To Quest Is Divine

Swim or Drown: When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

girl alone in the woods

Graduating from grad school kind of makes you feel like you are supposed to be doing something. I officially walked with my Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications Management on January 6. Time has flown by since—already nearly a month has passed—and I feel a little bit like I’m floundering in the middle of an ocean of my own design. Feeling overwhelmed isn’t new to me. There’s a point where all the things that you’re waiting on to finish up are done and then you momentarily falter because next steps are not immediately obvious, or because your track is different, requiring an adjustment.

jenna in graduation cap and gown not looking overwhelmed
The end of something

From where I’m standing now, the area directly around me feels like an abyss. I’ve got no idea what direction to go, and how I’ll be moving there. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about where I am right now, and I have a lot of goals to accomplish for 2019. From the little things that demand habit forming, to the big things that require constant contribution over the course of the year, and I’m struggling to manage and maintain all the stuff that I feel I need to do. This kind of sucks when you’re hard on yourself, and feeling overwhelmed is a feeling that–more and more–I’m becoming accustomed to.  

Work for No Return

From day to day I feel like I’m getting nothing accomplished…sloughing along, working so many hours, applying to jobs, and nothing happens, you know. That lack of immediacy in response is disheartening to say the least. I suppose most important things aren’t instant, though.

I’ve been dragging for the last few days–partially not feeling good, and partially just feeling depressed, anxious, and useless. It’s not a good feeling, and it’s hard to find a way to get past those feelings; they cling and stick to me like seaweed on my legs in the ocean. I keep having a dream where I’m in the ocean–which I love by the way–but the ocean is threatening and dark. I can’t see land and I can feel the kind of fear where I’m not sure I’ll be able to survive. Dreams like this can only mean confidence and excitement, right?

Feeling this way used to make me procrastinate hardcore (apparently, not uncommon). I used to have a hard time starting things at all, actually. The fear of feeling like I wasn’t good enough was too much of a deterrent–looming in the distance as a door I couldn’t open to get to my goals. I’m older now, so I know I have to get past these feelings, but that doesn’t stop them from happening.

Remedies for Feeling Overwhelmed

So, since I’ve been stressed out, I’ve been trying to manage my anxiety level. Feeling overwhelmed is not new to me. I don’t want to let it get the best of me, though, so I’m really working on self-care. For me, there are a lot of things that I like to do that help me feel a little bit more in control of life. Feeling uncertain about the future and in particular, a fear of failure are the things that make me feel most overwhelmed. That, combined with the fact that my goals aren’t easy ones with obvious and quick success can make it hard to tunnel out of a hole of emotions.

I’m not willing to give up on my goals, you see, and I certainly don’t want to feel like crap the whole time I’m doing them. I’ve come up with a couple of go-to standbys that I rely on to bolster up my mental health and make me feel better when I’m feeling like a noob. Some of these are pretty obvious. But some are not, so maybe you’ll get some new ideas.

1. Sleep

Seriously. Often, when I’m feeling the worst, it’s because I’m tired. Burning both ends has the unfortunate side effect of making me get less than 5 hours of sleep, somewhat regularly. I try to keep those streaks to a minimum, but sometimes the day gets away from you, you know?

2. Make a to-do list

Seems easy. Almost stupid. But when I say to make a to-do list, I mean a realistic to-do list. Not a list of all the things you need to do in the next 2 years. More like: the things you want to get accomplished in the next day. Or, if I’m really struggling, something I’ll do is make a list for the next hour. I have a tendency to procrastinate because I’m overwhelmed and not sure where to start. Looking at things laid out in a nice tiny list seems more approachable. It feels better, and more importantly, doable.

3. List what you’ve done

Because one of my biggest stressors is feeling like I’m getting nowhere, it really helps me to list out the things I’ve already done! Seeing my progress written out in readable format helps me quantify the progress I’ve made.

4. Do something different

I.e. something else on your to-do list. If you’re stuck, sometimes picking something else to get done can jump-start my mind into getting other stuff accomplished. For me, sometimes the overwhelming thing is the sheer number of things to do. Doing one purely cuts that number down. Small, but I feel better.

5. Practice self care

Yeah, this is vague. But self care is different for everyone. For me? BATHS. I love me a bath. Or, I meditate. A workout or dancing is good too. But for you, it might be a good book (I also do not hate that idea). It could be a 4-wheeling trip. A golf course. Who knows? The point is: do something that makes you happy. Something that relaxes you. Sometimes, you just need a different perspective, and that helps.

Those are just some of the things that you can do, but they’re definitely my top 5. Let me know your favorites! (And here are some more ideas.)


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