July 17, 2019

If you were to choose one word to describe the general emotional state these days, it might be “overwhelmed.”

There’s just so much to do, so many places to be, so many stories to read and shows to binge and opinions to have and Tweets to favorite and dating apps to swipe...

It’s enough to make anyone overwhelmed.

Our natural response to overwhelm is to dig our heels in, to insist that we need to do everything on our plates. But what if you were to swallow that instinct and take the opposite approach?

What if the next time you felt so overwhelmed you didn’t know which way to turn (which, let’s face it, might be right now), you didn’t dig your heels in but instead chose to offload?

Think of offloading as your new go-to way to greet overwhelm. It’s an office buzzword du jour, sure, but it’s also one of the few ways we can control how much we’re dealing with at a given time.

By delegating tasks and shaking off expectations, you reduce the amount of time and energy you spend on things that don’t require your attention. You’ll feel more capable and less overwhelmed, but also better at handling the things that do matter.

Offloading is one of the few ways we can control how much we’re dealing with at a given time.
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With a "What can I offload?" mindset, you can start to see which tasks don't require your full attention and energy, and begin shifting from feeling overwhelmed to empowered.

Here’s what to look for when you start offloading:

Non-urgent tasks

Remember Stacey Abrams’ killer “Work-Life Jenga” strategy? Put all those “oughta do” tasks— the tasks that exist but don’t directly impact your own life—on your offload list.

Helping out others is important, yes, but when you’re drowning in to-dos, you’ve got to save yourself first. Once you’re on solid ground, you can use your newfound energy to help others tackle their own overwhelming tasks.

Emotions and situations you can’t handle on your own

You journal, meditate, and rant to your mom, but at a certain point, it’s time to call in an expert.

When you’re struggling to manage difficult emotions and situations on your own—or would just benefit from professional help—consider finding a therapist or doctor with whom you can talk things through.

Getting out of your own head can provide some much-needed perspective, and take some of that overwhelming weight off your shoulders.

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of finding an expert, offload the search by asking for a referral from your primary care doctor, a therapy agency, or a trusted friend.

Group responsibilities

It’s easy to fall into old roles with friends. You plan a beach trip, then a bachelorette party. Next thing you know, you’re the go-to event coordinator.

The next time a get-together is on the horizon, make it clear that you’d love to come—but won’t be able to take the lead. We tend to think that things will fall apart if we’re not holding them together, but that’s not (always) true.

We tend to think that things will fall apart if we’re not holding them together, but that’s not (always) true.
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Sure, the night may not unfold the way you would have planned it, but at least you’ll have your sanity intact.

Nailing that Instagramable #mealprep and other signs of adulting

Would we all meal-prep in a perfect world? Maybe. But if you’re at the end of your rope, remember that it’s OK to outsource and grab takeout or a premade grocery store salad. Other things it's OK to do: Not always be at Inbox Zero, rock a pair of mismatched socks, take a day off from your workout schedule so you can catch up on Zzzs.

We’re all clamoring to prove that we have things handled, but letting go every once in a while can be a sign of even greater maturity.

Other people’s expectations

Meeting your own expectations is hard enough. Trying to meet other people’s opinions, too? That’s just asking for trouble.

Offload irrelevant expectations by reminding yourself of your own standards and why they matter.

Maybe your friends expect you to meet up for drinks every weekend, but you relish your alone time. Your significant other might want you both to place at a 5K you’re signed up for, but you just want to cross the finish line with minimal training.

Acknowledge that you’re carrying around extraneous opinions, then remind yourself of your own thoughts on the matter.

Offload irrelevant expectations by reminding yourself of your own standards, and why they matter.
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If certain voices are hard to shake, consider adopting a go-to mantra. The next time you worry that your parents want you to do things differently, or wonder what your eavesdropping coworker thinks of your recent performance, repeat a mantra in your head, or under your breath: “I see things differently,” or, “this works for me.”

Greet overwhelm with offload, and watch it change how you tackle your day.


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