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Queen of Chaos: Feeling Overwhelmed with Life and How to Conquer It

A woman with her eyes closed and is feeling overwhelmed with life with colors bursting behind her in watercolor

Hey, chaos conquerors! As women, we battle so many different monsters every day that it can feel like an uphill battle. Let's spill them beans on feeling like it’s all too much, or in other words, ‘the overwhelm.’ It’s that sneaky feeling of constantly getting it done that can turn our minds into a chaotic carnival. It's not just drowning in things to do, but a vibe that messes with our brainpower. Here’s how it usually affects me: feeling like I’m moving in slow-mo to forgetting where I put my coffee (oh, the horror!), racing mind, lack of sleep – the whole shebang. Being overwhelmed is like a storm that hits our minds and throws a wrench in all our carefully laid-out plans.

The Overwhelm isn't just a "too much on my plate" problem; it's a party of negative emotions, fears, mental distress, and physical burnout – like trying to juggle flamingos. (Cool as hell but impossible.) When life's demands cram our schedule, it can feel like drowning. I feel like I’m doing marathons in my gorgeous but excruciatingly uncomfortable stilettos.

Here’s how you know you’re plagued by ‘the overwhelm’:

The ‘huh, wha, umm’ Syndrome

Brain fog, know what I mean? It can sometimes feel like your brain has hit the snooze button.

One of the first signs of cognitive overwhelm is the sensation of mental slowness. It makes simple tasks feel like climbing mountains. The cognitive load becomes so heavy that even routine decisions can become paralyzing.

This is when your mind is literally telling you to slow down. It’s cognitive fatigue where decisions are hard to make, and staying focused can be a struggle. This is a red flag, ladies. Take a breath. Go out for a breath of fresh air. Get on that treadmill. Our mind needs a break and our bodies need to get the blood pumping. It sounds counter-intuitive to exercise when you’re feeling slow, but if you can’t afford to climb into bed (I know I can’t) then take 10 minutes and just move.

‘Where are my keys’ funk

It’s hard enough I’m smiling at people I can’t seem to remember and they know perfectly where we ran into each other, but it’s worse when I forget my phone places. It can’t be more tragic, or dangerous. Or how about forgetting to pack something for my daughter’s art class, or wearing the wrong socks!

Overwhelm has a way of cluttering the mental landscape, making it easy to forget even the most basic things. Forgetfulness becomes a common companion when the mind is stretched to its limits. I swear it’s not being absent minded. It’s our minds trying to prioritize tasks according to our fight or flight instinct.

It has literally gone into survival mode and the socks are unimportant. It’s a clear indication stress is high enough to trigger that primal failsafe in our bodies. Stop. Take a breath and prioritize tasks yourself rather than letting your brain doing it on ‘auto.’ Let’s face it, it’s not really a fight or flight situation when we’re packing to get out of the house. A pause and a deep breath will bring it all in focus and we can finally leave with everything. Or make lists. Have a to-do. Visually prioritize tasks so you brain knows what to do next without turning on the panic button.

‘Oppa Gangnam Style’ Earworms

Ever had that song stuck in your head? The earworms plague us all. They keep us up and night, we can’t concentrate and it feels like we’re stuck in that YouTube video that will scar us for life. (Oh god the baby shark theme!) Earworms can be fixed by listening to something else, trying an activity that engages our ears and brains so that we can divert our mind’s dogmatic focus. It's all mental chatter - thoughts jumble together, creating a cacophony that can drown out focus and clarity.

Worries are brainworms. When you have problems stuck on repeat, it can affect your daily life if you let it. It can affect your sleep and mess up the day that’s coming. At times like this, I recommend a change, just like changing the song. Don’t worry about something else, but read something complex that your mind has to focus to absorb. Try a new yoga pose, dance or exercise. Something that engages your brain and requires you to focus or you may be splayed on your yoga mat and a spread eagle you weren’t prepared for. Distract your brain with some new braincandy. I don’t even care if it’s 2 a.m., If my brain gets stuck on repeat, I give it a good shake.

‘This screw goes where’ conundrum

Feeling overwhelmed can impair our ability to think logically and solve problems. Entangled in a web of stress, our minds struggle to navigate through complex problems. Our brain has the ability to come up with new solutions, recall previous answers, but it needs ‘research time.’ If your mind is occupied with that marketing presentation, diapers that need buying and shoes that need tying, a newly presented problem can feel like a crisis. Women have the power to multitask, but that doesn’t mean we should try and do it all the time. Your brain, usually the queen of strategies, can take a vacation when we’re already juggling 5 things and we get the dreaded 6th.

I know we can’t really stop doing the other 5, here’s what I propose: Each new puzzle or problem deserves it’s ‘research time.’ So, if it needs to be resolved immediately, then pause your multitasking and put it in a que, prioritize the urgent issue, resolve it then go back to doing the things you can multitask. Some tasks are mundane enough, or our muscle memory can manage to run our bodies on autopilot. But some tasks require our full concentration. If you try the puzzles with half a mind where the other is spooning noodles into your baby’s mouth, one is likely to end up in her nose. So be smart with your que.

The Overwhelmed Mind

Here’s the nerdy gist. Perpetually feeling overwhelmed can mess with our brain chemistry. Chronic stress, which is a best friend to overwhelm, triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Prolonged exposure to these hormones can lead to changes in the structure and function of the brain, particularly in areas related to memory, concentration, and decision-making.

Stress can lead to physical problems like high blood pressure, raised blood sugar, weight gain, depression, digestive issues and so much more.

So here’s what I suggest when you’re drowning in ‘to-dos’:

  1. Practice Mindfulness: Take breaks during the day for deep breathing or quick meditation. Think mini spa-day for your brain.

  2. Divide your tasks: Make smaller, achievable steps and recognize your achievements for when you’ve done them all. Organization and positive reinforcement.

  3. Declutter: Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Make a que. Drop things into a ‘tomorrow problem’ bucket and come back to them we you’re feeling less overwhelmed.

  4. Tech Detox: Unplug. Technology can also be overwhelming. Too much information keeps our mind working so instead of checking that feed all the time, designate specific times for checking emails and messages to avoid the constant digital buzz.

  5. Self-care: Make it a part of your to-do list to take care of yourself. Make it a real, prioritized task so you cannot miss it. Make time for yourself or no one will.

  6. Delegate: Do you really have to do it all by yourself? There are tasks you can leave for others, or find someone else to do it for you. Get help. Nobody does it all on their own. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help

  7. Set boundaries: Work is work. And home is home. Don’t let one bleed into the other. Mixing business with pleasure never works out. Even if you’re working from home, create a clear schedule so it doesn’t blend into one constant grind.

  8. Self-affirmations: Remind yourself of your strength, resilience, and ability to conquer challenges. Put stickies, print quotes that you can see, do whatever it takes to keep your mantra all around you. Reinforcement is key.

  9. Be flexible: All plans can go awry. Life doesn't always follow a script, and that's ok. Be adaptable and ready to change. It’s a game changer – all about evolution.

  10. Leverage tech: There are so many productivity apps and tools out there.  Find something that works for you. Like keeping my period on an app has freed my mind from trying to remember when my last day was and focus on when my last story went online! Way more fun.

  11. Say no: Saying ‘no’ can be an art. Protecting your time and energy for tasks that really matter is not being selfish. Only take on what you want to.

Every day is an intricate dance between our life and our mind. Feeling overwhelmed can disrupt our harmony. Understanding its toll is pivotal to regaining control of your life. Acknowledge the signs, implement some fixes, and nurture your well-being.

Remember, even amidst the storm, there is always a path to calmer waters.

Keep up the fight, you’re not alone.

If your overwhelm is coming from loss or grief, I have a Healing Journal centered around the teaching of the Sufi poetry Rumi. Rumi’s words have been a balm to my soul in times of internal crisis. Maybe it can help you?

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