Dealing with life when you are Overwhelmed and Mentally Exhausted
It seems & feels like I have SO VERY MUCH on the go. I work full time, and they keep giving me new and more complicated tasks. I’m also building this blog you are currently reading. And of course, I’m a wife & Mother. Not to mention all the normal adult stuff that we all do like cleaning the house, cooking, paying bills etc.
At any given point in my day, I have at least 100 thoughts bouncing around in my head.
Add to the mix that my brain has to “translate” what it wants to say into “normal people speak” every time I open my mouth and that I have to deal with a constant flow of social requirements that I hate. And you get the drift of how overwhelmed I can get.
Let’s think of our minds and thoughts like a stream of water. Our mind is constantly running and moving and shifting like the water. The thoughts are the things that the water runs over (rocks, sand, dirt etc) or carries with it (leaves). In a normal day, the rocks at the bottom of the water don’t really disturb us, they are there but not active (unconscious mind).
Our minds keep going with the flow without too much trouble.
But if someone throws a rock into the middle of our stream it disturbs the water in multiple ways. If multiple someones through multiple rocks, we get some turbulence going. Our subconscious mind starts intruding on our conscious mind with everything its processing causing extra thoughts to pop up. Heaven help us, we have someone stick a rod in and intentionally mess with the flow.
If the turbulence lasts a while or is strong enough we end up struggling to handle the shift in the waters. This causes overwhelm, and having too much or too long of an overwhelm leads inevitably to Mental Exhaustion.
So how do we deal with the overwhelm/exhaustion?
To start decreasing the Mental Exhaustion get the thoughts out of your head.
Lets put a filter on that churning water and pull out a bunch of stuff so we can prioritize and drop tasks as needed.
I’ve kept a journal in various forms for years/decades. Dumping your thoughts onto paper gets them out of your head so you can think more clearly.
Right now mine looks a lot like a bullet journal, but it has also been a straight up journal, and sometimes it’s just a planner.
The trick with this is to find out what works for you and get the bouncing thoughts out from your brain onto something where they can’t be forgotten.
Personally, I highly recommend pen & paper, but if digital works for you go for it. I just find that digital systems add to the overwhelm for me.
To reduce the overwhelm get all the info in one spot!
This is not exactly like journaling but can include it. For all the things you have on the go get that info into ONE PLACE.
Again digital or paper can work for this. The big thing is that our brains keep reviewing information it thinks is important that we don’t want to forget.
Putting the information it keeps re-hashing in a system that will remember it for you releases the brain from having to remember it. I tend to do this in my journal right now because the physical sensation of writing tells my brain that I think it’s important enough to document.
Typing is important, but my brain doesn’t seem to register it as the “Saved info externally” as when I’ve been handwriting.
Clean something physical
The act of cleaning tends to signal to our brain that we are “taking care of business” which means your overwhelm will dissipate because it understands you are cleaning up the duties it needs to be done. This can be something like washing dishes, sweeping/vacuuming the floor, or even decluttering a bit in your home.
The point is to physically get out of your head by doing something cleaning related.
Get some exercise/move that body
I’ll be honest I’m horrible at this one, when I’m stressing I’m more likely to sit on the couch and veg (good book anyone?).
The last thing I want to do is get up and work out, but if you are overwhelmed the easiest way to get out of your head (and let the swirly thoughts settle) is to get up and move.
Even a simple walk around the block can help you feel better and more in control.
Bonus it enlists your body in helping your mind, as everything is connected this is a BIG key to dealing with the unsettling stuff that happens in our mental spheres.
Read a book….
No, I’m not talking about a textbook or something you are going to grow from, while I love those books they can add to the overwhelmed feeling. Pick something fun and interesting you can get immersed in. You want light and fluffy type stuff to distract yourself with.
If you are like me reading a self-help book or blog will just add to the turbulence in your head, so escape it with something lighter.
Talk to someone about what is going on.
Now I know most women will do this one first, and we talk to our guys, who then try to “fix it” for us, and then we get mad at them and of course, this only adds to the problem.
My recommendation if you are going to talk to your spouse is telling them you need to “Vent”, and the rule is they listen and don’t give you any advice and then talk. They are wired a little differently so when we take our problems/ overwhelming to them they try to help (they are awesome that way). But if you tell him up front “I don’t want advice I just want you to listen” they are less inclined to jump on it.
Or you can always talk to a Girl Friend, or family (Mom’s can be awesome for this).
If a guy comes to you with things chances are he wants a solution. If a woman comes to you she likely needs to “Vent” in order to process the information bouncing around in her head. It’s kinda like journaling only verbal for her.
Cuddle with someone or a pet
Sometimes to quiet our mind we need the physical contact. I used to have this cat that (contrary to everything I’ve ever been told about cats) loved to cuddle. The best part was when I felt off, overwhelmed or mentally exhausted her cuddling and purring would calm me down really quick.
Take it to God In Prayer or Meditation
It can’t be said enough, but when you are in a mess call in your reinforcements. The best way to do that is to pray, take it to the Lord in prayer and give it over to him to sort out. I’m not saying just dump and run, but pray for what you should be doing to heal the situation.
Preventing Future Overwhelm and Mental Fatigue
So you could just put up a fence around your stream and stop anyone from coming near. But if you have any friends or family going out into the wilderness and living like a reclusive hermit probably won’t work for you.
In an effort to reduce the number of rocks other people throw into that pond (or tasks on your plate) I recommend using the following.
Just Say NO.
And by the way NO is a complete sentence, it does not require an explanation.
When it comes to commitments you have the choice of what you let into your life. Have a kid? Pick which friends are “close enough” to go to Birthday Parties and Special Events with.
Have a spouse, plan for date nights where you can relax and re-connect. Prioritize upcoming events and which relationships you want to build, focus on those.
Book at least some time (Like a week a month) when you don’t do anything! No going out, no big events, just the normal daily stuff to do with a relaxing evening.
Leave work at work, and if you work at home leave it in whatever is your “workspace”
I get it, when you are at work it’s your job to do what the boss asks you to.
But if they just keep dumping stuff on you chances are you will burn out or need a break of some kind. It’s in their best interests to NOT overwork you (even if your boss doesn’t agree they will have to deal with your absence at some point).
I had a friend when I was younger who gave his all to his work. He loved it, spent day and night working himself to the bone. And just recently I found out that his body revolted a couple years back, he is now fighting a couple major medical issues and won’t likely work again.
Guess what, as soon as his boss heard this guy wasn’t coming back they hired a replacement. Took them 2 weeks total. Believe me when your health is important enough you will say NO.
Delegate the things you can.
Being overwhelmed is a sign that we have too much on our plates.
For me, I keep thinking of all these great posts that I want to get written and out, but I keep thinking of them at work which is not ideal for writing good content. And not something I can ask someone else to do (I’m the one getting the ideas at the moment anyway).
But when I’m overwhelmed at work I CAN ask for help with work tasks. So the other day I ask for some assistance on entering data into a couple reports that I needed to complete.
It saved me time and I knew it would get done so I didn’t have to think about it. This lets me get some of my other work done and off my plate so when I got home I wasn’t worried about work stuff, then I could write my next post… see good for everyone. 😉
Automate digital tasks as needed.
This is like delegation only you set it up to run in the background on your computer or phone. For instance, I keep running lists of projects I have on the go in Trello, when a task is due I have it set up so Trello dumps it over to my main “focus” board so I don’t have to worry about finding it.
You can also use programs like outlook or Gmail calendars to keep a calendar with you anywhere you go, it will just pop up a reminder when you need to handle something. Personally, I like iCal.
I’ve heard that some of the most productive people have alarms for everything on their phones… their phone tells them when to drive somewhere when it’s time to eat, as well as when they have time set aside for various projects… it’s like a personal assistant in your pocket.
Unplug for an hour, a day, or a week, heck go for a month if you can
Contrary to the above point getting away from our electronics is helpful too! The constant pinging of notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, text messages or whatever else is out there just adds to the burden jumbled up in your mind. If you can shut the electronics down and unplug for a bit.
If you need it (ie phone for emergencies) at least turn off all the notifications or put it in Do Not Disturb (DND) mode for a good chunk of your day. I don’t know about you but I hate that little red dot that keeps telling me I have “things to read/do”.
If you can’t completely unplug at least set time frames when you won’t answer to the digital world. Most phones and other tech devices have a DND mode that can be programmed for set times use it. Mine goes into DND mode at 8 pm, and doesn’t come out until 7 am every day for this reason. The only people who I get a notification for are on my favorites list, and that’s a very short list.
Make it a habit to chat face to face instead of online/digitally.
Yeah I know, I should be touting the “Online life rules” since I run a blog, and it does in small doses. But sitting down across from a friend or your partner will build a better connection with them then a couple text messages.
There is just something about chatting in person that sparks more relaxation then the computer chemical buzz.
Use a timer when you work
Set a timer for an interval that you want to work for, say 45 minutes. When the timer goes off get up and stretch, get some water, and just take a short break.
The big thing here is to get back to work for another 45 minutes after a 15-minute break. This prevents overwhelm by incorporating some self-care into the process and lets you work through the project in the back of your head.
You may need to play with the time intervals though, everyone is different on how long works for them. I work best with 45/15, but you might be 90/25 or something else.
What tips have you found work for beating the mental exhaustion and overwhelm? Let me know by commenting below or sending me an Email, I’d love to hear from you.