What You Can Do When Overwhelmed

farside-cartoonFeeling overwhelmed?

This Far Side® cartoon by Gary Larson tells the story. I love it because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this way! It happens to me when I’m overwhelmed by what I’m doing or believe I have to do. And I know I’m not alone, right?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. With work demands and family needs, schedules get overbooked. We seem to believe we are like those Energizer Bunnies who keep going and going without stopping to recharge our batteries.

We aren’t built for constant activity. Our bodies need downtime. If we neglect our need for downtime we are likely to go into OVERLOAD. You know you’re in overload when your moods are very much like Oscar the Grouch or you are often sick and feeling exhausted.

Does this sound like you? Well, if the shoe fits… take it off, put your feet up and consider this. You need more downtime.

Here’s what you can do

Ask yourself what you can let go of. There’s always something on your plate that can wait for another day. Teach yourself to say and HEAR the word PRIORITIZE and learn to be comfortable with it. This article, How to Prioritize Tasks, will help you with this.

Take a mini-break. Mini-breaks are important because they give your body and mind a chance to rest and recuperate, without using up a lot of time. Check out this article for ideas about taking a mini-break.

Leave work behind and take a vacation. Often our careers will cause us to feel overwhelmed. Therefore, consider taking a vacation to relieve the stress. Even a few days can make all the difference. The key is to “vacate” your work. Here are some suggestions for leaving work behind when choosing to take a vacation.

Become comfortable saying NO. Being overwhelmed is often the result of an inability to say NO. Here is an article that will help you learn how to become more comfortable saying NO.

Most of us will experience feeling overwhelmed at some time. It’s what we do about it that’s important. Like the kid in the Far Side cartoon, we need to be aware when our brains are full, excuse ourselves and take a break!

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So, what about you?

What happens to you when you become overwhelmed?

What strategies do you use when you’ve become overwhelmed?

Look for my new PhotoStory post on Monday!

25 comments on “What You Can Do When Overwhelmed

  1. Yes, I know this feeling, well! These are great bits of practical advice. I’ve found that letting go can involve actually deciding you’re not going to do something you planned on doing (like scrub the shower or make a cheesecake for dessert) or it can involve writing things down on a list, and assigning those items to different days, so you can let go of them at least for now. I’m also trying to be more proactive about asking for help. That’s hard to do, sometimes!

    Kristin T. (@kt_writes)s last blog post..Seder in Farmer City, revisted

    • Sara says:

      @ Kristin — I liked all your suggestions. The one that really grabbed me is about asking for help. I also find this difficult. Yet, asking for help can be one of quickest ways to handle feeling overwhelmed, especially when there are things you can’t prioritize or put aside. It’s interesting that we find this hard to do, don’t you think?

  2. Evita says:

    Sara this is fantastic advice!!! I cannot tell you how much I have on my plate now, but I am one of those people who does prioritize and do not let things overwhelm me.

    Am I happy that I have all these things, well no, but at the same time, I put them there, so in some ways yes.

    The point too that I think people have to realize is that we have choices along each moment, and so many of these things that we constantly tell ourselves we “have to do” – often we don’t. When we look at our lives, do we not realize that we are where we are out of the choices we made? And hence have put the “to do’s” there ourselves?

    I could easily feel overwhelmed now with the things I have going on but I really try to take it one moment at a time and never let the real priorities like health and family life suffer. (That’s just my advice 😉

    Evitas last blog post..The Potential Within

    • Sara says:

      @ Evita — Very good point about looking at our choices. I think it’s a good idea to look at our choices and figure out how important they are right now in our lives. It’s kind of like cleaning the stuffed closet and figuring out what you want to keep and what you can let go of:~)

      I also agree with you about where you put priorities. This is very good advice! On the other hand, it can challenging to put family, friends, personal health at the top of list in societies which believe work/success should be sitting there…it’s kind of like swimming against the tide. Fortunately, I have the feeling you are a very strong swimmer, Evita!

  3. Patricia says:

    Hey Sara,
    I went to a medical intuitive to help me solve the problem of the pain in my abdominal area that no one could define it or resolve it. (I will write about this experience soon on my blog) She said that we have 3 buckets: physical, soul, and spirit…my soul bucket is overflowing and that is causing the pain….after a short treatment I was pain free for 2.5 days; after 4 months of sleeping in a chair on heating pads! I was also hyper active. Now I need to learn to recognize a full bucket myself and how to heal it myself….this has to do with my WILL …I am still working on figuring this out. But your post spoke buckets of wisdom to me today – thank you!
    Good post….and Gary Larson used to live down the road from me…a very funny guy…he always turned in his bank slips with a cartoon on it and delighted the tellers, who posted them for the rest of us to enjoy.

    Patricias last blog post..Book Review: Everything Bad is Good For You ~ Steven Johnson

    • Sara says:

      @ Patricia — You are such an explorer…always willing to try something new…that’s a real gift. I have always interested in medical intuitives and will look forward to your post very much. I can’t believe you met Gary Larson…lucky you. He has always been my favorite cartoonist and I miss his cartoons. Leaving a cartoon on a bank slip is something I could see him doing. Good luck with healing your bucket…I will send good thought you way about this :~)

  4. Vikum says:

    Hi Sara,
    Recently I have found a weakness in me. Lack of courage to say “NO”. I think most of the people are suffering from that. And it’s good that you can find ” how to become comfortable in saying no” in “the sharing connection”. Thanks for making me understand. And the mini breaks.Those are the things which really work for me. Taking a little walk is also good when it’s possible.
    Thanks for the great tips.
    Have a great day!

    • Sara says:

      @ Vikum — I’m glad you liked the post. I will admit saying NO can be challenging, especially when you’re like me and you want to please people. On the other hand, I have stretched myself into sickness because I couldn’t say NO. One time after working way too many hours on a project with a very unrealistic deadline, I finally exhausted myself into telling the person that I couldn’t meet the deadline. To my surprise, she didn’t blink an eye and asked me how much time I needed. I had fretted so much about telling her NO and then when I finally did it, it was so easy…if I had only done it sooner. LOL

      Yeah…I like mini-breaks too and I agree a nice walk can really clear the head. Thank you for sharing your thoughts :~)

  5. Hi Sara, I LOVE the Far Side. One way of looking at this cartoon is how funny it is that our traditional school system is so inefficient. Kids are lumped together while information is uniformly crammed into their brains whether they’re retaining it or not.

    I definitely struggle with overload. Thanks for the reminder, I think I’m going to take a break now and play xbox. Yay!

    Sterling Okuras last blog post..Recent Projects Built With Free Tools

    • Sara says:

      @ Sterling — I absolutely love Far Side and Gary Larson’s cartoons. I know he’s writing books now, but I miss his cartoons! I also agree you about the school system. Where I live, it seems to joy of learning gets lost by the focus on student testing. It’s heartbreaking when a student fails…not because he/she couldn’t learn, but because they didn’t learn in the traditional way. I believe we need to be more flexible about this…perhaps this another reason why so many more children are being home schooled.

      I hope you enjoyed your xbox play:~)

  6. I absolutely love the cartoon! I haven’t seen it before…I used to feel overwhelmed when my children were small. I was 22 when the twins were born, the 3rd and 4th girls.

    I was Oscar the Grouch for the first 8 years (nice way of putting it) because I was overwhelmed and it never left. The 8th year I sent the twins to kindergarden (they were four) only then did it let up a little.

    But hey I’m not complaining, they are grown now and I’ll always feel like I’m Easy Street because nothing has been or will be as overwhelming as that period in my life.

    I’m also reaping the rewards in so many ways. This is a great list. One thing that worked for me was I started my day at 5 am so I had a quiet hour each morning.

    Tess The Bold Lifes last blog post..My Kid Did Something Bold & Thrilling

    • Sara says:

      @ Tess — I’m glad you liked the cartoon! Gary Larson is so funny. Regarding your comment about your twins, my English as a second language student (ESL) has four-year-old twin boys and I’ve gained a great deal of admiration for people who have twins from hearing her stories. I can’t believe you start your day at 5am…I wish I could do that. Unfortunately, I’m the night owl kind of person and my day usually ends around midnight or 1AM. I like the morning, however, because it’s always nice to watch the day wake up:~)

  7. Mark says:

    It is too easy to get caught up in life and become overwhelmed. You have provided some good suggestions on this can be avoided or the very least taken care of. Thanks.

    Marks last blog post..Agony In The Garden

  8. I was getting a bit overwhelmed with blogging as I felt as tho I had to read every post as soon as every blogging friend has published. And comment immediately.

    Now I’ve got a handle on it and take it as it comes.

    I think it’s nice to to take a nice walk too and hug a tree, enjoy nature when you’re feeling the pressure of things. That helps bring things back into focus.

    Like the mini-break idea. Will go to that link NOW…..

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..Trio

    • Sara says:

      @ Jannie — I’ve had lots of different jobs, but blogging seems to be the one in which I’ve seen the most burnout. Once you get in an established blogging community, it IS easy to get overwhelmed by our desire to comment on our friends’ posts. On the other hand, life is what it is. Given that for most bloggers, the blog is the second or third job, there will be times when you just can’t get there. I think most bloggers understand this. From my perspective, I love having you stop by for a visit, but if you need to go hug a tree or take a nice long walk, I would definitely understand…since that’s something I need to do once in awhile:~)

  9. Davina says:

    Hi Sara. While I was reading this again, I had the idea that overwhelm is comparable to blurry thinking. But the thinking is blurry because we’re not stopping on one thought long enough to deal with it. Everything gets lumped together and we can’t process it all at once. I’ve noticed that when this happens I’m living in my head and thinking too much about doing and less about being. A couple of good questions to ask yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed is, “Who am I being right now?” and “What are you absolutely sure of right now?” That will stop you and slow down the blur.

    Davinas last blog post..What Have You Done for Your Blog Lately?

    • Sara says:

      @ Davina — I really like your visual image of blurry thinking! It makes me think of trying to cross a super highway as all the cars rush by. If we just put things in slow motion, like they do in movies, things would be so much easier :~) Also thanks for excellent suggestion about the questions we can ask ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed. I think they would be helpful to anyone and put things in perspective! Thanks.

  10. Hi Sara – I love the cartoon. I’ve felt that way many times.

    When I feel overwhelmed, I do try to step back and see what I can take off of my plate. Wanting to do it all is a natural tendency of mine, but I’ve learned the laundry and dishes wait for me. My blogging buddies understand I’m as busy as they are, and I’ve also learned how to say “no”.

    What I do find is when I’m feeling the most overwhelmed is when I haven’t taken time for me. Sometimes all it takes is a short break, a walk outside, a leisurely drive or just sitting and putting my feet up. Recognizing this has been a real breakthrough as I’ve become more attuned to the “why”.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Gain Readers By Selling Yourself

    • Sara says:

      @ Barbara — I agree totally with you that feeling overwhelmed can be the result of not taking time for yourself! This is a very important part of handling being overwhelmed. It’s seems like such a logical thing to do, but our work can sometimes seem like sea sirens calling us to the rocks. When we hear that sound of that voice crying “keep going a few more minutes, just finish this one more thing, or you can take a break later”….that IS when to put things down and STEP AWAY. I congratulate you, Barbara, for recognizing the sea sirens and taking time for yourself:~)

  11. Jim says:

    I needed this today. I’ve been overwhelmed because of work and an upcoming trip and I took a mini break that helped. I also took my lap top out on the screen porch and even though I have to work it was much easier listening to the birds and smelling the fresh air. Thanks, you saved my sanity (however little that is left)

    • Sara says:

      @ Jim — I am so pleased you found this post helpful. I hope you have a wonderful time on your upcoming trip and that your sanity is saved :~)

  12. Dear Sara:
    I am taking an Academic Writing online class, one of my lessons was about visuals that support a thesis(if i decide to use any.) I was looking for some images that will fit with my essay concerning ESL College Students that struggle and how this affect thier educational carreer.
    Your post is good, but I like the cartoon. This represent me once in a while when my brain cannot take it no more…lol
    So i will like to let you know that i will mention you in my post and why these cartoon could be a good visual to represent my subject.
    Besides the post it is great for my personal use.

    • Sara says:

      @ Ericka — I have no problem with this, but please give credit for the cartoon to Gary Larson of The Far Side. It’s not my cartoon and it is copyrighted. I don’t want you to get in any trouble with your teachers:~)

      I’m please that you like the post and you didn’t run on…you should see my comments:~)

  13. sorry for the miss spelling I have the tendency to run sometimes 🙂

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