7 Proven Ways To Defeat The Sense of Being Overwhelmed
All of us at some point in time in our home and family lives or in the course of our careers has had the experience of feeling overwhelmed. Whether we’ve taken on more than we could handle, experienced a change in circumstances, or failed to adequately prepare, the result was that we landed in a situation where we felt we had little or no power over our condition.
Being overwhelmed, as we’re using it in this context, is when you feel a situation or set of circumstances is too much for you to manage or conquer. You feel engulfed by or defeated under the weight of your circumstances. And whether you’re attempting to reorganize your file cabinet, renovate your home, or reinvent your life, and you become overwhelmed in the process, you cannot effectively complete your task.
Being overwhelmed makes you feel helpless, powerless, defeated, ineffective, stupid, and incapable. The result? You get “stuck”. You become unwilling or unable to make definite decisions and/or take action to change your circumstances, move forward and improve your situation. The outcome most often is you simply abandon your intended objective and move on to something else. And that doesn’t bode well for your ability to progress.
There are four things that are most often at the root of feeling overwhelmed:
- Not knowing what you want (your objective)
- Not being specific about what you want (which simply reverts back to not knowing what you want)
- Believing that what you have to do to get what you want (or accomplish what you desire) is too hard for you
- Not knowing where to start to begin the process of tackling your issue and overcoming your problem or situation
So, here are seven ways to conquer feeling overwhelmed, gain back your control and accomplish what you need to do. They can be applied individually or together as steps to succeed in dealing with feelings of being overwhelmed.
1. Get clear about what you want. This is the first and arguably the most important aspect of dealing with being overwhelmed. You have to know exactly what you want, what it is you are attempting to accomplish and what is the desired outcome. Answer the question “What do I want?” as honestly and thoroughly as you can.
Think in terms of no limits. If you weren’t limited by time, resources, finances, education, geography etc. what would you want for your situation and your life? You may be surprised at how difficult it may be to answer that question. We’re often so used to (making excuses) giving reasons as to why we can’t have or accomplish what we desire in our lives, that when all limitations are removed, we find it difficult to envision and articulate what it is we really want. Which brings us to…
2. BE SPECIFIC about what you want! Once you have answered the question of what it is that you want or what you want to have happen, follow it up with a completely detailed description.
For example, if you want a car, what does the car look like? Is it new? What’s the make, model, color? What features does it have, etc? Similarly, if you want to accomplish a goal, for instance becoming bi-lingual, what language do you want to learn? Do you want to be able to speak the basics of the language (greeting people properly, asking directions, etc), or is your goal to be able to converse in it fluently?
Once you have determined what you want and you’ve identified and described it specifically, for further clarity ask the questions “Why”? Why do I want this? How will it benefit me? How will it add to my life? How will it enhance my experience? Why will it make me happy?
3. Focus. You’ve identified what you want and gained clarity by being specific about it, now you can zero in on your goal. The previous questions have helped you to accurately identify and understand what it is you desire. Once you’ve done that, you have a much better understanding of what you need or need to do to obtain what you want or to achieve the desired outcome and then you simply focus your efforts accordingly.
4. Learn to say “No”. Okay, so I’m pretty certain this may not be the first time you’ve heard this advice, but darn it, you’ve got to get this one. Sometimes you simply have to say no. Period. End of story.
As women, we have often been brought up to be nurturing and helpful. Some of us interpret that to mean we must help everyone or we must be helpful at all costs. We say yes to projects we don’t have time for. We say yes to providing support we don’t have the resources for. We say yes when our resources are already stretched beyond their normal or intended limits. We say yes when we’re already overworked. We say yes when we’re not well. We say yes when we have problems of our own that require our focus and attention. We say yes, we say yes, we say yes.
We don’t want to be rude. We don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. We don’t want to appear selfish. We don’t want to seem inhospitable or ungracious.
And while it’s good and honorable and noble to be of help and service to others, it’s no good if the act of saying yes to assist someone else occurs to your detriment. In that case you’re not only hurting yourself, but you’re also hurting anyone you’re attempting to help because you’re not able to give them your full effort.
Your primary directive should always be self-preservation and self care. I know, you may think it sounds selfish and it does. But the fact of the matter is that making yourself a priority is not selfish. You must be good to yourself first, then you can be good to and helpful and of service to others who may need you.
5. Plan, Organize and Prioritize. I’m the world’s worst about coming up with ideas of things I want to do or projects I want to take on and just jumping in. Sometimes that’s a good thing because I’m taking action and not simply getting stuck in a thought process and never doing anything. Goals don’t get achieved by you thinking them to death. You have to DO something.
Chances are though, that when you simply jump in without having a plan or thinking things through, at least initially, you are probably going to sail into choppy waters before too long. The feeling of being overwhelmed often comes when you’re not sure in what direction to move, and/or you’re confused and unclear about what your objective is; what’s the target you’re trying to hit.
By taking the time to at least do some basic planning, organizing and prioritizing, formulating at least a rudimentary plan, you give yourself a “roadmap” to guide you through the process of developing and implementing your project or achieving your goal. Organization and planning keep chaos at bay, which in turn keeps you from becoming overwhelmed.
6. Set Limits. Much as we’d all like to think so, we’re not Superwoman. We cannot do fifty- gazillion things at once and do them well. It’s simply not possible (unless of course, you’re Steve Harvey the hardest working man in show business with 5 TV shows, a nationally syndicated radio show, host of TV specials and pitchman for a number of products/companies and charitable causes).
So then, you must decide on a limit for your activities and endeavors at any given time. The number is one that you’ll have to decide for yourself. Some people may be comfortable and capable of working on three or four projects at a time, while others may be comfortable with only one or two. It depends on your unique life, situation, abilities and preferences. Just make sure you decide based on what is comfortable and doable for you, so that you avoid getting in over your head.
7. Push Through It. Sometimes when you find yourself in a situation where all heck has broken loose, you feel like your in the middle of a storm and everything is upside down and you have no control over your situation, you have to just tuck your head, bring your shoulders up and plow right through.
If you’ve start down a path and believe you should continue in the direction you started, but things go sideways, it’s sometime best not to allow yourself to be distracted or sidetracked and simply barrel through on the course you’re already following. You may not be in control of all of the elements of the situation, but you are deciding how you will proceed through it which allows you to maintain some control, even if it’s simply control of yourself. And that’s no small thing. If you can retain control over how you act or react in the situation, you can avoid being overwhelmed and allowing the situation to overtake you.
So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that there are things you can do to take control or regain control over your situation and not be overrun by your circumstances, whatever they may be.
If this post has been helpful to you, please let me know in the comments. And if you know someone who may be going through some things where this information would help, please share it.