As I sit here and watch The Incredible Hulk, I figure what better time to write this article on dealing with overwhelm. I mean, when we get overloaded, it’s all we can do to keep our big green monsters from busting out too. Crying, yelling, or just plain freakin’ out getting nothing done. As such, I’d guess all of us would like to keep our cool when overwhelm strikes. I know I would. That’s why I reached out to a big chunk of my trusted people to ask what they do when they get overwhelmed. That’s the “social anthropology” part.
The following is a collection of all that insight, so next time we hit a rough patch, we’ll have a go-to list of great tips. The first 5 things pretty much everyone said, and I agree. Gives us something new to do, a systematic approach, when we’re about to slip over the emotional edge.
1. Take a minute. Pause. Breathe. Slow down. Separate yourself from the emotion of whatever it is that has you freakin’ out. Go for a walk, get in nature, shoot your guns, imagine something peaceful, do some jumping jacks, take two minutes all to yourself.. whatever is going to give your brain a quick re-energizing reset so you can tackle number two.
2. Make a list. Write down everything you can think of that you have to do. Doesn’t have to be in order, just has to be accounted for.
3. Prioritize. Take the list and put the most pressing thing on top. Get rid of anything that isn’t important. You’ll know which fall where in your gut when you make the list.
4. Do the first thing immediately. What a relief to check the first, most important thing off the list. Holy crap, just writing that makes me feel lighter and I’m not even overwhelmed! Sweet. This step also gives way to momentum and who knows how many more things you’ll knock off the list in the flow you generate just from getting started. Boom.
5. Do one thing at a time. Don’t think about the rest of the list. Just focus on whatever it is that you’re doing, and see it through to completion. Anytime you find your mind wandering to other stuff, reel it back in to the present moment, and watch your efficiency skyrocket.
The next 10 are more optional ideas.. take ‘em or leave ‘em, I thought they were good!
6. Talk it out with your BFF’s. Or your bros. Surround yourself with good people. Sometimes it just helps to verbally process (see: life coaching! haha), or vent, or hear what’s actually upsetting you out loud. Most of the time it clears the space to exhale and get back at it.
7. Indulge. Go see a movie, buy something you want, eat something delicious and tasty, mani/pedi, etc. Obviously don’t go overboard on the indulgence. Being poor or fat certainly won’t help us be any less overwhelmed overall in life. But a little might help us on a particularly tough day.
8. Sleep. Everything is easier when we are well rested. Period, the end.
9a. Exercise! Get those endorphins flowing and you are guaranteed to feel better. More energized, productive, healthy, and awesome all around. Can’t not get sh*t done when you feel that way.
9b. Do something that requires intense focus. This is often found in sport.. like partner fighting, or skydiving, or a soccer game. But it can also be found in something easy like a puzzle, or tending your plants. The idea is to focus your mind away from what’s causing the overwhelm to allow it to get clear and reset.
10. Cry. Let your emotions flow. Allow them to happen, be with them when they do, and know they won’t last. Most of the time we feel better after we just let it all go.. then we can start fresh.
11. Eat good food. Another one on the healthy vibe. But yeah, when we feel robust and strong, it’s way harder for bad feelings to take over.
12. Hug someone you love. Totally!! I love this one. I love love. Love is a force to be reckoned with and up against it, overwhelm is F’d.
13. Laugh. Watch something funny. Call your funniest friend. Listen to some comedy. Pop in Weird Al. Whatever, but get your laugh on, we’ve all seen Patch Adams.
14. Do what you want. This one is straight from yours truly. Do whatever is gonna give you a kick of positive energy to counteract the bad. When the overwhelm is winning, our energy will stay low. If we boost it up with something that makes us happy or feel good, we’re heading in the right direction.
15. “Remember it’s all a fun game.” Life, that is. And all of it is fun, funny, and an opportunity to learn. Great quote from a great friend reminding us to bring ourselves back to the big picture. How can we worry about things on a list when we’re up at 10,000 feet? Literally or figuratively? The answer is, we can’t. Definitely definitely do this.
Boom. Solid list. Make a habit of 1-5 and you’re sure to have less and less trouble getting through to the other side of feeling sucky. When in doubt, persevere, and you’ll have lots more of your own ideas to add. What’s here certainly isn’t everything we could do when the going gets rough, but it’s a great start. And your feedback will make this collection that much better, so please feel free to share your ideas, tricks, and inspirations in the comments below! Would love to hear.
And a huge THANK YOU to my masked list of superheroes sharing their wisdom so we all can keep our Hulks at bay. Or rather direct the incredible inside us toward making it all happen, and making it happen happy.
Keep me posted, hope this helps, and thank you as always for reading!
Don’t go overboard on the indulgence. Being poor or fat certainly won’t help us be any less overwhelmed overall in life. But a little might help us on a particularly tough day.