Why Am I So Overwhelmed,

and what do I do about it?

I’m not a fan of the ocean. All that water freaks me out, quite honestly.

A long time ago I spent 4 summers in Ft. Lauderdale living a mile off the beach while in college. It was great. One day I decided to get in the water, even though the breeze had kicked up some bigger waves than I expected.

Out of nowhere this big one totally crashed into me. Didn’t see it coming as I was busy wiping water out of my eyes from the one before it.

Then the next one got me and I choked on a huge gulp of water that I had expected to be air.

Instantly my mind started freaking out.

Oh my god I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.

Fortunately, my rational mind came online and allowed myself to remember which way the shore was, and started making my way back.

I wasn’t seriously in danger of drowning that day, but I could see how easily it could happen, and I’ve always remembered that feeling of instant terror.

The thing is, that was an instant emotional response that was dialed up to 11. I responded to it strongly.

But what happens when that terror never goes away? What happens when it sits with you day after day in the pit of your stomach and transforms into dread?

What do you do when you can’t bear to think about tomorrow because you know if it’s anything like today, you’d just rather not?

Here are some pointers taken from the world of Wing Chun that provide some concrete strategies for dealing with life-or-death situations that could easily end in disaster if you fail to do the right thing at the right time.

Here they are:

Stop Fighting

This might seem counterintuitive, but the first thing you should do is stop fighting reality. Often times it’s the result of not accepting where you are that prevents you from getting where you want to go.

If you can’t admit to yourself that you’re overwhelmed, freaked out, and anxious, how do you expect to change anything?

So, relax, admit to yourself that you’re not where you want to be, but you are where you are, and you can make better choices in the future.

Instead of struggling to run away from the wave, only to have it crash into you, try relaxing as it comes and ride on top of it.

Summed up nicely it could be said, “Be where you are.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

That’s your opponent’s job! Give yourself a break.

If you’re only focusing on your failures, and inadequacies you’ll remain fixated on what you can’t do instead of what you can do.

It sounds like a greeting card platitude, but it’s 100% accurate. If you’re only aware of your limits, you’ll never even glance at your abilities.

If you allow yourself to be talked into defeat before you start, no wonder nothing ever changes! Listen to the way you talk to yourself. Is it helpful, encouraging stuff? Or is it “Why am I always so stupid?! I’ll never figure this out!”

Don’t endow your opponent with skills they don’t have. Don’t give your situation more power than it has. Don’t give up before you even try.

If you’re thinking, “But I’ve tried so much!” let’s look at that.

Stop Floundering

Pick one thing, and do that. AND ONLY THAT.

You think you’re good at multi-tasking, but you’re not. You’re just good at believing you are. What you’re actually good at is being shitty at several things at once.

This belief in multitasking is robbing you of effectiveness, so you have the mistaken belief that you’re not effective at all.


You’re just not effective at multitasking. Try doing one thing, and one thing only, and see what happens.

When you’re in a fight you’re not going to try to punch, kick, and throw your opponent at the same time. No, you kick to close distance which sets up the punch, which gets you close enough to grab and then you throw.

Doing the right things at the right time from the right place in the right sequence will make you exponentially more effective instead of trying to:

Be Here Now

Whenever I’m sparring and feel myself getting winded, I always think to myself, “Am I actually tired, or am I think about how tired I’m going to be at the end of this round?”

Usually I’m thinking about how tired I’ll be in the future.

Anxiety is a function of imagining future helplessness.

But you aren’t a time traveler. You can’t live in the future. You live right now.

Since you live right now, that means you can do something about it immediately. Not some time. Not tomorrow. Not soon.


Focus on what you can do in the next 5 minutes to move you even one step closer to your goal.

In the martial arts world this is also obvious if you keep planning on using a particular technique. You think about, “I’m going to make him do X so I can do Y technique!”

You spend a lot of energy on trying to force X to happen in the future and you wind up missing opportunities A through X as they present themselves.

If you remain in the present moment, you’re much more likely to recognize viable solutions as they happen.

Do Something

No matter how genius your solution, it’s absolutely worthless if you don’t take action on it. Don’t think about it. Don’t daydream about how awesome life will be after you do it.

Do it.

Talk is cheap. Action is life-changing.

So, don’t just read this article. Do something with it. Read a book. Go for a walk. Call a friend you’ve been avoiding because you’re ashamed of how many problems you have; they’ll be glad to hear from you if you ask how they’re doing & what they’re excited about (focus on the positive).


That’s it. Those are battle-tested strategies for managing dynamics that could easily overwhelm you if your mind fixates on limitations.

Don’t kick your own ass, and be willing to do what it takes to get what you want. Do those things one at a time and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll work our way out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself.

Let me know how it goes.