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How to take back your life (when you feel like it’s running you)

overwhelm May 08, 2023

You have a lot on your plate. Grocery shopping. Pickup. Work. Walking the dogs. Laundry. Doctor’s appointments. Visits to the vet. The list goes on. And on… and at the end of the day, you want to tear your hair out because the day has flown by with nary a moment to even catch your breath.

Who’s running the show here?! With every aspect of life feeling obligatory and scheduled, it more often than not feels like your life is running you - not the other way around.

It’s overwhelming, disheartening, and exhausting.

All of these circumstances are very real. And in today’s society we’re constantly running from one thing to another, and it seems like everything has to get done, especially with so many societal values placed on “doing it all.”

The truth is though, that all of the overwhelm exists in your mind. It’s not the circumstances themselves - it’s your thoughts about them.

Now, that might sound harsh, but it’s actually really good news, because all of your power lies in your thoughts.

Here’s how to use them to your advantage to take back your life when it feels like everything is never ending:

When you’re thinking about your seemingly endless to-do list, what comes to mind? What are the sentences that form in your brain about your circumstances?

My guess is they sound something like this:

“OMG I have so much to do, there’s no way I can get this all done.”

“When will I ever have a moment to myself?”

“First I have to do this for X person, and then I have to do that for Y person, and then I have to walk the dogs…”

When you’re thinking thoughts like these, you’re probably feeling some flavor of overwhelm and/or resentment, am I right?

And what do you do when you feel that way? Most often I hear from my clients that they’ll still do the thing, but with a poor attitude, take it out on their partner or their kids, spin around in their heads about how much they do for everyone else, and then end up doing something unproductive to recover from all of the energy they spent doing all of the things “for everyone else,” like binging Netflix or drinking an extra glass of wine after dinner, waking up tired the next day.

We end up spending more energy lamenting over how much we have to do, than we would expend by simply doing it all without the mind drama.

But, you can have a totally different experience with the same exact set of circumstances just by changing your thoughts about them.

You can, of course, also evaluate whether you really need to be doing everything you put on your to-do list, but I promise you, the thinking about what you have to do is the main source of your pain.

When you change your thoughts about all of these things to a place of agency - where you acknowledge within your thought that you are the one running the show - then you will start to feel like your life belongs to you again.

So, what could these thoughts sound like?

“I choose to be responsible for everything on my to-do list, because I enjoy providing for my family.”

“I am excited to walk the dogs because it will get me out of the house for some fresh air.”

“My responsibilities are a proud reflection of the life that I’ve built, and I realize at any time, I can change what I don’t like.”

These thoughts feel totally different, right? My guess is that they produce some flavor of calm or control in your body.

And what happens when you feel that way? You simply do the thing, without ruminating and spending extra energy thinking about it. You start to free your mind up to more productive thoughts while you’re executing (and maybe even finding joy in the journey.)

Perhaps best of all, you usually end up with more time and energy, because you’re not spinning in despair and turning to comforting time wasters like Netflix, overdrinking, or other coping mechanisms to soothe yourself from the overwhelm.

If you want to take back your life from the circumstances and responsibilities around you, start with your thinking. All of your power lies in what you decide to think about your life.