Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

Being Overwhelmed IS EXHAUSTING!—Learn To Slow Down A Bit

Slow Down

Empty your plate from all those priorities! Being overwhelmed is WAY TOO EXHAUSTING!

Three to-do lists, that's all!

I’ve been putting off writing lately, mostly because I’ve been too busy chipping away at a to-do list of things that never seems to get any shorter. Honestly, I’ve felt quite overwhelmed, which is a sure sign that I’m not setting priorities properly—too many have-to's and not enough want-tos in my life. No big deal, though, I can rectify this state of affairs. It just requires looking at how I’m filling my time, and making sure I build in choices that fulfill me—while paring down activities that are draining, but not necessary. Ultimately, it’s about declaring priorities and being realistic about my belief that "all things need to be done right, right away." This got me thinking about everyone else—most people don't react to being overwhelmed the way I do. Rather, they take it for granted, as if being overwhelmed was an acceptable way of living.

Tired ≠ Overwhelmed

It is concerning, that we have come to a place in time where many believe it is not only acceptable, but laudable to be overwhelmed on a daily basis. Tired and overwhelmed are not synonymous. It is not normal to live feeling like you have too much on your plate, so much that you can’t possibly handle it. Don’t be mistaken folks, we aren’t talking about being busy here, but about feeling frazzled, overbooked and anxious, potentially paralyzed, and drowning under the weight of our obligations.

Overwhelmed should not be used as a badge of honor! We shouldn’t be walking around eager to share how poorly we are at creating healthy boundaries, and how much we struggle with setting clear and appropriate priorities. Yet, too many of us do just that. "How’s it going?" One friend asks. "Oh, Man, I am so overwhelmed!" Replies the other. "That sucks, I know exactly how you feel … " [friend one goes on to share how overwhelmed they are too]. One would expect this to result in some kind of outrage—"Dammit, this isn’t right, this is not living, it treading water at best!" Maybe some kind of call to action, "We should do something about this! Let’s look at what we can change." But more often than not, both parties go back to their hectic schedules, poor boundaries and mis-prioritized focus.

A kick in the nuts!

I realize it is not very lady-like or "professional" of me to say, but allowing yourself to remain overwhelmed is like waking up every morning and telling life it’s okay to kick you in the nuts*. Not too hard, and just once, nothing too damaging. Still, it’s painful, distressing, and certainly not something you would recommend to anyone else as a lifestyle choice. I don’t actually have "nuts" of my own, but I have been kicked in the groin while playing soccer and that was painful enough. I’ve seen grown men made speechless and brought to the ground with only minor groin injuries, so I can only imagine the actual thing is quite painful.

As you can see, I view being overwhelmed as a serious insult to our bodies and our lives—and so it mystifies me that we would be willing to allow life to figuratively "kick us in the nuts" on a regular basis. When certainly we wouldn’t allow a person to do so literally, much less brag about it. This begs the question of why we accept these terms, and here are my observations:

  1. We view being overwhelmed as part and parcel with being productive. 
    Everybody’s nuts are busted, at least everyone who seems hardworking and successful, so it only seems natural we should allow this state of affairs too.
  2. We don’t realize we have a choice.
    We are bombarded by information, requests, demands and expectations from all sides—and have come to believe that the only way of dealing with said demands is acquiescing to all. Saying no, setting limits, seems rude; so bring on the kick!
  3. It’s hard to stand up for your needs and your nuts if you don’t know what you’re fighting for and you have no combat training.
    This is a HUGE factor in why people remain overwhelmed. In order to stand-up for yourself and your needs you must first know what those needs are. You have to understand what your priorities should look like. Then you have to actually know how to set the appropriate boundaries, create working goals and put them into action. That’s akin to gaining combat skills and actually going in to fight the bully. Both parts of this process are incredibly demanding, and require, time, courage, space and reflection in order to strategize properly. As you know those things can be hard to come by, especially the latter two.

Want help understanding your needs, and standing up to being overwhelmed? Grab your FOCUS MAP and start setting priorities that work for you.

Blocking the blow

I don’t honestly believe anyone actually wants to allow life to kick them in the nuts or ovaries. Most likely, they just didn’t realize what that pain was, and that they could do something about it. So here’s my advice, next time you feel overwhelmed your first course of action has to be to take a two-minute break (few things in life will fall apart if you move away from them for that period of time). While on your break, breathe and consider what choices, actions, or events are contributing to feeling overwhelmed. Acknowledge that this state of affairs is neither normal, nor acceptable - just say no! Then, as soon as possible, try to evaluate what you have too much of, and what is missing. Know that you have a choice. You have some control, if you care to exercise it. You can say no or yes to certain demands or desires. You can slow down, decompress, and choose a path that doesn’t take you down that dark alley where overwhelmed is waiting to get you!

Ready to take a challenge? Challenger #1- downtime!

This is a month long challenge to get control of your life and say goodbye to being overwhelmed. This week your mission, should you accept it, is to put aside 5 minutes (timed) everyday to simply day dream or stare into space. Sounds easy? Great get to it. Sounds strange and you can't see what this could do for you? Trust me, give it a try and if at the end of the week you found this exercise useless I will publicly apologize for wasting your time. 


This article was originally published at Life in Focus. Reprinted with permission from the author.


Explore YourTango