You probably can’t find anyone over the age of 2 that hasn’t felt overwhelmed at some point. While it takes more to stress out some than others, the physical and emotional impacts are the same: headaches and migraines; frequent colds and other ailments; anxiety, fear of the future, inability to make a decision, and hesitancy in moving forward.
Changing behaviors is key
It can be very difficult to focus on solutions to overwhelm. However, planning and resolving to change ineffective and negative behaviors into positive and proactive ones will reframe troubling situations and reduce feelings of “this is just too much to deal with!”
From overwhelm to under control
Overwhelm is an emotion — not a fact — and emotions come from within, which means you can redirect negative energy into positive action. Focus on solutions and putting your time and energy into the right things.
Create a plan and move from feeling overwhelmed to more in control by utilizing these actions:
1. Identify what is under your control. Worrying about things outside your control is, frankly, a waste of time and energy. Determine what you can control and place your attention there.
2. Find solutions, not excuses. Now that you know what you can and can’t change, keep your attention on finding solutions. Obsessing over the problem doesn’t accomplish anything other than driving up your stress levels unnecessarily.
3. Create a strategy. Make a plan for putting your solution into action. Figure out what you need to do and put as much time and effort into your plan as you did in worrying about it. The more you do, the better your odds of overcoming your challenges.
4. De-stress. Being overwhelmed is literally nerve-wracking and it’s important to move the stress out of your body (which means not lying on the couch all day!). Meditate, walk outdoors or on a treadmill, do your favorite exercise (mine is a high-intensity boxing fitness class) or any rejuvenating body movements. Stress takes an actual physical toll so you must relieve it any way you can.
5. Eat well. Many people stop eating when they’re highly stressed. Others resort to eating a lot of comforting junk food. Neither is good for you or will help you to deal with your situation. Continue to eat normally and, when you do, reach for healthy options.
6. Live in gratitude. There is good in your life. Be grateful for what you do have, and don’t mourn what you don’t. You probably have more than the vast majority of people in the world. Make a list of all the things and especially the people you have in your life that you appreciate and remind yourself just how lucky you are. While you’re at it, remember to tell those people how much you appreciate them. It will make you feel as great as it will them.
7. Acknowledge your successes. Even a little progress is worthy of celebration. Be proud of yourself and get excited when things go well. Success follows success. And when things get tricky or hard again, remember that since the only constant is change, the challenging time will soon pass.
8. Get help. Ask for help and see what happens. The worst anyone can do is say “no”— but most people want to help because they have or will need assistance along the way themselves. Don’t try to do everything alone. Help can also take the form of a mentor, a friend, or professional psychological assistance, so actively find someone who will understand, support and empathize with you as you try to figure things out.
Worry Pretends to Be Necessary.
A while ago I was listening to a podcast by author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle who said, “worry pretends to be necessary, but it serves no useful purpose.” Try that mantra the next time you find yourself stressed out and overwhelmed.
Remember: You won’t find any useful answers at the bottom of a bag of Ranch-flavored potato chips. Trust me, I searched and they ain’t there!.