Difficult Situations

When You Feel Completely Overwhelmed

This is the third post in my new “Comfort Series,” where I will provide insight and advice for managing all the uncertainty and change swirling around us. Read the first post here and the second post here.

The feeling of being overwhelmed is often caused because of all the things you are dealing with at one time. You’re trying to do too much, for example. Or a onslaught of challenges arrive all at once. You have this feeling that it all has to be done this instant.

It’s during those time when you feel totally overwhelmed that you need to give yourself a good ‘ole reality check. More than likely, you don’t have to do everything right now or even today, for that matter. Furthermore, you simply can’t know how to respond to everything that’s thrown at you because, for one thing, so many things about our world right now are uncertain.

However, even in less troublesome times, it’s OK to not have all the answers. It’s OK to take a minute, breathe, prioritize and think about your next move.

You can handle this

I am here to tell you, you just have to focus on your priorities today. Not tomorrow, not next week and next month. Just today. That is the practice of mindfulness, and the ability to stay in the present. Don’t start thinking about the past; don’t look to the future. Focus on this moment.

Being “present” in the moment, to ourselves, our children, our partner and our own little worlds, helps to ground us and keep us centered, even as the rest of the world seems chaotic and out of control.

How to stay in the moment

One of my favorite exercises to recommend to clients is to use your senses to ground yourself or your children when you feel overwhelmed or upset.

  • Describe something you see, hear, smell, touch and taste.
  • Name five things you see, four things you hear, three things you smell, two things you taste and one thing you can touch or any variation of that.
  • Pick one thing you see and describe it in detail. For example, while while washing dishes, see the bubbles, listen to the water run out of faucet, feel the slickness of the plates as you rinse them and smell the soap. The exercise can work for any task or activity you are doing.

One of my favorite books is the Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. In it, he says, “If you will commit to showing up consistently, every day, no matter what, then you have already won well more than half the battle.”

So, when you feel those uneasy overwhelmed feelings creep in, take a step back and a big deep breath and focus on what’s in front of you. Show up today and take life one day at a time.

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