Feeling Overwhelmed? Stressed? Here’s Why (And Some Tactics to Help)

Are you feeling overwhelmed, like me? You are tired of this. You don’t know how to make decisions because you don’t know what information to believe. Are you sick of all the newness in your life and the constant adjustments you have to make as a result?

You feel stressed. Emotionally drained. Unsettled. All of these reactions are normal given what is going on around us. But they still aren’t fun.

What’s Going On

Let’s take a quick look at the factors that have turned our lives upside down:

1. Unpredictability and instability. In general, we like our lives to have a sense of predictability and stability. (Too much, however, and life becomes boring and feels stagnant.) We like to be able to make plans. Predictability gives us the illusion of control – that we know what is going to happen. That’s why kids like routines and knowing what they are going to do – they aren’t in control of much in their lives, so at least knowing Friday night is pizza night helps them feel more stable.

Our lives, obviously, have become hugely unpredictable with regards to health issues, our jobs, the kids’ school schedules, the economy, when stay-in-place orders will be lifted (and for whom). The result? An overall sense of instability, lack of ability to plan for the future or even next week, and a huge drain on our emotional resources.

2. Being overwhelmed by newness. There is a new daily schedule for you, your spouse, your kids and everyone you know. New rules and regulations – where you can and can’t go, rules for interaction with others. New ways of doing daily life – meals, shopping, exercising, relaxing. A lot, if not most, of the various aspects of our lives have “new” intruding into them. The result? A sense of instability in our daily routines and a huge drain on our emotional resources.

3. TMI (too much information) and uncertainty of what to believe. Wow, did you ever realize how overwhelming it would be when it seems everyone wants to share their thoughts on virtually everything at every opportunity? Not only are we getting hourly updates about COVID-19 stats – for the U.S.; for New York City; for your state, county or city; for Italy, China, Spain, Turkey, Russia and India – but we get to hear lots of people’s ideas and opinions about what should be done, what should have been done, what’s going to happen to “the curve,” the economy, Major League Baseball and so on ad infinitum.

Add to this overwhelming amount of information the fact that much of it is conflicting and, as a result, we don’t know which information to believe. The result? Confusion, an inability to know how to make decisions and a huge drain on our emotional resources. (See a theme?)

What to Do

To get through these things, we need to:

Accept we are not in control of a lot of factors in our lives. We, as individuals, don’t control the weather, the global economy, decisions made by governmental authorities, our health (to some degree), what our employer decides, etc. If we don’t accept this fact, we will wear ourselves out trying to control issues that are not in our control.

Manage the amount of newness and change in our lives. Build routines and schedules for yourself personally, at work, and for your family. Make some aspects of your life automatic, so you don’t have to make a lot of decisions that currently aren’t that important – what you are going to eat for breakfast and lunch, when you will take breaks from work, and so forth. For most of us, now is not the time to consider building a new home or make some other major change in your daily life.

Limit the amount of information you take in, and determine a process for getting the most accurate information you can. Curtail the amount of “news” (broadly defined) you listen to, watch or read. Find some sources that you generally trust and use those to give you the information on which you base your decisions.

Set shorter timeframes for planning ahead. Life circumstances are changing incredibly rapidly. Trying to make plans for a year (or even 6 months) from now is essentially impossible. As much as possible, keep your plans closer (1-2 weeks) and make contingency plans for after that.

Keep the big picture in mind. While the encouragement to be thankful can become irritating at times or feel superficial, in reality, the principle is true. We have shelter. We have clothing. We have food. Reminding ourselves of these facts doesn’t solve the challenges we are facing, but they do help us keep perspective.

Finally, hang in there! Which is the informal way of saying: Persevere, take care of yourself and those around you, and take one day at a time. For most of us, doing so will help us get through this to the other side.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply