We all know what it feels like to be overwhelmed. Pressures build up at work and in our personal lives. We’re engulfed in responsibilities and deadlines. Then snap! We reach our max. Our minds and bodies shut down. We can’t take on anything more.
The word overwhelmed literally means “overturned or capsized,” and we often describe the situa tion as “being underwater.”
Being overwhelmed is a modern-day malady. Traditionally, our species has had to struggle to survive. Our forebears barely eked out a living and grew or fabricated everything they used. Today, we have too many choices and demands, each vying for our attention and bombarding our senses.
This can lead to a state of emotional paralysis. Our thought processes shut down. It’s as if our minds were a cramped muscle. We can’t think or behave clearly until it relaxes.
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While each of us knows about feeling overwhelmed, we reach that state at surprisingly different rates. Some people manage legions of stressors without breaking a mental sweat. Others are overextended from the get-go. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle but must make a conscious effort to keep our stress levels in tow.
Sometimes our situations are truly overwhelming. We are inundated with a humongous number of important issues that demand attention ASAP. But being overwhelmed can also be a style of thinking. Our minds have trouble calming down. Thoughts flit from one topic to the next and give us the impression we have too much on our plate even though the load is OK.
To make matters worse, we take on way too much. We create lives for ourselves and families that constantly verge on chaos and exhaustion. We leave no margin for error. So the first mishap sends us into a tailspin and makes us feel overwhelmed.
The key is to avoid getting overwhelmed in the first place. But that can be easier said than done.
TIPS FOR KEEPING STRESS LEVELS DOWN
Don’t get sucked in. Fight the trend to do more than you are able. Excess isn’t better. It can actually be your enemy.
Recognize the signs. Pay special attention if you’re short-tempered, are unable to keep up with your life, feel scattered and have problems sleeping. You’ve probably got too much on your plate.
Prioritize. Decide what top three tasks must be accomplished each day. Let lesser responsibilities slide.
Set a new normal range. Commit to a calm, balanced lifestyle. Eliminate activities that interfere with your goal.
Quiet your thoughts. When your mind is overloaded, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Take long, slow breaths until you’ve settled down.
Learn to say no. You don’t have to agree to every request for your time. Refuse those that disrupt your well-being.
Incorporate downtime into your schedule. Allot ample time for exercise, contemplation and fun.