Overcoming Overwhelm — What’s in Your Toolbox?

  1. Pinpoint exactly what set off my mood. This can be done in many ways. The way I do it is I sit down, close my eyes, and go through my day step by step to see at what point my mood went from being good to bad. I note it.
  2. Identify what can be done about that event, relationship, task. What action can remedy this? Is this an something that I just need to let go of? For example, if my mood was set off by some random person on the street being rude to me earlier in the day, the only thing I can do is take a few deep breathes, know that I can’t change the past or this person, practice some compassion (maybe they were just having a bad day), and let it go. Letting go can take the form of writing about it. It could be me changing my perspective on the situation. If it’s getting disappointing news, then how can I do something constructive and positive about it instead of letting the feeling eat me up inside? Maybe it’s showing up more prepared the next time an opportunity arises.
  3. Write out every task I think I need to do “right now.” When I’m feeling overwhelmed, my brain is running on hyperdrive and seemingly everything is urgent. A special practice of mine is to write my to do list in the form of a mind map. Writing down my to do list on paper reduces my brain’s cognitive energy spent on remembering my list. Writing it as a mind map removes the brain’s prioritizing process. It instead allows me to see the tasks in front of me. I start by writing the date in the middle of a blank paper. From there I write any task I need to do on any part of the paper and connect a line from that task to the box in the middle.
  4. Assess my task list and identify what 2–3 tasks need to get done to make me feel ok again. After I have written every task down, I look at this matrix of items and number them by most urgent to least. From here, I select the most important tasks from my extensive list and tell myself that by completing these actions, I have already made progress.
  5. Breathe and review my action plan of 2–3 tasks. When I envision completion of these things, will I at least be “ok” again? If the answer is no, is there someone I can reach out to who can give me that moral support to keep me going or help me process what I need to? I’ve found that more often than not, friends will step up to help if I ask for it, so this is also a reminder to myself that I am not alone. The importance of this step is to take note of what I am willing to commit to and know where I am going. Being overwhelmed tends to lend itself to feeling directionless, so having a plan reduces that feeling.
  6. Go! I have now let go of what set off my mood. I have a clear plan of action, I know where that plan will lead me. I just need to get started and take that first step.
Tools come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Use them when we need them. Cambodia, 2016.

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Free-spirited fun-loving traveler, passionate about people & making the world a better place through sustainability. The question is “Where is Cynthia Now?”

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Cynthia Leung

Cynthia Leung

Free-spirited fun-loving traveler, passionate about people & making the world a better place through sustainability. The question is “Where is Cynthia Now?”

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