Overwhelm. My least favorite feeling. Nothing stops me in my bouncy, productive tracks like the sudden feeling of being overwhelmed.
And I’ll admit, I think I struggle with overwhelm on a more than average level. Not because my life is busier than everyone else’s (everyone is busy), but because I lived with overwhelm as my norm for years. So now, the mere feeling of being overwhelmed throws up all kinds of red flags and before you know it, I’m convinced that my whole life is falling apart.
If you’re living in a near constant state of overwhelm, you need to know about it, because you can fix it. Because you don’t HAVE to live that way.
Yes, stress is part of life. And if you’re living a full life (like I hope you are!) then you’re juggling all the pieces of it constantly and that’s no easy dance. But in my mind there’s a difference between needing an extra cup of coffee to get through the day, and feeling so overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to start.
Let’s not live our lives like this. We are all worth more than a life full of overwhelm. Here’s 5 Signs that you’re living in a constant state of overwhelm.
1. You let things pile up until you’re too overwhelmed to even start.
Enter: my laundry.
I’m currently revamping an old post of mine about the importance of spending two hours a week on chores in your apartment or lil’ house, so that it never gets truly out of hand. Part of that plan was to throw in a load of laundry every week, even if it’s small.
Well, I have been absolutely terrible about this for the last 6 months of my life. But at the very least it’s a great example of what I’m talking about here. Part of the reason that it piles up so badly is because I get too overwhelmed by it to even start.
Is this a pattern in your life? Creative entrepreneurs and bloggers talk about overwhelm a lot because we have to wear so many hats, but I think it’s true of all of us.
Avoiding starting a project creates overwhelm, so if it’s something you’re noticing in your life, you could very well be in a constant state of overwhelm.
2. You make to-do lists that don’t ever get finished.
This is a useful trick, but an unproductive one. I’m certainly guilty of it from time to time, and that’s making to-do lists or schedules with the best of intentions, without ever actually starting or getting through them.
Keeping lists is great if you’re a list person like I am, but if you’re not following through, then don’t make them. Why? Because you’re only making them to make yourself feel like you’re in control.
Regardless of whether you have a list or not, you’re not in control anyway (is anyone ever in control?). But if you’ve got a stack of lists with nothing crossed out, your precious time would be better be served elsewhere, friend.
Listing makes you feel progress is happening when, in reality, nothing has actually happened yet. If you never get through your lists, you might be too overwhelmed on a daily basis to do much more than that.
3. You don’t have any routines.
When everything in my life goes by a routine, I feel claustrophobic and bored. So I’m not suggesting that we attempt to mechanize our lives, here. But if nothing in your life has a routine I bet you’re living overwhelmed an awful lot.
One of my closest friends swears by laying out her clothes for the week on Sunday nights. It’s just really important to her, she always does it, and it helps.
In seasons of my life when I’ve got my overwhelm in check, I have at least 3 routines that I stick with every week. When there’s no routines at all (exercise, laundry, getting dressed in the morning), I know it’s a sign that overwhelm has taken over.
4. You’re everyone’s go-to person.
Oh, girl. This is a big one. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of judging your productivity (or worse, your worth as a human being) by whether or not the people around you can count on you.
I believe in my soul that you need to be show up for your people, and that life is more full when we are trustworthy. But if ‘your’ people is, like, everyone, then when on Earth are you going to tend to your own life?
If you’re everyone’s go-to person and you never say no, this is a huge indication that you’re perpetually in overwhelm.
5. You have too much stuff in your house (yes, you read that right!)
Alright, I’m guilty of this one right now. As we speak.
I have a terrible habit of buying clothes without trying them on. I don’t know, dude. It’s dumb.
The result is that after a season or two in a row, I end up with a lot of clothes that are fine, but not a great fit, don’t get worn that often, or whatever. I haven’t been intentional about building my wardrobe in the last few years, so my closet and dresser are very full.
(I’m planning to tackle this problem this coming week. If you’re not already, follow me on Instagram to keep up!)
The result? Overwhelm. Overwhelm in the morning when I’m trying to decide what to wear. Overwhelm when the weather changes and I have to figure out where to stow it all away. Overwhelm when it’s time to do laundry, and fold laundry, and put laundry away.
A friend of mine recently described a similar situation, but with her kitchen. She’s a sucker for kitchen gadgets and fancy spices. Someone else told me that they do this with home decor and knick-knacks. Either way, I firmly believe that the result is overwhelm. Everything takes longer to clean and care for, and it’s much harder to find what you need when you need it.
So, if you saw yourself in more than 2 of these scenarios overwhelm might have too large of a place in your life. The good news is, if you know what’s going on, you can start working on it. Later in the month I’ll be publishing a companion post to this one, about learning to master overwhelm in our daily lives. Until then? Pick one of these areas that you struggle with, and set a few goals. You’ve got this.