I think that one of my biggest problems is that I get overwhelmed easily.
I guess a lot of us do. But every time I notice myself stressing out, it’s always that the situation is overwhelming me. Sometimes I have a lot of long-term assignments coming down the pike, or there’s things that I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle. The uncertainty overwhelms me, and I get stressed.
The things that are overwhelming me aren’t as important as they feel: missed homework, late assignments, and even delays in client projects are all not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. They’re unpleasant, but not the end of me.
But still, recognizing this relative unimportance doesn’t help in the moment. My brain loves to flip into the fight-or-flight panic that paralyzes me instead of letting me do things methodically and telling myself that it’ll be okay.
On the one hand, this tendency is beneficial. It makes me care about schoolwork and getting good grades. It doesn’t let me procrastinate or let things slip too much.
But on the other hand, there are moments when it builds up to such a point that it’s really detrimental.
I remember a couple days last semester when I was assigned four projects, all due on the same day in about a month.
For days, I was completely paralyzed by the feeling of overwhelm. I couldn’t do anything. All I could think about was how stressful this all was, and how I didn’t know how I’d get them all done in time.
And then eventually, I sat myself down and made a schedule of when I would get stuff done. I spaced out the different goals for the projects, and it didn’t seem too bad. I felt a bit better.
A month later, all the projects got turned in ahead of time, without too much additional stress. I even kind of forgot why I’d been overwhelmed in the first place.
So my tendency to get overwhelmed helped me do those projects early, which was good. But it also crippled me for a few days, and made my stress levels shoot to levels that I’ve rarely experienced.
I think the interesting thing is that my stress stemming from overwhelm is less “real” than other possible sources of stress — primarily, I’m thinking of stress that comes from real current financial, relationship, or other distress. Stress that comes from something going to hell right now. Stress that’s about something bad that’s already happened.
So maybe that means I can learn to be more comfortable with it. I’ve observed people who seem to be able to juggle a bunch of things at once, while staying cool under the pressure and being okay with not being fully in control.
Maybe it’s a skill I can try to get better at. Hopefully it’s a skill I can try to get better at.