You walk in the door after grocery shopping and diligently wash your hands. You face a pile of dishes on the counter, the house needs to be picked up, there are bills to be paid and the trash needs to be taken out. Oh, and your partner has several more medications they need to take so you need to make a list of what they are supposed to take and when. There is laundry and kids and dinner… Ugh! On top of it all, you’re exhausted! It’s all simply too much!
Too much to do, too much to take care of, too much to figure out…
This is the feeling of overwhelm. You probably felt it many times before your partner had cancer, but those were fleeting times. Now it seems like a constant companion.
When We Feel It
Overwhelm can show up in a variety of circumstances. Sometimes it is when we have a bunch of little things on our list. There are appointments to schedule, doctors and treatment facilities to research, household chores to take care of, bills to review and pay, kids schedules to manage…
Other times it’s when we have one big project or task to take care of. There may be taxes to file, insurance claims to submit, or a room full of stuff to sort through and organize.
What It Is And Where It Comes From
While it may feel all consuming, overwhelm is actually just an emotion. An emotion is a vibration or sensation in our body that is caused by a thought. Often that thought contains the key word too: too much, too hard, too big… When we have that thought running around our head, we will feel overwhelmed.
Often, without realizing it, we indulge in overwhelm in order to keep ourselves safe. As long as we are overwhelmed, we won’t have to do the hard thing or make the hard decision. By staying overwhelmed, we avoid making decisions and taking action. This prevents us from moving forward.
It keeps us stuck and frustrated.
The tasks and projects will keep piling up!
What To Do?
Thoughts cause our emotions and emotions fuel our actions, so any change in our actions needs to start with our thoughts.
Where are you indulging in overwhelm? Is there something you have been avoiding? Is there a project that you need to do but haven’t because it’s too hard? Have you been telling yourself there is too little time? Or there is too much to do?
Interrupt The Pattern
Once we recognize that we are overwhelmed, we have to interrupt the pattern. Often, whatever we are telling ourselves will run on repeat in our brain. This thought may be running through your brain several times a day or anytime you look at the new pile of medications on the counter waiting to be organized. This is simply a thought error and we have to interrupt our brain when it offers up our overwhelming thought.
Next, we have to replace our thought error with a new thought that will be more useful. This thought should be something that will provoke action, something that will provoke a feeling of commitment or determination.
Every little bit counts.
I can do anything for 15 minutes.
I’m just going to plug away at this until it’s done.
Use one above or create your own thought. Make it your new mantra and repeat it often.
Break It Down
Once you’ve changed your mindset and have generated a new mantra that makes you feel determined or committed, then you can take action.
If it’s a bunch of little things on your plate, make a list of all of them. Get them out of your head and write them down. Look at your list and eliminate anything that is not absolutely necessary. Of course you would like to get it all done, but what is the most important? What can someone else do? What can simply wait for another day when you have more time and energy? These decisions can be hard, force yourself to make them.
If it’s a large project you are avoiding, sit down and write down all the steps. The smaller and simpler the steps, the better. Our brain can more easily focus on a small specific step (find 3 bins) than it can on a big ambiguous step (clean out the garage).Then put those steps in order.
Finally, you have to take action. Nothing kills overwhelm like taking action. Fueled by your new mantra, take action. It can be anything. Even doing just one little thing on the big project will make a difference. Cross just one task off your list.
By taking action you will create momentum. Every time that pesky thought error pops in your brain, repeat your new mantra and take action. Expect to do this often until your new mantra becomes habit.
You’ve got this!
Getting out of overwhelm is a key skill in building your resiliency. Having a coach to help you build this skill can make a big difference!