life hacks for when you're feeling overwhelmed

Okay, I'm going to be honest, feeling overwhelmed is a natural part of being human. I don't know if these tips will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed, but it's my hope they will help when you do feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed feelings can paralyze us, and prevent us from even getting started. Often people see only the entire journey, the entire project, or all of the work it will take to reach their goal, and fail to realize goals are reached by putting in small doses of energy, consistently, over time. Below are a few tips I use, and discuss with my clients to help when anxiety and goals are feeling too overwhelming.

  • Set yourself small achievable goals within your large goal. Most people avoid beginning in the first place, because they feel too overwhelmed by the big picture. Setting small subgoals that feel achievable and doable are a trick for getting started, and thus one step closer to the goal. For example, if you have a large paper to write, just set yourself the daily goal to write one page of a crappy rough draft. Allow yourself to stop after you've written a page if you just aren't feeling it, and feel good about achieving your daily goal. Chances are, you'll write something better than a crappy rough draft, and you may even decide to keep going after you've completed the first page. Getting started is usually the hardest part.
  • Identify what you have control over, what you don't, and focus energy accordingly. Much of the time we lament over the things we don't have control over, and thus our energy is wasted on situations we can't do anything about. We have control over our own actions, how we choose to react, and what we put energy towards. For example, if one is clinically depressed, changing your mood immediately is most likely out of your control. What you can do, however is put energy into behaviors that may get you closer to your goal of improving your mood (e.g. opening all the windows and blinds, getting out to walk everyday, showering). Sometimes, just acknowledging what we don't have control over and letting go of those things can free up energy for us to put towards what we want to change.
  • Remind yourself that feeling overwhelmed is normal and take a deep breath. Often, we fight the feelings we don't want to feel. What we fight, we strengthen. Sometimes, just knowing that feeling overwhelmed is normal, accepting this feeling, and then refocusing our energy can help us to move on.  

Hope these tips were helpful. These are tips I use throughout my life, tips I used to help  get through graduate school, and tips I discuss with clients. Remember, large change is created, large goals are reached through small actions done on a consistent basis.