Feeling Overwhelmed? Stressed? Emotionally worn down? Here’s why (and some tactics to help)

May 11, 2020 9:00 am Published by

Learn how to deal with the unpredictable

Are you (like me) feeling overwhelmed? You are “tired of this.” You don’t know how to make decisions because you don’t know what information to believe? Are you sick of all the “newness” in your life, and the constant adjustments you have to make as a result?

Welcome to life in the USA COVID-19 2020. Stressed. Emotionally drained. Feeling unsettled. All of these reactions are normal, given what is going on around us. But they still aren’t fun.

What’s Going On

Let’s take a quick look at the factors that have turned our lives upside down:

1.Unpredictability and instability. In general, we like our lives to have a sense of predictability and stability. (Too much, however, and life becomes boring and feels stagnant.) We like to be able to make plans. Predictability gives us the illusion of control – that we know what is going to happen. That’s why kids like routines and knowing “what we are going to do” – they aren’t in control of much in their lives, so at least knowing that Friday night is pizza night helps them feel more stable.

Our lives, obviously, have become hugely unpredictable – with regards to health issues, our jobs, the kids’ school schedules, the economy, when stay in place orders will be lifted (and for whom). The RESULT? an overall sense of instability, lack of ability to plan for the future or even next week, and a huge drain on our emotional resources.

2.“Upset apple cart” – overwhelmed by newness. New daily schedule for you, for your spouse, for your kids, for everyone you know. New rules and regulations – where you can go and can’t, rules for interaction with others. New ways of doing daily life – meals, shopping, exercising, relaxing. A lot, if not most, of the various aspects of our lives have “new” intruding into them. (While I recently wrote about the importance of newness in our lives, “enough is enough”!) The RESULT? A sense of instability in our daily routines and a huge drain on our emotional resources.

3.TMI (too much information) & unsure what to believe. Wow, did you ever realize how overwhelming it would become when seemingly everyone wants to share their thoughts and opinions on virtually everythingat every opportunity? Not only are we getting hourly updates about COVID-19 stats – for the U.S.; for NYC; for your state / county / city; for Italy, China, Spain, Turkey, Russia and India – but we get to hear lots of people’s ideas and opinions about what should be done; what should have been done; what’s going to happen to “the curve,” to the economy, to Major League Baseball, …ad infinitum.

Add to this overwhelming amount of information the fact that much of it is conflicting, and, as a result, we don’t know which information to believe. The RESULT? Confusion, inability to know how to make decisions, and a huge drain on our emotional resources. (See a theme?)

What to Do

Being committed to trying to live a reality-based life, I think we need to:

Accept we are not in control of a lot of factors in our lives. We, as individuals, don’t control the weather, the global economy, decisions made by governmental authorities, our health (to some degree), what our employer decides, etc. If we don’t accept this fact, we will wear ourselves out trying to control issues not in our control. RESULT? Emotional exhaustion.

Manage the amount of newness and change in our lives. Build routines and schedules (for yourself personally, at work, and for your family). Make some aspects of your life “automatic,” so you don’t have to make a lot of decisions that aren’t currently that important – what you are going to eat for breakfast and lunch, when you will take breaks from work, and so forth. For most of us, now is not the time to consider building a new home, or making some other major change in your daily life.

Limit the amount of information you take in and determine a process for getting the most accurate information you can. Curtail the amount of “news” (broadly defined) you listen to, watch or read. Find some sources that you generally trust and use those to give you the information on which you base your decisions.

Set shorter timeframes for planning ahead. Life circumstances are changing incredibly rapidly.  Trying to make plans for a year (or even 6 months) from now is essentially impossible. As much as possible, keep your plans closer in (1 – 2 weeks), making contingent plans after that (Plan A, Plan B, …).

Keep the big picture in mind. While the encouragement to “be thankful” can become irritating at times or feel superficial, in reality the principal is true. Most of us are far better off than individuals in the developing world with regards to daily life circumstances. We have shelter. We have clothing. We have food. Reminding ourselves of these facts doesn’t solve the challenges we are facing, but they do help us keep perspective.

Finally, “hang in there!” – which is the informal way of saying: persevere, take care of yourself and those around you, and take one day at a time. For most of us, doing so will help us get through this to the other side.

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May 11, 2020 9:00 am


  • fanny says:

    So touching, thanks! I usually don’t watch news often but now try to watch a bit more to understand what’s happening and, yes, to make plans. I settled for 2 different channels, that’s all. I’ll keep on doing that. Hang in there!

  • Karen says:

    Hello! Great stuff…really appreciate your blogs. Have you ever thought of including a link for email so that I can share with others? Appreciate you and all the outstanding work you do!! Be well!

  • Nannette says:

    I look forward each week to read your newsletter. I do feel so overwhelmed and tired. I work at home over 40 hours a week, I don’t leave the house. I miss the day to day interaction I had, I miss shopping, I miss my family, I miss me… I know one day we will feel normal again, but a new normal. Thank you for your strength and understanding what we are going through.

    • Paul White says:

      Nannette, I appreciate hearing that you look forward to reading my thoughts. Sounds like you are in a tough set of circumstances — hang in there and keep connected to SOMEONE!

      Dr. Paul

  • Miller says:

    Dr Paul,
    Well said, so easy to get overwealmed. Jesus has answers and we don’t consult Him trying to do this ourselves. Keep writing!


    • Paul White says:

      Gregg, thanks for your ongoing encouragement. I see your notes (although I don’t always respond!) TTOTALLY agree – no way can we do this on our own. Blessings, Paul

  • Marianne Koenig says:

    Thank you for that. All of the “What to do’s” is what we know to do…its nice seeing it in an outline. In a way it validates we have an informed human being approach to handle all this stuff.

  • Barb says:

    Whoever would have thought that there would come a time when we would have to commit to living a ‘reality-based’ life. Trying to discern all the information that is coming at us has been really quite overwhelming. Thank you for your tips. There is a group of us here at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada that have been having lively discussions on your book and weekly blogs.

    • Paul White says:

      Barb, It is definitely easy to got overwhelmed with outside information these days, so make sure to set boundaries. And we love hearing that you finding our content helpful and are using it to spark conversations with others.

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