Why Being Overwhelmed Ain’t All Bad

“Why aren’t you happier?” I said to my husband after our beloved Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins last night, winning the series. “That was too stressful. My chest hurts,” he said, succinctly describing the perils of being from a hockey town and also, unwittingly, my state of mind during my previous night of insomnia. Quaint, no?

The Habs weren’t to blame for any of this (well, maybe a little). In a nutshell, I was overwhelmed because of a lot of awesome stuff on my plate that I’m grateful for. But since I’m trying to avoid palpitations, I thought it might be in my best interest to look into ways to handle being totally and completely overwhelmed by life. My non-scientific findings:

1. Remember: You’re Running this show, Cap’n
Your boss has a deeply ingrained inferiority complex that they take out on you. Your subway line breaks down once a week. Bills are due and you’re broke and the scent of that conveniently absent jerk still wafts through the air along with your cat’s diarrhea. Why are you so calm, weirdo? ‘Cause this is your show. You can freak out over the blurry snapshot of your life or consider each problem individually and devise a solution. You choose.

2. Be Kind to your Bod
Feeling overwhelmed usually translates into unhealthy habits for me. I go for saltines and candy and wine. I stop exercising. I’m up all hours of the night, worrying. In other words, I treat my body like garbage when really, extra demanding times call for extra love in the form of 10 minute dance parties, sunlight, and lots of spinach.

3. This is not a Special Occasion
On my last day of elementary school (my school was French), my teacher took me aside as I was about to leave. “Aie confiance en toi,” she said, which I’d always translated to “Have confidence.” I recently noticed it can also be taken to mean “Trust yourself.” You’ve done hundreds of things like this before – and you’ve survived every one of them. This time is not an exception.

4. Others Trust You, Too
I know that drowning under a sea of deadlines is often due to powers beyond your control. And if it’s beginning to affect your health, you should definitely speak up. But guess what: people don’t pile work on you to be assholes, they do it because they genuinely know that you’re the best person to do the job, and that you can handle it. (Take that with a grain of salt. I’m self-employed and my boss can be as tough as she is lenient.)

5. Your Fantasies Can Get Elaborate
In overwhelming times, you should take advantage of your brain moving at 5 times its normal speed to concoct restful scenarios for mental breaks. Lately, I’ve been imagining I’m Zen-master Carey Price. While tens of thousands of people scream around me, I am calm and focused. (That’s the G-rated fantasy, anyway. My family reads this.) Take your mini mind-vacations when you can and imagine the real one that soon awaits you (aka a long night’s sleep).

Now go make me—and more importantly, yourselves—proud. Aie confiance en toi.

Follow Erica on twitter @ericaruthkelly

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