Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Our whole lives can be very demanding, which can increase more at this time of the year. Seeing Christmas things in the shops can make us feel like we need to be doing more, even though it is only October, on top of the usual things that we are doing. When we feel overwhelmed all the time, we can live at a near-relentless pace. With work life, family needs, and others, it is easy to see why we can feel so overwhelmed.
A quite typical response to feeling overwhelmed with an ever-increasing load is to just work harder, work longer hours, and sleep less to fit it all in. It often isn’t to take a step back to assess why we feel like we do.
Feeling overwhelmed has a big impact on our minds, and the cognitive impact of this state of feeling overwhelmed all the time can lead to a range of things. You can become more forgetful as your mind just has so much to process and think about. You can have confusion, mental slowness, difficulty with concentrating or finding it hard to think logically, especially when tired. You could also have a racing mind running through a range of different scenarios, or have difficulty with problem solving. Any of these can make us much less effective doing what we need to in life, which then leaves us feeling even more overwhelmed.
So if you are someone that is feeling constantly overwhelmed, here are a few strategies to help:
Set boundaries on your time
When there is a long to-do list, you might just want to plough through to get it all done. But you will actually work more effectively if you set yourself some boundaries, such as saying no to staying later in the office, or assign a certain length of time to a certain task. If you haven’t done the task in the allocated time, come back to it, rather than carry on, as you’re obviously not being the most productive with it. This will help you to have a greater focus on each task in hand, less overwhelm as you work more methodically, and create some more breathing room for you, allowing you to focus on your priorities, with much fewer distractions.
Perfectionism is something that can make us feel that tasks or certain projects need to be bigger than they really need to be. This can then be overwhelming, leading to procrastination and even some psychological distress. As the things around this task pile up, in an effort to be perfect, the overwhelm grows, so there is more procrastination, stress, and more overwhelm. It is so important to know what your level of good enough is. Not everything needs to be perfect; many things just need to be done.
Outsource or delegate
This is something that many people struggle with, especially if they like to be in control or seek perfectionism (see the above point). But you need to value yourself and value your time. Are there some areas of your life, whether that is work life or home life, that can be done by others? If something that you’re doing isn’t the best way to be using your time to grow your business or allow you time with your children, for example, then why can’t someone else be doing it for you?
If you’re in a position to have a cleaner come in, for example, then that is something off your list that you don’t need to think about, reducing the overwhelm. Could you buy food prep meals or where the exact ingredients are delivered to your door, so you save yourself time with meal planning and grocery shopping? At work, are there assignments that other members of the team could take on or that could be outsourced to a freelancer or contractor? By letting go of even one task, you can free yourself of time that will add up, that can be put to better use.
Can you find the main source of the overwhelm?
It can be a good idea to ask yourself if there were a couple of things that were taken off your ‘plate,’ how much stress would be alleviated? There might be some elements that you can't stop or change, such as family commitments, work projects, or all that comes with having children in school, but there might be some things on your plate that really cause the overwhelm that can be reduced. If it can’t, then look at how you can break up the number of tasks that you have into more manageable chunks or how to get someone on-board to help you.
If you regularly feel overwhelmed, no matter what you do, then it could be down to something else, such as unresolved trauma. If you think that this could be the reason for your overwhelm, then feel free to reach out to us at The Wellbeing Therapy Hut. Our counsellors and trainees are here to help.