Let’s get real, here. Life can be brutal sometimes. REALLY brutal. This post contains 5 simple steps that will help you figure out what to do when the world overwhelms you.
Please Note: I am NOT a licensed mental health professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price.
It’s been one of ‘those days’.
Your alarm went off after tossing and turning all night.
There was no more creamer left for your morning coffee.
The kids were whiny all day.
The dog threw up on the living room rug.
You were late for your dentist appointment.
Your forgot to pick up eggs at the store.
And at the end of your icky day, you came home to a mailbox full of bills.
You are exhausted, frustrated, and confused.
you’re wondering what to do when the world overwhelms you.
Because as you look around, you might feel like you’re the only one in the whole-wide-world who is drowning in exhaustion and overwhelm.
But you’re not.
If you happen to be sensitive, struggle with consistent low-energy, or consider yourself an introvert, (I raise my hand for all three of these!) then life can feel especially overwhelming at times. Circumstances that seem like “no big deal” to people we know, feel like the end of the world for us sensitive souls.
But the good news is, we aren’t alone and there are effective tools available to us that can help tremendously.
What to do when the world overwhelms you:
Limit the Stimuli You’re Exposed To
Turn off the news.
Stop checking your social media.
Silence any non-critical notifications.
Prioritize slowing down and limiting your activity. Unless something needs to be done right now, at this very second, it can be put on hold for a while.
The most important thing for you to do right now is to slow down and protect your energy and well-being.
Know Your Personality
I am a self-proclaimed personality test junkie! This means I’m a sucker for just about any personality test that comes my way. Must. Take. Every. Single. One. And while I certainly don’t believe that any one test is the be all and end all, I do believe there is a lot of value to be gained through the self-reflection and self-awareness that comes from learning about different personality types.
One of the simplest tests I’ve found is the 16 Personalities Online Test (This test is FREE – You may need to enter your email address so they can send you the results.)
I encourage you to take this test and then spend a little time reading up on the results you receive.
Introvert or Extrovert?
The first thing to understand about introversion and extroversion is that they exist on a spectrum. In fact, some people identify more as ambiverts, which is in the middle of the spectrum.
Begin by asking yourself…
“Do I gain energy from being around people or do I gain energy from being alone?”
This is your first clue.
Next, think about someone you know who is outgoing, expressive, and often considered the life of the party. Their personality tends to be “the more the merrier”, they love social gatherings and parties, and they easily make friends wherever they go. Chances are good that this person is an extrovert, (or at least leans towards extroversion on the spectrum).
Now think of someone you know who tends to be more reserved, quiet, and thoughtful. They might be really artistic, prefer activities like reading, writing, and enjoy spending a lot of time alone. This person is likely an introvert, (or leans towards introversion on the spectrum).
And then there’s the ambivert. This person sometimes prefers large social gathering but other times, they prefer a quiet evening at home. They might enjoy conversing with people and making new friends but on other occasions, they prefer being alone with a book or a project.
Remember: Think spectrum!
Extroverts tend to be less sensitive to outer stimuli which is why they often seek it out. Introverts, on the other hand, are already pretty sensitive and can be easily overwhelmed by too much outer stimuli. This is why introverts often need more down time by themselves to decompress.
It’s important to understand that introversion and shyness are NOT the same thing. Some extroverts can be shy and introverts are not necessarily so.
If you’re not sure where you are on this spectrum, consider reading more about introverts and extroverts.
A couple of great books to check out are The Introverted Mom by Jamie Martin and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
Could You be an HSP?
A what now?
HSP stands for “highly sensitive person” and was coined by Dr. Elaine Aron, a Psychologist who has spent her career studying people who are highly sensitive. She is also the author of the book The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.
This book explains high sensitivity and offers reassurance that sensitivity is not a negative personality trait, it simply needs to be acknowledged, accepted, managed, and celebrated.
Highly sensitive people make up approximately 20% of the population.
These individuals tend to be easily overwhelmed by their senses. They are usually sensitive to pain, other people’s daily moods, loud noises, bright lights, and violence.
On the other hand, they’re also often very creative, thoughtful, empathetic, imaginative, introspective, and intuitive.
Western society tends to celebrate extroverted, social, assertive individuals. This is great for extroverts but unfortunate for those who are more sensitive, quiet, and contemplative since they are often viewed as having something wrong with them.
The good news is that highly sensitive people actually CAN thrive in a world that often feels overwhelming. It involves self-awareness, knowledge, and setting the stage for success.
For example, highly sensitive people tend to perform their best when they establish a regular routine or rhythm. Factors like nutrition, regular exercise, and spiritual connection are especially important to maintain for overall well-being.
You may want to do a little reading and see if you identify with being a highly sensitive person.
Perhaps you have a child who seems to be highly sensitive too. If they seem anxious and regularly overwhelmed, this information should be especially helpful.
Practice Tips for Coping
Fortunately, there are several simple tips to help you cope when the world is overwhelming you.
- Prioritize your sleep
- If you’re feeling anxious, consider cutting out caffeine (or at least doing half-caf)
- Play uplifting music throughout the day
- Watch a comedy or lighthearted movie or show
- Read something inspirational
- Confide in a trusted friend
- Snuggle your pet or watch cute animal videos
- Engage in daily activity (this can be as simple as a brisk walk, a little yoga, or a few minutes of stretching)
- Consider meditation
- Write daily in a diary or journal (simply writing down ONE thing you are grateful for each day can be a tremendous help)
In summary, here are 5 steps to take when the world overwhelms you:
Step #1 – Limit the Stimuli You’re Exposed To
Step #2 – Know Your Personality
Step #3 – Are You an Introvert or Extrovert (or Ambivert?)
Step #4 – Could You be an HSP?
Step #5 – Practice Tips for Coping
After following the steps above, if you still feel overwhelmed, especially anxious and/or depressed, PLEASE make an appointment with your doctor and confide in a trusted loved one. If you need help finding a mental health care provider please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price.
Please know that with support and proper care, you WILL get through this season of overwhelm. It’s hard to believe this when you’re stuck in the middle of it, but truly, this too shall pass. And most importantly, you are NOT alone. I promise.