What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

I woke up this morning with anxiety, the kind of chest tightening, global feeling anxiety. I couldn’t quite place it – where it was coming from and why, but it’s been uncomfortable all day. When I thought more about the feeling over the course of the day, I began to place why I was anxious. I have final projects for grad school due soon, an uncomfortable conversation to have, and plans that are up in the air for tonight in addition to lots of other small tasks that have piled up. Combined, these things created a ball of anxiety that is currently sitting in my chest, annoying the crap out of me and making me feel overwhelmed.

So what do I do? Well, I have a few tactics that I’ve learned over the years to help me feel less overwhelmed. Maybe they can be of some use to you too.

1. What’s the Worst That Could Happen? 

Usually, even if everything went wrong – the situation I’m dealing with still wouldn’t be so bad. Think about what you’re worried about – and let’s say the worst case scenario happened – would you still be alive? Probably. Then that’s enough. You can get through it.

2. Take the Smallest Possible Step in a Productive Direction 

Procrastinating on a project or sending a dreaded email? Take the tiniest step possible towards accomplishing that goal. For me, I force myself to do just 10 minutes of whatever dreaded thing I’ve got going on. Once I’ve finished the 10 minutes, I realize it wasn’t so bad, and I usually keep on going. But if I don’t, so be it. Ten minutes is better than no minutes. Don’t underestimate the effect of small amounts of time put towards a big goal.

3. Slow Down 

Think of yourself as a turtle. Make every decision in as deliberate a way as possible. Focus on each thing you’re doing during each moment as completely as you can. This ties into the whole zen idea of being fully present in all of your tasks.

“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

4. Write it Down 

Take out a pen and paper and write down all the things that are contributing to your anxiety. Sometimes they won’t all come up at once, so be prepared to be constantly adding to the list throughout the day. Just having a single spot where all your worries are kept seems to help me tremendously.

Hope these help you as much as they’ve helped me!

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