One a scale of one to ten, how overwhelmed do you feel right now? One is "I'm so chill I've melted into my couch," and ten is "I have to land a spacecraft and everything is going wrong." I'd say I'm probably around a seven at any given time, which is why I need to find ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed. And you probably do, too.
Life used to be so simple, but it seems like it's getting more overwhelming all the time. We're all connected 24/7, and we're overworked, and overtired. Maybe that's just called being an adult, but I think it's made worse by being an adult in 2016. Everyone has such high expectations for themselves, and that's great. But it definitely leads to a sense of "I'll never get all of this done."
Daily tasks can be taxing enough. Then add in your long-term goals, your goals for the week, and your expectations that everything will go well. Ugh! It really is important to get a handle on which things need your attention now, what can wait, and what is actually important to you. Once you do that, you'll be on the road to a less stressful life.
Here are some ways to prioritize your tasks, gain some perspective, and hopefully feel a little less overwhelmed.
1. Create Separate To-Do Lists
I have a running to-do list that follows me from week to week. On it is stuff I absolutely have to do, like pay a bill or go to a doctor's appointment. It also lists stuff I should do (and will get to... eventually), like practicing the beautiful art of calligraphy, and finally learning Spanish. But there's no need for this extraneous stuff to be on my everyday to-do list. I'm not going to have time to learn a foreign language today, so there's no point in feeling the pressure. I suggest moving these things to another list — one that you'll get to when you have more time — and then basking in your easier, less stressful life.
2. Remember That You're Probably Not As Busy As You Think You Are
Your life may seem busy, but that stressed out feeling could be totally in your head. According to the wise words of Norman Fischer on Oprah.com, "Being too busy or not being busy is an interpretation of our activity. Busy-ness is a state of mind, not a fact. No matter how much or how little we're doing, we're always just doing what we're doing, simply living this one moment of our lives." A simple change in perspective, and living more in the moment, can help you feel a little less crazy.
3. Accept That You'll Never Be "Done"
The thing I realized about being a grown up is that nothing is ever "done." Even when you finish something, you'll soon have to do it again. This includes buying groceries, cleaning your house, completing a project at work, and making the rounds in your social circles. You'll never not be busy, and you'll never not have chores, so don't let these tasks get you down.
4. Only Focus On Your Priorities
Sit down and figure out what actually has to get done today. For example, today I have to work, and run errands, and then maybe I'll have time to learn a little Spanish. But if not, that's OK. The best thing you can do when feeling overwhelmed is to prioritize, and keep it simple. You have to eat, you have to sleep, and you have to go to work. Focus on those things, and fit in the bonus stuff whenever you can.
5. Lower Your Expectations, And Relax
Don't walk around expecting the worst, but don't kill yourself trying to make everything perfect, either. Live somewhere in the middle, where you hope for the best in any given situation, but are ready for it to not be all you ever hoped for. As Tina Su noted on her lifestyle blog ThinkSimpleNow.com, "The number one source for stress and overwhelming anxiety is our expectation on a particular outcome. In trying to satisfy that expectation, we place unnecessary pressure on ourselves, thus causing stress." So instead of losing sleep over that thing you planned, or a presentation you have to give, take a deep breathe and accept that you did your best, and whatever happens, happens.
6. Get Others To Help You Out
Sure, there's some stuff only you can do. For example, you can't get a friend to do your work project for you, or pay a kid in the library to write your term paper (well, maybe you could). But there are some situations where asking for help is a good idea, like when planning a friend's surprise party, or taking care of your pets. As Julie Morgenstern said on Oprah.com, "Insisting on doing everything yourself burdens you and prevents others from feeling valuable and needed. Delegate more at home and at work, and free your time for things you love and excel at."
7. Get Rid Of Things That Drain Your Energy
If it's no longer fun to update your Twitter page, or post on your blog, then give it up. Sometimes we get stuck doing things out of pure habit, and they end up tacked onto that foreboding to-do list. It's OK to let these things go. And the same goes for physical things. A cluttered room can steal away your energy, and a messy purse can make it impossible to stay organized throughout the day. Throw out what you no longer need, or what makes you feel tired or drained, and enjoy a more minimalist — and less overwhelming — life.
Life can be completely overwhelming at times. When it feels this way, prioritize and organize your life so that it works for you, and let go of the idea that you have to do it all. Because you simply don't.
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