Sometimes, we just have WAY too much to do and not enough time to do it all. When life is overwhelming, then everything can feel so stressful. When you are overwhelmed by life, the best thing you can do is take a time out. Give yourself some space to recharge and take a break from everything.
When feeling overwhelmed, we end up stressed, confused, and our health is at risk. Everything feels important, and we don’t know which direction to start digging to get out of the hole we’ve found ourselves in.
There’s a fine line between “everything is under control” and “I’m in way over my head.” Sometimes, all it takes is one extra task or problem for the weight of feeling overwhelmed takes over.
So while learning to say no is one of the simplest ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed, what can you do when you’ve said yes for too long?
It all comes down to communication, prioritisation, and delegation.
Feeling overwhelmed with work is one of the worst things that can happen to us. Instead of feeling empowered by doing meaningful work, we end up drowning in our to-do list.
But there is a way out. Just remember to take a step back, recognize what’s triggering your stress, and work steadily and systematically through what’s truly important.
Feeling overwhelmed is actually a stress response when we feel the demand on us outweighs our resources.
It’s easy to blame others for how busy you are. And oftentimes it is other people’s fault. However, this isn’t always the case. To start dealing with feeling overwhelmed, you first need to shift your perspective from being the victim to being in control.
Start by asking what has become so demanding in your day-to-day life/work. Is your boss piling on too much work? Are you spending too much time in watching TV? Do you feel you can’t say ‘no’ to people?
Simply writing down everything you have to do is a good place to start. Create a list of everything that’s expected of you this week. And pay special attention to the issues, tasks or projects you’ve been putting off. What’s causing you to procrastinate rather than get deal with the real issue or strike tasks off your list?
Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking we want to do things when we really don’t. But our mood rarely lies. The more your gut tells you not to do something, the more likely you are to push it aside and let it become a source of stress and overwhelm.
With your list of expectations and triggers in hand, it’s time to start working through them, right? Not yet.
Stress actually closes off the more creative parts of our mind and can distort our perception of time. Which means diving into your looming list of matters to attend to will only be detrimental to the end result. In other words, stressed, problems/tasks take longer to resolve and suffering endures.
Instead, you should take a break to regroup and strategize your plan of attack.
There are huge psychological and health benefits to taking a bit of out. And so you really need to fight the urge to dive right back into your growing to-do list. Instead, take a 10-minute walk, eat something healthy, and get some fresh air. This should help knock your brain out of ‘survival mode’ so you can plan a proper way to deal with feeling overwhelmed.
This calm before the storm is also a good opportunity to bring other people in for advice and perspective.
Approach conversations from the perspective that you’re being proactive about your the issue of concern. For example, “I feel like I have a lot on my plate right now and would love your help figuring out the best way to tackle it all.”
This not only shows you’re concerned about certain areas of concern. But also makes them aware they shouldn’t be asking more of you right now.
What comes next is the pivotal moment in making sure you go down the right path and not just back to feeling overwhelmed again.
You most likely got into the situation you’re in now because it felt like everything carried equal importance. Which is natural. In a lot of situations, it’s hard or uncomfortable to set priorities. However, when you try to make progress on everything at once, you only end up thrashing and wasting your time.
Instead, you need to force yourself to prioritise tasks. One of the simplest ways to do this is to use what’s called the Ivy Lee method:
Depending on the nature of your issue/work, you’ll probably want to start with less than six tasks. In fact, even just prioritising the single most important task to do each day is a good way start.
When you start prioritising your tasks, make sure you commit to one of these tasks per day. It might not seem like much, but dealing with easy, yet stressful work in a systematic way will quickly get rid of some of the stress that’s been hanging over you.
Now, what about the rest of the tasks/jobs spilling off your to-do list?
To come back from being overwhelmed, you need to fight the urge to just plough back into your overwhelmed habits. By its very nature, prioritising tasks/work means certain things will be at the bottom of the list. The Eisenhower Matrix terms these are the tasks that are “less important and less urgent”.
If something can be done 80% as well by someone else, delegate!
How to do you know what you can and should delegate to others? And how do you go about doing it? Delegation is a skill that takes time to master and depends on the people you’re surrounded by. One a Delegation Matrix:
To use the matrix, take the task you think you’d like to delegate and the person you’d like to give it to and see what quadrant they end up in. Are they capable and willing? Then go ahead and delegate. Are they less capable but willing? Pair them with someone else and help support them as the learn.
The goal here is to get rid of the sense that only you can do the work and recognize the support you have around you. So, before you get back into working through your overwhelming to-do list, ask what you can pass on to others – and what you can outright drop.
Asking for help or delegating isn’t admitting defeat, it’s simply showing you know what work matters and where you should be spending your time.
At this point, you should have a challenging, yet manageable list of work to do. But we’re not quite out of the woods yet.
A self-sabotaging thinking habit is to overcomplicate solutions to problems. You might imagine that what’s necessary to move forward is something more complicated or difficult than is reality.
As you work through your list of tasks, it’s important to stick to the simplest solutions/easier problems to resolve so you can more onto what’s next. Start with a single task/problem and then ask “what’s next?”
Working through your tasks/problems in a systematic way like this builds confidence and puts you in control. Instead of worrying about the multiple issues/things you need to do, you only have to think about what can be done now. And what comes next.