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Jen has stacks and stacks of papers, files, and books on her desk, chair, and floor in her office.  “The file’s here somewhere,” she thinks to herself, her voice tinged with a hint of anxiety.

In today’s world, you’re in the minority if you don’t feel overwhelmed from time-to-time.  Even kids are over-scheduled, overwhelmed with homework, and they’re cranky because of the crazy schedules and long hours trying to fit everything in.  Our kids are on the path to adult overwhelm–the pattern is starting earlier and earlier.

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” ~Steve Maraboli

As a parent, we don’t mean to be modeling overwhelm to our children.  And as an adult, we certainly don’t want to experience overwhelm in general.  Sometimes it’s good to have a little stress in the system to make you perform at higher levels.  When I think of this kind of stress, I think of the adrenaline rush I feel when I’m at the starting line of a 5k race.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” ~Leonard Bernstein

The feeling of overwhelm is an interesting experience.  You’ve got the physical symptoms of stress–maybe a racing heart, a headache, jitteriness perhaps; then you’ve got the emotional and psychological components.  You’re irritable, you’re scattered, you’re about to blow a gasket or cry.  Overwhelm is an uncomfortable feeling, but it’s more than a feeling–it’s a thought process.  It’s also biological.  As humans, we are wired to selectively focus on one thing at a time.  A long time ago, if we wanted to eat, we’d need to focus on getting food.  It didn’t matter if the cave was getting messy, food took precedence as did safety.  We had our priorities straight back then–we had to!

With most of our basic survival needs met, we have now as a society become focused on getting other needs met, which sometimes means things come at a cost.  We are teaching a new generation to work hard, play hard, and basically you can have it all if you just try, try, try and do, do, do more.  Without priorities in place, a time for relaxation and to balance out the demands of everyday life, and support to help you get through it all; people are left to scurry through life missing its most important moments.

How can you deal with overwhelm?

  • Write it down.  What’s got to get done?
  • Remind yourself that it will all get done.  It always does.
  • Figure out your priorities.  Focus on these, weed the other things out.
  • Take 3 deep breaths.
  • Get connected with your heart chakra.  Take 5 minutes in the morning to close your eyes, put your hands on your chest, and breathe in love, breathe out the stress and worry.  Let it go.
  • Start a meditation practice.  A regular meditation practice helps with stress and focus.
  • Use self-care.  Don’t neglect your needs.
  • Start saying “no.”  Focus on your priorities.
  • Are you organized?  Take the time to organize your paperwork, schedule, etc.
  • Have a schedule that works for you.
  • Ask for help.
  • Delegate.
  • Is this a pattern with you?  Do you feel you perform better if there’s more adrenalin rushing through your system?
  • Realize, there’s no such thing as perfection.  Give it your best effort with a good attitude.

How do you handle overwhelm?  How often are you overwhelmed?  How do you stay organized and on track?