Have you ever been in a situation where you have all these plans laid out to get things done one by one, but then an unexpected crisis comes along and completely throws you off track? Suddenly, too many things are happening too quickly, and you wish there was a pause button so you could just take a moment to breathe. It’s easy to lose sight of yourself when you feel overwhelmed…and for the past couple of weeks, that’s how it has been for me.
One of my goals for this year was to complete my work-in-progress and get ready for my postgraduate studies by the end of the first quarter. Well…we are at the end of the first quarter, but due to some “hiccups” along the way (some of which I mentioned in my last life updates post) things aren’t really going as planned.
In spite of these challenges though, I will admit that I have been dealing with the situation a little bit better than I did before. A few years ago, these setbacks would have had me quitting halfway, and getting into constant clashes with my family members. I am not proud of this, but I have a terrible habit of lashing out at my loved ones when I am struggling with anxiety.
Instead of resorting to violent and emotional outbursts, I have been turning to my family for my comfort this year. While that’s not entirely healthy either–I know that my constant need for emotional support must also take a toll on them–at least this way, my decision to be vulnerable has helped me communicate better with them.
I am still facing all the symptoms of stress and anxiety—I have had panic attacks at least once a week at work this whole year, and I haven’t had a good night of sleep in God knows how long—but in spite of all that, I have been making progress in achieving my goals, and that’s the silver lining I am going to hold on to.
5 Things To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed
If like me, you also often find yourself struggling to deal with stress, here are a few things you can do when you feel overwhelmed. These techniques have helped me quite a bit this year, and I want to share them here mostly as inspiration for the future me who will re-read this post, but also for anyone who is going through similar experiences.
1. Choose What To Prioritize…And Leave Out All The Rest
This is probably one of the most important life lessons I learned in my young adult years. Most of the time, I feel overwhelmed because I look at the things I want to get done and it’s such a long list that I feel scared before I even start.
I have learned, slowly but surely, that to get some you gotta lose some. There’s an opportunity cost to everything, and you cannot have it all. You need to know what you cannot live without and let go of the rest…maybe not forever, but for the time being at least.
The real struggle here is choosing what to prioritize. For many years, I dedicated too much of my time and energy to things that I knew I needed realistically, but not what I truly wanted. I had dreamed of getting a book published before I turned 25…and yet I couldn’t complete my first draft until the end of last year.
I only have myself to blame for this. I prioritized other things–I worried too much about grades, I worried too much about not earning enough, and I worried too much about a degree that didn’t quite spark any passion in me.
Looking back, I know now that those things would have come to me eventually, but I could have made more time for myself. For my dreams.
And that’s what I am prioritizing right now. Life will always keep interrupting–just last weekend I got tons of work-related messages when I wanted to spend my weekend on my first draft. But I made the decision not to even think about work when weekends are the only time I get for myself. I dedicate 5 days of the week to my job, I owe it to myself to dedicate two days a week to my own dreams.
Everything else can take a back seat, thank you very much.
So when you feel overwhelmed next time, remember what you really want from this life. Remember what life you want to live, what kind of person you want to be. Choose your priorities, and devote yourself to them. All the rest can wait.
2. Turn Your Anxious Thoughts Into Excitement And Anticipation
Sometimes, we worry about things that we are anticipating; things that we are excited for. We look forward to it so much, that the idea of anything going wrong feels paralyzing.
I personally face this a lot when I feel very inspired to write. Even though I am excited by my ideas, the fear of not being able to execute them properly on paper gives me crippling anxiety, and I end up wasting more time panicking than you know…doing the actual writing.
If you are like me, then you can try to talk yourself down when you feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing something that’s important to you. Remind yourself why you want to do it, and what joy you’ll get from it, and try to focus on that instead of trying to make it perfect.
3. Talk About Your Struggles Instead Of Reacting To Them
Now this one is a struggle in and of itself. It’s not easy for me to talk about, but I almost always turn to my family when I am anxious and stressed out…and not in a good way.
I know that my negative energies are a burden on them. I know it must be exhausting for them to constantly reassure me that I will be okay. And knowing this makes me feel so worthless and undeserving of their love that I get angry at myself…and somehow that anger sometimes misfires and my loved ones become the target.
It’s toxic, and I wish I could say I am a better person, but I am not. My emotions often get the best of me, and it usually ends up with me lashing out at my family or weighing them down with my anxieties and worries.
And so, I have decided to go through counseling sessions because I think it would be easier, and healthier if I talk about my problems with a professional instead of reacting to them.
This was not an easy decision to make. I was raised by a mother who taught me that mental health issues are things people make up as an excuse for being irresponsible and ambitionless. In the past couple of years, she has learned to accept that depression is real, but even then, when I brought up the topic of needing a counselor to her recently, she called me “weak” and it made me kind of want to die.
I know better though. But knowing something is true, and unlearning things you have been taught your entire life are two different things.
4. But When You Do React…Go Easy On Yourself
One of the most important lessons I have learned in my twenties is that forgiving is one of the hardest things to do in life. And the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
I know that even if I seek professional help for my anxiety, I will still react in an unhealthy way. I will still make mistakes. Because I am human.
The best I can do is keep trying my best and forgiving myself every time I slip up.
5. Remember That These Times Will Pass…They Always Do
When I look back on some of the most trying times of my life, when I remember the times when I thought I’d hit rock bottom and it couldn’t get worse, I realize that those times have passed. I remember that I pulled through.
And so I keep repeating that mantra every day. No matter how difficult things are, the day will end. And these times will pass. They always do.
It’s not easy being human. Every day we are surrounded by a million things that demand our attention. It’s easy to lose sight of what matters amidst all the noise and chaos. It’s easy to forget your inner spark when you feel overwhelmed and overburdened by a million responsibilities that weigh you down like bricks.
Most days we are either stuck in the past or worrying about what to do in the future. But life’s too short for that. It’s important to stay in the moment as much as we can and remember that the here and now is what matters the most.