5 Things To Do When Life Gets Overwhelming

5 Things To Do When Life Gets Overwhelming

We have careers, family, bills, friends, random stuff to maintain--cars, house, etc.--professional associations, and a continuous cycle of paperwork to fill out and file. 

As a bonus, there's always pop-up nonsense, plus volunteering, aging parents, grocery shopping, school, kids, and, of course, dating or...not dating. And then there's more bills.

It can get hectic for a team of one to juggle the responsibility of daily life. Actually, it can be downright overwhelming. 

There's no easy answer for what to do when illness disrupts your life or, say, when a water pipe burst floods your home. Not to minimize the seriousness of catastrophe, but sometimes it's not the actual calamity that's the time-suck, it's the multitude of chores that accompany it and only one set of hands to do them.

On one hand, some of our problems are directly linked to abundance. Our loads of laundry are evidence that we have clothes. Our dirty dishes show that we have food. And dreaded car maintenance is clearly an indication that we have a convenient way of getting around. These are all things to be thankful for.

On the other hand, when we're overwhelmed there's hardly the mental capacity or emotional wherewithal to come up with reasons to be thankful. There's just exhaustion.

So what do we do when life gets overwhelming?

The easy answer is to drop everything that isn't essential.

But here's the better answer: re-evaluate what's important to you, then drop the non-essentials.

Imagine: you're 100 years old and minutes from exhaling your last breath. You're going over your life in your mind. What are your regrets?

Do you regret not staying at the office later? Regret not giving more of your time to that issue? Regret not doing laundry that one day? Will you weep over that meeting you didn't attend? 

I doubt it. I doubt you'll regret not giving more time to any of the unremarkable activities of your life. If anything, you'll regret having cared so much at the time. You'll regret having placed so much emphasis on optional time-sucks that added little to no value to your life--meetings, Twitter beefs, volunteering for off-the-clock work projects that you know good-and-well you aren't passionate about.  

What's important to you? Are you doing those things? Have you organized your life to support those things? 

Since letting non-essential things expire last year (like leadership positions) and giving no time to non-essential activities (like networking events and Facebook) and reserving my time for essential people in my life (those who bring joy and positivity), life has gotten a little less overwhelming and a lot more focused for me.

Instead of running to meet-ups after work, I'm doing things that have brought me more happiness and have produced tangible things.

I admit, there are just some things in life we cannot get around. But what about the things that you're placing so much importance on that if you gave up today your quality of life would improve? 

When life gets overwhelming:

1. Re-evaluate

What do you live for? What positive thing do you tend to gravitate to over and over? What are you passionate about? Structure your life to support those things.

All the things you do that you think are important at this moment may not be when weighing it against the vision for your life. For example, are you really going to die if you don't meet your self-imposed goals for fill-in-the-blank? Does your toddler really need to attend the third birthday party this month? 

Don't stress yourself. Re-evaluate to determine what's really important.

2. cut out activities (and people)

If it doesn't add to the quality of your life or doesn't support what you live for, cut it. I'm not suggesting cutting out doing laundry or paying bills. See my comment above: there are just some things in life we cannot get around. I am suggesting that you consider releasing busyness for something more enriching.

3. Get good at saying no

This is a must. If you don't get good at politely declining offers to take up your time, for which we're all limited, you'll get sucked into so many causes that have nothing to do with your passions. 

Here's a video on how to say no.

If you're in business, here's a little something for "brain-picking" invitations.

4. Do only what you can

And by can, I mean set new boundaries that reflect only what you're willing to do. Similar to loaning money. You may have $1,000, but you may set your limit at $100 for loans. Doing only what you can means only loaning up to $100. Although time is similar to money in that it is spent, you cannot get it back, so do only what you can.

5. Enjoy your new free time

Fill your newly created extra time with something productive like napping, relaxing, reading, exercising, watching your favorite show, taking a few minutes to straighten, doing what makes you feel NOT overwhelmed.  

Life can be challenging, so we're guaranteed to get overwhelmed from time to time, but when feeling this way is your norm, it's time to do something different for the sake of your health and happiness.

Having a support system to lean on is also important, but it all begins with an evaluation. If you've been feeling perpetually overwhelmed, re-evaluate, then drop.

Photo credit: Frankie Leon via CC Flickr