A person with a light skin tone, long dark hair and wearing glasses and a pale shirt is at a desk covered in piles of paper, folders, notebooes, pens and crumpled sheets of paper, They hold their hands up in the air and their face looks frustrated and confused as they stare a pile of work.
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MindWell team member Gillian reflects on times when life feels overwhelming and how self-awareness and self-compassion can help.

You know that phrase about carrying a lot on your shoulders? What about sharing the load? Or a burden shared is a burden halved? We talk about feeling overloaded or overwhelmed – do you ever feel like that?

I sometimes wish life wouldn’t throw too many problems at me at once. Can’t I just deal with one thing at a time? But no, life comes as it comes! And it really can feel like carrying something heavy. Yet we’ve all been there before and we’ve found ways to cope.

Feeling overloaded

Imagine someone walking along with numerous bags in their hands, not realising how much they’re holding. They get slower and slower until they notice the heaviness of the bags and the ache in their body. Finally, they decide to put the bags down, take a seat on a handy bench or wall, and perhaps call a friend for help or order a taxi. Or maybe they continue on their own, but now they stop every so often to catch their breath.

Physical burdens like shopping bags or luggage are easy to see. However, the invisible burdens of being a caregiver, managing health concerns, parenting, financial troubles, household responsibilities, work pressures, supporting a friend, or absorbing distressing news can be just as, if not more, difficult to carry. It all adds up, and it feels heavy.

Recognising and coping with overload

It’s important to acknowledge these feelings of being overloaded or overwhelmed and find ways to support ourselves. How do you realise when you’re feeling like this? How do you support yourself? What are your coping strategies?

One effective strategy is self-compassion. Reflecting on what’s happening in our life and how it’s impacting our emotions and wellbeing can provide valuable insight.

Self-acceptance is important too – knowing that we can’t do everything and acknowledging that none of us are perfect. If we understand that we’ll struggle and make mistakes, it might be easier to believe that we can cope, ask for help, and bounce back.

Setting the burdens down

For me, it’s helpful to set the burdens down for a while. I can listen to music, go for a walk, call a friend, lose myself in a favourite TV show, be creative, practise mindfulness or attend a support group.

We all have go-to coping mechanisms, but it’s sometimes helpful to remind ourselves that we need to set our burdens down for a while. We can’t carry all our problems on our own every day without our health and wellbeing suffering.

So, consider this your reminder to:

  • Stop and take a breath
  • Notice how you’re feeling emotionally and physically
  • Step back to gain perspective. Is there anything you can pause, ask for help with, delegate, or drop?
  • Take some self-care time. This could be rest, a break, engaging in your favourite activities, or talking to someone

Plan some time for yourself, schedule it in your calendar or set a reminder on your phone. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s a necessary step towards maintaining your mental and physical wellbeing.

Find resources to help on MindWell

Explore MindWell’s wellbeing section, for self-care ideas, ways to look after your physical health and lots more.

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