Overwhelm is caused by a particular pattern of worry and stress and it is helpful to understand how you can stop it.
There is a simple process of 5 steps, which guaranteed will lead you into calm waters.
- Nell was in a real state. Her job was on the brink as another reorganisation was announced. Should she take redundancy and enjoy a sabbatical?
- Her partner wasn’t well and they were waiting for the diagnosis. What if he became wheelchair-bound and couldn’t run his own business anymore?
- Nell’s daughter studied abroad and was quite homesick. Maybe she couldn’t finish her studies and that would ruin her career perspective.
- And lastly, the dog drove her mad as he was barking through the night, trying to scare off a few amorous foxes.
After Nell spoke to me as her coach about this avalanche of stressful situations, I took a deep breath and asked her to do the same.
And then we talked.
How to stop feeling overwhelmed by life
I pointed out to Nell that three of her worries were fantasies.
They hadn’t happened yet and were possibly never going to happen: job, illness and daughter’s future. It was quite useless to spend energy on these, at this moment in time.
I asked her to imagine in her mind a little cabinet, full of drawers.
Open three of those, grab each worry and dump it into one of the drawers. Shuffle it in and close it. The only concern that wasn’t a fantasy was the dog and she agreed to look into a solution for the barking.
Like Nell, we can get carried away when we are faced with a number of uncertainties and stressful situations.
When they muddle up, it becomes impossible to see the wood for the trees and we feel overwhelmed and stressed out. However, separating them and keeping them in their own drawer is the best way to stay on top. Open the drawer when you need to, and close it before you open the next one.
How to stop feeling overwhelmed by life? Tips to prevent feeling overwhelmed
- Always start with a bit of deep breathing, which helps you calm down and disengage.
- Write down the different things that are stressing you out (stressors),
- Look at each ‘stressor’ and decide if this is actually taking place or if this is a future event or anticipation. All future events and anticipations go into their drawer.
- If there is one mega-project, break it down in small elements. Put each separate element in a drawer.
- When you are in a position to take action, break the action down in several points, open the drawer and just go through the points 1 by 1.
When life throws too many worries at you with overwhelm as a result, distinguish reality from fantasy and put the fantasies in the drawer, until they become a reality. Then you can start dealing with them.