10 ways to protect yourself from overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed stops us in our tracks, we lose the capacity to think properly and instead begin to feel emotionally exhausted. Here are some ways to protect yourself.

  1. Don’t be a slave to your personality – understand how your personality can work against you as a whole human being.
    The person who gets overwhelmed is the person whose personality has put them out of touch with their own needs: the person who pushes too hard, for too long, who takes on too much responsibility and who doesn’t register when they are feeling overburdened. Not seeing how your personality makes more demands on you as a whole human being than you can deal with, will leave you with no capacity to make the adjustments necessary to lead a healthy adaptive life. Without this understanding you will never learn to bend in the wind. Despite all your strengths you risk breaking instead.
  2. Strength
    Redefine strength as the capacity to know when to expend energy and when to restore energy.
  3. Be present to yourself, and honour what you find
    Develop the habit of grounding yourself in order to root yourself in the reality of the present rather than the fantasy your mind wants to create. Find a way to be with yourself at the start and the end of each day. Don’t follow anyone else’s rules on what you should do. Try out what works for others, be open-minded. Meditate, breathe, sit in a darkened room – find whatever works for you to tune into your sense of how you are actually feeling beneath your armour. Allow this knowledge to modify the way you approach your life. When you are feeling strong and alert, go for it. When you are feeling thoughtful and questioning, allow yourself time to be this way. Honour your inner sense of yourself, rather than the outer goals your personality sets you.
  4. Ask yourself the question: What do I do to distract myself from facing my inner fears about myself?
    Think about how to respond to your answer. We can sometimes distract ourselves into feeling overwhelmed. Challenging ourselves can be productive, but not if our challenge is another avoidance strategy.
  5. Take breaks when you are busy. Pace yourself.
    Get into the rhythm of yourself. Understand when you are being productive and when you just doing in a habitual way. Ask yourself all the time, do I need to be this busy?
  6. Get in touch with your real priorities.
    Ask yourself: What are my priorities? What do I do to tell myself I am being productive that is actually just a distraction from the things I need to do that are most uncomfortable for me?
  7. Busyness can be an addiction, and addictions can be destructive.
    Work out where in your life you could be addicted. It’s not just drink and drugs – it can be certain relationships, good works, learning.
  8. Research how to deal with your particular overwhelm – find your own way
    Have you noticed how no-one ever has one self-help book? This is because the answer to our overwhelm is not going to be found ‘out there’ but from within ourselves. Other people’s solutions need can help us but they can never really take us forward. If only working out how to live a better life was as easy as reading a book. In order to deal with overwhelm we need to make ourselves our own subject matter – and then research, experiment and find what works for ourselves.
  9. Overload will lead to overwhelm
    Learn to work smarter and without distraction. Be careful when multi-tasking. We could be sending a message to ourselves that everything needs to be completed NOW – and this is simply impossible. Prioritise, focus and work through what needs to be done in a mindful way.And when you do feel totally overwhelmed…
  10. If you are feeling overwhelmed – don’t fight your feelings of anxiety
    Their fuel of anxiety is the experience of inner struggling, so fighting with yourself in an attempt to calm down isn’t going to work. Step one in dealing with overwhelm is to accept it, and imagine you were surfing it as if it were a wave. Allow yourself time to be with it, and physically remove yourself to a place where you can fully be with the experience, and allow your own feelings to stabilise. Breathe through it, and if you find you can’t do that book an appointment with your GP or seek the support of a psychotherapist.