Coping with Overwhelm

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In late March 2016, as I was getting ready to return to my full-time academic job after 13 months’ maternity leave, I had a session with one of the people in my peer-support group. Five minutes into my session, I realised how overwhelmed I felt. Through a flood of tears, I rattled off about 20 items that I was doing at the time: I was taking a certification course in Compassion Key, offering practice sessions towards my qualification, doing another online course on clearing blocks around time, singing in a choir, doing tai-chi in the local park, taking violin lessons once a week, blogging, editing my manuscript – the list went on and on, and this was even without other important things, like my kids, husband and home. How was I supposed to fit 40 working hours on top of all of that? I wasn’t willing to let go of things I loved, but something had to give way.

And it did, once I cleared the limiting beliefs and frustration that kept me stuck and constantly overwhelmed. Gradually, what’s important came to the forefront, and what was secondary fell away, at least for now. As I eased back into working life, my schedule became more manageable. I was still super busy, but with my key priorities clearer. The truth is I couldn’t do all of those things well, if I tried to do them at once. Now, I’m looking at my calendar in a new way. For example, I’m batching up activities: writing up several blog posts in one go, scheduling them and not worrying that I may not have time on the day I’d like to post. It keeps me focused on the task and doesn’t let it spill all over my week. I’m also considering having a few free days every month when I plan to do very little. That free time is as important to productivity as doing lots.

Do you feel overwhelmed at times, dear reader? How do you cope? How do you distinguish between what’s important and what’s urgent? I’d love to hear from you.

21 thoughts on “Coping with Overwhelm

  1. Aaah, the dilemma of managing all the passions.
    Even if it feels weird or uncomfortable at first, lists keep me together.
    Every day the a few ‘I have to do -tasks’ and every day I schedule my passions in too. If I’m not done by dinner time, that’s ok, at least I know I finished some tasks/spend time at some passions.
    Have a wonderful new week, dear Gulara. XxX

    Liked by 2 people

    • I go back and forth between the lists. sometimes they are super useful, because I don’t need to keep everything in my head, and other times the sheer quantity of what needs to be done overwhelms me, so I prefer to focus on one task at a time. But overall, I agree whole-heartedly – when I schedule things, they always get done. 🙂 Have a wonderful week too, Patty.

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      • Yes, I recognize that too…sometimes I find myself even making a list for another list hahaha…I know then it’s time to just leave everything (to a point) as is and take some much needed quality-me-time 😉

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  2. I think one of the first things we need to do to cope with overwhelm is to acknowledge it and its causes. You have done that well, and it in turn has enabled you to plan strategies for managing the important things in your life. Life is a balancing act. We must decide what we want to do and balance it with what we can. Joy occurs when they meet!
    Have a great week!

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  3. Part of the problem is that when we were young, we were told we could do it all: have a career, family, and time for ourselves. Before children, I really thought it might be possible, but after having them, much to my disappointment, I realised it wasn’t.
    Then we were told having it all was about finding ‘balance’, and now we’re learning that, too, is a myth.
    When your children are little, it’s about muddling through the best you can, juggling as many balls as you can manage, but occasionally dropping them. And occasionally putting them down for a while. When our fourth child was a baby, my husband would often take our eldest and the middle two kids to hockey on a Saturday morning, so I could stay home with just the baby. I remember a hockey mother telling me how good my husband was to do that, and I wanted to gouge her eyes out! Because we simply can’t do everything and we shouldn’t feel guilty if we take time out.
    I think it’s great that you’ve cut back! Snatch/grab/steal as much time as you can on your own. Believe me, you will get your life back one day, and you’ll able to do what you want to do again! I must say, though, there still won’t be enough time to fit everything in!

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    • I hear you, Louise, I know what you mean. Thank you so much for sharing so generously. And your words of encouragement and support mean a lot. Yes, balance thing is easier said than done 🙂 As to having kids, my husband and I often joke that the world is divided into two categories: those who have children and those who don’t. I must admit, until I had my kids I had NO IDEA how tough it is to raise a family. In the house where I grew up, we had about 12-15 people living in the same household. Children *just* grew up – with all the support in the household, there was always someone there to give a hand. OK, it also created a lot of messy situations, but help was there, whereas now I have only my husband to help (plus nursery), but it’s pretty limited… Anyway, thank you again for your comment. I always love hearing from you.

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  4. Gulara, you are a very driven and bright lady, however, we can only do so much before we do damage to our bodies… my husband’s health is a perfect example. Time for yourself is NOT being lazy, it is caring for yourself, as you are valuable too.

    With caring for my husband, I make sure I take time out for ME and what I enjoy as otherwise I would feel squished with the weight of the world. One friend says… “You MUST give yourself oxygen FIRST before you can help others.” You do a great deal for people, remember to include YOU on that list. Big Hugs and love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Time is really precious, and I love your approach. Sometimes we forget to celebrate those little victories, and focus on what’s not done yet, which is a sure way to cause overwhelm. Thank you for reading and commenting, Tanya, much appreciated.

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  5. Dear Gulara,
    When I had my outbreak of shingles this spring I realised that I was doing too much myself. I don’t work all that many hours. But I was still struggling with my mother’s death. My priorities were my daughter, work and my blog, My fiancé and writing short stories. Oh oh oh how much did I put on to the plate? Well way too much as I did not take care of myself. I suppose I was trying to drown out the pain.
    So I let go of blogging, writing and focused on family and my own well-being.
    During my trip to France I focused on doing nothing, living, experiencing nature. Now things are easier. I work a bit every week. As the weather is nice I cannot torture little one too much by staying inside for too long during the day. Currently I have managed not to work too much on the days that my fiancé is not working (over the last few months I mostly worked when he was home, so we did not see one another all that much), but that’s due to it not being the school year, so no demanding parents that want me to be at their house…
    What throws me a bit out of balance from time to time is doctors visits as they take up a whole lot of time, and I had a few lately. And last minute lessons, I don’t mind but I have to be open to change plans all the time.
    I think your post got me thinking…
    Hugs, Solveig

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Solveig, thank you so much for your comment. Yes, our bodies have their own way to stop or slow us down. I’m so glad you took the time to live and enjoy your family. Glad you can rest up over the summer, and so happy to have you back in the blogosphere 🙂 Hugs, Gulara

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  6. It sounds like your finding a way to cope with all the things you have to do, which is great. You are very organized. I do struggle with trying to run my blog in among the rest of my life. I don’t have any very great solution to the problem, though. I’ve just had to gradually ease back on the blogging. I enjoyed doing it, but if I don’t have time to write a post, then I don’t have time to write it. My family and job have to come first.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Some days are better than others 🙂 I think blogging can take all the time you can give it, and it needs to be balanced with other things in life. When I keep in mind why I do it, it’s easier and doesn’t feel like yet another demand on my time and energy. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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  7. Pingback: The Most Precious Commodity | Dr Gulara Vincent

  8. Aw it’s another honest and moving post, Gulara. I’ve been overwhelmed with real things to tackle. Sometimes I still feel overwhelmed, without having so many items on my to-do list. Keeping a cool head with a warm heart is a constant challenge to me. Balancing. Sorting. Making sure first things come first. Priorities.
    Yoga helps me a lot. Breathing through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. You’ve said it already in some of your posts. Sounds too simple to work. It does. Slows down my heart and my mind. Resets my goals.
    As for blogging, I still love to write my posts but don’t feel the pressure if I limit it to a few per month. In this manner, I realize that I’ve been able to read more and also to write more fiction. I miss blogging and moreover browsing through other people’s blogs. But. Time being of essence I had to slow down a bit.
    Once a week, I take a couple of hours to read my favorite people and to check my own blog. If anything is happening that I want to share, then I’ll write a post.
    Best to you, always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your heartfelt comment, Evelyne. I appreciate our connection and hearing other people’s experience with overwhelm helps to put things in perspective. When my son was little, I felt like this is how it’ll be forever 🙂 I know it’s irrational to think that way, but when you are in it, it’s hard to imagine that one day I may have time and space for me. As to blogging, the same here. I used to read every blog I followed, and then last November when I was editing my manuscript, I deactivated e-mail notifications. So, I stopped receiving them and haven’t figured out how to turn them on again! Which means I have to visit blogs I like or catch some favourites on the WordPress Reader. I’m not as consistent, but I do my best.
      Many thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer. Warmly, Gulara

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