What to do when you’ve already got too much to do.
Modern life today is fast – so fast. There’s always more information, more requests for help, more to do.
Yes, you can reduce your overwhelm by dropping some of your obligations, and getting better at saying no.
But being overwhelmed isn’t just about how much you’re doing.
A lot of your feelings of overwhelm are generated by where you focus your attention, and how you focus it.
So if you don’t want to give up anything you’re doing, but still feel better, try these four ideas.
1. Stop running your to-do list through your head
Thinking about something is kind of like living through it. It’s not quite as intense, but it is still a real effect. There are numerous studies on positive visualisation that show that your emotions are affected by what you think about.
So think about what happens when you imagine, many times over, how you’ll have to fit in going to the grocery store, getting to your doctor’s appointment, finishing off that bit of work from last week etc. etc. etc. You build us so much stress from imagining all these things, before you’ve even done one of them!
No wonder you feel exhausted.
Instead, stay focussed on just what you’re doing right now. Notice what you can see, hear and feel around you, right now. Notice how relaxing it is to do this!
2. Find ‘positive problems’ to solve
This is a great technique to use when focussing on the present is going to be hard (e.g. waiting for someone who’s running late). Focus instead on something that engages your mind, in a positive way. If you’re creative, get focussed on what you want to make next. If you’re a people person, start thinking about birthday present ideas. If you love adventure, start planning what you’ll do next weekend.
Not only will you start feeling more positive as you focus on taking action on something you value, you’ll also feel more in control of your life – the opposite of overwhelm.
3. Stop multitasking
Recent studies have shown that there are many downsides to multi-tasking, even if you think you’re being efficient when you engage in it.
Basically, your mind can only ever focus on one thing at a time.
Changing your focus requires energy (and time). Your brain can swap from one thing to another very quickly (which is what multitasking is) but it costs you a lot of energy. And the constant re-focussing leaves you much more likely to make mistakes (read more about the negative effects of multitasking here).
Multitasking also leads to leaving more tasks undone (if you do get interrupted, you’re stopped from completing 3 or more tasks, instead of just one). Our brain likes to complete tasks, and not completing them leaves us in a state of mild agitation until they are completed. Multi-tasking leaves you with many more uncompleted tasks, heightening feelings of irritability and stress if you’re interrupted.
4. Use realistic affirmations
Feeling overwhelmed often comes from the thought that you don’t have enough (time, money, energy, for example) to cope. You can tell your brain to chill out by using a realistic affirmation like these ones below:
If I can’t change it, I don’t have to keep thinking about it
I’m strong enough to handle this experience
I believe in my ability to approach this from a space of relaxation and calm
This sucks, but I can cope with it
Even though this feels hard, I won’t give up
Keep repeating the phrase every time you worry about having ‘enough’ of something. Soon, you’ll realise you’re coping just fine, and relax into the moment more easily.
That’s it for this blog post – you now have 4 different ways to reduce overwhelm!
Would you like even more ideas on how to start living slower, without doing anything extra?
Grab my free guide 3 Easy Ways to Start Living Slower here.
Author of The Slow Life Project. I am a woman on a mission to empower other women to live a meaningful, authentic and joyous life with full confidence.