Sometimes life comes out of nowhere and surprises you, and not in the “You just won the Publisher’s Clearing House” kind of way. Sometimes you just get instantly bombarded with life, so much life that it feels like you don’t know which direction is up anymore. It’s really easy to sink in to those moments and let them take you over, I can be the first to attest to that. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. You just have to push through it.
At least, this is what I’ve been told tonight. And I believe it.
Tonight was one of those nights that I got bombarded with a bunch of information and situations in a very short amount of time. And though I tend to think of myself as fairly resilient, apparently tonight I wasn’t. I couldn’t figure out what to do, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t think straight. Just hours prior I’d literally poured tears from my eyes in laughter after watching an episode of South Park, an episode I’ll end up writing about here another night. But all it took was a couple of key situations and an article about the closing of Grantland to make it feel like the walls were closing around me. Funny how the human psyche works.
To be honest, I wanted to bury myself in the feeling of it all. I wanted to feel sorry for myself, I wanted to doubt, I wanted to berate my plans and my attempt to follow my dream. I wanted to go to bed. I really wanted to go to bed. But instead I picked up the phone and called a friend.
“I think I just feel overwhelmed,” I eventually said after venting to my likely-just-awakened friend.
“And it’s OK to be overwhelmed,” she responded. “But you have to keep going, you have to take little steps. It’s a big project you’re taking on, right?”
We have a habit of underestimating the amount of stress we’re taking on in our lives, in the situations we handle every day. Because we’re used to handling them every day, we think they’re normal, that they’re just something we should put up with. Par for the course. We forget that sometimes our par is actually really, really challenging.
I got reminded of that today when I heard about another friend going through tough times. Don’t get me wrong; I acknowledge I’m going through some stress trying to start the business and deal with being in a new place. But it pretty well paled in comparison to the situations I’d heard about, and I guess it put things in perspective. Which led me to write this.
We’ve all got “big projects” we’re taking on at one point another. I’m lucky enough that mine is starting a new business, for others it’s taking on a new job. Some are battling depression and anxiety. For some, their “big project” is just getting out of bed in the morning, or finding a reason to push through to tomorrow. No matter the project, when we’re overwhelmed we have to do two things: we have to keep going, and we have to take little steps along the way.
One of the things that I’ve tried to recognize is when I need to make a phone call. Many of my friends have been on the other end of the line, essentially acting as a sounding board while I get all the confusion out of my head. Usually, just the act of talking with someone gives me the clarity I need to figure out my next steps, something about hearing it out loud and being acknowledged seems to break the cycle that takes place in my head. Without that venting process, things can get pretty negative.
I used to try to keep my struggles to myself; I figured if people cared, then they’d call me to check and see what was going on. And then I realized that I don’t always keep in touch, and I still care about what’s going on with them! They probably feel the same way! Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have a friend come in just at the right moment to offer advice or comfort, but sometimes we have to go find it ourselves. Regardless of whether our friends reach out to us or not, they still care and want to help. The key is to gather whatever resources are needed to push through the feelings of being overwhelmed.
Sometimes we need to just step away: play a game or read a book, take a long walk or talk with a friend, something to step away from the source of stress. I love to try to bury myself in the problem when I’m starting feel overwhelmed to try and fix it, but I have to acknowledge that I don’t handle the situation as effectively as I could be after recharging a bit. I think that goes for most of us.
Feeling overwhelmed is natural, and it happens to all of us. Life is unpredictable; sometimes we get more thrown at us than we could have possibly been ready for, and that stress affects us. To come back from that feeling, we have to acknowledge it and accept it, accept that it’s OK to feel that way, and then we need to push through it, taking small steps. A few small steps can lead to some slightly larger steps, and then larger still, and before you know it you’re back up and running.
But no matter the circumstance, don’t stop, don’t give up. You have the energy you need to come back stronger than ever, and tomorrow just may be the day you find it.
Featured image comes from this Huffington Post article on dealing with being overwhelmed. Check it out if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.