Overwhelm has been defined as “too much emotional going on,” and that’s certainly how it feels. And I ought to know, because I’ve lived it far too often. One of the great lessons of my 50’s has been to stop bringing in the stress and to-do’s of next summer and next week and tomorrow into today, because then I miss today. I was recently advised to do something that acts as a quick fix for overwhelm. I’ve used this tool for a while and it works so well I want to tell you about it.
Part of overwhelm is swirling thoughts and sweeping generalizations. What’s a sweeping generalization, you ask? Thoughts and words like “I always” and “You never” and “Nobody ever.” They’re simply not true but we believe the story when we tell it. The other part of overwhelm is the real press of responsibilities and tasks. So what’s a good way to stop overwhelm in its tracks before it progresses to a meltdown?
Try this: when you feel the stress rising and the panic ensuing, get out your journal. But don’t necessarily write about all that’s going on. I have old journals from my young mom years, and they’re full of complaints and self-pity. Not sure that helped much, except to reinforce the despair. No, don’t write your emotions at this moment. Instead, write your gratitude.
Make a simple list of things you’re grateful for.
For scientific reasons (and I don’t know what they are), use white paper and a blue pen. I do think it’s best to put pen to paper, but in a pinch use a gratitude journal app on your smart phone.
Writing your gratitude will shift your focus from “what a big mess” to “what a great God.” It will help put things in perspective and equip you to deal with what’s at hand, because you won’t be blowing it all out of proportion anymore. We get in trouble when we start focusing on the problems and the what-if’s…and we’re not thinking “what if it all works out,” believe me.
If you know someone who is successful it’s because they’re not watering and fertilizing their fears. And in the end, that’s really what overwhelm is: fear that we’re not enough, fear that we can’t do it all, fear that it’s not going to work out.
Try this quick fix for overwhelm and see if it helps. It’s best to catch the overwhelm at 1 or 2 on a scale of 10. If you let it go till it’s an 8, it’s going to take tears and a bubble bath to get back on track. Focus on what you’re grateful for, write it down and feel the stress dissolve.