How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
If you are in (or feel yourself entering) a state of overwhelm, one helpful way to manage the stress is to quiet the noise around you.
By Becky Mollenkamp, PCC
Feeling overwhelmed is a common problem among my clients, and it’s not surprising. They are under constant pressure to do more, be more, have more. They must also deal with a world where information comes at them faster and louder than ever before.
It’s common to feel overpowered by the weight of responsibility and expectation. It’s easy to feel consumed by more noise and distraction than you can handle. It’s perfectly normal to be burdened by your own thoughts and feelings.
I’ve written before about what causes overwhelm and the signs of overwhelm. That same article also shares six ideas for dealing with overwhelm, and is definitely worth a quick read.
But today I want to share one more method for how to stop feeling overwhelmed (personally or professionally). And that is to quiet the noise around you.
When you feel overwhelmed
I’ve felt overwhelmed a few times in recent years (it’s to be expected as someone who runs a business while parenting). In 2018, I realized I was reaching a breaking point. My overwhelm was activating my anxiety and pushing me close to panic attacks.
When I reached that breaking point, I closed my Facebook group, stopped using Twitter, unfollowed negative people on social media, took a break from my podcast, stopped promoting my courses, and wrote content for my business only when I felt inspired (instead of forcing myself to create new blog posts every week).
In the fall of 2020, I felt a similar swell of overwhelm. The heated Presidential election and COVID-19 pandemic caused my anxiety to spike again.
At that time, my feminist book club read “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport, and each of us did some version of an information detox. I stopped watching the news, whittled my Facebook friends list to under 200, removed most apps from my phone, unsubscribed from most email lists, I used social media for only work, and largely stayed off my phone.
As someone who has dealt with anxiety for most of my adult life, scaling way back on what I do and the information I consume is really important. Clearing out the clutter makes room for me to breathe. It frees up space for dreaming, playing, and simply being present.
How to deal with overwhelm
To reduce overwhelm, consider the ways you might lighten your (physical and mental) load. Removing how much you have on your plate at any given time frees up space for unexpected stressors to happen without pushing you over the edge.
Start by looking at your to-do list.
- What tasks are you doing that someone else might handle?
- Where might you ask for help?
- What could wait and be done in the future?
- How might you adjust your expectations to reduce stress?
If possible, lighten your load by doing less. But I know that many times we can’t let go of many tasks. What we can do though is clear out all the extra noise that is adding to our stress.
If you are in that state of overwhelm, or want to take a preventative measure to keep it from happening, I suggest conducting an audit of all the information you consume.
Seeing it all in one place could add to the overwhelm, but the goal isn’t simply to review your exhaustive list. The goal is to evaluate where you can take a break and what voices you can silence. Review the list.
- Which voices don’t add to (or actively take from) your mental well being?
- What sources could you silence without any problems?
- How could you create boundaries around the remaining voices?
This process can be challenging. Our brains try to convince us that we can’t let go of anything. We’ll be missing out or uneducated or people will miss us if we don’t watch to the news, listen to every podcast, and constantly check on social media. That’s not true.
Protect yourself from overwhelm
You can take a break from social media, news, and other information noise—or walk away forever. You will be okay. The people who matter won’t forget you. You’ll still hear about the big events happening in the world around you. Friends and family will tell you about what’s going on in their lives.
You are allowed to take breaks. It’s good for your mental and emotional well-being. And it will actually make you more productive if you care about that.
And you’re allowed to make your break work for you. You don’t have to walk away from Instagram forever or never watch the news again. You can choose to only check social during certain hours or a certain number of times a day or week. You can pause your account for a day or a few, once or every month. You can reduce how much you consume, how often, or from how many sources.
How you quiet the noise is up to you. What matters most is that you give yourself permission to consume less of what doesn’t feel good and what makes you feel more overwhelmed.
If you’ve been asking yourself, “Why I am so overwhelmed?” then I hope this article has given you an idea for how you might reduce the stress. Also, please know that it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed in a culture that puts such a priority on productivity.
If you’re ready to unhook from that conditioning, check out my free Get Sh*t Done Workbook and Private Audio Series.