You’re Overwhelmed: Now What?
Some days the deadlines seem to pile up, you feel unequipped to handle the project you’re working on, and/or life has gotten so overwhelming that it seems like you’ll never do all the art you’ve always dreamed of doing. You’re overwhelmed. Now what?
Step one: Breathe.
Often we begin to hyperventilate and blow challenges out of proportion. Sure, with deadlines looming and a ton of work to be done it can feel like a personal avalanche has descended on you and you alone, but the truth is it’s probably not that bad. It only SEEMS like it. So take a minute and breathe.
Then say this out loud:
“Everything is going to be okay.”
Because it is. The work will get done, you’ll keep improving even if right now you’re not quite where you’d like to be, and life will do that thing it does: Keep rolling along. It IS going to be okay.
If that’s still not getting through to you, call someone who loves you. And if in that deep, dark moment it feels like no one loves you (also very likely untrue) then just call someone who puts up with you even when you’re being a spastic artist. Ask them to tell you it’s going to be okay. Hearing the words come out of their mouth will help, trust me. And you may start something, too. One day they may be the one who needs to hear the message, and you can be there to deliver it.
Once you know everything is going to be alright, hopefully the weight will lessen a bit. The second it does, jump on that feeling and don’t let it go. Go back to whatever overwhelming project is on your list and take a small, manageable part of it to do in that moment. It can be something tiny, that’s completely okay. The important thing is forward progress.
Want an example?
I am in the middle of moving (seemingly perpetually moving). The holidays are quickly approaching as well. I had a deadline that I mistook for the 17th but was actually YESTERDAY. And on top of all that, I still felt the need to update Animator Island with some helpful insight. Insight that should have been written this past weekend, however due to the move and an illness in the family my computer was in pieces on the office floor.
I was feeling very overwhelmed.
I seized that glimmer of hope that came after repeating “Everything will be okay” and opened the browser to START an article for today. And I figured if I was stressed, surely others are in the same boat. Maybe I could use my “world-is-clearly-ending” state of mind and help someone out there find some peace. Guess what happened?
This article got written. One thing off the hefty to-do list.
I didn’t sit down thinking “I’ll need to write everything, and include links, and do the images to attach, and proofread it, and publish, and tweet it out, and get it onto the Facebook page” because that would have only added to the avalanche. Instead the one thing I picked was to start it.
Along the way, a few paragraphs in, I took a moment to instant message Ferdinand that everything was going to be okay, because he too has a deadline fast approaching. Just telling him that helped me feel better (and hopefully improved his mood as well). Great joy can be found in helping others, and sometimes we forget that when we’re entirely focused on ourselves and our own problems. But that’s a whole other article.
If you’re stressed out today, or feeling overwhelmed, know you’re not alone. And even more so, know it’s going to be okay. Take things one step at a time, don’t forget to breathe, and before you know it this feeling will pass and you’ll be on to the next adventure!
Art can be stressful. LIFE can be stressful. It will work out, you’ll get there. If you’d like to read other thoughts on de-stressing in general, you can check out this three part series too. Now take hold of the moment and jump back in!
Always ask your PM how they will let you cope with overwhelming before joining a show.
Not being overwhelmed is hard to do. Sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode. But it’s true that when you hear someone tell you it’s going to be ok, it helps. It helped me. Hope all people who are feeling low are gonna feel better soon!