Anxiety and Feeling Overwhelmed

Life's challenges which often create anxiety can be overwhelming.

Here's a tool for coping with anxiety due to feeling overwhelmed.

Are you overwhelmed with life's challenges? If so, don't worry most people have been at one time or another. It's a factor of life. Feeling overwhelmed creates anxiety when you remain in a constant state of being overwhelmed. In this state you often feel you are losing your ability to feel competent to meet life's daily challenges.

I have a story I'd like to share that may be helpful in coping with anxiety due to being overwhelmed. As you will see, feeling overwhelmed can be a result of many little unattended  things piling up.

The story began in my studio the other day when I wanted to begin an art project. When I entered the studio and looked around, I became overwhelmed by the clutter. Storage containers and boxes full of stuff were everywhere. There was no room even to sit down and write in my journal. I wondered what I could do with all this stuff that was not only getting in my way of doing some creative work but was also creating anxiety in me. Where will I put it? 

I decided that I would take the stuff to the garage and store it there. I went into the garage, saw what a mess it was and once again became overwhelmed. I had been planning on moving a few months ago and had collected about fifty or more empty boxes for packing. They were everywhere. In addition there were all kinds of stuff in boxes that needed to be sorted and/or discarded. My anxiety barometer was peaking. In order to organize my studio I now had to organize my garage.

The previous owner of the house had built on the east wall of the garage sturdy storage shelves from floor to ceiling. The shelves, however, were already loaded with "stuff!" I did notice though that if things were moved around and reorganized I could possibly make some room for the boxes in the studio to be stored there. So I got on a ladder and started moving things around. I folded tarps that were strewn on a shelf taking up a lot of space. A few things had to be discarded but the majority of the stuff just needed to be rearranged and stacked to tighten up the space. It only took me an hour or so to do that which brought my anxiety level down a notch or two. When I was done I had not only made space for some more stuff but I had put some order to the stuff that was already there. Now I knew what was in the boxes that had been there for so long! I then returned to the studio and brought the storage boxes and the boxes with stuff into the garage and placed them in their new location on the shelves. And… there was some immediate gratification that went with this process. The east wall looked great! What was a disorganized pile of stuff was now organized and very accessible.

There are a couple of points to this story which may help you understand how to cope with feeling overwhelmed and its consequent feeling of anxiety. The first is, I broke up a seemingly overwhelming project into a small piece. I didn't organize the entire garage (which by the way really needs it); I merely took one piece of it, the east wall, and organized it so that I would have enough space to store the stuff from the studio. The second is that my primary motivation was not to clean and organize the garage. My primary motivation was to organize my studio so that I could be creative there. That's where my real interest lay. Getting the east wall of the garage organized was a secondary but necessary goal for me in order to get my primary goal of organizing my studio accomplished. I used the energy that my primary motivation generated (wanting to do creative work) to clean an area in one place (the garage) so that I could clean an area in another place (the studio) so that I would have space to do my creative work.

The challenging task is to find your motivation that will drive you to accomplish a task that can be overwhelming and anxiety producing, so that a higher or deeper desire can be realized. The challenge is finding the motivation to manage the overwhelming feelings and having the tools to help you do so. In my next blog, you will find an exercise called What's On Your Plate? This tool is highly effective in helping you to cope with feelings of being overwhelmed with life's daily challenges and in developing a more serene approach to life.

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