If you are not overwhelmed with life right now, you must be living on another planet.  The world is a lot, and every time we think it’s going to get better, it feels like more piles up.

The most extraordinary power we have is the ability to think and manage our lives from the inside out.  

What I want to talk about this week is the distinction between anxiety and overwhelm.  

 I noticed that many of my clients are confusing the emotion of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.  Noticing, naming, and defining our emotional life is important for several reasons.  When you can call, acknowledge and normalize an emotion, it immediately helps release some of its intensity and process it.  

The emotion of being overwhelmed always comes from thoughts like: “There is too much to do, “I can’t do it all, “It is all up to me, and “____ is too much. 

I chronically feel it in my shoulders and chest. It likely has a dark, grey hue if you imagine your emotions in colors.  

Anxiety is a faster emotion.  It is based on fear and uncertainty.  The thoughts that create anxiety sound like “I worry that XYZ will happen.”  or “What if XYZ and all hell break loose?”  It is typically future-based thoughts that lead to anxiety.  Physically it often causes a fast heart rate, tingling or numbness in your extremities, and sleepless nights.  If you think or feel in colors, it may be a brighter color or red.  

 Both anxiety and overwhelm are super-unpleasant emotions, and the tendency is to want to get rid of them as fast as possible.

Today I am going to share tips on how to approach feeling overwhelmed.    

  1. Recognize it
  2. Forgive yourself for feeling overwhelmed. You are human, and humans get overwhelmed.  Remember, every emotion is a temporary vibration in your body. 
  3. Remind yourself that most things in life are optional.  Most of us have food, shelter, and clean water to drink.  You don’t have to make that trip to the hardware store, fold the laundry, or read all your emails.     My baseline emotion was overwhelmed, and my go-to thought was, “There are so many things to do”  Working with my coach, we came up with the thought to practice:  “there are things to do.”  Taking out the words “so many” is remarkably helpful.  as I practiced this simple shift, it immediately calmed my brain 
  4.  Itemize and write out your to-do list.  This simple action helps you realize you can accomplish most of the tasks quickly, or you will find spots in your calendar to do them. And perhaps, you find something on there that you decide is not worth your time. (Boom!  Crossed off!)  Getting items onto paper relieves your brain of holding on to all that information at once.  Plus, writing it down is much more productive than solving it by eating potato chips. Although the chips solution is temporarily more fun, it doesn’t get you closer to having a sense of control.  
  5. Give yourself time and space to rest.  Being productive is not a moral imperative. It’s only a societal pressure.  Humans that take naps are just as worthy and perhaps happier than those who write emails at midnight.  

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