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Feeling Overwhelmed: Coping with the Pressures of Work and Life

Image of a work desk piled high, and a hand reaching up above the stack of folders

We all experience feelings of overwhelm at some point in our lives. Life these days seems to throw all sorts of things at us. Whether it's due to work demands, personal challenges, or a combination of both, feeling overwhelmed can be a source of stress and anxiety.

The Paralysis of Overwhelm

When you are feeling like you are swamped and just can't cope with one more thing, something has to give. Feeling overwhelmed can make it hard to even know where or how to start! Worse, that overwhelm makes it harder to think clearly - which makes knowing where to start even more difficult.

Even though it may seem like the last thing you need, take a moment to try to calm yourself. Slow, steady breaths, focusing on the feeling of your lungs expanding and contracting, can slow your racing thoughts from the overwhelm. Once you begin to feel calmer, look at the tasks you see before you. Make a list. When you write them down, it frees that part of your brain that was staying vigilant trying to remember it. Make certain that everything on the list needs to be done. Often, we set ourselves tasks out of habit. "I always wipe all the counters in the break room before I start my day" may be a decent habit when you have the time, but if the counters are clean enough, they can wait - or be wiped by someone else.

Prioritizing Tasks: Immediate, Soon, Eventually

Next, prioritize. While, when each task got your attention initially, it seemed important, not all of them are the same level of urgency. Perhaps group them with "Immediate", "Soon", "Eventually" or some other categorizations that work for you. Then tackle the most immediately urgent item on the list. Don't forget to cross it off your list once done. (Crossing it off helps trigger reward systems in your brain, creating satisfaction.) If there are things on your list that you can delegate, do so. You may be capable of doing each item on the list, but if others can lighten your load, why not let them?

Embracing Imperfection and Celebrating Achievements

There may be days that you truly can't get all the things done that you hoped to. But that doesn't mean the day was a waste, or that you are a failure. Look at your list, and see what got crossed off. Celebrate your achievements, too. You worked for them! Remember, too, that everyone occasionally has times that they feel overwhelmed. If you are finding it challenging to achieve enough calm to be able to think things through, remember that HOLD's trained professional listeners provide a safe and confidential space for individuals to express their feelings and work through challenges such as feeling overwhelmed. With our emotional support and guidance, you can begin to find balance and reduce stress in your life.

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