How to bounce back when life’s getting too much

If you constantly feel overwhelmed, try these expert tactics to ease the pressure and regain control of life.

With many lives turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s perhaps not surprising many Australians are feeling overwhelmed.

“We may feel like we’re drowning – overloaded with information and responsibilities and full to the brim with the emotions of the world we’re in,” Argh! Too much information, not enough brain author Lynne Cazaly says.

“But we need to be alert to overwhelm and its effects and not ‘soldier on’. Because if we let overwhelm go on unchecked, burn-out and other health challenges are waiting for us.”

What is making Aussies feel overwhelmed?

On one day in August 2021, Lifeline Australia received its highest volume of calls in the organisation’s 58-year history.

Many of those callers were anxious and overwhelmed by the pandemic.

But Australians are feeling overwhelmed about other issues, too.

A Deakin and Monash University study exploring eco-anxiety and “climate grief” found Australians are also feeling concerned and overwhelmed about climate change.

“The suite of feelings sometimes called ‘climate grief’ is very real, and psychologists around the world expect it to become much more common over the next few years,” Deakin University senior lecturer Dr Rebecca Patrick says.

No matter why you are feeling overwhelmed, how can you try and dial it down?

Don’t dismiss overwhelm

Overwhelm serves a purpose – it’s a red flag that we are reaching our emotional limits.

“There are times when we will experience overwhelm – it’s part of being human,” Lynne says.

“But we need to take notice and identify the cause.

 “Is it work-related, are you overwhelmed with information, or is it emotional?”

Go easier on yourself

Don’t berate yourself if you feel you haven’t handled overwhelm well.

“Remember that you are under pressure and trying to juggle things,” Lynne says.

“Be kinder to yourself to find better answers for the next time you experience an overwhelming situation.”

Look at your load

Get everything on to paper or an app, Lynne suggests.

“Externalising your thoughts or the tasks that are causing overwhelm gives you distance and perspective,” she says.

“You can see things more objectively, rather than emotionally.”

Prioritise three or four tasks

From your list, focus on three or four things each day and tick them off.

“Seeing your progress is a great motivator,” Lynne says.

Stop fast switching

Lynne says jumping from task to task is a natural tendency when we feel overwhelmed, but it saps energy and attention, says Lynne.

“Switching is draining for the brain and it takes us longer to get back to the original task,” she says.

“Work on something for longer and you will get more done.

“Then take a break and do something else but don’t switch every few minutes.”

Written by Sarah Marinos.