Dr. Rich Patterson


Feeling Overwhelmed

By Rich Patterson, Ph.D.


How do you keep going when you feel overwhelmed?  I know that I do this to myself; it happens when I have too many things going on.  When I overbook myself with obligations, I over-commit to what I can do effectively.  I blame it on my diverse interests— that’s it, I have too many interests.

I could focus on one thing—like writing an app for the phone.  Maybe just playing my drums—that’s what I like to do, play music and forget all the rest.  But, no—I can’t just focus on one thing, can I?  Life isn’t like that; it just requires that you give attention to so many areas.

There is work, making money, family, relationships, education, keeping my grades up, so many areas that seem overpowering at times. What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I overcome this—this balance in life?

It feels like a war raging inside me at times.  Who is behind this?  Oh, it’s you; you’re saying to me that I am causing this war inside me myself?  Ouch, maybe I need to look at that and own it.  How can I be the cause of my frustrations, confusion, and lack of focus?

Do you have any of these thoughts?  Is it just me?  Oh, please don’t say it is just me because then I would have to add that to my already long list of things to understand about myself.  How do we get so tangled up with life and some of these harsh realities?

I want to take you on a journey that leads to the untangling of being overwhelmed.  It might be just having too much to do, making a commitment, overcommitting yourself, or just living itself and how it dishes out the challenges to us sometimes.  Either way, walk with me awhile, and let’s see how we can reframe life when we find ourselves flooded and exhausted.

I like having a lot to do, well, I should say, I want to have a lot to do until I can’t get it all done, or when I realize that the quality that I’m producing isn’t what it should or could be because I haven’t put the time in that, I need to.  For some people, that may not matter.  It isn’t an evaluative judgment; I am a bit of a perfectionist.  I wish I could be less concerned with the perfectness of things, but I’m not.

Do we think that our “To Do” list somehow gets extra credit in the end?  We have a high completion rate. Somehow we gain different points?  Sounds funny, but that’s how we go after things sometimes. I’m a list maker, and it doesn’t matter what I do or how fast I work; I can create a new list in seconds.

Good grief, From where does this stuff come?  It doesn’t seem like I’m even thinking about it, and then suddenly I look at it and think, brother, if I could get that done in a month, I would be doing good, let alone the unreasonable timeline I often set for myself of a week or less.

In this five-part series titled:  5 Mental Models of Clarity and Understanding, I will offer ways to improve your thinking. I hope you will return for part one of this series to read more about what to do when life seems overwhelming.

Here is the link to start this series on 5 Mental Models of Clarity and Understanding, Series: Mental Model #1 – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)

A big part of this series involves that Self-Talk.  Psychology Today has an article you must read, Self-Talk | Psychology Today


Yours for better understanding,