Monday, May 18, 2009

What to Do When Feeling Overwhelmed

The last few days have been a turning point for me. I still have the morning anxiety but I am doing ok with shaking it off and getting on with my day. I've been reflecting a lot on this past set back and why it happened. It really was the perfect storm of my hormones out of control, too many stressors popping up, new changes in my life, and feeling overwhelmed.

The feeling overwhelmed part I could feel for awhile. I was even telling people around me that I was needing a better balance in my life, more control over what was going on. I like routine and when things get shaken up, I have a hard time adapting. So I did some research and found a really cool blog post at about Overcoming Being Overwhelmed:

"Somehow, I’ve cornered myself into feeling so overwhelmed that I began to stop - nearly everything. You’ve heard of the paralysis of analysis, have you not? You know, when you analyze SO much that you become afraid to move for whatever reason? Enter me, a twenty-something gal with lots of somethings on her mind. There are so many things that I wanted to take charge of and knowing that it’s a frame of mind, I decided to tackle it all. Except I didn’t know where to start. I could see the very big picture - think Google Earth of my dream world - however I couldn’t focus.

Then, the sad state of the What Ifs grew to what felt like astronomical heights. I couldn’t even bring myself to write. How frustrating - particularly because I have always found writing to be such a release!

Lucky for me, a caring Life Coach listened intently to my crisis and helped bring me back to Earth. And what’s the good of dishing advice if one can’t take a dose for herself? Turns out that no matter how many self improvement books you dedicate yourself to reading, the profound change that you seek in those books all start by taking one step at a time. Know that I am one of those who will nod “Yeah, yeah but what’s the REAL secret” to such age-old advice until I have my epiphany :) It DOES all start with one step and they are each quite significant; even when you think they are too small to matter.

The Big Picture

Perhaps it’s just my very nature but oh how I delight in the broad strokes and bright colors of possibilities that all contribute to The Big Picture. You know, that big goal..that dream of yours. When you realize that you have an actual shot at attainment, it’s quite exciting! It’s important to be able to be able to step back and take a look at what you’re aiming for. It inspires a direction for you to head towards. But here’s the thing. While you want to keep this picture close, you want to do more than just enjoy the view. While seeing what you want is critical, it is not the only step. After all, “I want a dream body” will not grant you abs of steel by just dreaming about it every waking moment. It grants you the inspiration you need to begin the actual work.

I found myself stuck at The Big Picture and I told Tim so. I was unbelievably overwhelmed by what I saw in The Big Picture in comparison to my current state in life. In my honest opinion, the difference was dismal. But Tim didn’t see it that way.

Perhaps the man is gifted with positive perspective (which is great, him being a Life Coach and all) because by the time our hour would be over, I would feel like my current state wasn’t as bad as I pictured it to be. The monster of a mountain that is my Big Picture wasn’t smooth and impossible to climb. Rather, looking closer, it was something I could definitely climb - I just needed to accept that I wouldn’t be at the top of it the minute I approached it. So much for that microwave-society, instant gratification thinking!

So my next question to Tim was something to the effect of “How do I start moving forward?”

Whodunnit: Learning How By Watching What Others Have Done

This piece of advice is one of my favorites and it might have a lot to do with my love of a good plan. Tim suggested that I read about the people I admired or aspired to be like. I already find people’s lives quite interesting. The funny thing about life is there is no cookie-cutter way to live it. Things happen - good AND bad but one cornerstone of the successful would be their intent on ‘making it work’ anyway. And if you think about it, you’ll see. Life can either just happen to you, or you can do your very best to play the hand you’ve been dealt. By reading about those I aspire to be like, not only do I get to witness the unique dealings of THEIR struggles, I can skip some of the hard knock lessons by learning from steps already taken in someone else’s heels. It’s a real advantage when you have serious intent on getting somewhere. Learn from others and utilize the wisdom harvested over time to spare yourself some grief and gain an idea of what to do. Every little bit counts!

Breaking It Down. Way Down.

This tip has got to be the golden turnkey that I desperately needed. I had been doing things that are comparable to walking in to a gym for the first time in your life and taking a hold of 350 lbs with every intent of hoisting it upon your back for squats. You can have every bit of determination and pure positive thinking on your side but to be effective, you need to be capable. If you are not yet capable, you can become so however you must take the steps to become so.

It is easy to be overwhelmed when you can’t see HOW it is you’re supposed to accomplish something. The stress and anxiety that comes from comparing yourself to people who seem to have it together can’t possibly help. Now throw in the auto-pilot self depreciating commentary that goes on in your mind and you have yourself a way to become stuck in life.

Breaking down a big task into smaller tasks that you are able to complete is how you get the big task done. Logically speaking, you might know this. But when you’re busy being overwhelmed, it’s super easy to forget. I wish I had a You-Tube visual of the relief that seeped in as Tim explained this to me. I was feeling like all of my small tasks were insignificant and couldn’t possibly be chipping away at my goals. Tim helped me experience the contrary by way of conversation and visualization. He told me to read this piece he wrote on his blog which perfectly summarized the need to chunk down to get things done.

Consistency - Keeping Your Eyes On the Prize

Ah. For me, this is the hard part. The magic is in the consistency. When doubt starts to creep its way back in to put a big foot in your plan, it may help to go back to your Big Picture and remind yourself where all those little tasks you are completing will ultimately take you.

Have faith in your actions towards success and don’t allow inconsistency to undermine your efforts. The stop and start again can wear on you and it can make starting again that much harder to initiate on your own. That being said, Tim pointed out something that was very important for me to keep in mind. When bad days happen and you miss a step, it isn’t catastrophic. It is not “all ruined” as I so aptly put it. You can strive for excellence and have moments that are less than perfect. The key is to not get stuck at that point - get back to it as soon as you can.

Don’t allow pristine ideas of perfection dwarf progress instead of improve it. It’s the consistent nature over time that will give you what you seek.

Meditate - The Ultimate Time Out

Last but not least, Tim suggested that I reap the benefits that come from regular meditation. My stress levels that came from NOT doing what I wanted to do (which only brought more of what I didn’t want) skyrocketed. I was constantly upset with myself and I needed some clarity. I had to laugh when Tim added that there is no ‘perfect’ way to meditate. I laughed because I had stopped meditating simply because I thought I was doing it completely wrong! I would still my mind only to get distracted by my endless to-do list that magically formed in my thoughts. I was also surprised to hear that many people did the same exact thing (One of the most awesome things I have found in speaking to a Life Coach is actual confirmation that I am not alone in my struggles. Other people experience and overcome the same things!)

I have to say - I felt like I was getting my life back when I realized that my being stuck and overwhelmed was a matter of perspective. Perhaps my crisis is a growing pain (gotta love those). The playing field widens as I grow up and want different things. I am incredibly blessed that the journey InMyHeels is not a lone one - even when it might feel that way. This blog has brought me in touch with a Life Coach at *just* the right time for exactly what I needed. It has also enriched my life with wonderful readers and caring friends who keep an eye on the steps InMyHeels takes forward.

Take this is a (( virtual hug )) to you, the reader who relates or knows where I coming from.

Being overwhelmed can be overcome. This post in itself is actual proof of such things. It is my hope that my experience and help from Tim helps you see that you can do it too."

So I need to take the big picture- my daily routine- and break it down into achievable chunks. Instead of worrying about the baby, work, housework, exercise, family time, church, etc. everyday, I need to break it into some sort of schedule where maybe I just focus on church stuff on Sundays, laundry on Mondays, Yoga on Tuesdays, etc.

I know now the importance of keeping that balance in check and what can happen if I neglect the warnings.

Thanks for everyone's well wishes and words of encouragement this past week. I have such a great support group both online and at home with my family. It makes such a difference and I am very grateful.


Robert said...

Soooo good to learn that you are once more on the road to recovery!

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled accross your website and wanted to thank you for writing all this down.

I myself have been suffering from anxiety and just recently had a setback like you and am slowly recovering again.

It's very weird to read your descriptions of morning anxiety and lack of appetite even when only having lunch with family or friends as this is something I am too familiar with and often thought to myself if I was the only one who was going through stuff like this.

Anyway just wanted to let you know how great your site is :)

Good luck with your recovery.


Dan @ Anxiety Support Network said...

I, too, struggle with social anxiey disorder and it's just interesting to hear how other people's stories go. I think that, while you are still figuring out how to approach social anxiety in your life, the important point is that you are taking the time to work on it, and my belief is that anyone who does so will enjoy very rich and fulfilled lives. I just hope that you continue to grow and learn to let go of more and more anxiety!

Heather Todd said...

So great to read your articles on anxiety and the steps you've found useful to reduce it. Good for your readers to know about the Emotional Freedom Technique too, otherwise known as EFT, it's a simple to learn, highly effective technique that anyone can do...even a 3 year old!There are EFT manuals on the internet available for free download.


Donald said...

I think this is the best article I have ever read on anxiety. Having been a sufferer for over 10 years with ptsd and panic disorders, this was a blessing to read. I will most likely follow up with this blog. thank you to all who posted here! Don

Anonymous said...

very inspiring and very true, it is so tempting to believe that because you have thought of the change that that in itself brings change. it needs commitment, patience and kindness to yourself. great to read about your journey.

Rosa said...

Reading this article made me cry because this is exactly how I am. I get too overwhelmed and suffering from panic attacks almost everyday plus depression and having to worry so much about my teen and my 11 year old and having a toddler plus all I have to accomplish each and you see my point? lol..I suffered from anxiety for a few years now. Its difficult and sad when you feel so alone because you have to have been in our shoes to understand. Its hard when theres no one to talk to and someone that would actually listen. Im always too busy helping others and when its time for me to be heard or I need a hug, Im alone. This article truly helped me see that I need to break things down. Thank you so much.


Rosa said...

This article brought tears to my eyes because I am always too overwhelmed with everything. I have suffered with anxiety attacks for years now and depression. The hardest part? feeling alone because no one can possibly understand what youre going through if they are not in your shoes. I learned with your article to take it little by little instead of managing everything all at one time. I have a teen and an 11 year old and a toddler so imagine. Plus all I must go through.The anxiety attacks leave you feeling drained. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. And helping us. It really means a lot to me.


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