5 Ways I Deal When Life Feels Overwhelming

self-care

By Kate Kole

I am the opposite of a procrastinator. In college, I’d spend the first day of a new term filled with anxiety as I flipped through the pages of each course syllabus, already stressing out over assignments due week 6. I’d stake my seat in the library on Friday afternoons (as if others were actually vying for that spot) so I could get a head start on papers that didn’t need to be turned in until Monday morning.

I file my taxes in January, have tried to pay my credit card balance before the statement is available to view, occasionally get up in the 4 o’clock hour to unload the dishwasher, and begin worrying that we’ll run out of toilet paper while we still have a couple rolls left.

Of course, those are just a few examples of the concrete things consuming my mind. That’s not to mention my tendency to wonder what I’ll be doing in 10 years and how I can possibly get a jump start on it now. It doesn’t entail my habitual act of playing out every worst-case scenario in my mind when I can’t sleep or sifting through moments from the past that I wish had gone differently.

I realize that from the outside looking in, most of those things probably don’t sound all that bad (or perhaps that’s wishful thinking). That in some ways, trying to stay ahead of the game can be a good thing. But the reality is, in those moments, I don’t feel ahead of the game. I feel overwhelmed and restless. I feel nervous and afraid. I feel like I can’t seem to enjoy my present experience because I’m so focused on what might, could, hypothetically, in some far off future scenario, happen. I feel like I can’t control life.

Last week, as I hit the peak of one of my downward spiral moments and struggled to find answers to every single area of my life at once (because that’s realistic), I decided to call a time out. Well, first, I had a good ‘I (literally) can’t (even) deal’ call to my mom and cry, and then I called a time out to try and do something productive with how I was feeling.

Assuming that my personal experience was at least somewhat universal, as a lot of the things that feel the most shameful and isolating tend to be, I figured I’d share what helps me to work through the hazier moments of life.

Reading daily meditations.

Having consistent habits that nourish my soul and encourage me to keep a positive perspective are crucial. They feel like an opportunity to hit the reset button and start fresh, regardless of how I’ve been feeling and what thoughts have been occupying my mind. So often, they provide exactly the words and wisdom I need to hear. The morning of my mini meltdown, and most mornings since, I’ve turned to my favorite book of meditations, Journey To The Heart, to add a little boost of encouragement to my day. Taking those few moments to create stillness, offer up a quick prayer, and find guidance in something bigger than myself is comforting.

Practicing yoga.

I know, I know, leave it to the yoga instructor to throw this one in. But there was a time in my life where I swore up and down that I would never practice yoga because it “wasn’t for me”. And now, I can’t imagine my life without its therapeutic benefits. My daily meditation paired with my yoga practice have become my one-two anxiety punch. Sometimes all it takes is rolling out my mat and turning to a 20-minute bedtime sequence for me to completely shift how I’m feeling and to rediscover how important it is to my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being to simply be present, move, and breathe.

Prioritizing and then living according to my priorities.

One of the biggest traps I fall prey to is the idea that everything is urgent. While undoubtedly, there are moments where multiple – and necessary – tasks are vying for my attention, I also know that they can’t all be done at once. Typically, if I take the time to sort through my to-dos and determine what’s most essential, the rest falls into place. And, sometimes what’s most important isn’t that I pay my bills the exact moment they arrive, but instead, that I take the time to find joy in the present and do something simply because it’s fun to do.

Having (or at least actively trying to have) patience.

I’ve always loved Zora Neale Hurston’s quote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Her words remind me of the importance of living patiently, difficult as it may sometimes seem. I realize that maybe today, or this month, or this year isn’t about finding the answers. Maybe it’s not my moment to see the bright light shining 15 years into my future. Maybe I don’t have to figure it all out right now. Maybe I never will. And I don’t mean that in some pessimistic, here comes the struggle bus, woe is me, kind of way. I mean that to say that cliché as it sounds, life is a journey. And from time to time, the future feels unclear and that’s okay.

Considering how far I’ve come despite feeling lost from time to time.

I’ve felt it all – the lack of purpose and also great passion, the not knowing where to step next and the feeling that I’m right where I’m meant to be, the urge to control and the learning to loosen the grip – and I’m still discovering all those things daily. I wondered how I’d make it through my first few post grad years, and yet somehow, I did. I moved cross country twice, questioning if I’d ever have a friend, find a job, or feel at home, and I have. Admittedly, I’m not where I thought I’d be by 30, but I’ve been a lot of places, done a lot of things, and met a lot of faces that I never would have dreamt. So perhaps what I’m missing now isn’t so much a map of the future, but the faith, confidence, and trust that it’s going to be alright and that I’m going to be alright.

{featured image via pexels}

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