What Introverts Can Do When They Feel Overwhelmed by Life

An overwhelmed introvert

Sometimes life can feel like too much, especially for introverts, who need downtime and quiet to thrive.

Today is an ordinary day — no crisis, drama, or complex problems need to be solved. However,  I feel overwhelmed, and not by any one thing, but by the many parts that make up my day-to-day life. I have less than no energy, even though I haven’t done much. And I have no idea where to begin on my ever-growing list of things I need to work on.

Life can often feel like too much, especially for us introverts. We can feel overwhelmed by our work, personal and social lives, or simple things, like running errands or caregiving. If we’re stretched too thin, and all these requests of our time happen at once, we may feel overcome with inertia — especially if we can’t squeeze in enough alone time.

Introverts need to limit external stimulation and inner preoccupation. However, we can’t always see the “right” thing to do when feelings of overwhelm settle over us like a deflated parachute.

But, not to worry: There are actually several things we can do to combat feeling overwhelmed by our too-hectic lives. 

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6 Things Introverts Can Do When They Feel Overwhelmed by Life

1. Recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and accept it.

One of the best things to do when you feel like everything is too much is to work on your self-awareness and take time to check in with yourself. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to feeling better. Pretending you’re okay when you feel like you’ll break if you take on one more task isn’t a healthy choice. You’ll only worsen things if you’re not honest about how you feel.

It’s easy to compare yourself to an extrovert who seems to handle everything easily and wonder why it’s so hard for you to do the same things, like socialize or go out to dinner — every night — after a full day of work and small talk.

Everybody is unique, and there are some things you can do that maybe an extrovert couldn’t, like the way you process things deeply and listen attentively. The more you focus on these, the better, and then you can start to take steps to reduce the overwhelm, which I’ll get to more in a moment…

2. Do some journaling about what is really bothering you.

Writing things down is a great way to get perspective on whatever’s on your mind, especially things that are making you feel overwhelmed. Journaling is a great coping mechanism for introverts — it can help you figure out priorities and what to let go of. Write in your journal about how you’re feeling, thinking, and what you can do to feel better.

No one else will see what you write unless you want them to, so there shouldn’t be any expectation for your writing to be good. After all, you’re not working on your Oscar-winning screenplay or a literary masterpiece. You’re writing free-form and stream-of-consciousness, so write without restraint. It’s the physical act of writing, and getting your feelings down, that will restore you and help you to feel you can better manage your life. And, through journaling, you can come up with solutions to problems that may not have crossed your mind before.

3. Take big issues and projects and break them down into more manageable tasks.

Huge tasks are daunting for anyone, not just introverts. It’s stressful when you have a big task to accomplish and you don’t know where to start or how you’ll ever complete it. It can make you feel as though you’re stuck in quicksand and can’t make a move, not even to save yourself.

Instead of looking at the big picture, try to see the projects being made up of different parts that can be separated. It’s much easier to tackle a project when you’ve broken it down. Once the project is broken down into various components, group together similar tasks. This should come easily to you, since introverts are usually great planners

If the big project is planning a holiday event, for instance, put buying food and beverages in one bundle, then creating invitations and inviting people in another, and so on. The process of completing tasks will go faster, and more smoothly, when you’re finishing groupings instead of single jobs or chores.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

4. Remind yourself that you — and you alone — are in charge of your own life.

There are things we have to do that we may not want to do, such as paying taxes or reporting for jury duty. I find it helpful to remind myself that so many things are up to me, whether I want to do them or not. As adults, we have authority over our own lives.

If you don’t want to do something you’re not legally required to do, you don’t have to do it. There may be consequences, but it’s up to you to decide if not doing something is worth whatever the consequences are.

The more things you’re honest about and say no to, the less resentment you’ll have for having to do something you don’t want to do or enjoy doing. It can be hard for introverts to set boundaries and say “no,” but the end result is worth it — trust me — and the ultimate form of self-care.

It’s up to you to manage the expectations you have not only for yourself, but for other people. Don’t hold yourself up for impossibly high expectations, which will only cause you to doubt yourself and feel like a failure. No one will do things exactly the way you want them to, or say what you might say in the same situation. So keep your expectations of other people low and be pleasantly surprised when they come through for you.

5. Remove yourself from the overwhelming environment.

What happens when you’re overstimulated and feel you can’t get away? Well, you can!

When our environment feels chaotic, it’s helpful to take a small step back. Go outside and take a walk or permit yourself to take a mini-break. Explore a new neighborhood and pretend you’re a tourist in your own town. (And if you’re afraid you’ll have to make small talk, don’t forget your noise-canceling headphones!)

Do something you enjoy, even if it’s unproductive. Now’s the time to watch that cheesy rom-com, listen to some music, or take yourself to an introvert-friendly place, like to the movies or your favorite museum. Do something that has nothing to do with work and that’s not required of you.

Have some fun for no reason but to burst that bubble of overwhelm hovering over you.

6. Remember that self-care is vital when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

What you do for self-care doesn’t need to be what anyone else does. In fact, the more tailored it is to you, the better. Maybe it’s working out and feeling those endorphins kick in, hiking, or pampering yourself with spa treatments. It doesn’t matter — just do whatever makes you feel good.

For example, meditation is a wonderful way for introverts to tune out the world and everything that’s stressing you out. Focusing on your breathing will help you to relax and lower your blood pressure. By clearing your mind, you’re allowing yourself to take the time to feel better without feeling guilty that you’re not getting your work done. Or, your way of caring for yourself could be having a deep conversation with a close friend or doing some retail therapy. 

When we’re feeling overwhelmed, we draw tension into our bodies, and it stays there with increasing intensity. Turning our focus on being good to ourselves will weaken the tension until it’s so faint, it’s imperceptible. Whatever you do for self-care, allow yourself to slow down and listen to your instincts for taking care of yourself and decompressing. It’ll be worth the sense of calm you achieve, trust me.

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