Photo: Madeline Masarik

On feeling overwhelmed

Photo: Madeline Masarik

Ever get that overwhelming feeling? Not in a deliriously happy, first time at Disney Land way or, perhaps how I imagine David Attenborough must feel when he FINALLY spots an extremely rare, extremely exotic creature after hours and hours of waiting in the deepest, darkest depths of the jungle and so comes over all emotional and breathless about the WONDER THAT IS LIFE ON EARTH. Nope.

But more like an ‘if I get another email, my inbox will burst, as well as maybe my brain and will someone PLEASE just burn my ever-growing to do list and can everyone GO AWAAAAAAAY’ way. The adult equivalent of having a toddler tantrum on a supermarket floor. That sort of overwhelmed.

Call it the social media effect and blame modern technology in general, but we live in a digital age where we’re always switched on, constantly connected and it’s commonplace to feel fucking frazzled. I tweeted, somewhat profoundly (for me, anyway): ‘You know it’s time to book a holiday when you’re too busy to find time to book a holiday,’ and that’s exactly where I’m at right now. And FYI I still haven’t managed to book a bastard holiday.

So yeah. I’m currently feeling overwhelmed to the point of wanting to a) cry and b) move to the outer Hebrides and befriend some goats (without feeling the pressure to Instagram aforementioned idyllic scene).

Working in social media means I’m constantly spinning virtual plates; working on long term strategies, analysing past activity, responding to reactive stuff and supporting other people’s projects. Add in several meetings errrr damn day and I barely have time to go for a wee.

Then, outside of work, I try to have some semblance of a life. There’s this blog, for example, which I’m constantly feeling guilty about for not spending enough time on. In fact, scratch that, it’s not a feeling of guilt, it’s a feeling of frustration, of wanting to have the time but finding it comes very low down the pecking order in the grand scheme of things.

As some of you know, I also do illustration commissions on the side, but need to be in a creative mood before I can even think about picking up a pen; a mood that has evaded me of late. And my dream of selling some of my vintage wares in a little online store have so far remained exactly that: A DREAM.

Then there’s the elusive downtime; outside of office hours I barely have time to see my family or friends, let alone get to a yoga class or do something indulgent (let’s not talk about the fact that it’s nearly summer and I’m in desperate need of an MOT to sort out my half-shaved centaur legs and accompanying trotters).

I’ve become the WORST at replying to text messages. When I do finally get around to replying, which I’ll usually do in one sitting, I’ll get bombarded with instant replies, no doubt because my poor despairing pals probs think they’ll get me while I’m clearly online and available. Can’t run, can’t hide. I know I should do daily meditation, but frankly, I’d rather have an extra ten minutes in bed.

I’ve also got a house flat to run, which makes it sound like I live in an extremely large mansion with an an east and west wing. I sadly do not. However, I do have to do the weekly shop (OK, so it’s more like a panicked “SHIT, I’ve run out of milk/toilet roll’ reactive daily shop, but still) and cook dinner and wash up and TIDY up and do the laundry and hoover and OH MY GOD I’M FEELING OVERWHELMED BY LIFE AGAIN.

Having said all this, I know that usually, the feeling of being overwhelmed doesn’t come from the actual tasks and responsibilities we’ve got but from the mental clutter WITHIN our minds, plus the pressure we put on ourselves to get shit done. Being a perfectionist, I’m all too aware that the only person applying that pressure is… me.

Mentally running though to do lists over and over and anticipating future happenings only adds to the stress levels, and before you know it, you’ve got that overwhelming feeling. And I don’t know about you, but once I start feeling like that, it’s so easy to lose any sense of priority, and then I panic because everything seems urgent, and I just don’t know where to begin.

Making even the simplest of decisions becomes ridiculously difficult once I’m in the midst of feeling like this. From deciding what to wear of a morning through to choosing which washing detergent to buy in the supermarket, I suddenly find myself paralysed with indecision and doubt, unable to navigate through the minefield that my mind has become.

So, for now, I’m trying to regroup. I’ve written down EVERYTHING on my mental to-do list and prioritised. At work, I’m pushing back on any tasks that don’t meet my goals, or aren’t important in the grand scheme of things. I’m switching off emails while I focus on getting things done. I’m disappearing from my desk more often so as not to appear so available and to avoid constant interruptions. When the feeling of panic starts creeping back in, I’m taking a break and breathing deeply.

I’m trying to take the pressure off MYSELF by not over-committing and attempting to do so much. I’m learning, in the Grange Hill style, to (just) say no to things I don’t really want to go to or do.

I’m making a concerted effort to do more yoga and indulge in long, hot soaks in the tub when I get home, instead of diving straight into the housework. I’m switching off from social media much more regularly, and I’m going to reply to all my friends’ text messages by being upfront and telling them how frazzled I’m feeling, but that normal service will be resumed REAL SOON. Because it will. It always does.

Do you ever get that overwhelming feeling? How do you overcome it? Seriously, please tell me I’m not completely losing the plot by sharing your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!


  • Comments

  • avatar

    You are absolutely, definitely, 100% not on your own here. I have a similar job to you and that’s stressful enough, but I also want to write my blog and write commissioned articles for other sites. Then there’s the everyday life admin (I hear you on the hair removal, good god that shit takes a long time), attempting to see my friends and family or at the very least send them a text. I live with my boyfriend and I barely see him as it is. Add to all of this that I’m a bloody bridesmaid to a bride who lives in Australia and is getting married in Italy in three weeks. That means finding time to go the gym (because of course, I go and pick a best friend who’s a lingerie model), finding a dress and shoes etc and having to wait 12 hours for a reply because of time differences.

    Oh, and I’ve quit smoking.


    So don’t worry about being the only one worrying. I hear you!

  • avatar

    While I was reading your post I seriously had to wonder if you were writing about me! Had we met somewhere? Are you in my head??
    I experience EXACTLY the same issues and feelings constantly. Too often I feel like a panicked rabbit in a cage or that I might actually completely freak out in a very awkward place (like at work). It’s unnerving.
    And at that point I realize this cannot be healthy and really – is the world going to end if I don’t get an email out or put off laundry? No.
    But I find it really tough to work at my job (which, if I let it, would consume all of my time) and get done what needs to be done (errands, laundry…) and also do what I WANT. Whether that is staring into space for luxurious amounts of mindless time or working on any number of my own creative things (that I would love to do full-time but wow, how do you transition from here to there when it feels like you barely have time to brush your teeth?)
    Anyway, I hear ya. Like you I am trying to find that balance.

  • avatar

    Your job sounds mega exciting and fun but I have to admit.. I felt like this every single day for about the last four years until I went freelance and worked from home, for myself. I found that commuting everyday, trying to juggle all of the stresses of an intense job with a social life/blog/friends/family/washing was too much for me and was actually making me both mentally and physically ill in the long run. Since I’ve gone freelance I’d say my stress has reduced by at least half, even though there are still days where I miss the comfort/hundrum of office life!

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