Feeling overwhelmed? 11 practical ways to overcome it

Are you feeling overwhelmed right now? Do you feel like you are on the verge of burnout?

When you are overwhelmed,  the first thing you must do is stop doing whatever you are doing and clear the cobwebs.

Image credit: topgold via Flickr, Creative Commons.

As busy executives, professionals, businessmen, entrepreneurs…heck even as parents, it is all too common for us to go into a state of complete overwhelm very once in a while. You feel like your brain is overflowing with ideas, to-do lists, incomplete projects, dreams, worries, aspirations, conversations you need to have, items you want to purchase….the list goes on and on! You may even be in a situation where your desk or file is overflowing with written lists – which you have not been able to revisit.

This build-up eventually causes you to become paralyzed into inaction. It can also lead to stress-related physical, emotional and psychological illnesses.

When I go thru to this phase, I end up becoming frustrated and dejected. And as my family would attest, I become irritable and unbearable (they would use far more unkind words to describe me, I am sure). I feel like my brain cannot process any more information, and no new ideas can be crammed into the space I have already overused.

And the moment I cajole myself into starting to tackle at least one end of the list, I cannot help being reminded of the vast number of incompletes. I then stop. Completely. And walk off in the quickest direction. Watch TV. Goof off.

Not the most productive way to deal with the problem.

But then, I discovered some effective ways to deal with this nagging sense of overwhelm. Here are a few specific tactics to get over it when it hits you:

1. Un-routine:

Break any routine you have. No matter how productive. Just break it. And live by the moment. For a few days. As I discuss in this earlier post, it can help you break out of the rut.


2. Rest & relax:

Get good quality and quantity sleep. Switch off all your tech gadgets and go snooze.

Secondly, make sure you are breathing deeply, engaging your abdomen in the process. Much stress remains unresolved due to shallow, inadequate breathing.


3. Go easy on yourself:

Firmly tell yourself that things can wait. Life’s journey is more important. Unless it’s not life-threatening to not do it, your to-do list can be put on hold.


4. Take a walk:

This is possibly the most therapeutic way out of overwhelm. Take a few thousand steps and let you mind wander with it. I have found that ‘walking without an agenda’ simply vaporises a lot of worries, and offers new inspiration to solve the remaining ones.


5. Meditate:

Alright, here you will need some discipline. But trust me, once you get down to it, the results are truly remarkable. You see, meditation works because it has no agenda attached to it. You don’t do anything during meditation, you just ‘be’.


6. Read something completely contrarian:

If you have been reading something academic or related to your work, put it off for a while and pick up some fiction. If you have been reading too much fiction, why not indulge in something totally unrelated, like a biography, or design or travel?


7. Indulge in random activities:

Do things by the whim of the moment (as long as they are not harmful to you or others in the long term – remember you don’t get to leave behind your common sense at any cost). Throw your to-do list away and promise to yourself that today you will engage in activities as they occur to you. Without prior planning. Without judging too much.


8. Have long conversations:

Having a stimulating talk with someone who shares your wavelength will do wonders to your state of mind.


9. Fill in some humour:

Watch some YouTube videos of funny animals or comedy movies, (or watch entire movies that you enjoy), meet someone with a sense of humor, read some goofy jokes!


10. Visualize emptiness:

Imagine your entire list, entire hard-drive and entire work has been burnt. Its all empty. You get to start afresh. Stay in that moment and relish the feeling of getting to start anew.


11. Keep the bare-minimum work-routine:

Keep doing some work, but stop as soon as it gets to you. Rest. Repeat.

While you are at it, make sure to try out some energy-booster techniques mentioned in this post to gelp elevate your mood!

Once you follow these steps for a while, you will clear some of the cobwebs, and reclaim some valuable mental real-estate. I cannot suggest how long you should do this – it can vary. For me, there are times when I do this for a couple of hours, few days and sometimes for as long as a month. When you are ready to go back to your routine, you will know. And you will find yourself returning to your original routine with a renewed interest and enthusiasm.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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