Your chest feels tight, your heart starts to race, and your neck and shoulders feel tense. Maybe you notice a panic rising up or a frantic feeling that you can’t slow down. Perhaps you start making more mistakes, snapping at people, or isolating completely. When you’re overwhelmed, your body and brain hit their limit. Things tend to run together, and they can escalate pretty quickly.
It’s hard to think straight when you’re overwhelmed, but there are some real and practical things to remember in these moments. Here are three of the most important.
1. You don’t have to figure it all out now.
So often when we’re overwhelmed, our brains have difficulty prioritizing. Everything feels important. Everything feels like an emergency. And it feels like everything has to be figured out right now. This train of thought is how your anxiety gets to stick around. It tricks you into thinking that you’ve got to have all the answers right now, and it panics until you do. But remember, you don’t have to have everything figured out right now. You don’t have to see the entire path. Just focus on the next step, and take one thing at a time.
You’ll have to be intentional about this, repeating this mantra often. “You don’t have to have it all figured out; just take one step at a time.” Your anxiety will want to ignore this phrase, but don’t be deterred. Stick with it. When your brain jumps ahead, redirect it. When your emotions start to snowball, double down on this phrase. “One step at a time.”
2. This is temporary.
When you’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to feel like this feeling will never end. That you’ll feel this way forever. It feels like you’ve drifted out to sea and are trying to swim back, but the shoreline isn’t getting closer. In these moments, it’s easy to let the overwhelmed feeling wash over you, convinced there’s no end in sight. But take a deep breath and remind yourself that this struggle is temporary. It will not last forever, nothing ever does.
Even in some of life’s most stressful and painful situations, including grief and loss, this phrase rings true. Your emotions, as you are experiencing right at this moment, will not stay this way. The intensity, the newness, the perspective, it will shift and change with time. For proof that things are temporary, think back to previous seasons of struggle that are no longer pressing or present in your life. Emotions change, and perspective shifts.
This season of overwhelmed won’t last forever. Gently remind yourself that it’s temporary, and think back on all the other struggles and seasons that are in your rearview mirror.
3. You have the ability to pause and slow down, no matter how chaotic things feel.
It’s easy to get swept up when you’re overwhelmed. It feels like the world is moving outside of your control, taking your sanity with it. While it’s true you don’t have a ton of control over what happens to and around you, you do have a say in how you respond. And no one, I repeat, no one, is too busy or too overwhelmed to stop a take a moment. A mindful breath. A deliberate pause.
When you’re overwhelmed, it’s tempting to think that peace can only come when the stress is over, when the storm has passed. But you have the ability to create and carve out a moment of pause or stillness, any time and any place. Don’t wait to find time to pause. Make time to pause.
These things won’t magically take all the stress away, but they’ll take the edge off. They’ll lower your anxiety and stress to a more manageable level. Will it take a little bit of effort and self-talk on your part? Of course. Is it worth it? You betcha.
Which thing do you struggle to remember when you’re overwhelmed?
PS: Having a rough day? These 7 things will help get you through!