What to do When You Get Overwhelmed

Sometimes it happens suddenly, sometimes gradually, but we’ve all been in a situation where we can’t focus because there’s too much going on.

This morning I was trying to learn and understand a new project and suddenly it was like my eyes crossed and my brain blanked out. I just could not make heads or tails of what I was looking at. Thankfully my inner voice spoke up and said, “this is too much Mike, put it away.” It was like I had blown a fuse.

The point is, I’m very familiar with what it’s like to become overwhelmed. It happens pretty regularly for me, mostly from being out in public or from being in places where there’s a lot of noise. Sometimes it’ll even happen if I’ve just spent too much time looking at twitter.

I think most everybody can relate when I say it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are things you can do to ease that feeling though and it’s important to realize that it’s not permanent and most times, all you need is a little rest to get your mind right.

This may seem elementary but one of my favorite ways of easing a blown brain is to take a nap. You don’t have to sleep, just lying down and closing your eyes for fifteen minutes creates a nice reset and helps you better collect your thoughts.

I realize that napping in the midst of a work day is a luxury I have being a writer, and is not something most people can do but taking a small rest is definitely doable for most.

If you’re at your desk, close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a minute or two. Breathe deeply and think about the breath going in and out of your lungs as your thoughts pass by. Congratulations, you just meditated.

After that, it’s probably alright to get up, walk around a little bit, go to the bathroom or get a snack and come back to your desk. Chances are, things will be a little clearer and you’ll be to focus more cogently on the project you’re working on.

Even if you aren’t in an office, this method can still help tremendously.

Say you’re in a loud public space with lots of people talking and you start to blank out a little bit.

Firstly it’s ok to escape for a second and go find a quiet area, but even if you can’t, just closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths as you focus on your breathing can calm down even the most extreme cases of being overwhelmed.

It’s ok to get overwhelmed, it’s ok to blank out, and it’s ok to lose yourself for a moment or two. Just remember that it’s a normal human reaction and it happens to the best of us.

Again, as I’ve said many times, you are not alone in this experience.

Millions of people feel or have felt the way you feel.

Just remember to take those moments for yourself when you can and you’ll be alright.

It’s Ok to Overthink

I’m guessing I’m not the only out there that has a tendency to think and overthink things to the point of exhaustion. In fact, I know I’m not.

Millions of people struggle with anxiety in their daily lives and one major facet of that anxiety is the tendency to overanalyze.

For me, my mind seems to mostly spiral on social interactions and money related issues sometimes to the point of ridiculousness.

“Did I say something off when I was talking to that woman? it seemed like the energy shifted. I think she looked at me funny like I said something I shouldn’t have. Did my face look weird? Did my voice sound ok? Does she think I’m weird. I better apologize in case I said something weird.”

A monologue like this can run through my head for hours and I yell at myself to stop, put a lid on it. Stop overanalyzing Mike.

Of course then, that only makes me angry at myself which causes more anxiety.

Having dealt with this for most of my life though, I’m here to tell you, It’s ok to overanalyze. It’s ok to be anxious and it’s ok to worry.

These are all natural human reactions to stimuli and while they may have served us well in the past when we had to deal with very real scenarios of life and death, these anxious reactions don’t really have a place in modern society.

We can’t ignore them though, it’s smart to be wary of what’s happening in your surroundings and be prepared for eventualities, but when they cause us unnecessary anxiety it’s time to get a handle on them.

How do we do that?

Acceptance and acknowledgement.

In order to lessen the power these mental windstorms have, we need to realize that they’re normal and rational and ok to have.

You are not messed up because your thoughts are too overpowering. It’s perfectly normal to be anxious sometimes and it’s ok to overthink.

We have to accept and acknowledge that we are having these thoughts and sit with them. We have to get to know them and become familiar and friendly with them instead of constantly fighting them and trying to push them away.

Lastly, we have to acknowledge them as what they are, transient, floating thoughts that drift through our brains like clouds. We don’t have to hang on to them, we don’t have pick them apart. We can accept them as simply thoughts and let them pass.

Sometimes assigning a name to these thoughts helps too. Like, oh, that’s just my brain pest Phil who likes to mess with me. Get bent Phil.

I’ve used all these techniques in dealing with my intrusive spiraling thoughts and each one works in different ways.

Finally, one of the most powerful ways we can quell our pesky thoughts is to meditate, that is, to focus on something like our breath going in and out as we close our eyes and breathe deeply, even just a few deep breaths like this can calm our nervous system and make it easier to forget and let go of overthinking.

Believe me when I say that I am no stranger to overthinking and dealing with spiraling and intrusive thoughts. They have been part of my experience of schizophrenia from the very beginning and even before then so I know what it feels like to have them.

Trust me when I say that it’s ok to overthink. It doesn’t mean your weird and it doesn’t mean you’re crazy.

You probably just need to take a moment to yourself and get friendly with your thoughts.

Fighting them is only gonna hurt more.

Whatever happens, you got this.