What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

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by Hawken Miller |

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My life has been quite busy lately. Between starting my full-time job at BioNews, helping produce two Call of Duty League YouTube shows, working on other freelance journalism projects, and managing my health, which gets progressively worse because of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, I’ve become a bit overwhelmed.

When I have too much going on, my mind seems to shut down, and I don’t feel like I can make any progress toward my deadlines. Staying well-rested, finding an outlet to express doubts and fears, and changing my perspective on work have all helped me to stay on top of my professional life while protecting my mental and physical health.

Getting ample amounts of sleep is at the top of my list because I have seen how well it works for me. Even one hour less than my average, which is around nine hours, and I begin to feel the effects. I get grumpy, can’t focus on my writing, and feel completely drained when talking to people, whether it’s my co-workers, friends, or interviewees. Needless to say, it’s not a fun experience. Being well-rested allows me to take better stock of my to-do list and complete it one step at a time.

While we’re on the topic, I’ve also noticed a huge difference in my daytime sleepiness since I started using my BiPAP machine, which is basically a ventilator for night use. I was well aware that not using it was negatively impacting my health — mainly by making my heart work harder to circulate oxygen at night — and I finally gave into putting the mask on my face while I sleep. I hated it at first, but now I see it as part of my body. When my brain gets enough oxygen at night, things feel like they fall into place in the morning.

Finding a person who can be a sounding board for your frustrations and anxious thoughts can be helpful. For some, that might be a therapist, but for me, it’s a good friend who knows me well and can guide me through spiritual and emotional strife.

I’ll admit I’m not always good at journaling, but getting out mental baggage that drags me down on paper is immensely beneficial for me. I write down the task that’s bothering me or that I’m dreading starting, and suddenly that problem doesn’t seem so large. In my experience, the mind tends to inflate birthday balloons into hot air balloons. Inaction makes it worse and pushes me toward a breaking point. Then I write it down and chuckle, “That’s what was giving me all this angst?”

It’s a good time to say this is not an end-all and be-all solution. Some problems are too big to simply write out in a journal — you’ll need outside help. I started this section by suggesting you find a friend or therapist to be a sounding board because they can help you when your internal processes don’t seem to work.

Having the right perspective on my career, personal life, and health has also helped me go from the valley of doom and gloom to the plateau of pragmatism. I like to start with the question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” None of the things that overwhelm me will cause me harm unless I let them. The to-do list isn’t a monster anymore.

Break up that big, bad work project, health dilemma, or relationship debacle into doable sections. Think back to the classic line: “How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time.”

Another example comes from the audiobook I’m currently listening to called “The Obstacle Is the Way.” Author Ryan Holiday references the impossibly successful coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, Nick Saban, and his perspective for the team. He never focuses on winning the next national championship but rather ensuring that each drill, video review, and play are done to perfection. The rest will follow.

When it seems like the world is crashing down around you, remember to get some rest, talk to a friend or therapist, and take one step (or wheelchair roll) at a time.

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Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.

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