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Are You Overwhelmed? Take Smaller Bites


There are several misconceptions about Type A personalities – Their behavior and personality traits associated with high achievement, competitiveness, self-control, and motivation to achieve are often highly admired and praised by others. They’re the perfect people to rely on – right? But, because of tendencies to engage in urgent and achievement-oriented behavior – Type A people often chastise themselves and become overwhelmed with trying to be perfect or accomplish huge endeavors. This internal struggle can result in extreme stress, anxiety, depression, and frustration.

I see this in my own young adult kids and in so many others in my life. My daughter is one of too many Type A personalities with clinical depression and anxiety. Like most ambitious, Type A personalities, she often takes on too much – always saying “yes,” filling her plate with mounds and mounds of tasks from traveling to her college classes, homework, special projects, work, family events, friends, and her boyfriend. The mounds of responsibilities and tasks can seem overwhelming. The unknowns with unpredictable outcomes and changes, the perception of letting herself and others down, life events that speed up out of control, and being in large groups, along with isolated downtime are all triggers for her (and many others) to become very overwhelmed, self-destructive, and to shut down. We talk about taking smaller bites and trying to take on manageable tasks that are better for our mental health. It helps!

The idea of taking small bites is not a new concept, and it’s a great visual picture. At a very young age, we all learned this when our parents cut up our food into small manageable bites so that we could eat without choking. In our education as kids, the same was true. We learned how to solve math problems and write stories by tackling one part at a time. As we get older, both our work and personal life ‘bites’ continue to get bigger, whether we’re ready or not. If our food bites were that big, we’d all choke to death. Breaking down our ‘life bites’ into manageable pieces is a logical and effective, but often forgotten, way to reduce stress and increase our ability to cope and function. Nobody can eat a whole apple in one bite.

Some keys to prevent or minimize that overwhelming feeling include create daily plans, making sure that your plan is flexible with outs and pre-determined successes and challenges from similar prior activities. Practice portion control and take small bites. Most importantly, don’t isolate yourself – find a support person or group that accepts you without judgement and helps you find your way when the bites get too big.