5 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm

Whether you’re in the midst of planning your wedding, feeling the pressure of the Christmas holidays, or just have a lot going on in your life, feeling overwhelmed is a common emotion we experience daily.  In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, about 33% of Americans feel overwhelmed, which is considered a symptom of stress.  

But what do you do when you’re overwhelmed?  How do you get through the feeling of being overwhelmed so it doesn’t consume you?

This past month has been a little more hectic for me than usual.  I had my usual 9-5 I would go to but at the same time I was working on a couple of projects for my coaching business that required more time than I usually allotted.  In fact, I had so much going on that I would dream about everything I had to do while I slept.  Not to mention the financial woes that were popping up.  And if you’ve experienced financial stress, you know that can be all encompassing and set you down a road of immobility and panic.  Because for me, when I’ve got so much going on that I can’t focus, I tend to freeze and do nothing.  I won’t watch tv or look at social media or play games on my phone.  No, I’ll just sit and stare into space.  It’s pretty bad and really unproductive especially when being unproductive is the last thing I should be doing. 

So how did I get through the overwhelm into a state of productivity?  Here’s what I’ve been doing every night for the past two weeks to help keep my overwhelm from consuming me:

Tip #1:  I tap.  Have you heard of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)? I love it.  You tap on various meridian points on your body while verbalizing your emotions.  It’s a great tool to use.  And while I am not a certified EFT practitioner, I subscribe to a group that has scripts that I follow that really helps.  One night, during a 5-minute tapping routine, I went from feeling 10 on the scale of overwhelm down to a 2.  Pretty impressive.  And it helped me get a good night’s sleep.

Tip #2: I listen to meditations. I don’t have a consistent meditation practice.  In fact, I’ve tried to meditate daily and I’ve failed at it.  It probably doesn’t help that I do it at night or first thing when I wake up in the morning when I’m lying in bed because, night or day, I always end up falling asleep.  But when I’m stressed, I’ll put on my headphones, put on a meditation, and intentionally stop the whirl of thoughts in my mind, and lose myself to the meditation.  

Tip #3: I write down a to-do list. I pull up the Notes app on my laptop and sit and write down everything I have to do.  And since I can’t remember everything the first time, I keep the app open and go back to it and add things as I remember them.  The best part is, as I finish tasks on my list, instead of crossing them out or deleting them, I write “DONE!” beside each item.  That way I can see how much I’ve accomplished and I can remember that I completed the item and not put it back on my list. 

Tip #4: I talk it out.  I don’t have a therapist I can call upon, but thankfully, I have friends that went through my graduate program with me (in case you didn’t know, I have a Master’s in Counseling) and I turned a happy hour meet up to an impromptu group therapy session.  Simply because I needed it.  Because I needed to talk out what I was feeling and to put it all out there with people who wouldn’t judge me, who allow me to express every emotion, and help come to conclusions in a safe space.  I’m fortunate that I had these two friends available to me, but if you don’t have someone like that in your life, then definitely make an appointment to see a therapist.  Because talking it out is a lot healthier (for me) than keeping it all in. 

Tip #5: I got to work. Yes, I sat and stared into space for hours more than I should have, but eventually I would shake myself out of my stupor, and get to work.  I wouldn’t finish everything at once, but I was able to accomplish one or two items off my list before I would feel overwhelmed again and would need to stop.  

Bonus Tip: I went and saw a movie. I don’t go to the movie theater often, there really doesn’t seem to be a need when there are great things like Netflix and HBOgo, but one night my sister and her boyfriend took me to go see Justice League.  Because they saw that I needed to get away from my laptop and take a break.  And they were right.  Being away, not just from my laptop, but from my home where I couldn’t feel guilty about not working, really helped me relax and feel rejuvenated.  The movie was entertaining enough that I didn't think about work once during the 2 hours we were there. In fact when we got home from the theater, I sat down and worked for a good 2 hours getting a lot of items on my to-do list completed.

This is what has worked and is currently working for me in managing my overwhelm.  How do you cope when you are overwhelmed?  What do you do to manage your emotions? Share with us below!