Have you ever woken up at 3 AM and started worrying? Then one worrisome thought blurs into a regret about the previous day, and then you remember an awkward conversation from a year ago…then suddenly you’re questioning your life choices in a state of panic and overwhelm?
Maybe you sprinkle in some low-key freaking out about upcoming events that seem destined to end badly? (Welcome to the party, anxiety!)
You’re “Snowballing”, friend.
You’re taking a worry pushing it through the field of your fears and anxieties, making it bigger and bigger as they each seem to build on one another - just like a rolling snowball picks up snow and gets larger. All of your worries, concerns, anxieties and regrets are smooshed together into one huge unsolvable “Giant Snowball” that threatens to roll right over anyone (especially anything positive) and anything in its way.
This Giant Snowball never has a solution because it’s a mash up of many different concerns.
Giant Snowball construction is overwhelming by design.
Giant Snowball Example:
“The economy is tanking. I see so many layoffs on LinkedIn and I might be next. That would ruin everything. Where could I ever find a job? And my kid wants to go to that expensive drama program. I’m an idiot. I should have left this place two years ago when I first thought of it. Oh my god - that interview I did back then was a nightmare! Why did I give that random answer? That person saw through me. I’m an imposter. Wait… what was our last credit card bill? Why do we buy so much crap? Did I pay that bill? I think I did. I’m an idiot. Always forgetting stuff like that.”
Make smaller snowballs.
Instead of piling on your anxiety brainstorm.
Break it down.
Pin in down.
Write it down.
Each worry or concern is actually an individual and separate issue with discrete learnings or actions to be taken. Don’t mix them.
When you start to feel that building overwhelm, it’s time to reframe. Make small snowballs. Literally. Each concern is a separate item not lumped into a giant pile.
Writing things down captures our concerns on the page. By writing it down, you’re pinning down each worry so your mind can’t drag it on top of all the other concerns.
The more we practice stepping out of the avalanche of anxiety, worry and rumination, the more we’re able to calm ourselves, develop more clarity and establish next actions.
How? Grab your notebook!
- Draw a little circle and write down one concern.
- Keep adding - one concern per circle.
- You may have a lot of circles! Which aren’t going to last in the sunshine of your investigation? Cross those out.
- Can't change the past
- Can't control other people
- Circle the biggest issues that you do want to take action on - after all, your middle of the night worries can be realizations of things that need to change.
- The economy is taking a downturn. Things might change for me professionally. I could get ready for change.
- I want to plan for the drama program and set aside money for that.
- My last interviewing experience wasn’t too hot. Maybe I can find some support to prepare in case I’m out there
- Missed credit card payment - set a memo to check tomorrow, set a reminder monthly ongoing. Missed it once, but don't have to do that again.
- Far overdue for a financial plan. Ask friends for recommendations for financial advisors.
- I can tell I’m really stressed because all these worries are coming up. I need to be gentle with myself.
- The cure for overwhelm by Martha Beck: move from procedural mindset to creativity mindset
- Tackling a long list of competing priorities
Note: If you’re consistently feeling overwhelmed or helpless, find mental health support. Things can be better and you aren’t alone.