• Jody Johnson

Overwhelm. . .Recognizing It, Dealing With It



overwhelm- The verb: to bury or drown beneath a huge mass. The noun: overload.

aka: Thy plate is full.. .



Dishes in the sink, the floor needs to be mopped, sheets need changing, hand washing done. I think a bill is due. . . What day is it? Why is the cat crying? I should grocery shop, stop eating out so much, but that requires figuring out what I am going to eat for the week, make a list. Go to the gym, need to schedule a dentist appointment. . .but what day are our corporate visits? Flower beds a mess-need to paint the trim on the house before it is too cold. Gutters need cleaned, window's need washed. But I want to travel this year. . .where? When? Oh, there is that blog I've been meaning to work on for like, 20 years. . . I want to learn guitar. I can download a tuning app. Three books, half read, on my nightstand. 99 magazines and not a fully read one. I think I'll take a nap. I was supposed to send that birthday card. . .last week. . .

Overwhelm, yes, I feel this, more often than I think I should. I think everyone who breathes has felt this at one time or another. This world that is supposed to be so 'automated', so full of 'things' that are supposed to make our life more efficient seems to have created in some of our lives a vortex of neverdone ness.

Assuming that no one truly enjoys living in this state, what is the cure?


First you have to recognize the symptoms. Here are a few:

-feeling out of control of your home/career/finances/emotions/life

-emotional distress- anxiety, moodiness, short on patience, depression

-physical symptoms: migraines, random aches and pains, lack of grooming or cleanliness of self or surroundings, not sleeping, weight loss or gain

-missing deadlines, appointments, special days, completely forgetting things that you normally wouldn't

-not enjoying anyone or anything that you normally would, feeling like you are just barely making it through


For me, being overwhelmed leaves me feeling nearly paralyzed, exhausted, and when I do accomplish things, like I am 'flying by the seat of my proverbial pants'. It's not a good feeling, nor is it productive. I rarely feel I am even beginning to tap my potential when I am in a state of total overwhelm. It can be hard on your family, friends, and work associates as well.


How do you regain control when the train has derailed and you feel utterly buried under life to the point it has lost much of it's joy? Where do you start when you feel like you and everything around you is out of control.

-Mind dump/mind barf- get a sheet of paper, make it two. Now dump. Dump everything and I mean everything that is swimming on your mind onto one piece of paper. Everything that keeps you awake at night goes here. Now take the second piece, fold it into three columns. Triage the first sheet out on the second.


Column one is of things that MUST be done asap. Deadlines and shit. Write the 'must be done by date' next to it. Think person and property. Tend to the things that could create a lasting problem or disaster if not tended to immediately: the funny smell you think 'may' be gas in the laundry room, the mortgage payment that will be past due in a day, the leak in the roof, the spot on your skin you are sure is something funky.

Column two is needs to be taken care of but no one is going to die. Things like yard work, mopping the floor, laundry, washing the car, food prep, etc. A lot of these will be recurring things. These things you need to find a way to fit seamlessly in to your everyday life but that should not cause undue hardship if not accomplished perfectly or immediately.

Column three, while no less important, is the list of want to dos: redecorate bedroom, learn guitar, shop for new curtains, clean out closet and shop for Fall wardrobe. Complete the perfect food prep for the week. This column can be your 'treats' for when you get your poop in a group and cross off some of the other two lists. Realize that to accomplish some of these that some of the Column two items may have to take a back seat. It's ok. . .remember when we said 'no one is going to die' if you don't mop the floor TODAY?


Piece by piece. Break it down, then break it down some more. Tiny, actionable pieces are what you need. Instead of 'clean the house' think: pick up dirty clothes in bedroom. . .then move on.


Notice and remember how good it feels to get things done. Feel the excitement of crossing things off that list that you've been hauling around forever.


-STOP putting things on your plate. There is a point you can't do any more. You know your limit, stick to it. Say NO. Saying yes non-stop sets you up for imminent failure. Choose the appetizer OR the dessert. Make cupcakes for work OR a hot dish. Pursue a hobby OR volunteer. Adopt a foreign exchange student OR get a new puppy. Despite some who claim otherwise you CANNOT be all things at all times, in all ways.


-Delegate and automate. Set your bills up to auto pay. One of the best things I've EVER been told is 'you can make more money but you can't make more time. What is your time worth? Hire help if you can. It was life changing for me when I hired a yard company to tend my lawn once every two weeks during the summer months. Ask the neighbor kid to weed your garden for $20. Barter. . .trade watching your neighbors newborn while you write (assuming said child will sleep) and they will feed your cat when you are away. Most of us hate asking for help from others. Do it anyway.


You can regain control of your life with a few simple steps. Remember that you are usually harder on yourself than others are. Most of all, stop comparing yourself to others. . .especially if you are comparing yourself to their 'highlight reel'.


You got this.