Dealing with being overwhelmed

The point at which you are overwhelmed is not the ideal time to be trying to find a strategy for dealing with this kind of thing. It is as well to have some plans in place before you are struck down. If you suffer from poor mental or physical health, you may be especially vulnerable to becoming overloaded. Here are some things I’ve noticed that I hope may prove helpful to others.

Rest is the best antidote to being overwhelmed. However, if everything is getting on top of you, then you may feel too panicked to rest, or unable to stop. If you are overloaded for too long, you may not remember how to stop, much less when to do it. It is important to plan rest time in advance if you think things are going to be tough. It’s good to be in the habit of planning rest time and setting time aside for it so that you have reminders that this is a thing you need to do. It’s surprising how easy it is to forget this in a crisis.

Good things can also be overwhelming. I find this one all too easy to forget and am often caught out by it. Good things need processing and digesting too, and need recovery time.

Know what helps you process things and cope. For some of us, reading, or walking, or crafting can be a quick route back to sanity. Know what works, and make sure that the people around you also know what works. That way, if you are overwhelmed and unable to think straight, someone else may be able to steer you towards the wool, or the woods, as required.

Planning ahead is good – if you know something is likely to be tough, planning the rest and recovery time is a good idea. Pacing is good – pay attention to your limits and respect them more of the time than not and you may be able to stay on top of things. However, it is so easy to be knocked sideways by the unexpected, and you can’t see everything coming. Try to keep some slack in your routines so that you can deal with the unexpected. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re caught out by things you didn’t anticipate.

Anyone can be overloaded. A person who is overloaded too much and for too long will find their mental and physical health deteriorating. None of us cope with this well. There is no shame in being unable to bear the unbearable. There should be considerably more shame attendant on piling stress onto people, with unreasonable deadlines, impossible workloads, unfair demands on time and so forth. There should be considerable shame in asking people to act like everything is on fire, every day. Too many employers do it. The government does it to us as well.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Dealing with being overwhelmed

  • The Secret Poetess

    Thank you for your insightful article, and helpful pointers. It’s the hardest thing in the world…pacing! 🙂

  • jen liminal luminous

    yep! I find using my diary to be very helpful – a paper one, not electronic. I score out days with an X and R&R and in pen, not pencil! I am slowly learning to judge the impact of thigns better – I went to a wedding, so many bad things there, but also fun and dancing. So I crossed out the following three days. I was right, it took three days to recover. But the last day was an easy pottering and I was back to normal the following day.

    But, as yu say, you have to plan these things in advance, and what to do in advance. I can’t figure it out when I am in overwhelm

  • butterflies and boundaries

    Very powerful read xx

    Check out my latest post and let me know your thoughts:

  • Ryan Cronin

    Oh yes. I definitely need to plan in time for recovery after doing any big thing, even if it’s something I enjoy like going to a concert. A day either side for not doing much at least. Of course, that gets more difficult at work, but then I’ll at least aim for an evening of relaxation. Thank you for the (actually spookily timely) reminder!

  • Walking_The_Woods

    I hear you 🙌
    Too often these days, taking ‘mental health days’ etc is sniffed at. Sadly, I see such attentiveness to health as being something often afforded and maintained by my, millennial generation. If only people could see five or ten years into the future and see the impact of taking some time to think and heal for themselves. Totally agree that government and jobs expect us to work at such a silly pace all the time.

  • Anita

    Thanks Nimue,
    I recently attended a counselling session with my son, who suffers from chronic anxiety. It highlighted how overwhelmed I get myself and how important it is to rest. I have also realised that menopause doesn’t help.

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