3 Ways to Combat Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling Overwhelmed

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Does it feel like the pace of life is continually increasing? Endlessly more, it seems, of everything: work to be done, emails to answer, social media to keep up with, family responsibilities to manage, self-care to address.

And there’s probably no end in sight. The task treadmill can, and likely will, keep going in the direction of stress and overwhelm until you decide that something’s got to change.

But how do you do that, given the very real need not just to function in a frenetic world, but also thrive?

Realize the Razor’s Relevance

Occam’s razor, a scientific and philosophical principle with origins dating back at least to the 14th century, gives us a clue.

In short, Occam’s razor states that if you have multiple competing theories to explain or address something, the simplest one is usually preferable — primarily because simple theories are more testable.

So, in thinking about how to navigate the overwhelmingly complex aspects of life, here are three things you can do to see if they help slow your roll to a pace that’s more comfortable for you.

Testable Idea No. 1: Consciously Choose Your Priorities

No matter how much you optimize yourself — plan, organize, prepare, adjust and readjust — you’re not going to get everything done in a day or week that you’d like to do, or that others would like you to do. You’re one person, and you simply can’t do everything. It’s like being at a massive all-you-can-eat buffet, putting a serving of every item on a hugely oversized plate and proceeding to eat it all in one sitting. Just the thought of that may bring an unsettled feeling to your stomach. A wiser approach to a buffet may be selecting the foods that genuinely appeal to you and taking small or moderate amounts on a reasonably sized plate. You can go back for seconds, if you like, or decide to come back another time to revisit your favorite items and try others.

Take a look at your life plate. If it’s too large and you do indeed have too much on it, choose your top priorities to keep for now, in terms of both responsibilities and enjoyment. You may not need to let go of the lesser priorities forever but perhaps press pause temporarily. Give yourself some breathing room for a few weeks, or months, to see how you feel. You might find greater clarity about what you genuinely can live with — or without — and what you can’t, along with more time and energy for what means the most to you.

Testable Idea No. 2: Connect and Be Present

Build time into your schedule to connect with yourself and those who are important to you by making it a calendar entry. (If putting self-care or connection appointments on your calendar seems counterintuitive or lacking in spontaneity, give it a try anyway. You might find that you can actually be more present, knowing that you’ve set aside this time just for you or your loved ones.)

Treat that time as you would any other important appointment. Turn off your phone, focus your attention on what’s happening in front of you and genuinely be present. If thoughts about what else you have to do start to intrude, thank the diligent timekeeping and list-making parts of you for piping up with their reminders, assure them that you will get back with them later to address their concerns, and refocus on yourself or the person you’re with. Multitasking and overthinking stress the brain and lead to decreased performance, problem-solving ability and creativity. So, the more you can be mindful of the present moment, the better able you’ll be to emerge from that time and focus more effectively on what’s next.

Testable Idea No. 3: Think Easy and Small

When overwhelm sets in, it’s easy to feel that big things need to change, and fast. But small changes add up, and they can provide a significant shift in perspective. Seemingly minute steps offer some space from the idea that everything is happening or has to happen, right now. Plus, seeing the successful outcome of small steps provide motivation and inspiration to keep going.

When one simple task toward a goal or vision is completed, the next right step often feels accessible and doable. So, just keep taking the next right, logical, natural step. In time, you will achieve the change you set out to make, and you’ll likely gain greater clarity and insight along the way.

Simple approaches to a complex challenge like managing overwhelm may seem excessively rudimentary, but scientists, philosophers, and everyday people have been testing the Occam’s razor principle for centuries. By putting some simple theories to the test yourself, you just might find the more manageable pace you’re looking for.

Kristen is a connection coach who helps professionals be happier, communicate better and create deeper connections while doing meaningful work. For a complimentary discovery call, reach out to her here. You can also view her other articles here.

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