is having a normal human response to too much stimuli, we can start creating more realistic expectations of ourselves and our limits.
Perhaps a shift in how we see overwhelm might help us tackle it with more ease. What if we can begin to see overwhelm as a signal from your body that it’s time to slow down and reset? You’re not failing. It’s not anything bad you’re doing, it’s just your body trying to take care of you. Maybe you can hear it saying, “Hey! Slow down!” Or maybe you don’t because so many women get caught up in the cycle of putting themselves down for becoming overwhelmed and for not being able to “do it all” without falling apart. That’s because you are a human, not a machine and therefore can’t be expected to “do it all”. Certainly not at one time.
Feelings of overwhelm are often rooted in 3 things:
OVER - DOING
Over-committing is when you schedule and schedule and schedule your time away to external commitments without accurately measuring not only how much time it will take away from your life, but what the emotional and mental impact might be on you, and those you love.
Over-doing is just as it states. Just simply doing too much. There are to do lists on top of to do lists on top of to do lists. This is in addition to the impromptu things that show up along the way that life brings to us.
Over-expecting is when you expect more of yourself than is realistic and then beat up on yourself for not having met those iinitial unrealistic expectations.
This is an exhausting cycle that is focused on pleasing others rather than extending yourself the same amount of consideration.
Despite the fact that overwhelm can be a fairly common human experience, there are proactive steps you can be taking to decrease overwhelm in your life.
So, how can you get O-V-E-R overwhelm?
O -Own your time. Take charge of your calendar and make sure that for every commitment you make, that you take time to check in with your body and self about whether this is really a commitment you can take on right now. Additionally, make sure that you are scheduling time for self-care, fun, and rest. These MUST go on the calendar as well so they can be kept a priority.
V - Voice your feelings. Overwhelm feels yucky. When your body is feeling unsettled and starting to give you cues, check in with how you’re feeling and give it a voice. Say it out loud, write it down, sing it, dance it, whatever works for you but get those feelings off your chest so they can clear instead of becoming dead weight.
E - Exercise your right to say “No!”. Believe it or not, “no” is a complete sentence. It’s ok to say no and to prioritize yourself and your needs. Your ‘No” muscle might be out of shape but with some exercise, it can gain some strength back.
R - Reset and take a step. Since overwhelm often leaves you feeling frozen and like you can’t do one more thing, take a moment to stop and reset when your body starts to give you the signal that it might need a break. Take a couple of long deep breaths, reset, and then take one imperfect step forward. Slowly but surely you’ll begin to thaw out and get moving again.