How to Get Better When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

January 28, 2016

How to Get Better When You're Feeling OverwhelmedOverwhelmed by Motivation

8:00 a.m. Wake up, coffee

9:00 a.m. Class

10:00 a.m Cover Letter

11:00 a.m. Lunch

11:30 a.m. Go to work

…this is how my Macbook’s digital sticky notes structured my day until midnight, every day of my senior year of undergrad. I had planners, alarms, and physical and digital to-do lists for every moment of the day. I laid out goals and tasks for the typically 16 hours that I was awake, planning out how to prepare for life after graduation.

A few things in my personal life had been building up that fall, swinging hammers at my self-confidence and motivation. Then I was rejected from my dream job, a job I had been working toward for my entire college career. It was the last brick in the wall that kept me standing and moving forward. I couldn’t make it out of bed…but I was still attempting to stick to my tight schedule with the delusion that I could and would get everything done. Alarms became snooze, which became a dead phone. Worst of all, the pride I found in being productive and successful was nowhere to be found.

I looked for motivation, but every lengthy list of ways to “change your life” or “find your dream job NOW” just drove me to pulling the covers over my head. How could I accomplish all of my dreams, become a new person, win all of the rewards, etc. if I couldn’t even find the energy to properly wash my face or cook a decent meal? There was a long stretch between where I was and where I wanted to be…and I wasn’t even sure of where I was going. I didn’t have specific job title or company plaque or concrete goals I could laser-focus on achieving. I just wanted to feel happy…and that was when I realized how to get out of my slump caused by over-motivation.

A Simple “Thank You”

It started with an hour on the yoga mat that shifted my perspective. Or rather, a moment on the yoga mat. At the end of the class (similar to many classes, I have noticed since), the teacher asked that we take the final moments of our practice to thank ourselves for getting on the mat that day. Not for achieving a perfect handstand, standing in half-moon for an extraordinary amount of time…but to thank ourselves for making an effort. I could have rested in Child’s Pose for an hour, absolutely still; yet, I would thank myself for making an effort. It was such a simple request, but it came as a huge relief to me in that moment. In that brief moment of gratitude and positivity, I had felt happy about myself for the first time in days…so why couldn’t I always feel like this?

Recognize the Cycle of Cynicism

Part of the reason I was so tired and unhappy was that I demanded endless work for myself…from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep. My tightly packed lists, schedules, tasks, reminders, and multiple assignments weren’t contributing anything to my self-esteem or my mood unless I completed everything. Being depressed kept me from achieving all or any of the tasks I had set out for myself. Every night I was facing my failure to achieve all of the goals and errands I had set out for the day, which only created more negative feelings. Recognizing this avalanche of negativity was key to removing it.

No pressure, just positivity.

One morning after the yoga class, I woke up and made an appointment to see one of the counselors who are available at my university. For the rest of the day, I redirected any negativity to positivity: even if I hadn’t achieved anything else that day, I had made one positive step toward my mental health and well-being. Sure, it was only a phone call’s amount of effort, but it was effort. I don’t remember if I did anything else productive that day, but I did allow myself to let go of any lingering thoughts about the lists of the day’s ideal achievements. I felt better, I slept easier, and I felt refreshed the next morning.

Similar to the idea of taking things “one day at a time,” I took things one little victory at a time. One day, it was calling a counselor. Another day, it was waking up to go to the gym. Another day, it was taking the time to cook a nice meal for myself. I did make sure, however, that every time I “treated myself” to a little victory, it was something that would benefit my mental or physical health.

New Source of Motivation

I eased into finishing the cover letters, resumes, and apartment hunting, but if I couldn’t get around to everything, I had done something that day. I continued to surround myself with only positive energy; even if I had to be positive about just getting out of bed for the day.

This was a time in my life when I needed to build up confidence by surrounding myself with positivity from little victories. My motivation eventually came back, fueled by happiness and inspiration, rather than stress and pressure. I found another job, spent my summer backpacking in Europe, and moved across the country for a new start. All of these big changes have created their own forms of stress along the way, but each big change comes with tons of little victories to fuel my positive spirit. Even if it’s just getting out of bed, making it to work, or eating a good meal of fruits and veggies, let’s bring our little victories to light and appreciate one great thing we did today.

Have you ever celebrated the small victories and gotten over a slump? 

Related: 3 Things to Remember When Going Through Tough Times 

9 Things to Make You Feel Better About Yourself Right Now

Also by Megan: How I Backpacked in Europe for Three Months Eating Vegan

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Photo: diszipliniertundiszipliniert via Instagram


Megan Okonsky
Megan Okonsky is a yoga teacher and writer originally from Philadelphia. After years of living the digital nomad life, she's settled down and resumed regular teaching in Austin, TX. Her favorite classes to teach include gentle yoga at Willow Gardens Yoga Studio and meditation at the Travis County Correctional Facility! Follow her work on her website.


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