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  • Overcoming Overwhelm: How to Manage Your Mental "Plate"

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    Imagine a Thanksgiving dinner spread before you, laden with all your favorite dishes. You fill your plate with mashed potatoes, turkey, broccoli casserole, red jello, corn, carrots, stuffing, and, of course, a slightly burnt crescent roll, generously doused in gravy. As you begin to eat, you realize that you didn’t pause to ask, “Is this enough food?” 

    Suddenly, you’re uncomfortably full, longing to collapse on the couch. While this scenario may be fitting for Thanksgiving, it often mirrors our lives when we overload ourselves with tasks like work, school, kids, friends, family, etc all expecting you to still show up how they need you. This often leaves us feeling mentally overstuffed and overwhelmed.

    In a society that glorifies productivity and ambition, we frequently pile more onto our mental “plates” than we can realistically handle. We rarely pause to consider if we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. This habit can provide a temporary sense of accomplishment but can also lead to an overwhelming sense of unease.

    Now, this blog isn’t truly about Thanksgiving dinner, but rather, it explores how to navigate everyday life when it feels like you’ve taken on more than you can handle. 

    When we do not check-in with ourselves or set realistic goals, it can be easy to take on too many tasks at one time. Oftentimes, that check-in comes way overdue when we’re already at the point of being too overwhelmed. Signs you may be at this point are: not sleeping well, not eating well, headaches, lashing out at loved ones, feeling “checked out,” difficulty concentrating, dreading work or fun experiences, difficulty relaxing, and many others. 

    The good news is that it’s never too late to start gaining skills to combat these overwhelming signs. 

    So, you may wonder, how do we recognize those feelings of being overwhelmed? 

    Overwhelming stress stems from three main variables: the demands of the tasks, our perception of the resources available to cope with those tasks, and our capacity to complete them while maintaining our well-being. 

    When these variables align harmoniously, we tackle our tasks with ease. 

    However, when an individual is too overwhelmed, it becomes difficult to tap into our brain’s fullest potential, making it more difficult to have these variables work together. 

    In order to get our brain working to its fullest potential, getting us to a place where tasks are easier, we need to find ways to break up the overwhelmed feeling. 

    We need to be able to tap into the logical and problem solving part of the brain, the feeling and connection part of the brain, and the sensory part of the brain. 

    You may be wondering how to disrupt the overwhelming feelings you may have and I’m here to help teach you just that. 

    Keep reading for 4 tips to help you disrupt the overwhelming feelings you have:

    • 1. Breathing Techniques (Sensory Part): Start by focusing on something within your control—your breath. Practice inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds, placing your hand on the lower part of your belly to ensure deep breaths. Shallow breathing only exacerbates the problem, so deep, intentional breaths are crucial.
    • 2. Positive Mindset (Logical and Problem-Solving Part): Negative thinking can create a perceived threat in our minds, hindering our creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving abilities. Cultivate a positive mindset by focusing on gratitude and your strengths. This shift in perspective can boost your confidence and help break the cycle of overwhelm.
    • 3. Strategic Distractions (Feelings and Connection Part): Sometimes, barriers prevent us from effectively tackling a task. In such cases, strategic distractions can provide the necessary respite. Whether it’s a snack, funny TikToks, music, or a short walk, these breaks allow you to recharge before returning to the task with a clearer, more energized mind.
    • 4. Write It, Divide It, Do It: Action is the antidote to overwhelm. Start by jotting down everything related to the overwhelming task. Then, divide these into manageable chunks. Finally, take the crucial first step by completing at least one of these smaller tasks. This progress generates dopamine in the brain, boosting motivation and easing feelings of being overwhelmed.

    In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to overcommit and feel swamped with responsibilities. But just as you wouldn’t load your plate to the point of discomfort at Thanksgiving, you should approach your daily tasks with a sense of balance and awareness. 

    Recognizing the signs of being overwhelmed and employing practical strategies like controlled breathing, fostering a positive mindset, allowing strategic distractions, and taking action can help you manage your mental “plate” more effectively. 

    By doing so, you can find a healthier balance, conquer your tasks, and ensure you’re ready to meet the demands of work, family, and life while avoiding that all-too-familiar feeling of being overwhelmed.

    If you continue to find yourself struggling with overwhelmed feelings, you don’t have to do it alone! Solid Foundations Therapy is here to help! Visit our website at www.solidfoundationstherapy.com or give us a call at 630-633-8532 today!