My neighbor Sarah worked hard at a Fortune 500 company. When she accepted a promotion to the executive board, her already hectic life began to feel overwhelming. She was constantly moving from meeting to meeting. She was always thinking about the bottom line, and every project felt more urgent than the last. Even though she had an open-door policy, most of her team members didn’t approach her because she was so stressed.
As time went on, Sarah began to lose track of what after-school activities her daughter participated in and didn’t know when her son began dabbling in recreational drugs. Her husband felt like a stranger and in the moments when they were alone together she no longer knew what to say to him.
She found herself complaining to a friend that she often felt as if she was living in fast forward and what she craved was a simpler, slower pace. She hoped if she could slow down then she could find her way back to the life she craved.
Unfortunately, Sarah isn’t alone. While you may not be an executive at a Fortune 500 company or raising teenagers, you might experience feelings of overwhelm. Perhaps you’re caring for an aging parent, navigating a new business, or going through a divorce. These situations can leave you feeling as if everything is spinning out of control.
You may not even realize that you’re feeling overwhelmed by life. If not, here are a few signs that you should be on the lookout for…
Sign #1: Difficulty Concentrating
This might manifest in a variety of ways. You may find yourself daydreaming or mentally checking out during conversations. You might discover that you’ve “zoned out” during a meeting and missed an important point or you may frequently arrive at a new destination with no idea how you got there.
If this is happening to you, don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s natural to need to retreat. To deal with the overload, your brain simply stops focusing on what’s important and you think about the latest show you’re watching or your upcoming girls’ night out rather than staying in the present.
Sign #2: An Inability to Make Decisions
You used to be able to make a dozen decisions in the moment without even stopping to think them through. But now even simple choices like what to have for dinner feel overwhelming. That’s because you’re suffering from something known as decision fatigue.
The average person must make over 35,000 decisions in a typical day. This includes small decisions like what color shirt to wear and whether to add cream to your coffee to bigger decisions like what car to buy or which school to enroll your child in.
Keep in mind that the standard 35,000 decisions apply to a normal day. If you’ve recently been promoted, suffered a loss in your family, had a new baby, or adopted a pet, you’ll suddenly find yourself making even more decisions than usual.
Sign #3: Numbing Yourself
When you think of someone self-numbing, your mind might instantly go to alcohol or drugs. It’s true that some people do tend to numb their emotions and mind this way. But it’s certainly not the only method.
You might choose to numb yourself through activities like excessive online shopping, watching TV for hours every night, or binge eating your favorite foods. These activities may temporarily soothe you because they distract you and keep you from thinking too much.
Once you’ve gotten the relief you crave, you may experience feelings of self-loathing, shame, sadness, or anger. You might blame yourself and promise that you’ll do better next time.
Sign #4: Afraid of Silence
From the moment you wake up until you go to bed, you’re filling your days with noise. You always have more on your to-do list than you could possibly get done and if you do happen to have a gap, you immediately find a way to fill it.
Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed, you purposely create more noise. It sounds counterproductive, and it is. But facing the silence and acknowledging where you are means that you will come face-to-face with painful truths.
When Denise’s mom died, she handled her grief by getting involved in several charities. At first, she did it because she wanted to honor her mother’s memory. But she kept so busy with her work that she never got the chance to grieve. On some level, she knew that if she slowed down then she’d be forced to face the pain of losing her mom.
There are a number of things that you can fill your calendar with. Like Denise, you might even choose activities that make you feel better at first or that make you look good in the eyes of your community.
Sign #5: Feeling Guilty
Guilt is your constant companion. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s commonly caused by being overcommitted. You said “yes” to everyone and “no” to yourself. You agreed to organize the bake sale, host the women’s weekly book club, and carpool the neighborhood kids to their dance lessons.
The myriad of commitments causes guilt because you know you’re not giving one hundred percent to anything. Instead, you’re giving ten percent to ten different things. The result is you feel constantly frazzled and stressed.
Sign #6: Not Enough Time
If you’re overwhelmed by your life, you might find yourself frequently complaining that you don’t have enough time. Maybe you tell this to your family, you friends, your co-workers, or others around you.
Not having enough time can certainly be caused by being over committed. But it can also be part of being overwhelmed. That’s because it takes you longer to make simple decisions in addition to having a lack of energy. You’re no longer functioning at the top of your game, which means you need twice as long to accomplish your tasks.
Sign #7: Feeling Empty
For some people, dealing with overwhelm leaves them feeling empty inside. You might be disconnected from your feelings, unable to relate to those you love, or sense that you’re completely isolated from others. This can cause a snow globe effect. You feel as if you’re living inside a snow globe. You can see the world outside you, but you’re trapped within a bubble, unable to interact with those you love or feel anything.
The snow globe effect leaves you empty and lonely. You can’t remember the last time you went out and had fun. You can’t take joy in little things. You can’t connect when you see others feeling strong emotions.
It’s Time to Hit Pause
Despite how numb or empty you might feel in this moment, you can find your way back to yourself. You can rediscover who you were and remember what it was like to feel passionate and excited at the start of each new day.
But it all starts with the brave decision to push pause on your life. There are so many different ways you can hit pause and so much that you can learn from it. That’s why I created a short workbook called The Power of Pause to guide you through the process. Download it today to begin your journey right now!
I pushed the “pause” button on my life in the spring of 2005. I needed to pivot and reinvent my life and began searching for an answer as to what would work best for me. That’s when I discovered the world of online marketing and entrepreneurship. I made a plan, and within fourteen months I had left my classroom teaching job behind, as well as my work as a real estate broker and residential appraiser. During the summer of 2006 I started my online business, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I’m Connie Ragen Green, helping people on six continents to hit the pause button and reinvent their lives. Reach out to me and discover the lifestyle by design you wish to create. Start with my complimentary “Action Habits Challenge” and see what you resonate with the most.