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Note to self: Read this when overwhelmed.

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I really think that being overwhelmed is one of those things that comes with adulthood. Actually, it starts much earlier than that for a lot of us…I guess we become much more aware of it with the responsibilities that trying to be a fully functioning adult can carry. I feel overwhelmed at least once a week fortnight month and each time I am trying to learn how to better deal with it. You may know the feeling – too many tasks to complete, not enough time. Too many people asking things of you, not enough of you to go around. Feeling like you’re super busy all the time getting nothing done. You know when you’re an anxiety ridden mess and you start feeling all snappy, emotionally eating, then bawling when a new task inevitably gets added to your to-do list, sending you over the edge? Just me? Surely not just me 😉

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to navigate through these feelings and I have narrowed it all down to five ways to beat that freaked out, overwhelmed feeling – before it impacts on your mental health and your relationships.

These are (hopefully) not those cheesy things you read all the time, but they come straight from my brain and my own experience. These actually work for me.

Stop being such a bitch…to yourself

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Seriously. Would you take that kind of talk from someone else?? I bloody hope not! When we feel like we can’t do everything on the timeline we hoped for, when we feel like we’re not being everything to everyone no matter how hard we try, when we feel like everyone can see that we’re so obviously not in control, we can resort to self defeating trash talk.

It’s horrible when you start telling yourself, “Everyone will know you’re failing. Look at you, you’re a mess of a person. You’re not capable of being a normal human being. You’re so pathetic. You can’t even get this much done. Everyone else can do it. What a wuss. This will never get done. It’s impossible. You should just give up now. This is too hard. There’s too much. You’re such a crap friend/family member/employee/house keeper/pet owner/parent/any other hat you wear in life.”

Would you let your best friend/child/family members be treated like that? Again, I bloody hope not! So why are you doing it to yourself?

It’s time to think positive. You may not feel positive and that’s OK (you’ll get there), but you need to remember to be kind to yourself. Be your own best motivational speaker. No-one feels inspired when they’re beaten down with harsh words all the time. It’s emotional abuse! Why is it any different when you’re speaking to yourself? Remind yourself that you’re only one person, you’re human and you can’t be responsible for the things you can’t control. It’s OK to only achieve things at a human standard/pace – no need to be a superhero. The people who count will understand that you’re doing all you can. Shock horror, they might even be proud of you just for giving things a go!

Remind yourself of the context of your situation. Maybe you’ve been through a rough/insanely busy time. Maybe you should cut yourself some slack. Maybe when you count out the (wo)man hours you actually had to get a million things done, you’ll realise it would be physically impossible to achieve the things you’ve expected of yourself. Maybe you’ll see that you’ve done the best you can and you should be proud of your efforts. Maybe the things you haven’t got done now are great goals for the near future, not just a list of failures.

Celebrate your achievements – no matter how seemingly small they might be. Don’t forget self care. You need to fuel yourself with positivity so you have the energy to keep going.

Don’t compare yourself to others

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This is something that has taken me almost all of my 29 years as a human to understand. It’s one thing to choose an inspiring person to keep your spirits lifted (“If this person can do it then I can learn from what they’re getting right and I can do it too!”), but it’s another to say, “BUT EVERYONE ELSE HAS A CLEANER HOUSE/BETTER FINANCES/BIGGER SOCIAL LIFE/BETTER ORGANISATIONAL SKILLS/15 CHILDREN AND THEY CAN ALL DO IT ALL BETTER THAN ME.”

You don’t know every person’s story. You don’t know what their lives are like behind closed doors. You don’t know what they’ve sacrificed in order to achieve what they appear to have achieved. They’re not perfect, just like you. I am sure there are the rare ‘almost perfect’ people who really have it all out there, but what are the odds that everyone but you is one of them??

Letting yourself feel inferior based on someone else’s (perceived) successes is only going to hurt one person. You. And like I said earlier, why are you being so mean to yourself???

Just remember that you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Other people have differently distributed time, energy and resources. You’re just working with what you have. You know how we tell our kids, “As long as you are trying your very best, I am proud of you”?

Let’s take that advice for ourselves!

If you feel like you know you’ve slacked off in certain areas (speaking from experience of course), that’s something you can address – but stay positive! We’re all learning and improving all the time. It’s never too late to try a new approach! x

Focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do

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It’s always so tempting to focus on the things we’re not getting done. Oh my gosh, I still have THIS, THIS, AND THIS TO DO!!! AND WHAT ABOUT THIS?!!! It’s not possible!! I still have to do this, this this and this before I can do all of those other things I just mentioned!!

Something’s holding you up? Something out of your control is stopping you from achieving something else? Don’t sweat it! It’s not possible right now anyway! Break it all down and think about what you CAN do. Chip away at things. Finding one task really daunting and don’t feel ready to tackle it? Pick out the parts you do feel more confident about – do what you know and the rest will follow. I used to take this approach when I had university assignments coming out of the wazoo. Can’t write this essay from the beginning to end – stuck on the first argument? Get writing – blab on about the things you do know, the things you do want to say. Then research can back it up, a bit of editing…and hey presto, the rest doesn’t seem so horrifying after all. For me it was about not letting the fear of saying the wrong thing (or of failing) get so overwhelming that I couldn’t start.

I think a lot of it was about building confidence.

The same could be said for big jobs around your home (can’t paint that hideous rendering yet but you can go to the hardware store and look at colours), your parenting (not ready for that big change but you can take baby steps in preparation – excuse the pun) or your social commitments (can’t attend the 15 things people have planned then streamline down to the easiest or most important events to attend). Do what you CAN. Let go of what you can’t. Be realistic and confident in your decisions. Remember what I said about being kind to yourself when you can’t do it all at once.

It’s the same with anything. There’s always something you CAN do. Something to nibble away at bit by bit. Channel the energy you would use lamenting at what cannot be done right then and there into what you CAN do right then and there.

Just start SOMEWHERE. The rest will follow.

Communicate communicate communicate! 

Ever felt like you have to handle everything on your own because you think it will prove you to be a stronger person? Bottled up those scary overwhelming stressful feelings and then accidentally unleashed on someone close to you or had a meltdown that has everyone worried? Yeah…I’ve learnt the hard way throughout my life that this isn’t really so healthy.

If your partner (or anyone really) notices that you are tense and asks what’s up, don’t say, “Nothing. It’s fine. I can handle it. Just some stuff. I’ll get over it.” and then proceed to stew away in your own anxious juices.

Open up. Tell someone what’s worrying you. Maybe even ask for help. Admit to the crappy feelings you’re experiencing. Hear their encouraging words (if they are not using supportive language – find someone who will). Let them help you out – even if it’s just having someone listen to you. Maybe once you say it all out loud, you’ll realise it had just got massive in your own head (this happens to me all the time). Maybe it’s time to bring this mountain back down to a nice molehill size again. Maybe your go-to person knows exactly how you feel – maybe they feel the same. Share the burden and maybe this communication will help to bring you closer. It might certainly pre-empt a stupid frustration filled argument or unpredictable eruption of feelings later – that can only be a good thing.

Prioritise and organise! 

When I feel stressed out, I start writing notes in my daily planning diary like a mad person. All of those scary dates and times and invitations swimming in my head are just going to make me feel crazy and out of control if I don’t! I then take everything day by day, safe in the knowledge that what I need to know or do for that day is written down safely in my diary – there’s no need to read fifteen days ahead and scare myself. Just concentrate on one day at a time.

It’s amazing how things get less scary when you’ve organised them somewhere.

Sometimes when you’re stressed and overwhelmed, you need to prioritise. Put the most important things at the top of the list and don’t stress if the not so important things have to wait a while. If it ALL seems super important, then perhaps the chronological one day at a time organisation I mentioned above will help.

Sometimes you need to streamline. You can feel bad sometimes when you have to say no to stuff, but if you are struggling and you are in survival mode, maybe it will really help to let yourself off the hook a little bit. Just for a little while. The people who count for something in your life will understand. You can only do so much. Sometimes it truly is physically impossible to do everything. I’d rather do a few things well, than a hundred things half arsed. I think the people in my life would prefer me that way too.

And here’s one final thought…

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Seriously. Why do we all do this? Ask yourself. Are you busy for the sake of being busy? What would happen if we all just slowed down and said no every now and then? If the only reason we’re busy is so we can tell other people we’re so busy, then it’s time to reassess. Life could be so much calmer and we could be so much more content living in the moment. It’s really hard because we’ve been socialised to believe that ‘busy’ is best. It’s like a competition about who can seem the busiest or the most stressed out. I’m trying to take this off the table. Who knows how much time and energy I can save in my life? 🙂

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  • Great post! You say so many things here that I can really relate to since becoming a dad five months ago. I generally don’t feel that I’m doing too badly in terms of lack of sleep but still don’t feel as generally organized and on top of things when it comes to stuff around the home (e.g. housework, planning trips, actually getting things done) as I used to.

  • Oh man, I have such problems with the second one. Sometimes I compare myself to others without even knowing I’m doing it…it’s almost second nature. I see my daughter already doing it, and it breaks my heart. I also love the stuff about not glorifying busy. It has totally become a competition…the world’s suckiest competition with the the crappiest prize.

    • I am only just breaking the comparison habit – it’s not too late for you to as well 🙂 I do struggle with the first issue of not being a bitch to myself, though. Glorifying busy just gets my goat. It felt good to blog about it and get it off my chest! Thanks for reading – I always appreciate your comments x

      • I always appreciate your blog 🙂 I always try to read when I can!!!!

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  • So true! I say the same things everyday! You are spot on! Yet today I have way more to do than is humanly possible, I’ll never get it done, I am no good at it, why is she so much better at it can ALL go to Hell today! I will do what I can and do it well! I wish I really believed that but ya know what they say practice makes perfect! or something like that! Thanks for the inspiration. I wrote something similar this week if you have time to read it!! xo r http://bit.ly/18usRB3

  • Travel Wanderings

    I was with you all the way through, and the ending was just what I needed! Being busy is *not* a trophy! There’s no prize for the most inaccessible person! This is something I’m struggling with, as I am very ambitious and I like to have lots to do. But sometimes it’s OK to just read a book all day. Seriously.

  • Thank you very much!

  • Love it! When I’m overwhelmed the best thing to do is…nothing. You’ll be amazed what happens when you stop being busy and freaking out, and sit down and do nothing – like have a cup of tea, watch a movie or sit on the grass with your kids. Your subconscious starts working and solving things you need – like remembering where you left those bills, preparing grocery lists and the like. Try it, it’s amazing!

    • Oooh I like this, it totally makes sense too! Take some time to do nothing, will help gather your thoughts and approach everything much better when you do get back to it.

    • I totally agree. I had a uni lecturer (statistics – ugh) who called it the cup of tea method 🙂 He was the first educator who told us it’s OK to be utterly confused (we were) and overwhelmed, and that you can just go have a break. Other lecturers would frown and call it procrastination, but this guy was onto something! Sometimes you need to take time out and at best the answers will come and at the very least, you could come back with a refreshed outlook! x

  • Totally agree with EVERYTHING you have written, it’s hard to remember when your having one of ‘those’ days though. I like that you’ve got it written down which is an awesome reminder!