How to Feel (a Little) Less Rushed and Overwhelmed

Frazzled

Some lucky people are in a position to take their time, moseying and meandering without a care in the world. Many of the rest occasionally (or always) feel rushed and overwhelmed at work, at home, or both.

But is there a valid reason for feeling rushed and overwhelmed? Our nervous systems evolved to handle fight-or-flight situations, those genuine emergencies where survival depends on reacting instantly. Thankfully, it’s rare these days to face situations in which your life is on the line. Yet many people face each day as if that threat is ever present.

Many of the techniques recommended for coping with feeling overwhelmed are familiar stress reducers, such as deep breathing, meditating, exercising, and getting away from wherever you are and taking a walk. Any of these can quiet your mind so that you can take a mental break from the internal chatter that’s urging you to do more, more, more and faster, faster, faster. If you can develop an awareness of feeling rushed or overwhelmed, you can catch yourself, pause, and use one of these techniques.

Feeling less rushed over the long term may require going beyond in-the-moment stress reducers and considering what’s making you feel so rushed. For each task, activity, or responsibility you face, ask yourself whether it’s necessary, and if it is, is it necessary to do it when and in the way you’ve been doing it?

It’s also helpful to make sure you’ve set appropriate boundaries so that, for example, you’re not left with too little personal time because you routinely work late, through lunch, or on weekends. Part of setting boundaries means developing the courage to say no when you’re constantly tapped to do just one more thing.

Feeling less rushed may also require dealing with the “shoulds” in your life, the “I should do this as well as that” and “This is how I should do it.” As I was talking with a colleague recently, her end of the conversation kept drifting into her “shoulds.” She suddenly stopped and asked, “How many ‘shoulds’ should a person have?” I’d like to be able to say the answer is “Three, max!” But while there’s no one right number, each time you mention a “should,” it’s a good idea to stop and ask yourself if that’s really the case. In reducing the feeling of being rushed and overwhelmed, eliminating some of your “shoulds" could be a big step in the right direction.

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