Some days, I wake up ready to take on the world. I feel prepared and confident and even though there is a lot to do, I know I can tackle it. Other mornings, I wake up feeling the crushing weight of life. I know I’m not the only one. The APA (American Psychiatric Association) did a study in 2018 that revealed that Millennials are the most anxious generation over other age groups. By listening to others, I’m learning that anxiety exists within us all. My anxiety often times has similar undertones to what other people describe. The tricky part is it manifests in a multitude of ways. One of these ways is overwhelm.
Overwhelm can look like not being able to put my to-do’s on a list. It can look like having the list and being too overwhelmed to start. Being in a state of overwhelm can be getting too far down one road and standing in the middle of the crossroads, not knowing how to get out.
Some of my triggers are:
A dirty apartment
Too long of a to-do list
Having too many social engagements and not enough time at home
Exhibiting unhealthy behaviors such as eating junk food or not exercising enough
Not spending enough time with Scout
Lacking in my quiet time with God
Everyone is different and our triggers are going to look different. I am by no means an expert. In fact, I am just learning how to recognize my triggers and how to get out of the feeling of overwhelm before it turns into a full-on depression or anxiety episode. What I’ve come to realize is that there is hope. It is not a fluke that I just “happened” to get out of these panic modes. There is a method to the madness.
I am still smack dab in the middle of this journey. Usually, I will wait until I’m on the other side of something to fully share. It sometimes can feel premature to share something that isn’t completely fleshed out. But when it comes to anxiety, it is forever changing and morphing into something new. Waiting to the end isn’t going to help anyone. So today, I’m going to share with you what steps I am currently taking to get out of my own head and halt the feelings of overwhelm before they overtake.
Steps to Actively Halt Overwhelm
Breathe. Take some good deep breaths.
It’s better if you can be still and quiet but if you can’t, just take in a few really deep, slow breaths. If I can recognize the overwhelm coming on, I try to take deep breaths immediately. If you breathe shallowly, it will trigger more anxious feelings within your body.
Before anything else can continue, I call on the Lord to help me through. I pray for His guidance, His wisdom, and His calming presence.
My biggest trigger for overwhelm is my long to-do list. I think about the fact that I don’t have enough time to get everything done that I need to. But if I can recognize this train of thought, I remember this mantra: be where your feet are planted. So often, I’m thinking 10 steps ahead. I’ll be walking Scout and thinking about how later in the day, I need to get the laundry done and pay this or that bill. Having this mindset not only manifests feelings of overwhelm but it robs you of the current moment.
While walking Scout, I’m not thinking about the fresh air or how he’s enjoying his time outside. No, instead I’m thinking about the laundry and how I’m not going to have time to do whatever else is on the never-ending list. Be where your feet are planted. You have allotted the time to do whatever you’re currently doing. Be in the present moment and forget the rest. If you’ve planned things out or know what’s on your list, be present with each task and then move on to the next when it’s time to.
Dump everything out.
Write out a to-do list. Write morning pages where you just let your stream of consciousness flow. Sit down and write out a journal entry. Release everything from your mind so you can organize it and move forward.
This can be walking your dog, doing a hike, practicing yoga, hitting the gym. Whatever. Doing something physical can take us out of our mental space because we have to think about what we’re physically doing. If you do any of these things regularly, try switching up the routine. If it’s something we can be on autopilot for, that isn’t going to change our mental space so switch it up.
Drink water. Take a bubble bath. Eat your veggies. Put on a face mask. This doesn’t necessarily help me while I’m in an episode of overwhelm but it does help me prevent ones in the future. If I have managed to take care of myself, it makes me feel all the more capable to take care of my house, my dog, my job, my whatever.
Talk it out.
Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, I also feel extremely isolated. Make sure to have someone on speed dial that you can call up or text when you need an encouraging word. For me, my mom is always at the ready to talk things through or to encourage me in the challenges I’m facing. It’s so important to have a support system and then to call on them when the overwhelm is too…well…overwhelming.
Sometimes, I’ll let my list overtake me. I list every single thing I could possibly do and it all makes it on the list. There is no need to overwhelm yourself unnecessarily. Prioritize. What needs to be done today? What has the greatest impact or consequence if it happens or if it doesn’t? Give yourself two goals for the day. Maybe that’s walking the dog and laundry. Maybe it’s cleaning the house and catching up on the book for bible study. It could be errands and watering the plants. Pick two and then once those are done, you’ve accomplished those and you can choose what next on your list to pick up.
Block out how much time each thing will take on your calendar. Realize there isn’t enough time in the day for everything. Have realistic goals and expectations for yourself. You can not do everything in 1 day. Take a task and break it down into bite-sized pieces. Chip away at the task rather than trying to do it all at once.
Listen to the birds outside or the kids playing in the park. Take in the sound of the wind in the trees. Play some music that speaks to your soul. I have a playlist for everything. Music really affects my mood, feelings, state of mind. When I need to get back to my natural order, I play one of my playlists that makes me feel grounded. I let it seep in. I close my eyes, listen, and take some deep breaths. I’m doing this right now and I know it’s all going to be okay. If you need a playlist to get you started, I like to listen to Spotify’s Relax and Unwind playlist. It’s magic for this anxious heart.
What about you?
How are you overcoming overwhelm? What tricks do you use to get yourself back to the natural order of things?
I hope you found something in this article. I pray that you take the time to navigate your overwhelm and your anxiety and that you recognize that nothing is wrong with you. It’s not that you can’t deal with it or that you aren’t strong enough. I’ve battled with these thoughts myself but those are hurtful words, not productive ones. You’ve got this. I believe in you. And if you ever need someone to talk you through, pray for you, or to understand, I’m here.
Give yourself grace. Grace and time. You are a beautiful human being. Separate out the important and go from there.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Our greater purpose is found in Him. Call on this verse when you lose sight of the greater purpose.
You’ve got this,
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