Being a therapist is rewarding, but I’d be lying if I said there aren’t days when I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. Or even worse, days that I feel helpless while treating a client. It’s no joke that this is real work, I always remind myself that these are people’s lives here and I must not take it lightly.
I do my best to practice sufficient self-care; adequate rest, a good diet, an active social life, in addition to keeping my spiritual account full. But sometimes I become so overwhelmed I begin think to “Am I really cut out do this?” Gratefully this doesn’t’ happen often, but it has happened enough for me to take notice.
Typically at some point I remember that I can only handle what is on my plate today, I don’t have to worry about tomorrow’s anxiety or yesterday’s mistakes. I remind myself that I only have to make it until midnight, and that the only failure is an unwillingness to try. All that is great most of the time, but what about when telling yourself those things isn’t enough?
When we’re overwhelmed it has the ability to make us not only feel mentally but physically constricted. We literally feel bound by our emotions and the external stressors that consume our lives. This has the ability to lead to anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases delirium. I believe that our mental well being is one of the most important factors in our lives. If you aren’t mentally well, how will you be able to function in the rest of your life?
One of my greatest life lessons is that I am not alone in anything I experience. I’m sure someone can identify, so I drafted a few pointers to decrease the occurrences of you feeling overwhelmed; and if not the occurrence, at least how long your periods of being overwhelmed last.
- Increase your self awareness – having awareness of yourself and what you may be feeling in the moment. This may mean checking in with yourself mentally, feeling your pulse, or taking notice of any unexplained pains. When you know that there’s an issue, it makes it easier to fix.
- Prioritize – FIRST THINGS FIRST (I poppa freaks all the honey’s…lol a little hip hop humor). Do the things that have the absolute highest priority, and everything isn’t on the same level, so it’s possible to rank them. Getting the most important things on your list done first, and then going to the things that have less importance. Which brings me to #3
- Write it down – If you’re anything like me, if it’s not written down it doesn’t exist. That’s just how I am. I have a number of different things going on in my brain at any given moment, so chances are if it’s not written I’d probably forget it. Lists are great, and you can do them just about anywhere, in your phone, on your hand, or good old fashioned pen and paper. Another great thing about lists is that you can check things off as you go along which feel rewarding when you do so.
- Pace yourself – We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and if you have some type of insight on how to get more please let me know. But it’s important to pace yourself as you’re going from task to task. Rushed work only leaves more work in the long run; not saying that you have to be a tortoise, but often times rushing increases our sense of panic and adds to the stress of feeling overwhelmed.
- If you don’t HAVE TO do it, then DON’T – learn to say no for goodness sake, it’s a skill and improves with practice but trust me whomever you are denying WILL find another way to get it done. You don’t have to do or be everything to or for everyone; you’re only one person. And the more you say no the less overwhelmed you will feel
- Delegate – This is a difficult one since we as humans all believe we’re little gods and that we must and can do everything at all times. Not true at all; if there is someone else who can do something for you, then ask. You’d be surprised at who’s willing to help if you actually reach out to them
- Breathe – One of the easiest yet most underused and taken for granted skill. Deep breathing is good for many things, but especially when we’re feeling overwhelmed. As mentioned earlier being overwhelmed may provoke panic or anxiety, when we breathe deeply our brain tells our body that it’s okay to relax. Deep breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts our fight our flight response that is active when we are stressed
- Self-Care – If your account isn’t full you can’t give anything to anyone or anything. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself; whether that means watching television because you feel like it, praying, or taking a bath. Whatever you need to refuel, do it …often.
- REST – Sleep is the #1 remedy for many stress conditions. Often times the physiological effects of feeling overwhelmed is our body’s way of telling us that we need to sleep. Sleep also allows you to process all the information from that day and provides a more clear start when you wake up.
- Try again tomorrow – whatever didn’t get done will still be there, unless you have elves who come to do your work over night for you, I can guarantee that it won’t be going anywhere :)