How To Handle Feeling Overwhelmed In This World Of Competing Commitments

Feel like you're spinning plates?

Have you ever felt that you’ve got so much to do that you don’t know where to begin? A paralysing panic rising up inside of you rendering you incapable of doing much of anything? You really need to crack on with stuff, but your head is so filled with clutter, you feel so stricken with overwhelm that you just… can’t?

You have the gym five days a week, three looming deadlines this month, a packed social life, two appointments that you can’t put off any longer, a birthday present for your sister you must buy, two important meetings that you must prep for, a long overdue wax appointment, 163 unread emails that require your attention, the groceries to shop for, two letters to send, no lunch prepped for tomorrow and a house that badly needs cleaning, and you must do it all while maintaining a skincare regime, eating right and drinking your eight glasses of water.

If that last sentence just made you break out in hives then you know the feelings of overwhelm all too well. It’s that terror-stricken, sweat-inducing panic of feeling like you have so much to do and so little time to do it. And worse again, you must do it all perfectly.

It’s an epidemic in our society right now. We’re continually frantic trying to get stuff done, busy doing three things at once, while really being too frazzled to do anything at all. We finish one task only to be greeted with another, never really taking a breath between one tick on the to-do list to the next and we’re constantly plugged in to an unending stream of digital data requiring our attention.

It’s little wonder that in this world of constant ‘I’ll never get all this done’, the practice of self care has become commonplace, but when you’re up the walls, caring for yourself has become just another thing on the to-do list, a priority that often slides down to the bottom of the barrel under work commitments, unread Instagram DMs and trying to maintain a social life.

The unending list of tasks that current life throws at us shows no signs of stopping. The pace of life isn’t slowing down any time soon and the delicate balance of competing commitments is something that’s unlikely to change, but the way you respond to it can. If we’re to thrive in this world of consistent chaos, we’re going to need to learn how to keep our heads when they’ve been given too much to handle. Here’s how to manage those feelings of overwhelm, when it all gets a bit too much.

Take A Pause

It’s the last thing you want to do. There are a million tasks you could be charging ahead with but instead you’re being told to sit back and have a breather? It might sound counterintuitive but if you’re to tackle that mountain of tasks you first need to get yourself into the right frame of mind. Take yourself off to the loo in work and spend two minutes focusing on taking deep breaths or nip out for a bit to nab a coffee. Whatever you can do to have a few minutes to yourself. The Dalai Lama says that when he’s busy he mediates for the twice as long and those few moments of calm have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your focus. Look, if it’s good enough for the Dalai Lama…

Write It All Out

Some people love a to-do list, others hate the damn things, but there’s something incredibly therapeutic about getting it all out on paper, and you know what? Once you have it all laid out in front of you, not only will you feel less clouded, but you’ll be able to pinpoint what’s most important. You might notice that two things on your list can be postponed, two aren’t actually important at all and can be crossed off immediately and the rest don’t seem half as daunting as they did before. Progress.

Create Separate To-Do Lists

Let’s take this a step further, now that you have your to-do list, start creating lists for what needs done today, this week, next week, this month and finally, in the future when things calm down and you get a sec.

A big part of overwhelm is feeling like you must get everything done this very second. Having a flexible time frame in place makes things feel so much more manageable and reminds you that most things don’t require your attention immediately.

Give Yourself More Time

Leadership expert Robin Sharma writes about the 5am club and the benefits of joining it. He maintains that getting up earlier is the single most effective thing you can do to improve your life. It will boost your focus, improve your productivity, and most importantly, give your extra time to get shit done. Getting up at 5am might seem extreme, but even getting your day going 30 minutes earlier can buy you some much needed time. If you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, then make some.

Accept That Something’s Got To Give

You can’t give 110 percent to everything and neither should you try. We live in a society where we believe that nothing less than perfect will do, but with so many competing demands, you can’t give everything you’ve got to everything you do. If your head is mangled from looming deadlines at work, accept that the gym might have to take a back seat for now. If you’re continually coming home frazzled, admit defeat and order a takeaway on those evenings you really can’t be arsed cooking. A handful of things done imperfectly is better than doing nothing flawlessly. Accept that you’re trying. That’s what’s important.

Learn To Say No

We’re taught to be ‘yes’ people and we’re a generation perpetually suffering from FOMO. We don’t want to turn down an invitation or a challenge because we worry about the impact that will have on our futures, but continually biting off more than you can chew is a fast track to burnout.

Don’t want to go to that party? Say so. Crushing under the weight of an unfair workload? Speak up. Suss out what your priorities are and preserve your energy for the things that matter most.

Accept Your Best As Good Enough

Are you guilty of always wanting to do everything perfectly? You want to dazzle your boss with a report, you must have a seamless record when it comes to working out and you daren’t let a carbohydrate pass your lips after 7pm. This creates one thing: self-imposed pressure. Learn to cut yourself some slack and lower those crazy expectations of yourself. Sometimes in life we feel like we’re being spread far too thin, but often, we’re the ones doing the spreading.


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