Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

Ask Dr. Zoe – What Steps Can I Take to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed?

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‘Over Feeling Overwhelmed’ Asked:

Dr. Zoe,

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I just want to give up. There have been things in my life (like chronic illness) that have helped me develop more grit. I now know that I can keep going if I have to, but my first reaction to feeling overwhelmed is usually wanting to quit (if possible). It’s like I just want to escape.

I have learned a couple things, like telling myself if I have gotten through the things I’ve gotten through, then I can do this, too. Also, reminding myself to chunk things down into smaller steps helps. I think I see the big, overwhelming thing and feel like it’s impossible to figure out… so just doing one small step sometimes helps that feeling to go away.

Last, one thing I do is finish something on my plate that’s been lingering. There’s something about completing something that has been hanging over my head helps me feel more energetic. Anyway, I just wondered if you had some words of advice for me? Thank you!

Dr. Zoe Answered:

You just gave some excellent advice to someone who struggles with feeling overwhelmed. It sounds like you’re not givingNeed to Stop Procrastinating? How to Eat Your Frog? yourself enough credit for the work that you’re already doing to help yourself. In addition to what you are already implementing, I would like to remind you to work on finding acceptance for your overwhelm.

Although you are growing muscles, and will feel overwhelmed less, expect that overwhelm will always show up when there is something big you need to tackle. Figure out how to make friends with it. When it arrives at the party, uninvited, greet it with, “I knew you were coming. I’ve got a seat for you over there.” When you stop expecting it to go away, you can use its appearance as a reminder that it’s time to take action.

First, sit down and have a chat with it. Write down all the things that you can think of that you need to do to get this task done. Address that its presence makes you feel like giving up and explain all the reasons why you refuse to. Then, walk away and start using the skills you already know.

1. Chunking

When you chunk, it’s best to write down the smaller steps and put them out of view, so that you can just focus on the next task only. When that task is done, uncover the next one.

2. Asking For Help

I noticed you didn’t mention asking for help or delegating as a coping mechanism. You are not Superwoman. She’s a fictitious character. When you feel overwhelmed, make a short list of who you can delegate to or ask for help. A good rule of thumb is if anyone else can do it, you shouldn’t be doing it. Stick to the tasks that no one else can do and delegate the rest.

3. Let Off Some Steam and Get Physical

This might seem counterintuitive because I know you have so much to do, but sitting in a cesspool of fear, frustration and procrastination caused by overwhelm only paralyzes you. When I’m feeling completely overwhelmed, the first thing I do is go on a run with no distractions. I often work things out in my head regarding whatever it is that I need to do and if not, I still come back to the table feeling more relaxed, more creative and able to tackle the tasks at hand.

4. Talk It Out

There is something that happens in our brain when we vent that feels productive. It’s one of the reasons why complaining can be so addictive and destructive. It doesn’t solve anything and you haven’t taken any action towards fixing your issue, but it does make you feel better. So vent to a friend, vent to your spouse and give notice that you’re venting, so they don’t feel a need to fix it. After your vent, take action.

You are already doing a great job with your feelings of overwhelm. Implement a few of these tips and you will continue to handle what life throws at you with grit and grace! You’ve got this!

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