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8 ways to stop feeling overwhelmed
How to focus, prioritize and take control of your to-do list
Between work, family and personal commitments, life can sometimes leave you thinking, “I feel overwhelmed.” Your responsibilities may be increasing at work and at home. Even the daily news can leave you feeling stressed.
We all know that person who seems to always have their life together. They probably don’t have fewer responsibilities than you. It’s more likely they have better stress management and know how to manage their time. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, they prioritize, delegate and achieve – and these are skills you can learn.
Why do I feel overwhelmed?
Feeling overwhelmed often starts when we have a big event in our future. Planning a wedding, preparing for a pitch at work, helping the kids apply to college or other big changes make us feel like there’s no room for anything else. Feeling overwhelmed can also be the result of a buildup of small things: Maybe your spouse is working a lot, but you need more help around the house. Or changes at work have left you with more responsibilities.
Feeling overwhelmed can create a cycle of negativity: You get overwhelmed when you are not managing your state. You feel stressed and anxious, which makes small things feel bigger than they are. This causes you to feel even more overwhelmed, and the cycle continues. To break the cycle, you need to take a step back and learn how to deal with feeling overwhelmed in a productive way.
How to deal with feeling overwhelmed
Everyone is familiar with feeling overwhelmed – but some of us deal with it better than others. Here are the strategies many successful people use to take back control of their emotions.
1. Challenge your beliefs
How many times have you thought, “Why do I feel overwhelmed?” in the past month? The past week? If feeling overwhelmed is a constant struggle and you can’t put your finger on its cause, you may need to examine your limiting beliefs. We all develop beliefs about ourselves and the world around us based on our personal experiences. Are you a perfectionist? Do you care too much about what others think? Letting go of beliefs like these can help you banish anxiety and overwhelmed feelings for good.
2. Focus on your outcome
Sometimes we can’t say no. Sometimes we need to get things done. When you have a lot on your plate and you’re wondering how to deal with feeling overwhelmed, the first step is to focus on your outcome. Your outcome is your ultimate goal. Maybe you’re planning an event that you want to go off without a hitch. Maybe you’re building a business to gain financial freedom. Focus on the result you want, then determine how you can get there through practical solutions.
Once you’ve determined your end goal, work backwards to determine your priorities. Tony’s Rapid Planning Method is ideal for zeroing in your most productive actions. First you’ll lay out your vision. You’ll then make plans for the next day, week and month (and so on), creating a laser-focused map for your life. It’s a way of thinking that can transform your life when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
4. Ask for help
“I feel overwhelmed” contains one key word: I. You’re not in it alone. By leveraging your network or support system, you can turn the “I” into “we” and stop feeling overwhelmed. This could mean delegating tasks at work, outsourcing tasks at home to professional help or even asking your spouse to do the dishes. Worried about appearances? Asking for help shows resourcefulness and confidence, two key traits of great leaders.
5. Know when it’s good enough
Perfectionism can come from fear: If what we’re doing isn’t perfect, it’s wrong. It’s a failure – and therefore we are a failure. Competitive people are also often perfectionists. They feel like they can “beat” everyone else by being perfect. But if you’re spending too long on tasks that only have a marginal benefit for you, it’s time to be done. As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Done is better than perfect” – and the COO of Facebook knows what she’s talking about.
6. Take a break
For many of us, letting things like perfectionism go is a form of self-care. Prioritizing your mental and physical health is vital if you want to stop feeling overwhelmed. Taking a break increases creativity and makes you more productive when you return. Bill Gates takes two, week-long retreats each year. Marissa Mayer takes a week-long vacation every four months. Go ahead and unplug. You won’t be thinking “I feel overwhelmed” when you’re reading a book on the beach.
7. Practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is another nearly universal habit of successful people. Tony makes priming a part of his morning ritual, focusing on gratitude and goals. Padmasree Warrior meditates every night – a habit that helped keep her from feeling overwhelmed by the 22,000 employees she supervised as the CTO of Cisco.
Think you don’t have time? Spending just 10 minutes clearing your mind can sharpen your focus, helping you think clearly and make better decisions.
8. Do something nice
Adding another item to your schedule may be the last thing you want to do if you’re constantly thinking, “I feel overwhelmed.” But it could be one of the best remedies. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Pack boxes at a food bank. Walk dogs at an animal shelter. You’ll get out of your own head and see things from a new perspective that will take you from feeling overwhelmed to feeling grateful for all you have.