Overwhelm means to overcome or overpower. If you are in a state of being overwhelmed, usually there is a powerful thought or feeling that you can’t get past. It can also mean there is just too much coming at you at once- too many requests, too many people or clients, too much work, too much noise. I’m inclined to believe that introverts experience overwhelm or overstimulation to a greater degree than extraverts- I’d love to hear any opinion on that in the comments!
Anyway, I got overwhelmed last week as I was staring down an enormous project I needed to complete- a 3 hour presentation. If I stopped too long to really think about how much I had to do, how important it was, and all the pieces necessary it would cause me to shut down. Here’s what I do when I feel myself getting overwhelmed and shutting down:
Break the situation down into smaller pieces. If overwhelm means you are getting too much of everything at once, change the amount of what you are dealing with. If you are overwhelmed in a social situation, this may mean taking a small step back in terms of your engagement- so that you are not as overstimulated but still engaged. Reduce to a place where you can engage- this is the key! If it is a project or work related, figure out what piece really needs your attention first.
Take the first step. It can be paralyzing to stay in your thoughts and emotions only. Move into action, one step at a time. Don’t expect to resolve the entire problem- just start with step one.
What helps you when you are overwhelmed?