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When you embark on a life of sobriety you generally are making multiple large life changes all at once. In addition to ridding your life of addiction, you also face drastic changes to your relationship with your family, changing friend groups, and often a completely different day-to-day schedule. All of this change can become overwhelming.

Feeling overwhelmed is common to many people in all aspects of their life, but feeling overwhelmed while implementing major life changes and embarking on a journey of recovery is almost unavoidable. To fight back against these feelings it is important to understand these overwhelming feelings and their causes.


Causes of Being Overwhelmed

Overwhelming is a term that is thrown around loosely by all kinds of people, but in order for us to properly talk about the feeling, it is important that we are all talking about the same thing. Feeling overwhelmed is technically defined as “bury or drown beneath a huge mass”. In our case, this huge mass will mostly manifest itself as stress, worry, and emotion.

Generally, people feel overwhelmed due to traumas or life changes. Traumas can be anything from car accidents or witnessing a scary event to the pandemic we are currently involved in. Meanwhile, life changes are generally breakups, divorces, or a life of sobriety.

If you have just embarked on a journey of recovery you are likely experiencing both traumas from your addiction and life changes due to your newfound lifestyle. This combination means it is very easy to start feeling overwhelmed.

You must remember to go easy on yourself, you are not alone in feeling this way and certainly are not weak for feeling overwhelmed in your new life.


Feelings When Overwhelmed

Overwhelming energy shows up differently for everyone, but there are some common symptoms to look for. Often being overwhelmed will show itself in the form of stress. Deadlines and chores will begin to pile up, resulting in feelings of anxiousness. Your heart will start to beat faster and your thoughts will become sporadic and emotional. These feelings are certainly a sign that you are overwhelmed either in the short term or the long term.

Short-term overwhelming thoughts are generally a little easier to recognize. A heavy workload, a big deadline, or too much procrastination can all lead to this feeling. The less talked about and less recognized cause of overwhelming feelings comes from unconscious thoughts and feelings that have built up over the years. These unconscious thoughts can be caused by anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, depression, and other long-term mental health issues.

It is important to remember that there are multiple things that can cause you to feel overwhelmed, identifying exactly what is bothering you at the moment is a great place to start when fighting the feeling. Identifying the root of the issue will help you explain to yourself why a seemingly small issue with your day has caused you to completely break down.

Again it is vital that you not beat yourself up over these feelings, everyone experiences them and you should give yourself the proper amount of time to address those feelings.


How to Avoid Overwhelming Feelings

As you embark on your journey to a new life it will be virtually impossible to avoid overwhelming feelings because you have been experiencing trauma and have experienced at least one major life change. Instead of being unrealistic and trying to completely avoid any negative thoughts, it is more beneficial to set goals in your life of recovery that will help you stay focused on your long-term mission of recovery and sobriety.

While setting goals has a long list of benefits, you must make goals carefully because they can actually add to your overwhelming feelings instead of working to eliminate them. The following list of goal-setting guidelines will help you navigate your new life while minimizing feelings of being overwhelmed.


  • Set Short and Long Term Goals

A great place to start when thinking about goals on your journey to recovery is to set short-term goals that help you work towards your more open-ended and long-term goals. You already have a goal of a life of sobriety that can seem overwhelming and unachievable at times. To supplement this long-term goal set short-term goals like talking to a coworker, grabbing lunch with an old friend, or even just finishing a book or deep cleaning your house.

You will be amazed how good it feels to finish goals, even when they seemed arbitrary when you set them. The positive feedback you give yourself by finishing these smaller goals will help you stay the course on your longer goals because you know how good it feels when you accomplish things that you value.


  • Consider Your Core Values 

Considering your core values is also vital in your mission to minimize feeling overwhelmed on a journey to recovery. One of your major core values now will certainly be sobriety, but you also need to consider your religious beliefs, long-held family values, and anything else that has guided your life so far.

Keeping these core values at the forefront of your thoughts while you make both short and long-term goals will ensure that you do not create overwhelming feelings in the future. Compromising your core values may make things easier in the short term but will always come back to bite you in the form of overwhelming feelings in the future.


  • Make a Plan of Action

Using short-term goals will help you make a plan of action. This plan of action will guide you on your journey so that you can keep your mind clear. Keeping your mind clear and remaining focused on all of your goals will virtually eliminate overwhelming feelings because you have a clear barometer for your journey.

Along with staying focused on your goals themselves you should consider who can help you on your journey, what parts of your journey come next, when you need to accomplish which goals, and why you made certain goals. Thinking critically about all aspects of your journey will eliminate the worry, stress, and overwhelming feelings that can come with unknowns.


  • Keep it Real

Stayin real with yourself throughout a life of sobriety and journey to recovery is the final piece of the puzzle that will help you all but eliminate feeling overwhelmed. Remind yourself to enjoy your successes while simultaneously learning from your mistakes. Remember that a single day or event cannot make your journey successful, nor can it make your journey unsuccessful.