Someone asked me, “If you could wish for anything that would improve your life, what would it be?” But the real question was, what would I not wish for?
I would wish to be successful. I would wish to travel spontaneously. I would wish I didn’t have student debt. I would wish for a new car. I would wish to own the newest brands of clothing and shoes. I would wish to be so wealthy my problems would be nonexistent. But if I had everything I wished for at that moment, what would life mean? What would life mean without hardships? What would life mean without love or friendships? How would life be without the impactful events that are meant to shape us?
If you ask me now, I would say a better life would involve overcoming hardships that seemed impossible at first. A better life would be learning from my mistakes and bettering myself after. A better life would be falling down and getting back up again. A better life would be a roller coaster passing through happiness, hurt, hope, failure, and courage. A better life would conclude to all my efforts, hopes, and dedication. A better life would not mean having everything you want; it would mean the amount of battles you fought to get everything you want.
Take a moment and remember your lowest point in life and look at yourself now. Look at how much you’ve grown or even recognize the slightest improvement. The more obstacles we face, the more we learn about ourselves. Our battles are only preparing us for our future.
We’re so hypnotized by the materialistic mentality that we hurt ourselves by wishing for more. You shouldn’t have to belittle your possessions because you see someone with something better. If you had the chance to wish for anything, it would only be temporary. If everything was handed to you, you would never know the true meaning of appreciation. Sometimes we have to be broke to learn how to manage money wisely. Sometimes we have to be impulsive so we can learn how to think before we act. You could still get everything you wish for, but remember, the greatest things in life are earned. Everything begins with you. You will get there, don’t give up.
It might be safe to say that more of us are feeling overwhelmed than ever. Between a year of living through a pandemic and seemingly constant political upheaval — not to mention the domestic and emotional labor involved in this — it’s not all that surprising that many of us are struggling. The cumulative stress of being expected to live normal lives and carry heavy workloads through extraordinary times is intense. It can feel like we don’t have enough hours in the day or that we’re running in circles trying to get it all done.
That feeling is overwhelm. Over time, that constant feeling of overwhelm can lead to full on burnout.
But while we can’t control the pandemic or political uprisings, it’s possible to regain a semblance of control of our interior landscape.
Ask For Help. Sometimes, our overwhelm comes from trying to do it all by ourselves.
You already know that you can’t be everything to everyone all by yourself. But if your tendency is to try to be a hero anyway, this strategy is for you. In this situation, you might be feeling not just overwhelmed but resentful of others.
Getting out of overwhelm often starts with asking for help. Especially if you’re feeling isolated or alone, you might not be able to get the kind of help you need right now. But it can still be powerful to ask for support from people around you in other ways.
Maybe that looks like delegating tasks, asking others to step up, or outsourcing some of what you do. It might also look like asking for a safe space to vent or let it all out. It’s not always easy to say out loud, “I need help,” but it’s a simple way to break the cycle of overwhelm we feel.
2. Do Less. At times, our overwhelm comes from trying to simply do too many things.
If you grew up with overworking and overachieving as part of your family’s values, you might not be able to see your pattern for what it is. You might feel overwhelmed, but you might also assume that the overwhelm of trying to do too many things is a normal experience.
If this sounds like you, your first step in getting out of overwhelm is paring down that to-do list. If you’re feeling bold, feel free to take a big ol’ Sharpie and start crossing things off the list. Some of those things might have to stay there for now, but there may be places where you could put things off for a bit or simply decide to opt-out.
If you’re looking for a gentler approach than the Sharpie, brainstorm ways that you could streamline your routines, take some shortcuts, or simplify that project that may have become overly complicated. Society might send us the message that we need to “do it all,” but doing less has its advantages.
3. Act Imperfectly.
Sometimes, overwhelm comes from the pressure, whether internal or external, to make everything just right.
In this case, the path to dissolving that feeling of overwhelm is paved with imperfection. When you decide to opt for “good enough,” you’ll find you’re in good company, because newsflash: no one else is perfect either. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.
And in your case, that might mean lowering your standards. Notice where you start stressing yourself out unnecessarily with expectations that are maybe just a little too high. It’s easy to internalize the idea that everyone else is living an Instagram-perfect life with tidy homes and adorable lunches for their kids. But that’s not reality.
If you want to experience less overwhelm, you’ve got to cut yourself some slack. Decide to move forward, even if your first try is messy or imperfect. Maybe that looks like getting that shitty first draft written, replying to the email even if you don’t have all the answers yet, or making a dinner that is only 80% magazine-ready.
4. Take (Small) Action.
Other times, overwhelm comes from trying to do it all at the same time.
Your pattern of overwhelm might look like never getting started due to the sheer volume of things you have to do. Or maybe you’re staring at that huge project, wondering how to even get started. And every day that you don’t get started, the mythology of those projects builds. After a while, it seems impossible to begin.
It doesn’t matter how small that first step is (really). The trick is to take action, no matter how small, in order to get some momentum going. Instead of letting those tasks or projects hang over your head day after day, week after week, just start chipping away at them.
The good news is that you don’t have to accomplish big things to start dissolving that overwhelm. Sometimes, all it takes to get out of overwhelm is to get started by taking tiny actions. (I think we’ve all had that thing we procrastinated for months that took us 15 minutes once we actually decided to do it.)
Will these small strategies get rid of those feelings of overwhelm for good? Maybe not. But you can reuse them and come up with combinations of these that work for you that you can use again and again. No matter what makes you feel overwhelmed, there are small ways to start tunneling your way out.
Tough times are unavoidable. Suffering is avoidable. You may be going through a rough patch in your life, but you don’t have to mean to yourself. Learn to speak encouraging and supportive words to yourself to get you through the tough situation. By cultivating a kind, reassuring, stimulating internal dialogue, you allow yourself to connect to your inner strength; you allow yourself to see through the difficulty, and you provide the tools to get to the other side. Here’s a cheat sheet with 50 empowering phrases to push past your troubles.
I allow myself to be afraid; it’s a feeling, not a sign of weakness.
I allow myself to worry about things that matter.
I allow myself to think optimistically.
I allow myself to feel enthusiasm and motivation.
I allow myself to have a healthy dose of doubt.
My fears don’t define me.
I can be angry, but I don’t need to lash out.
I allow myself to hope for the best.
I choose to focus on solutions instead of just problems.
I can’t calm the storm, but I can calm myself.
Breathe in, breathe out.
I know how I feel, but I can’t control how the other person is feeling.
I take the time I need.
I allow myself to take a break and regroup.
I allow myself to stop and think about how I want to respond.
Every tough situation makes me stronger, wiser, and more resilient, and I am grateful for that.
We are to feel our feelings and not suppress them.
I don’t waste explanations on people who deserve my silence.
I respect myself.
I believe in myself.
I am a smart and competent person.
I don’t need to invest time and energy in people who don’t appreciate me.
I allow myself not to have all the answers; I learn as I go.
I may fail and that’s okay.
I may succeed and it’s okay to celebrate my success.
I can’t always control what’s happening, but I can control the way I respond to what’s happening.
If I try and I don’t succeed, that doesn’t make me a failure.
I am the energy I want to attract.
I allow myself to focus on my character strengths.
I have the ability to change.
Today is a new day.
Today I am not the person I was yesterday.
I don’t like being pigeonholed.
I am enough.
I am my own unique and authentic self.
I am more than one thing, one description, one definition.
I allow myself to say “no” to things that don’t nurture my spirit and soul.
I allow myself to say “yes” to things that don’t nurture my spirit and soul.
I allow myself to set healthy boundaries.
I will show myself the same kindness I show to others.
I choose to stop worrying about being perfect; there’s no such thing as perfection.
Being self-aware is a superpower.
I allow myself to accept the help and support of the people who love and care about me.
I choose not to downgrade myself.
I believe in my self-worth.
I love and accept myself the way I am.
I want to try one more time.
I take one step forward every day.
Today I saw the seeds for the kind of life I want to live.
I choose to make small positive changes every day.
We live in a world where going through the motions and running our ‘auto-pilot’ dry is all too common. We wake up and fulfill routine after routine, barely blinking at the variety of life all around us.
We go to school, get the job, fill our days with the people, places, and things, and before we know it, we are sitting there, mid-twenties, wondering where the time went, wishing we were back in college, and fearing that this is all there is.
We are fine.
We work our job and justify our lukewarm distaste towards it because it pays the bills and funds the weekend fun and twice yearly trips where we blow our paid time off that we’ve worked the past six months for.
We date the guy who makes us feel alive when we are together but alone at all other moments because having someone is better than having no one, and even though he isn’t your forever person, experimenting to learn what we like and dislike seems more promising than waiting for the chance that the one that lights us on fire will actually show up.
We chase dreams that aren’t ours and mask this by saying we don’t know our purpose, because deep down we are too afraid that our actual purpose doesn’t conform with everyone else’s view of the world, and if we failed at something that others already don’t understand, what would that mean about the value of our life and how we live it?
We do all these things, and when asked about how we feel about all of them, we say we are fine. Because we are. We are perfectly fine.
We are living and breathing and going through the motions. We are keeping our heads above water and both feet on the ground. We are making a living and we are following a path that has as many highs and lows as we are comfortable submitting to at the moment, and this is just the problem.
In a world where we have the opportunity for so much more, we are living a life in the tiny fenced in backyard of our brains that we’ve constructed.
In a world where beauty is boundless, in both the ups and the downs that create the contrasted masterpiece of our lives, we are playing it safe.
We are applauded for staying in the lines and using only the given colors. Rather than mix and match and go outside what is given, we are indirectly asked to play by the rules, because the rules are prided and make all of the others that are playing by them feel better about the comfort of the choice they’ve taken.
This is how we end up in the lukewarm. This is how we end up settling for fine when things could be magnificent, vibrant, and energetically on fire.
As we watch everyone around us fulfill fine at their utmost capabilities, it’s hard for us to break that mold. Because breaking the mold means letting go of fine and deciding that we are worth so much more than what everyone around us has decided they are worth. By doing this, we’ve created a separation that feels inconsiderate and wrong because the people playing fine aren’t enemies, they are friends that are also afraid of shooting for something unfathomable, something more.
So, to the person who is sitting in that period of life where everything seems lukewarm, know that staying there is a choice, fear is inevitable, and if you are wavering on the edge of the abyss, know that you are worth so much more.
Growing up, you’ve probably been told, “Never let them see you cry,” which basically means never let someone see you look weak, vulnerable, or even sad.
Growing up, we constantly heard phrases like, “Suck it up,” or “Just be tough.” We grew up thinking that feeling weak was something to be ashamed of. That being seen with emotions would make others think less of us.
And then we got older and we continued to believe that showing emotions was something we ought to hide.So we carried this façade of “being tough” into all aspects of our lives—into our relationships, into our careers, and into how we interact with others and with ourselves.
Our inner monologues turned into something like: You can’t show weakness under any circumstance. You can’t express when you’re feeling underappreciated or overworked. You can’t be real and honest with those closest to you. Instead, you must brush it off and put on a tough face.
But we aren’t supposed to be indestructible beings. Humans are allowed to break down and hurt. And just because we have moments of weakness doesn’t mean we are weak.
Because we are not judged on this earth by how many tears we shed or how often we needed a break. We are not judged by the heaviness we endure when we face disappointment. We are living, conscious, emotional beings that don’t need to be brave and tough 24/7. In fact, sometimes the bravest thing you can do is give yourself permission to feel.
We are not immune to the hardships thrown our way in life, and we don’t need to fake our way through them. We are allowed to let our guards down and admit we are not okay. It doesn’t make you any less strong, it doesn’t mean you are indefinitely weak, and it definitely doesn’t take away from all that you’ve built yourself up to be and all that you are growing into.
Despite how bright the sun may seem to shine, clouds will always find their way through. Rain will always pour lightly, in bursts, heavily, or all at once. But it doesn’t mean the sun is any less powerful. It doesn’t mean the next day the rays won’t fill the air with light and heat once again.
To achieve any dream or goal, you have to put in the work.
You want to ace that test? You study. You want to get into your dream university? You give them the best damn application you can. You want to get that dream job? You put in the hours, you make the best resume, and you go into that interview with your head held high. But you know what you don’t do?
In any of these scenarios, when you are working towards any life goal big or small, you do not burn yourself out. You do not drain yourself of all your energy, you do not exhaust yourself of any life, because you will feel nothing when you reach your goal. You won’t be able to dance or scream or cry tears of joy—you will just want to go to sleep. And would all the hours you put in be worth it? No. Because here’s the truth that everyone seems to overlook.
There are productive days and then there are rest days. You cannot hustle 24 hours straight for seven days a week. You need rest. And you need to stop bullying yourself for taking the rest. You need to stop treating rest as a sign of weakness and stop feeling guilty for taking the rest. And don’t you dare compare the amount of rest you need to another person in your life, because what you are going through is different to them and everyone’s rest looks different. The whole point of resting is to take care of yourself, so stop concerning yourself with how it may look to others or what others are doing and take the rest.
Because the rest days are even more important than the productive days. Because without the rest days, you wouldn’t have the productive days.
You would not get the promotion or the new internship without the rest. You wouldn’t ace your exams or qualify for graduate school without the rest. Stop romanticizing working yourself to death, because it isn’t cute or pretty, it’s wrong. It’s not romance, it’s horror. So it’s time. Take the damn rest.
Say a prayer, chant a mantra, spray some lavender mist, close your eyes, and take the rest.
Some days, you will find me a complete train wreck. I am not well dressed. I am not doing my skincare routine. I am not eating healthy, and my place is not tidy. So during a time like this, you will find me waking up late, looking like I am all over the place, and not getting any work done—my state of mind is not the best. I am not focused or funny or creative or social or charming. I basically become my worst self, but the thing is, I am not ashamed of who I am during this time because every single time I get stuck being like this for a while, and every time I get myself stuck in a rut, I always manage to get myself out of it, and for that, I will always be proud of myself.
I have come to accept these days and to try not to beat myself up when I have them. I have to accept that I will be a complete utter mess every now and then, and that’s okay. Maybe I don’t like who I am during a time like this because I am not in control, I don’t have my day planned, and I am not doing anything useful, but my mental state needs exactly that. It doesn’t need schedules or a planned day or healthy food or a tidy place or me wearing full makeup or spending time caring about what to wear, but it needs to be in a state of just being. I know people might find this lifestyle not healthy or good, but I have come to see it as a necessity.
I fall into a lifestyle like this every now and then, and every time I feel so bad during it because I don’t like how I look or how I live. I binge eat and I binge watch Netflix. I cancel outings and plans. I cocoon and isolate myself and keep doing extremely unproductive activities. I don’t work out or pay attention to what I am eating or doing, but now I have learned to accept times like these in my life more. I have learned that just like I am proud of myself when I feel like I have my life together, I should accept and make my peace as well with the days I feel like I don’t have anything in my life together.
These days are my break from the other days I do so well on, and I have decided to give myself this time every now and then without feeling ashamed or guilty for having it. Because the more I think about it, the more I feel like this time is my own self telling me that it needs a break and that it needs exactly that — to just not care for a few days and to just take a step back in order to be able to get back to my normal life pattern.
Having days like these is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s actually part of what makes your life feel more balanced. It’s like a reset button that you need to press every now and then. So allow yourself to have this phase, even if you’re not used to the idea of being unproductive or not having your life together. Learn to just let it be this way for some time in order for you to be able to get back to your normal lifestyle. Accept the fact that you will fall behind in life for a little while sometimes and then get back to picking yourself up. Accept the idea of being a mess or not having everything in order. Let yourself get that break without feeling like freaking out because your life is not how it normally is. Learn to accept some messiness and some setbacks in order to be able to get right back on track.