Reducing Overwhelm


Are you feeling a little down in the dumps?  Overwhelmed?

Do you suddenly lose your momentum, and have a really hard time getting back to your seemingly never ending to-do list?

Are there days that you’re on the top of the world, and have everything together and all figured out, and then the next day you’re a hot mess and can’t put down the Butterfinger and the remote?

You’re not alone!  We’re dealing with unprecedented unknowns right now, and humans don’t like unknowns.  They’re scary!  We like our nice, comfortable knowns, so we can ease back and not think too hard, and not wonder what the heck is around the next corner.

And with 2020….the thought of the next corner is a scary one!

Even though your job may be secure, and you’ve got your kids homeschooling situation worked out, and life seems to be cooking along fine for now, there’s an underlying stress.  What’s going to happen with the disease?  When will it be comfortable to go in public again?  When will I have a day when I don’t have to be on zoom calls all day?  The election, social unrest, and winter is coming!   There’s an undercurrent of stress and unknowns just outside of our sphere of influence that is pressing down on us and shrinking the capacity we have to deal with everything.

I like to think of it in terms of emotional energy.  Emotional energy is what you need to be able to make tough decisions calmly and rationally, to deal with stress in a mature way, to exercise self discipline like not eating the whole box of cookies, and to be able to focus your attention and get the important, difficult work done.

On a normal day, you wake up with 100 units of emotional energy, and throughout the day, the big and little stressors eat away at it.  Ideally, you run out right when it’s time to fall into bed for a good night’s sleep, when you can wake up and do it all again, refreshed.

That’s the ideal

And when the HELL do we EVER get to have the ideal?  RARELY, and practically never in 2020!

With 2020, instead of waking up with 100 units, you’ve got about 85 because of the overall stress of all the unknowns, and the creepy virus skulking around out there in the world.  That’s just there.

Then, you wake up a little hungover and dehydrated because you drowned your frustrations the night before with a bottle of wine.  Emotional energy tank down from a 2020 high of 85 units to only 70 units.   Then the stressors start.  You make the mistake of checking your e-mail before you get out of bed and there’s a frustrating request from a maddening client who sent it at midnight last night.  BAM, 1 unit, gone.

Then the kids won’t get out of bed.  BAM BAM, 2 more units gone.  Then you try to settle them into their virtual classrooms, and something funky is going on with the internet.  BAM BAM BAM  5 more units gone.  The kids are whiney (because they’re stressed out too) BAM BAM.  Then you get to work, and your boss calls you into a 1 hour meeting that you didn’t need to be in.  BAM BAM BAM BAM.  It’s not even lunchtime, and you’ve only got 40 units left.

You grab a quick bowl of mac and cheese and a diet coke for lunch BAM, afternoon work, kids, dog won’t stop barking, BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.  No wonder at 5pm you’re ready to drown in a pint of ice cream and another bottle of wine!  You yell at the kids because you don’t have any emotional energy left.  You send an angry e-mail to your boss about that stupid meeting, drain the bottle of wine and open another one, forget the healthy dinner you had planned because it would take too long, and just nuke a pizza and get it done, and you collapse on the couch, frustrated with your life, yourself, and feeling completely drained, overwhelmed, emotional and simply at the end of your rope, unable to deal with anything else, and disappointed because you’ve killed your diet plan A-GAIN, you’ll have to explain the angry e-mail to your boss tomorrow, and you’re already ¾ of the way to your next hangover.  Tomorrow isn’t looking any better.

Sound familiar?  Maybe some version of this?  Well, you’re not alone!    No matter how much people look like they’ve got it all figured out, everyone has those days and time periods where they just can’t seem to pull it together.  SO the big question is, HOW DO I DEAL WITH THIS.

It's ok to not be ok

So here’s the scoop.  For all you perfectionists out there who always want to make it seem like everything is fine, in fact it’s great!  It’s perfect!  I have it all together!  No really.  You’ve got to have the courage to recognize that you don’t, and maybe some changes need to be made.  (side note, you don’t have to admit this to anyone but yourself…but sometimes that’s the hardest thing.)


The key to cracking the overwhelm, and feeling like you can handle what life throws at you is to not run out of emotional energy before bedtime. That means taking the bull by the horns and taking control of some of the things you can control that will give you a little extra cushion of emotional energy.

Focus on what you can control

To start with, drink plenty of water.  Ok, that sounds weird, but seriously.  Your body is around 60% water.  Over half of your being is water, and every single bodily function relies on water to work.  When you’re a quart low, it will reflect in your mood, your reactions, your energy, your ability to deal with stress.  I’ve done a whole bunch of marathons, and I can always tell when I’m low on water, because I get weepy and want to give up.  That’s TOTALLY not me…so I always know.  Feeling weepy?  overwhelmed?  Frazzled and frayed?  Are you dehydrated?  Start there, because it’s such an easy way to keep your body, mind and soul buzzing along smoothly.

Nutrition.  You don’t have to eat Kale 6 times a day, but making sure you’ve got plenty of veggies in your diet will help!  Swap out a salad for your usual sandwich lunch.  Another strategy I like is to go with the “green on every plate” principle.  Whatever it is, good nutrition will also give you a little more of a buffer with your emotional energy

Next, MOVE YOUR BODY!  Exercise.  Get your blood pumping and your heart rate up!  Doesn’t have to be a 3 hour sweatfest in the gym every day.  It can be if you’re into that sort of thing, and it will help, but it can also be small.  Feeling overwhelmed, Take a walk.  Take the stairs.  Walk to the store rather than driving if you can.  Have a walking meeting.  Standing desk.  Drop and give me 20.  Dance break!  Whatever it is, that little movement break will increase your emotional energy.

Sleep!  I know this is a tough one, especially if you have small humans in your care, but think about how you might be able to increase your sleep because your body NEEDS sleep to be able to recharge that emotional energy for the next day.  A few strategies I’ve heard to increase your sleep… no cafffiene after noon.  No screen time 30-60 minutes before bed.  (the blue light apparently interferes with your natural circadian rythmns.   Skip the 11 o’clock news.  (news these days rarely puts you in a relaxed sleepy mood!)  Same bedtime every night.  Create a pre-bedtime ritual, listen to a guided sleep meditation.  (I have Sleep Better from Audible and I rarely make it through the 10-20 minute recording before I’m sawing logs like a champ!)  What can you do to get that recharge at night so your battery is full the next day.

Ok, now these next 2 are controversial, but vital.  2 other things that sap your emotional energy are hangover and caffeine overload, so consider cutting back.  In the moment it might be tough, but in the long run, it really helps!!  I actually am on an alcohol break, and my focus has increased and my feeling of overwhelm has decreased.   A nice combination!  I’ve been drinking cranberry and seltzer a lot.  It feels like a fancy cocktail, without the depressing and dehydrating alcohol effects.  WINNING!

Small changes for a better life

There are a ton of other things within your control that can increase your emotional energy, so you can deal with all the crazy stress that you can’t control, but let’s start here.  Pick one of these, and make a 30 day commitment to improve just that one thing, and see how you feel.  It’s amazing what small changes can do over time!  Good luck!

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