WHAT IT IS
You’ve undoubtedly heard the word ‘overwhelm’ and you’re highly likely to have experienced it, even if you weren’t aware that’s what was going on. To be literal, dictionary.com defines being overwhelmed as being “completely overcome in mind or feeling”. Also known as things getting to be a bit too much! Examples could be when you feel like there’s no space left in your head to take on any new thoughts, your mind is racing and you can’t quiet it, you don’t know what to tackle next, or you’re on on edge and just can’t seem to relax. It’s common, it’s widespread, and, fortunately, there’s plenty you can do about it.
We’ve pooled a bunch of ideas and tips that will help you deal with overwhelm. You might like to chat these through with others (in the workplace, at home, or wherever you hang out with people you care about) and see what other ideas you can add to make this an even more comprehensive resource to refer back to anytime overwhelm is looming.
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
1. Acknowledge what you’re experiencing
It’s little wonder that feelings of overwhelm can affect our confidence, focus, and productivity, but pretending it isn’t happening and hoping it will go away of its own accord isn’t the best way to address any issue, and overwhelm is no different. We’re better off acknowledging what we’re experiencing and doing something about it before it turns into something more harmful, like burnout.
Remind yourself that you’re not incapable, you’re just paying attention to your mind and body doing their job and letting you know that you need to pay heed to how you’re feeling and make some adjustments.
2. Seek to understand why
Jot down what’s going on for you right now – consider what’s taking up your headspace, what’s making you feel stressed, what you worry about when you can’t sleep. Sometimes just the act of getting it out of your head and onto paper can give you a clearer sense of what’s going on, and when you recognise that, finding solutions is going to be much easier.
3. Focus on what you can control
Once you’ve written your list, break the items down into two columns; things you can control and things you can’t control. You will make the most gains by focusing on your ‘can control’ list. Our 4 Ds of time management exercise could be a helpful place to start with what to do with the items on your list.
Try not to let yourself be distracted by your ‘can’t control’ list – that’s a surefire way to increase overwhelm. Practice asking yourself, “What can I control right now?” then act on that.
It can also help to segment your day. When your work shift is over, try to ‘close the book’ on it. Give our Going Home Exercise a go.
4. Be present
When we feel like we have a million things going on, it can be challenging to focus on the here and now, but tuning into the present moment through ‘mindfulness’ practices can help to reduce our sense of overwhelm. Some ways to practice mindfulness include meditation; ‘single-tasking’ (the opposite of multitasking!); rhythmic movement such as stretching, yoga, tai chi; and breathing exercises.
Take a look at our simple mindfulness exercises and give some a go. You might like to try these out with workmates during a meeting or break time.
5. Do things you enjoy
When things all get to be a bit too much it’s easy to sideline doing the things we enjoy because we don’t feel like we have enough time. But getting our mind out of what’s worrying us and focusing on something positive (even for a short period of time) can revitalise us enough to face the things that are causing us overwhelm. Our self-care tips include lots of ideas for taking some time out that you can do within two minutes to half an hour.
6. Talk it out
Feeling overwhelmed is a natural part of life, but if you feel like your overwhelm is all-consuming, talking to someone neutral can be really helpful. Raise’s practitioners will help you identify the root cause of your overwhelm and offer ideas for coping that are personalised to your circumstances.