We all experience moments of feeling overwhelmed, but what if it’s more than just an occasional moment? What if it’s a constant state, a relentless tide that threatens to pull you under?
You might look at your life right now and wonder why everything feels so hard, why even the smallest tasks seem mountainous, or question why you can’t seem to catch your breath amidst the chaos.
How do you know if what you’re feeling is normal stress or something more? How can you pinpoint the habits or actions that are pushing you into this vortex of constant overwhelm?
After reflecting deeply on my own experiences and those of my friends, I have identified 9 things that often contribute to this sense of being perpetually overwhelmed. If these ring true for you, it might be time to reassess and make some changes.
This is the introduction to an article titled “If you feel constantly overwhelmed, stop doing these 9 things”. My goal is to provide you with clear insights and actionable steps that can help you navigate away from overwhelm and towards a more balanced existence.
1. Everything, everywhere, all at once
And no, you don’t have multiple versions of you to help you out.
In our fast-paced, productivity-obsessed culture, multitasking has been hailed as a superpower.
It’s something we’re often encouraged to do in order to fit more into our days and prove our worth.
We juggle a phone screen, an email inbox, a small screaming child, and a desktop – all at once.
Yet, the harsh truth is, when we try to do everything at once, we often end up accomplishing less than if you focused on one task at a time. And we feel more stressed too.
Our brains aren’t built for effective multitasking.
And the stereotype of women can multitask, men cannot is just as much a myth. Studies show no differences between genders in their ability to juggle multiple tasks at once.
On top of that, studies have shown that it can reduce productivity (for everyone) by as much as 40%.
In summary, it’s not just about the quantity of work; the quality also suffers when we split our focus.
If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to examine your multitasking habits:
- Are you trying to do too much at once?
- Are your tasks competing for your attention, leaving you feeling frazzled and exhausted?
- Do your planning and organisation skills suck?
It might be time to refocus, prioritize and tackle one task at a time.
In aiming to do less and organizing your time better, you may find that you’re able to accomplish more, with less stress and greater satisfaction.
2. Neglecting self-care
When life gets hectic, self-care is often the first thing to go out the window.
If anything, you feel guilty for indulging in self-care when there are so many other things vying for your attention.
You might tell yourself that you don’t have time for a proper meal, a good night’s sleep, or even a few quiet moments alone.
In fact, let’s replace eating vegetables and our skincare regimes for 3 hours of sleep and countless energy drinks.
Hurrah, the diet of success!
However, the irony is that by neglecting self-care, you’re setting yourself up for burnout and contributing to the feeling of being constantly overwhelmed.
You’ll find that tasks which would normally be a breeze suddenly feel like climbing a mountain, simply because you’re running on empty (or on red bull. Both bad).
Think about it this way: you wouldn’t expect a car to run without fuel, would you?
The same principle applies to your body and mind. They need regular care and maintenance to function optimally. Even if that means cutting out some work time and allocating that as me-time, which seems counterintuitive.
If you’re always feeling swamped, it might be time to reassess your self-care routine.
- Are you nourishing your body with healthy food?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you taking time out to relax and unwind?
- Are you spending time with friends and family?
- Are you still enjoying your hobbies?
Remember, self-care isn’t selfish; it’s actually essential.
By prioritizing your own well-being, you’ll not only feel better but also be more equipped to handle the demands of your life.
3. Setting unrealistic expectations
Aka, setting yourself up for failure.
I used to be a champion of setting sky-high expectations for myself.
Whether it was at work, in my personal life, or even in trivial things like my fitness goals, I thought that by pushing myself to achieve more, I was setting the stage for success.
I flogged myself to work harder, gym more, be the last person at the party. All at the same time.
As you can imagine, all it did was leave me perpetually overwhelmed and feeling like I was never quite good enough.
More often than not, I fell short of these unrealistic expectations.
Work projects would take longer than expected, leading to late nights and stress (and more energy drinks).
The elaborate meals or weekends with friends would end up stressing everyone out as I tried to micromanage every tiny detail.
My body would ache and I became riddled with injuries thanks to hours at the gym without a days rest.
It took me a while to realize that by setting these unrealistic expectations, I was setting myself up for failure.
Unlearning the desire to strive for perfection is harder than learning it.
It wasn’t easy, but I learned to set more realistic goals and give myself the grace to not be perfect all the time.
If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to reflect on your expectations:
- Are they realistic?
- Are they flexible?
- Are you allowing yourself room for error, rest, and relaxation?
Setting more achievable goals and smaller milestones can help alleviate the sense of constant stress and pave the way towards a more balanced life.
4. Ignoring your ability to say no
In an attempt to please everyone around us, we often end up saying yes to things that we don’t have the time, energy, or desire to do.
We take on extra assignments at work, agree to social engagements we’re not interested in, or commit to tasks that go beyond our capacity.
The result? We stretch ourselves too thin and feel constantly overwhelmed because our plate is simply too full.
But here’s something you might not know: the power of “No” is an essential tool for maintaining your mental health.
By learning to say no when necessary, you create boundaries that protect your time and energy.
This isn’t about being selfish or unhelpful; it’s about recognizing your limits and honoring them. It’s about understanding that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you’re always feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to practice the art of saying no.
It might feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re used to always saying yes. You might even worry that people won’t find you as amiable or pleasing, but if anything, it’s the other way around.
People respect those who respect themselves.
With time, you’ll find that by saying no and setting boundaries, you liberate yourself and significantly decrease your levels of stress and exhaustion.
5. Not delegating
I used to believe that if I wanted something done right, I had to do it myself.
A bit of a control-freak, I’ll admit.
This belief had me juggling far too many tasks, both at work and at home.
I would spend countless hours trying to perfect each task, only to feel exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of the day.
Should I brave a bit of delegation, I’d often end up editing that person’s work three times over, or leering over their shoulder as I absolutely could not let it go.
I found it very hard to delegate tasks. I feared that they wouldn’t be done to my standard or that it would reflect poorly on my leadership.
At home, in a bid to keep myself busy and knowing how busy my partner was, I took on most of the household chores, believing that it was easier to do them myself. I completely overlooked how busy and tired I was.
But this approach was neither sustainable nor healthy. It only led to burnout and feeling extremely overwhelmed and exhausted.
I started small, handing off minor tasks at work and home.
To my surprise, not only were these tasks handled efficiently, but it also gave others the opportunity to step up and grow.
If you’re feeling constantly overwhelmed, consider whether you’re shouldering more than you need to:
- Could some tasks be delegated or shared?
- Could you ask more of your partner (if you have one) when it comes to running your household?
- How would delegating this task ease your workload?
Remember, delegating isn’t a sign of weakness or incompetence; it’s a sign of good management and smart leadership.
It’s about maximizing resources – including your own time and energy – for the best possible outcome.
6. Failing to prioritize
In a world where everything feels urgent, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly important.
We often find ourselves running from one task to the next, trying to cross off as many items as possible from our to-do list.
But without a clear sense of priority, everything seems equally demanding, leading to a feeling of constant overwhelm.
The key here is discernment.
Not all tasks are created equal.
Some have a greater impact on our work, our relationships and our overall well-being. By identifying these high-impact tasks and focusing on them first, we can reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.
So, if you’re always feeling swamped, it might be time to reassess your priorities and learn to organize. Consider the following questions:
- What tasks truly deserve your immediate attention?
- Which ones can wait?
- What other tasks and chores could you incorporate into your daily planner that you don’t already?
Remember, it’s not about doing more; it’s about doing what matters most.
7. Neglecting physical activity
We often underestimate the power of physical activity in managing stress and reducing feelings of overwhelm.
When we are caught up in our daily grind, taking time out for exercise may seem like a luxury we cannot afford.
However, regular physical activity can boost your mood, increase your energy levels, improve your sleep and reduce anxiety. It can even boost your cognitive power and make you think and perform better.
So if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, consider incorporating some form of physical activity into your routine.
It doesn’t have to be a high-intensity workout; even a short walk or a few stretches can make a big difference.
8. Disregarding mindfulness
In the hustle and bustle of life, we often forget to pause and be in the moment.
We’re either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, leaving us feeling overwhelmed.
Mindfulness – the practice of being fully present in the moment – is a powerful tool that can help us manage this sense of overwhelm. It allows us to step back from our thoughts and emotions, providing a sense of calm and clarity.
If you’re always feeling overwhelmed, consider exploring mindfulness and learn how to let go of stress.
Check out this free 20 minute Self-Healing Meditation if you’re looking for somewhere to get started.
Meditating and gaining a greater sense of personal mindfulness could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, paying attention to your senses, or practicing meditations such as the one above.
9. Losing the ability to enjoy
In our quest to achieve more, we often lose sight of the things that bring us joy.
We’re so focused on our tasks and responsibilities that we forget to make time for the things we truly love.
Losing this connection with joy can contribute to feelings of overwhelm as our lives become monotonous and stressful.
If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself when was the last time you did something purely for the joy of it?
Reconnecting with these hobbies and activities can act as a powerful counterbalance to stress and overwhelm, bringing a sense of peace and fulfillment.
Remember, it’s okay to take a break from your responsibilities to do something that makes you happy.
Quell absolutely any guilt you feel for doing what you love, and remember to enjoy life.
You’re not just a human doing; you’re also a human being.