Adulting is truly overwhelming.
A few years ago, what I have been stressing about are just school stuff (e.g. Did I accomplish all the requirements? I have not reviewed for the exam yet!). Back then I thought that it is the biggest stress I will ever encounter but oh, I was wrong. Adulting came in and it punched me on the face. Suddenly, my tasks escalated from two priorities (school work and house chores) to seemingly endless responsibilities (work assignments, house chores, graduate school requirements, budgeting, girlfriend duties, spirituality, leisure, side-hustle, passion projects and making an impact to others). Adults have so many things to attend to and it gets very overwhelming.
However as responsible adults, we need to find out ways on how to manage everything while maintaining our sanity and fight feelings of overwhelm. In this blog post, we will discuss all about overwhelm and some of the ways to handle it.
What is Overwhelm?
Overwhelm is the feeling of being affected by a lot of things very strongly to the extent of not knowing how to deal with all of it.
It could be a manifestation of anxiety or stress. There are a lot of factors that cause overwhelm. It could be due to an endless list of to-do or an emotional event such as getting married, starting a new job, pregnancy or death.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, you may be experiencing the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty remembering things
- Withdrawal from people and previously enjoyable tasks
- Desire to quit (sometimes preoccupation with death)
Our feelings of overwhelm brings in our tendency to fight or to flight. Fighting the stressors means rolling up your sleeve and facing your concerns. Flight means escaping away from it. We use one of these tendencies when we encounter problems.
There are times we need to fight and there are times we need to walk away from the problem. It actually depends on your concern. This is why it is also important to assess the situation or the task first so that you will know what action to take.
How to overcome overwhelm caused by adulting?
1. Get organized
Get it out of your head and write it all down in a piece of paper. This is my ultimate solution to feelings of overwhelm.
Most of the times, we get anxious because there are a lot of things running in our minds. We cannot identify which needs to be done first and what actions should we take in each thought.
Do a brain dump.
List all your thoughts in a notebook or in an app like Evernote, Notes or Excel. Then, identify which should be prioritized and which can be done later. I like Eisenhower’s matrix because it helps me with my prioritization. I was not aware of this matrix before but I realized that I have been doing this all along.Afterwards, sit down and generate solutions for each concern. Personally, what I like to do is to write down an outline of actions steps I need to do in each item. I get really specific of what tasks I need to do. Here is an example:
THINGS TO DO (June 6, 2019)
- Clean the house
- Sweep the floor
- Mop the floor
- Change beddings
- Do the laundry
- Write a blog post
- Outline the important points to discuss
- Research about overwhelm (definition, causes, symptoms)
- List down personal ways to manage overwhelm
- Create the worksheet
- Film a short video discussing overwhelm
This way, I will not feel as if I am facing a huge stone that I cannot overcome. By breaking it down to small and specific steps, it will feel less intimidating.
Moreover, it is also important to keep your space organized.
Clutter may add to your stress. It can also delay you from doing more important tasks. I like to de-clutter my room and organize my desk first before I start working. I like what Gretchen Rubin said in her books:
2. Manage your finances well
Setting a budget or accounting your expenses is a must when you are already an adult.
Learn how to do these two tasks and establish the habit of doing it as early as you can. Not managing my own finances well in my early 20’s is my greatest regret. This is the major reason for the overwhelm I am feeling at this point in my life.
The stress of not having enough resources to finance all my needs and wants would have been avoided if I were able to save consistently and invested to things that matter in the long run instead of submitting to short-term desires.
If you are on the same page as I am, do not lose hope. We can still do something. That overwhelm you are feeling may be a message for you to start being more mindful of where you are spending your money. You should be the one to tell your money where to go instead of the other way around.
Another important thing is to save for an emergency fund so that you will be confident that you have a back-up resource when the time comes that you need a huge amount of money (e.g. when you get laid off from your job, when you or a loved one get sick, etc.)
Get an insurance because you will surely need this in the future.
I am not an agent of any insurance companies but I realized how important it is now that I am experiencing some health concerns. I am overwhelmed with huge hospital bills which take almost half of my bi-monthly salary. Whereas if I have availed of an insurance which covers my hospital bills, I would have saved a lot of money or even have access to free check-ups.
As much as possible stay away from debt.
If you need to you can start a side-hustle while working in a 9-5 job so that you can earn more and save more too. This is only advisable for people who are ready to experience the pros and cons of a side-hustle. If you are only pressured to do this because you see it in other people, don’t do it. It will only add to your feelings of overwhelm. Start only when you feel ready.
3. Establish helpful routines
Being indecisive about things also contributes to feelings of overwhelm. It is stressful to be thinking of something that you do not know what to do about. It is difficult when you are torn between options.
Gretchen Rubin in her book Better Than Before shared what she found out to be a helpful tool to battle indecision as well as the stress the behavior entails and that is to build habits.
By building habits, you are making the decision an automated one. Instead of stressing over your indecision to work out or not, you are making it automatic if you will build a habit of it. Decide which option you will do and do it consistently until it becomes a lifestyle.
Personally, I like building routines because it lessens the overwhelm I feel with all the things I am thinking about. I can focus my energy in my tasks at work instead of using all my fuel into thinking whether or not I should take a shower. I believe that routines help us feel less overwhelmed.
Take it from Gretchen’s words:
4. Practice self-care
I am a huge fan of self-care. If you would be looking in my IG feed or my FB timeline, most of the things I share are about self-care. I am an advocate of balance when it comes to work and leisure. Adulting is life but I believe that self-care is lifer (if there is such word as ‘lifer’, hahaha).
I shared the things I did to manage the overwhelm I felt this week in my latest IG post. Self-care is about taking a break from your responsibilities and taking the time to care of your greatest resource: yourself.
Practicing mindfulness may be my ultimate tool against overwhelm.
Often, the things I am stressed about are all “what ifs.” My mind makes it seem like these thoughts are real and are all emergency. I then become stuck with overwhelm. To bring myself out of the rut, I pull my attention from the future to the present. I like to tell myself that my stressors have not happened yet and that its occurrence is uncertain. I remind myself where I am presently at in life.
Setting boundaries is another way to practice self-care.
We get overwhelmed because we make our tasks overlap. We do not have a set limit and this makes us feel that our responsibilities are endless. Although we cannot really get away from our responsibilities, we can surely take a break away from it so that we return to it feeling more pumped up.
What you can do now?
I created a pretty one-page infographic of all the things I mentioned above. Feel free to download it to serve as a reminder or a guide as you build your Anti-Overwhelm Plan. You can click the button below to download it.
You can follow my Instagram account where I post more mental health tips. I will be launching my IGTV channel very soon which will focus also on mental health and the language that I will be using is Filipino so that I can relate more with my kababayan audiences. If you are an international audience, worry not because all my captions in my feed are in English so you can still understand my tips.