When You Feel Overwhelmed, Do This

13 Aug 2020

What do you do when you need to react to a situation but you feel so overwhelmed by the difficulties that you don’t even know where to start? That was Cindy’s dilemma when I spoke to her earlier this week.

Cindy needed to leave an abusive partner and believe in herself enough to rebuild a good life for herself and her children, and she needed to do it yesterday! But all the abuse that she had been through meant that she didn’t believe that she had the strength to do what needed to be done.

Feeling overwhelmed may be a normal reaction to abnormal amounts of stress but it is also a damned nuisance.

Whether or not you are currently in Cindy’s position, you too have probably found yourself in a similar state of overwhelm and paralysis for one reason or another. If so, you know that just sitting and waiting for that storm to pass is incredibly frustrating.  You end up hating yourself  for feeling overwhelmed – and that only makes the situation worse.

Who needs that?

I offered Cindy five powerful resources that will enable her to move on from overwhelm and rebuild her self-belief. Today, I want to share them with you, too.

Rock bottom

From my perspective, her situation was certainly not the most challenging that I have ever come across.

But then, nor was mine when I decided that I had to leave my toxic husband. If anyone had dared to point that out to me at the time, I would not have thanked them for it.

The simple fact is that when a person feels that they are at rock bottom, they truly are at rock bottom.

So, the healing work that you do always needs to start by addressing that feeling of being at rock bottom.

The abusive script that paralyses you

What was paralysing Cindy – just like me all those years ago – was the Abused Person’s script which goes:

  • I am worthless.
  • I lack the skills to keep myself and my children afloat without my husband/partner to provide for me.
  • I can’t do this.
  • Other people surely can, but it’s different for me.
  • Every day I start from zero.
  • I’m a failure (in everything I do).
  • I should be able to do this….but I can’t.

The saddest thing about  this horrible, toxic – untrue – script is that it doesn’t just trot off to wither and die some place all by itself, when you leave the abusive relationship.

More likely, it kicks in whenever Life gets you down.

I know it has returned for a few surprise visits in my life in difficult times.

I explained to Cindy that the biggest challenge that she faced was not  so much the practical issues that she faced as the narrative inside her own head.  That, I said firmly, needed to change. ASAP.

Cindy turned on me the time-honored  Easy-For-You-To-Say expression.

Then she asked me what she could do to get herself out of that state of paralysis.  Here is the Dark Times Quintet that I laid out for her.

1) Do some simple mind-set work daily.

My favorite is to write down 20 things that you have to celebrate daily. I fully understand that when you feel as lousy as Cindy did, finding just one thing to celebrate daily can be a stretch. And yet, she and her children are healthy, they have a roof over their heads and food on the table.

This little exercise is all about refocusing your mind on what  there is to celebrate, since happiness is a far more empowered and resourceful state than misery.

2) Think about the elephant.

When you want to free yourself from the trauma of emotional abuse, obviously, you just want  it tbe over.  You want to be out the other side, yesterday. Or, at least, by this time next week. So, you create unrealistic expectations and, as a result, you end up even more discouraged than before.

That is where the metaphorical  elephant comes in. It’s a case of that old saw,

  1. “How do you eat an elephant?”
  2. “The same way that you would eat anything else. One bite at a time.”

One bite at a time is the only way that you can do your healing.  As someone with an unusually small mouth (despite having a lot to say for myself) I have to tell you that some people are obliged to take smaller bites than others. Happily, that doesn’t matter. One bite at a time is still a very effective strategy.

Provided you do chomp through one bite of your recovery at a time, you WILL get there – rather faster than you might think.

3) Baby-step

Pretty much anyone who has had a child will know that most babies don’t one day stand up, for the first time, and walk across the room.

(One of my nephews was the rare creature who did exactly that. That is unusual and it hasn’t worked that well for him inasmuch as he has suffered with back pain throughout his whole life.  Apparently, that is a common side-effect of Instant Walking.)

Most babies, get up, fall down and keep going until they master it. What they don’t do is get caught up in some narrative about being incompetent walkers.

Sure, there are reasons for that – like not having sufficient language etc.  –  that you don’t share.

Your brain is better developed than a baby’s – and that is half the problem. It does tend to run away with you a bit.  Chiefly down the first negative rabbit hole it encounters.

That means that you need to…

4) Get a grip

There is no point in either entering into a dialogue or an argument with your negative feelings and beliefs – you won’t learn anything useful about yourself  and when you argue with yourself, guess who loses?

Much more effective is to shut those negative feelings up.

When do we indulge most in negative thinking?

When our minds are not focused on other things.

The most common times to indulge in miserable thoughts are:

  1. a) When you are sitting alone at the end of the day.
  2. b) When you can’t sleep.
  3. c) When you have got time on your hands.
  4. d) When you compare and contrast someone’s apparent happiness and blessings with your state.
  5. e) When you start envisioning your nightmare case future.

None of this is helpful.

So, I heartily recommend  using your time and your brain better.

Grab your phone and  earpods  and listen to something – pretty much anything except a love story (depressing) or,  if l like me, you are of a nervous disposition, some riveting story about a serial killer.

Instead, listen to

  • An audio book.
  • A pod cast.
  • A TED talk.
  • A personal development webinar etc.

Just be sure to focus on something that inspires and uplifts you.

You can get yourself a whole new education and outlook when you could just have been sitting focusing on the same old worries.

Since rehashing your old worries has done nothing good for you so far, why wouldn’t you be willing to let them go?

5) Do some low demand  personal development.  

A resource like my book ”The Woman You Want To Be” is a workbook that will take you through a year of gentle growth. It doesn’t demand much of you and it does start where you are emotionally but it will help you to detach from your painful experiences.

All you have to do is just follow one simple instruction, commit to no more than 5-10 minutes a day (that is 5-10 minutes  taken away from anxiety and catastrophizing). Your ROI (Return on Investment) will be an increase in happiness and self-worth that will enable you to star taking control of your life and finding your direction.

Overwhelm is a fact of life

Into every life, periods of overwhelm will surely fall – as the current pandemic proves. So, it really helps to have strategies for knowing how to tackle your own feelings. If you are feeling challenged now, try incorporating these simple strategies into your life, give yourself time and notice what starts to change.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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