I am not a techie. Although I operate a website, post blogs twice a week, podcast and do other functions on my computer, the language of computers and technology is still foreign to me. When I have very concise step by step instructions I can usually maintain my ability to function. When something goes wrong or I need to learn something new on my computer, I quickly find myself on overload and feel the pressure of time as I try to complete my designated tasks.
We all have our panic buttons. Everyone has their Achilles heel. For many it is when they have to get up and speak in front of a group of people. I love speaking and find people easy to talk to. My computer doesn’t enjoy going out for a cup of coffee and conversation. While I enjoy the benefits of technology, I struggle with the huge learning curve that can seem overwhelming at times.
Become aware of your vulnerable spots. Perhaps it is relationships, communication or the world of finances. We get overwhelmed when bills are greater than our bank account and we have difficulty learning how to budget; communication deteriorates with our spouse; our children are out of control, and the expectations and requirements of our job keep rising. Whatever the challenge, recognizing what pushes your panic button and when it is pushed allows you to prepare and take action.
When we are on overload or feeling the pressure on our time and resources, panic sets in it bringing along anxiety and fear and worry. What do I do? How will I manage? I already have so much to do. I’m so tired. I wish I could just run away. I’m not going to make it.
Our thoughts begin to spiral downward. We magnify the problem and diminish our ability to resolve it. We compare ourselves negatively with others who seem to have it all together. We have instant recall to all the times we have tried and failed while forgetting all the times we have succeeded. We label ourselves incompetent, stupid, etc. instead of recognizing that we have both strengths and weaknesses and we do not have to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We can’t do it all. And we are okay.
Here are some things you can do when overwhelmed.
1. Reduce the immediate stress level. Take some calm even breathes and ask God to help you relax and focus. Panic and fear puts our bodies into survival mode so we can run or fight. You need to use this stress energy in a different way.
Do the following exercise. Find a private spot. Stand in a comfortable position. As you breathe in air, slowly raise your arms above your head. Hold for a second and say to yourself, I am relaxed and in control of my time and my abilities. Let out your air as you lower your arms. Do this several times.
2. Challenge your negative thinking. Instead of allowing your mind to dwell on all the “I can’ts” refocus them on all the “I can’s”. Resist thinking about how big the problem is. Instead, reframe it into something that is a challenge rather than a disaster. Tell yourself I can find the resources, develop the skill or do whatever it takes.
3. Break the problem down into manageable steps. Any overwhelming task can be broken down into productive steps of action. Become familiar with your typical response to trouble. What have you done in the past that hasn’t worked? What can you do today that will. Ask for help. Get support from others who will encourage you as you learn. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know. It isn’t a reflection of your competence, abilities or self worth.
Life is full of challenges. Sometimes we will feel as though a truckload of problems has been dumped on us. The first thing is to step outside of it, put it into perspective and work on the demands one at a time. Otherwise our problems become monsters instead of challenges we can meet.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC