Are You Feeling Overwhelmed?

Are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?

When we are overwhelmed, we feel like we are carrying the weight of the world.
When we are overwhelmed, we feel like we are carrying the weight of the world. | Source

When we feel overwhelmed, we feel like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. The issues are so large and all encompassing that we can't see around, through, or over them. We feel like we are being crushed from the weight, but we can't seem to figure out what to do.

Our thoughts may be centered in fear: What if I don't get everything done?

Or perhaps anger: Why can't other people see what is happening?

Or maybe even frustration: This is ridiculous! I'm not getting anywhere! There must be someone who can help me!

Our feelings become interwoven with the issues, leaving us powerless to find a solution, either because we have so many thoughts going through our minds at the same time, or perhaps there are so many issues, that we are left feeling weak and insignificant. The time we spend dealing with our feelings leaves us with little time to deal with the real problems.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed?

  • Sit down and cry
  • Try to escape
  • Call a friend
  • Get organized
  • None of the above
See results without voting

A step-by-step approach works best in this case. Once we realize that we are feeling overwhelmed, we can visualize the weight as an object. Then do the following:

  1. Do what it takes to get out from under it
  2. Look at it from a different perspective
  3. Break it up into smaller chunks
  4. Use creativity to find ways to handle the various issues

It is time to get out from under it

When we try to tackle the problem by ourselves, we may get frustrated and angry, and end up either hurting ourselves, or collapsing from utter exhaustion.
When we try to tackle the problem by ourselves, we may get frustrated and angry, and end up either hurting ourselves, or collapsing from utter exhaustion. | Source

Once we realize that we are overwhelmed, and that the weight is crushing us, the next step is to get out from under it. The trick is to visualize the problem as an object, such as a large cement block, or something else very heavy. Whether we have to crawl, roll, or simply shift the weight to one side and let it fall, we simply have to get out from under the weight.

This may require a change of perspective, or perhaps even a change of belief. Our responsibilities, although they may be ours alone, are largely a matter of what we have given ourselves. Although they may come from doing the work of others, we still make a conscious decision to take them upon us. It may be necessary to give ourselves permission to get out from under them temporarily.

We may feel guilty about getting out from under these responsibilities, knowing that they still need to be done. Giving ourselves permission to get out from under the weight, however, gives us freedom to move. Unless we do so, we are powerless to change the situation. We are immobilized and frustrated. Allowing ourselves to get out from under the weight gives us additional strength and purpose that we currently do not have.

Look at things from a different perspective

Once we are out from under the weight of our responsibilities, we are free to look at them from different perspectives. As we do so, we will see things we didn't see before.
Once we are out from under the weight of our responsibilities, we are free to look at them from different perspectives. As we do so, we will see things we didn't see before. | Source

Getting out from under the weight is a necessary part of dealing with the problems at hand. When they are weighing heavily upon us, our point of view of them is distorted by our feeling of being encumbered. Having the weight gone, we are able to move about freely and objectively examine the issues that are part of the whole picture.

There are many facets to the problem solving process. Identifying the problem is the most important. Looking from different perspectives, we are able to see the various roles and responsibilities that have become interwoven together. As we tease these roles and responsibilities apart, we find the issues that are causing us difficulty. See the table below for an example:

Role
Responsibility
Issue
Parent
Get children to school in the morning on time
Conflicting work schedule
Employee
Prepare forms for mailing
Unable to access needed information
Committee Member
Write report
Waiting for feedback from other committee members
Volunteer
Prepare agenda for conference
Need to learn how to use new computer program
Student
Write research paper
Library not open when time available
Property Owner
Collect the rent
Tenants don't have money to pay
Spouse
Support partner
Health problems

Break it up into smaller chunks

Breaking things down into smaller chunks enables us to give part of our responsibilities to others, thus sharing the burden and lightening the one we are currently carrying.
Breaking things down into smaller chunks enables us to give part of our responsibilities to others, thus sharing the burden and lightening the one we are currently carrying. | Source

Listing our various roles and responsibilities and the current presenting issues enables us to see that some things can be dealt with by ourselves, and some require additional resources. As we deal with the issues one at a time, we keep the feelings of being overwhelmed at bay, and we continue to have the freedom to think objectively.

For example: in the chart above, the presenting problem under the role of parenting was getting the children to school in the morning on time. Due to conflicting work and school schedules, this problem was causing undue stress both at the office, and at home.

This might be alleviated by accessing public transportation, checking with neighbors and forming a carpool, or seeing if a close relative could take care of the children getting to school on time in exchange for some other service. Or we can simply check with our work supervisor to see if an alternative work schedule can be arranged.

Some of the things we come up with may require us to re-think our priorities, or to deal with fears and insecurities that have arisen from past experiences. Either way, as we deal with only one issue at a time, we find that solutions come much more readily than when we try to deal with everything all at once.

The antidote for being overwhelmed is being organized. We all have multiple roles and responsibilities in our lives, and it is necessary to take the time to organize ourselves by using a planner, desk calendar, or smart phone to keep everything straight. That way, we avoid stacking things up on top of each other in our minds.

Oftentimes, we expect more of ourselves than what we are able to reasonably accomplish. In these cases, we have to go back to our core belief systems and see if we are having issues with such things as guilt, perfectionism, or other negative self-esteems (see link to Fighting Dragons on the right) that get in the way of our being the best that we can be.

Use creativity in dealing with the issues

Once we have the size of the problem under control, we are able to find ways to creatively deal with it.
Once we have the size of the problem under control, we are able to find ways to creatively deal with it. | Source

Problem solving requires thinking outside the box. In our fast-paced digital society, our roles frequently shift and our responsibilities change. We may have to upgrade our thinking skills to match our current lifestyle. If we are still thinking like we did in the 70's and 80's, we may have to change!

Our families are in a position to help us come up with creative solutions to our problems. Our spouses may have perspectives that see beyond our own. Our children also come from a different perspective and often have ideas that do not have adult limitations imposed upon them. Taking the example listed above, with work and school schedules conflicting, we can present the problem to them, and see what solutions they come up with.

Children are much more tech savvy than adults, with their life centered around getting information from sources other than people and text books. We can have them research a problem we are facing, and see what information that they come up with. We may be surprised at their practicality and innovation. Letting them know that we value their input can also lead to greater respect in our relationships.

Our colleagues at work are also great sources of inspiration and ideas. They may have access to inside information that we do not, and even experience similar things that we are not aware of. Support networking with those at work helps us to solve employment based problems in ways that we may not be able to come up with on our own.

Creativity is only limited by the number of people that we have working to solve the problems we face. When we try to do it alone, we are limiting ourselves to a small world of possibilities. When we allow others to help us, we open up a whole universe of opportunity!

Being overwhelmed is not fun. When we visualize our problems as a heavy object, do what it takes to get out from under it, look at it from different perspectives, break it into small chunks, and find creative solutions, we can turn being overwhelmed into being organized. Now is the time, for your emotional health!

© 2013 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

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30 comments

Purpose Embraced profile image

Purpose Embraced 3 years ago from Jamaica

Hi Denise. Thank you for your useful article. Sometimes life gets overwhelming and we feel like giving up. But I agree that breaking up responsibilities into manageable parts can be very helpful. I find that as I take small steps and achieve them, I am encouraged to move forward.


amiebutchko profile image

amiebutchko 3 years ago from Warwick, NY

Yup, Denise. It is very easy to get overwhelmed. Thanks for the article. I really like the part about primary and secondary roles and responsibilities in the family. It really struck me as a truth. Thanks for some perspective today.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for reading, Purpose Embraced. It is easy to give up when we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. Realizing that there are other options gives us hope for the future. It is good to know that breaking things up and taking small steps is helpful to you. I've found that works best for me as well.

You are right amiebutchko. It is easy. I'm glad that the information on family responsibilities was helpful to you. It made a big difference in my life when I came to that realization. So often times, our myriad roles and responsibilities in the family leave us torn apart and confused. Being overwhelmed is certainly no fun! Thanks for stopping by.


gsidley profile image

gsidley 3 years ago from Lancashire, England

A hub oozing with practical advice. A logical, problem-solving approach to some of life's problems can be very helpful.

Voted up.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right gsidley! Sometimes, we cannot think logically when we are overwhelmed! That is why we have to get out from under those feelings, then we can think about what it is we are facing, and come up with some solutions. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Room of My Own profile image

Room of My Own 3 years ago

Great hub! Thanks for sharing the DRAGON acronym; it's a great reminder to check-in on how we are feeling. You also have a very empathetic and compassionate writing voice.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 3 years ago from the South

Very practical hub on the subject, with some great advice. I find that being overwhelmed is the root of so many other problems, like anxiety and depression, and that most people are feeling it these days. Great hub, denise!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Denise, I remember complaining to my behavorist friend that everybody wants something from me. He told me that I was simply overwhelmed, because that complaint was very much unlike me. This condition changes us. I kept saying "true" as I read your article. You're right on, and I pray that many who need it will find help in the useful suggestions you give. Thank you.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for the complement, Room of My Own. The dragon pictures were drawn by my children while they were in their pre-teen years. At first, I was appalled that they didn't have something more constructive to draw, but when I started writing about mental health, I asked the kids if I could use them when I realized that the acronym could stand for something that would help me stay out of the counselor's office. Now, we use the term "fighting dragons" whenever we are having a tough mental health day. It works!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right, catgypsy, it is the root of many issues. When our feelings get stacked on top of each other, many problems become so tangled, we don't know what to do. Thanks for reading and commenting!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is good point, MsDora, many of us do not realize when we are having this issue. It is great, that you had a friend that could point it out to you. I didn't understand what it really meant until my husband went into the hospital for cancer surgery and the technique I speak of in this article saved me. We all have times when things get piled up in our lives, and we just don't know what to do. That is a surefire way to tell that you are overwhelmed!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I like your suggestion to consult with others, even your children. It takes a village to keep one healthy. When I feel overwhelmed, I take a pray, rest, then organize my priorities. Wonderful post!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Teaches. Our children are a great resource for helping us to deal with issues in our lives. They have a unique perspective. They know us intimately, and often times see things that we do not. They also love us a great deal, and want what is best for us. It sounds like you have learned from your own experience how to deal with these feelings! Take care!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I could have sworn I commented on this; I know I read it. How weird is that? Anyway no, I am not feeling overwhelmed. I love what I am doing, and I force myself to take breaks from writing and responsibilities. Life is good for this man. :) Great topic, Denise, and an important one.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, billybuc. I had the same thing happen on another hub that I commented on. The comment seems to have disappeared! You have taken some important steps to keep on top of things, and that has been a great help to you in your life. Congratulations, and keep up the good work! I appreciate you stopping by!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, billybuc. I had the same thing happen on another hub that I commented on. The comment seems to have disappeared! You have taken some important steps to keep on top of things, and that has been a great help to you in your life. Congratulations, and keep up the good work! I appreciate you stopping by!


Sundeep Kataria profile image

Sundeep Kataria 3 years ago

Great Denise! You have a unique angle to look at the issues of life and then express them so nicely with solutions.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 2 years ago from Southwest England

good advice - I think this is something we all feel from time to time.

I tried to do the poll, but couldn't really tick any of the boxes as I tend to go through most, if not all, of the answers when trying to deal with being overwhelmed! First I get into an emotional state, then I talk to someone about it, then I try to get it in perspective by writing a list of all the things I need to sort out, then I get into action, ticking off one thing at a time until I have got it all under control again.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Sundeep. I appreciate the feedback!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I appreciate the feedback on the poll, Imogen. It helps to know what people are thinking when they try to answer the questions. Thanks for reading and commenting.


merej99 profile image

merej99 2 years ago

So many people fail to realize they are adding the weight of the world on their shoulders until they are so bogged down they can't move. Very informative and helpful hub. :)


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right merej99! When a person is overwhelmed, they are immobilized and unable to act. It is a difficult position to be in. Unless they do something to get out from under it, these feelings will continue. Sometimes, they have to give themselves permission to do so, then things can be looked at from a different perspective and a of plan action formed. Thanks for reading and commenting.


raymondphilippe profile image

raymondphilippe 2 years ago from The Netherlands

Stumbled upon your hub. Sound advice. Chunking down nearly always helps when you feel overwhelmed.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, raymondphilippe. When we are carrying the weight of the world, we end up stopping in our own tracks. Breaking it up into manageable chunks enables action. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


Aysleth Zeledon profile image

Aysleth Zeledon 2 years ago from Russellville, Arkansas

totally agree! :) I have been on both sides..giving advice as well as received advice and it has always been helpful to get other peoples opinion on certain issues. thank you for this!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are welcome, Aysleth. It is nice to be on the other side of things once in a while! When we talk to other people about what we are experiencing, we often find that we are not alone, and that others have ideas of things that might work well for us. It also gives us the opportunity to make connections that may be of assistance for us in the future.


lctodd1947 profile image

lctodd1947 15 months ago from USA

Ok lady, I just found this hub and it is wonderful and give all the needed clues on how to manage our life without becoming too overwhelmed. Great stuff and great work on your part. Something we all need every day as life seems to get bigger by the day. Love it.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 15 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Awesome, Linda! I'm glad that you found the information that you needed! There is so much we have to think about, that there is just not enough time to do it. Breaking things up into smaller chunks really helps. I know it does for me! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


sujaya venkatesh profile image

sujaya venkatesh 11 months ago

a guide to living without much ado


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 11 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for your comment, Sujaya.

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    denise.w.anderson profile image

    Denise W Anderson (denise.w.anderson)519 Followers
    130 Articles

    An Education Specialist, Denise teaches the principles of Emotional Health for the establishment and maintenance of high quality families.



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