When It’s All Too Much

In this blog post, I answer a question about overwhelm.

Here’s the question I received:

I’m having one of those days when it all seems like too much. I don’t feel like this all the time, and I’m not depressed, but from time to time I feel totally overwhelmed. Everything is just too much. What can I do to get through this?

And my response:

My heart goes out to you.

I know that feeling all too well — I imagine humans the world over know that feeling all too well. What you are experiencing is human, is normal, is something that happens to all of us.

Congratulations to you on being aware of what’s going on, being able to articulate it, and for reaching out.

Time management fans might advise you to prioritize, to eliminate unnecessary tasks, to limit distractions. Productivity fans might advise you to identify what’s truly important to you, do that, and forget the rest. Fitness fans might advise you to go to the gym to get your energy up. A counsellor or therapist might work directly with the feeling of overwhelm.

All of those suggestions might be useful to you, and I encourage you to explore any that seem promising.

And it’s my job to bring the Ready for Change coach’s perspective.

Explore Your Tendencies

I invite you to pay attention to how you tend to react when you feel “like it’s all too much.”

We all have our different coping strategies, some of which are helpful and some of which are only contributing to more overwhelm.

For example, when I feel like it’s all too much, I tend to withdraw, cut myself off from people, and retreat to my room to lie in bed. It’s a long and ongoing journey for me to learn that isolating myself increases my overwhelm, rather than reducing it. I’m better off when I open up to someone, ask for help, and make an effort to get outside the house.

A colleague tells me that her reaction to overwhelm is to take on even more. She tries to bypass overwhelm by being too busy to pay attention to it. For her, the learning is to resist the tendency to take on more, and to slow down and attend to the overwhelm.

One of my clients tended to deal with overwhelm by trying to give himself the illusion of being in control. If only all the things that had to be done were written down, with associated timelines and deadlines, then he would be back in control and not overwhelmed! But in actuality, the more things he listed and scheduled, the more overwhelmed he felt.

What I’m getting at here is:

What do you tend to do when you’re overwhelmed?

How do you try to manage it?

And is that working for you?

If it is working… well, then you probably wouldn’t have sent me your question.

If it’s not working, then great — you’ve just learned something about yourself! And now you can choose a new tendency to try.

If you tend to isolate yourself, then try asking for help.

If you tend to cram your schedule full to preoccupy yourself, then try creating some empty space.

If you tend to get rigid about tasks and timelines, then try getting flexible.

If you tend to focus on a whole bunch of “little things” to avoid thinking about the big things, then try committing to doing the big things first.

If you tend to cut out all the things that re-energize you, then try prioritizing your own energy before anything else.

Bask in the Learning

Whatever new reaction you try, you are engaging in the beautiful messiness of life. You’ve found something that’s not working, and now you’re going to try a new way of being with it. The first thing you try might work. It might not. Enjoy the journey. Discovering yourself and what makes you tick (and what makes you not tick) is all part of this fascinating business we call life.

Live it up!

Warmly,

Laura

Laura McGrath, CPCC, is a Toronto-based co-active life coach who helps smart people to live from their hearts. Let's talk! You can subscribe to Ready for Change news to receive thoughtful notes on personal growth, and you can contact Laura to find out if coaching is right for you.

Comments

  1. I’ve only been reading for a short while, but this is my favorite post so far. You probably caught me at exactly the right time.

    Thank you!

  2. This heartfelt response inspires me to DO different because I haven’t been sold a one size fits all bill of goods.

    Thx

Trackbacks

  1. […] been asked to revisit the March 24 post on overwhelm, When It’s All Too Much. In that post, I focused on how to explore your tendencies and then experiment with new approaches […]