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Are You Feeling Overwhelmed?

Updated on December 22, 2020
denise.w.anderson profile image

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

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

Find the Underlying Feelings

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.

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

Visualize the Problem as an Object

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

Examine the Issues Objectively

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 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

We May Need Additional Resources

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.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed?

See results

Re-Think Priorities

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 that get in the way of our being the best that we can be.

Be Creative

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

Our Families Can Help

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.

Colleagues at Work Can Help

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 turn being overwhelmed into being organized.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Denise W Anderson

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