Some mornings start with the best intentions. That was certainly the case for me earlier this week. I was up early hoping to make my son’s birthday special. I hung our family’s “Happy Birthday” banner above the kitchen island and put a note on a fresh baked loaf of banana bread before heading to work.

I was proud of all I had gotten accomplished until… a nagging thought grabbed hold of me. Did I turn off the oven?

I vividly remembered covering the bread with foil and putting the note on top but, I definitely didn’t remember turning the oven off. When I got to work, I sent off what you could say was a rather untraditional birthday text “Happy Birthday and good morning. I made you banana bread but I don’t think I turned the oven off. Can you check when you’re up? Thx”

You could say that it’s been busy as of late. Really busy. Between squeezing in every last bit of summer plans to navigating changes at work, my plate has been full. The banana bread episode left me thinking about what overwhelmed looks like and what to do about it. I thought I’d share just in case I’m not the only one whose ever felt this way.

5 symptoms of “overwhelmed” and what you can do about it:

  1. It’s easy to procrastinate more. When you find yourself putting off things need to get done more than normal, it’s a good time to reflect and ask if you’ve got too much on your plate.

What can you do? Shorten your to-do list. What are the highest priority items on your list? Quite simply, what must get done? Start with those items. And, give yourself permission to let lesser priority items wait for another day. Reschedule them so that you can do what matters most.

  1. We’re more likely to over react or be emotional. When we’re over extended, we can go from zero to sixty with tears, or anger in a split second. Our emotional fuses get much shorter when we’re overwhelmed. Recognize when your fuse is short and take action.

What can you do? Refill. Consciously set aside time to reset. Use that time to pursue things that allow you to refill. Maybe that means curling up with a good book, going for a long walk, sitting on a beach listening to the waves, or kayaking out into the middle of a lake. Find time for the activities that allow you to recover from your state of “busy.”

  1. We can be overly tired. You’ve had your second cup of coffee and neither one seems to have kicked in yet. Or, it’s only 1pm but you feel like you could go to bed and sleep until tomorrow. Exhaustion can be a telltale sign of being overwhelmed.

What can you do? Reestablish your routine. Staying up late to get more done can back fire. Find and stick to a consistent routine so that your body clock can have a rhythm. A routine can help you make sure you’re getting enough sleep, which is essential when your plate is full.

  1. We’re more likely to withdraw. Emails, calls, and texts are far more likely to go unanswered when we’re overwhelmed. We can feel like we’re the only one who feels that way.

What can you do? Connect. It’s ok to tell friends that we’re not ok or that we’re struggling. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had times when we’ve had more on our plate than we knew what to do with. When we’re feeling frazzled by life, reaching out to a friend can be just the thing we need to remind us that we’re not alone.

  1. It’s harder to focus. With our minds trying to track several things that we’d like to do, we can find ourselves more scattered and unable to focus.

What can you do? Focus in bursts. Choose what you need to work on next. Set a timer for 15, 20, or 25 minutes and only work on the task at hand during that time. Anything that tries to distract you other than an emergency during that time will need to wait. You’ll be amazed how much you can get done when you’re focusing to beat the clock.

With the crazy schedule I’ve kept the past few weeks, I’ve needed to consciously work on keeping a balance and doing each of these. Recognizing my pace and the need for margin has kept me adjusting to keep me from becoming overwhelmed. I may have forgotten if I turned the oven off, but I did manage to make it through a busy week with less stress as a result.

What about the oven you ask? Sometime later that morning I got my reply. “It was off! Thank you for the banana bread!”

What do you do to help keep your balance when you’re overwhelmed? Does one of these tips sound like it would work for you? I’d love to hear from you. Comment and join the conversation.

Susan Call - Author

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