Imagine you wake up on top of the world. You’re to do list is in order. And nothing can stop you. But then, in the blink of an eye, one of the wheels on your tightly scheduled day falls off. And you feel as if your life is careening out of control. And you ask yourself why. Why you feel overwhelmed so much of the time.
Oh, darling, I feel you. And you are not alone. It happens to me, too, though I hate admitting it.
And it would be so easy to pull the Life Coach line of “feeling overwhelmed is a choice.” Yet, though I intellectually know that we are always in choice? That’s super hard to remember when my heart is racing and my mind is scattered. What I’ve learned to mitigate those feelings and feel like I’m back on top of things is to get to the reason why I feel overwhelmed in that moment.
Here are Nine Reasons Why You Feel Overwhelmed
One: Are you trying to please everyone? That is a common reason why you feel overwhelmed.
If you are like so many women (and men) that I know, you probably say “Yes” to too many things. Yes, I’ll bake cookies for the bake sale. Of course, I’ll attend all the parties (even though I’m exhausted). And in order to say “yes” to everyone else, you’re probably saying “no” or “later” to yourself. I’ll sleep later. No, I don’t have time for a massage. Maybe I’ll do Christmas my own way…next year.
We say “yes” to the desires of others because we want to be loved. We say “yes” to others in hopes that see us as valuable, good, and cooperative. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, just understand that the people pleasing has to stop.
What to do about it: Darling, you have got to learn to say no. Yes, I know that you worry that people won’t like you. Or that they will withdraw their love and affection from you. Know that you are deserving of unconditional love. Especially from yourself. Shore up your boundaries, my dear, and be willing to disappoint others so that you don’t disappoint yourself.
Two: Holding yourself to an unreasonable level of perfection will make you feel overwhelmed.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that perfection is exhausting. And toxic. And impossible. Because life will never BE perfect. Yes, you will have moments that a practically perfect. But perfectionism is an impossible standard to hold yourself to. Because it’s impossible, that means that striving for it will always shift you into a state of stress. And that leads to feeling overwhelmed and burned out.
What to do about it: Make peace with the fact that you WILL make mistakes. And, darling, mistakes are not fatal. They are a way to shift and grow. Besides, perfection is overrated, darling.
Three – If you are level with a level of uncertainty, of course you may be feeling overwhelmed.
When we are dealing with uncertainty in our lives, of course you may be feeling overwhelmed and stressed. This includes being unhappy with our work or being in the midst of a job search. Relationship challenges can be a place of limbo, trying to decide if you’re going to stay or go. And sometimes, even good kinds of uncertainty – like the days leading to a vacation can cause you to feel overwhelmed.
I know that limbo is uncomfortable. I know that you want to make the right decisions to propel your life forward. Not knowing does feel overwhelming.
What to do about it: Remind yourself that nothing in life is certain. And that we will always be waiting for the next thing. In the meantime, your role during limbo? Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. Remind yourself to enjoy life now. As it is. Stop waiting for the next big event and remember that this experience of living during limbo makes up a huge chunk of our lives.
Four – Another reason you feel overwhelmed is because you’re constantly bombarded by noise.
Feeling as if you don’t have a moment of quiet? Like you’re always being assaulted by sounds? You know: your phone is constantly dinging with texts and alerts. Your appliances are noisy when running and then beep to let you know their job is completed. (How do I silence that darned dishwasher?). Those video games your kiddo is playing and the loop of watching the same movie over and over again? Not to mention the complaining co-worker across the hall…
All the noises and demands are overwhelming. Especially when you don’t seem to get much of a break from it. And science supports the need for quiet. Researches found that when mice had at least two hours of silence per day, their brains developed new brain cells in the hippocampus. That’s the part of the brain that controls memory, emotion and learning. So, if you’re bombarded by noises all the time, of course that’s a reason why you feel overwhelmed.
What to do about it: Darling, you have got to have some quiet time. Mute your phone for a few hours. Choose reading a book over watching TV at least once a week. Begin having a “quiet time” when your family as at home so you, your partner, and your kiddos get the benefits of silence. At first, silence may feel uncomfortable, but soon you’ll notice you aren’t feeling quite so overwhelmed.
Five – Speaking of noise, physical noise (aka clutter) causes you to feel overwhelmed, too.
Even when you’re having a great day, returning to messy home can shift you into feeling overwhelmed. It’s not your imagination. And you’re not alone. Researches found that dealing with clutter causes blood pressure to rise. And if clutter is to a point that you can’t find important things – like your keys – you’re more likely to stay in that stressed out state.
What to do about it: It’s imperative that you get at least one room under control so that you have a place to retreat to in your home. I’ve shared how to declutter a room in a day, so take that advice and use it to get some momentum. Oh, and creating a “launch pad” for each family member will be a life saver. What’s a launch pad? It’s a designated spot for everything you need before leaving the house for work and school.
Six – You may feel overwhelmed because you’re spending too much of your time on things that don’t really matter in the long run.
Are you spending too much time in meetings and not enough time working on projects? Or dealing with tasks that could be delegated? If you’re busy all the time, it may not be the simple issue of having too much on your plate. It could be you are working on things that feel urgent, but aren’t really important.
What’s adding to feeling overwhelmed, too, is spending time mindlessly surfing, for example, when you have a deadline. And then feeling stressed and overwhelmed that you may not meet a deadline.
What to do about it: It’s time to examine your priorities. While this can feel limiting at first, what you are Prioritization empowers you to focus on the most important tasks while shelving unimportant work for later. Apply the concept of the Four Quadrants for the classic Seven Habits for Highly Effective People. Divide tasks into: Urgent & Important / Not-Urgent & Important / Urgent & Not Important / Not Urgent & Not Important. This can help you better focus and reduce those feelings of overwhelm.
Seven – If you’re running on an empty tank, that’s a big reason why you feel overwhelmed.
My dear, you are a finite resource. That means that you need to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself means getting enough sleep every night. Eating well, and by eating well, I mean eating regular meals that are made up of good foods. No skipping meals and making up with overly sweetened lattes. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but you have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to take care of others.
What to do about it: You need to make caring for yourself a priority. Stop using the excuse that you don’t have the time. Ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Fuel your body with quality protein and lots of vegetables.
Eight – It’s possible you have undiagnosed ADD (or ADHD) and it’s causing you to feel overwhelmed.
Though you may joke about being ADD, it’s possible that it’s a reality. ADHD is a medical diagnosis that means your brain is wired a little differently. It’s a condition they just didn’t diagnose when most of us were children. I was informed that I was the ADD parent when my daughters were diagnosed. While I was a little surprised at first, it sure explained a lot to me. Like why I could zone in on a subject I was interested in. Yet couldn’t focus when I became bored with a project.
Because your brain may be wired a little differently, too much stimulus and too many tasks can make it even harder to focus, which is why you feel overwhelmed. Don’t beat yourself up.
What to do about it: You can take an online test to see if you have the symptoms. You can talk to your doctor or find a therapist. Maybe medication is in order. Or maybe, you just need to learn some new skills. And create really solid routines to help you stay on-track. This will help you feel less overwhelmed.
I have never taken medication because I had enough coping skills (hello, systems!) in my arsenal to keep me on track. My personal go-to when I feel especially scattered and overwhelmed: coffee. See, caffeine is a stimulant (so are ADHD meds). And rather than make you wired, if you are ADD/ADHD, caffeine focuses your brain.
Now that you know some of the reasons why you feel overwhelmed, you can do something about it!
I know that when you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, and on the edges of burnout, it may feel a little hopeless. What I know for sure, though, is that once you understand why, it empowers you to make decisions. And sometimes, simply knowing why you’re feeling this way is a relief. It isn’t that you can’t manage your life. There are factors – some of which are truly temporary.
I also know that when you address the causes of feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you can feel like your life is back on track. And that’s what’s important. That your daily life feel not just manageable, but nourishing. I know you can do it. And moreover, I know that you deserve to enjoy your daily life.
I’ve offered some solutions to many of the reasons why you may be feeling burned out, stressed out, and overwhelmed. Sometimes, the best way to deal is to find someone to help you figure it out. And create a plan.
Coaching can be an amazing way to get the support you need. Coaching allows you to talk through the causes of challenges and move forward. Do you desperately need support around your crazy-busy life? You can find details about packages and pricing here.
Get in touch or drop me an email at: debra AT debrasmouse.com and we’ll schedule a call to see if we’re a good fit.