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What to Do When You Get Overwhelmed

person-looking-searching-cleanDaily life is busy. There are constantly things that require our attention. Whether it’s work or family, there seem to always be things we need to do to keep everything together.

We are juggling numerous balls trying to maintain a balancing act on already-tenuous ground.

The point is, there comes a point in everyone’s life when things can get to be too much. We all get overwhelmed at times.

In dealing with schizophrenia for the last ten years, this fact has become acutely apparent to me. I juggle my writing work with friends, family, finances, all the trappings of modern life and the overwhelming intensity of the things that are happening in my head. Suffice it to say, I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed.

It happens to all of us whether we like it or not. It’s OK, though; there are things we can do to address it.

First, it’s important to take care of yourself. We’ve all heard about self-care. This is one of those instances when that comes in handy. Whether it’s taking a hot shower, eating a good meal, or going for a long walk, taking the steps necessary to unwind are more than essential.

You probably have things you do after a long day. Those things work especially well when things start piling up as well. I realize it may make you feel guilty to take time for yourself in the midst of obligations, but it’s something that needs to be done and something that you shouldn’t feel remotely bad about. We all need the chance to unwind in order to function at our best, and self-care is essential for that.

The next huge response you can make when things start piling up is to take stock of all that you do and prioritize. Some things may be better relegated to occasional instances rather than all the time.

It’s important to be aware of the things that you’ve convinced yourself are important but can, in reality, be put on hold for the time being. Maybe it’s obligations at work or busywork that has no deadline. We all have these little things we convince ourselves to do that can be better accomplished at pre-appointed times.

The third action you can take to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed is to get plenty of sleep. I realize how easy it is to stay up past a reasonable hour cruising the Internet or doing something innocuous, but setting a routine for sleep can be extremely beneficial.

I know I don’t function well at all the next day if I don’t get a good night’s sleep and I know my work suffers.

Reduce your screen time before bed, stay away from caffeine, and set a bedtime. That way, you’ll get into the rhythm of sleep and you’ll find that you function much better with that perfect restorative rest.

In essence, it’s important to take care of yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you have to quit doing something in order for you to be your best, then so be it. It may be hard at first but you will feel so much better.

Life isn’t about stressing yourself out, it’s about finding those little joys. If you’re constantly overwhelmed those joys will be overlooked.

What to Do When You Get Overwhelmed

Michael Hedrick

Mike Hedrick is a writer and photographer in Boulder, CO. He has lived with schizophrenia for many years and his work has been published in Salon, Scientific American and The New York Times. His book is available here You can follow his blog on living with schizophrenia here

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2018). What to Do When You Get Overwhelmed. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 5 Jan 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.