You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed.
Our busy modern lives pull us in multiple directions at once, making it feel nearly impossible to keep everything in balance. Although we have a limited amount of control over our circumstances, we can manage our responses to them.
Here’s how to stay calm when life isn’t:
1. Say No
Setting boundaries is one of the most important keys to avoiding overwhelm. Everyone else is likely to be just as busy as you are, so they’re probably looking to offload some of their duties. Be clear about what you realistically have time for. Then, say no to the rest—and don’t feel guilty.
Saying no is an important part of avoiding overwhelm.
2. Enlist Help
“Having it all” is a myth. It’s not possible to have a rapidly advancing career, the picture-perfect family, and a healthy gourmet dinner that you whipped up by yourself in the immaculate home you keep.
You need to get some help. Whether you get cooking assistance from dinner services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, or hire a housekeeper to clean your home, you’ll be less overwhelmed when you’re not trying to do it all alone.
3. Take Mini-Breaks
It may not be realistic to get away for an extended vacation. But you can set aside time each day for a mini-break. Use your time wisely to get the maximum benefit from the break. You will likely find a short series of yoga stretches or a 15-minute walk to be more relaxing and restorative than spending the same amount of time browsing Facebook on your phone.
4. Take Up Meditation or Similar Practices
When your brain is racing a million miles an hour, meditation has proven to slow it down. Meditation takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results the first few times you do it. Other relaxing habits that have similarly calming effects on the brain include controlled breathing, prayer, and even knitting.
5. Cut Back on Caffeine
Cutting back on caffeine can sound impossible when you have so much to do. But it’s actually a very helpful thing when you feel overwhelmed. Caffeine increases feelings of stress and anxiety. Many people find it helpful to drink water or tea when their energy needs a boost.
6. Get More Sleep
You’re burning the candle at both ends, likely staying up late and waking up early just to try to get everything done. Sleep deprivation eventually takes its toll over the long-term, reducing your immunity to illness and increasing your risk of serious disease. Even in the short term, a lack of sleep can make you more prone to making mistakes.
7. Unplug Yourself
Most of us find that the line between work and home has blurred. Thanks to our smartphones, we’re expected to be reachable 24/7. As a result, you can feel like you’re never really “off work,” even when you’re at home. At the very least, set aside a no-contact zone after a certain hour each night when your family knows they’ll have your attention and you don’t have to think about work.
8. Get Real Support
Advice from your friends over drinks is technically a form of support. But when your life is overwhelming, you need something more powerful and impartial. If you’re overwhelmed on the job, consider talking to a career mentor. If life, in general, has you feeling stressed, talk with a good counselor.
9. Let Go of Your Perfectionism
Many of us put far more pressure on ourselves than our bosses or loved ones ever would. It’s important to ease up on your need to be absolutely perfect at everything you do. When you’re a perfectionist, you’re more likely to try to control the situations and people around you. But true control is impossible to achieve, and trying to do so will only make you miserable (as well as those around you). Do your best, then let go of the rest.
10. Stop Multitasking
You might think that multitasking is the only way you can possibly get everything done. But believe it or not, multitasking actually makes you less effective at each of the things you do. Focus more on each individual item on your to-do list. You’ll likely find that your work becomes much more efficient when you’re not trying to do several things at once.
Being overwhelmed is a common state in our modern life, but you can step back. A saner, calmer way of living is achievable with a little bit of intention and focus.
Take the first step…
If you’re ready to take a step toward reducing overwhelm, dealing with stress, managing anxiety, and changing your life for the better, I would like to help. Please contact me by phone or email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT