Overcoming overwhelm

(Photo: Shutterstock/Marco Mesa Sam Wordley)

At any one moment, we have numerous thoughts rushing around our minds – have I paid the bills? Is there anything in the fridge for dinner? Has the homework been done? When is the car going in for its service? And many more.

As busy humans, it’s normal to be juggling so many thoughts and trying to get the corresponding actions done, but sometimes it slips over from busy to overwhelming and we feel like we’re struggling.

Here are some tips to help get over that feeling.

  • Ground yourself – bring your attention out of your mind and into your body. If you’re at work, sit at your desk with your feet firmly on the ground, slip off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your feet – imagine feeling a connection directly to the earth. Alternatively, listening to music or going for a quick 5-minute walk outside, paying attention to the landscape and noises around you – whether you are in the city or in the country.
  • Do a quick “check-in” meditation – a quick exercise in mindfulness than be a temporary relief from stress. Check in with your body by scanning it from head to toe, and when you notice any tension in the muscles, release that tension and move on.  Sit comfortably, close your eyes and start with your toes.  Slowly move up your body to your head, and where you feel tension, tense the muscles in that area as tight as you can and then relax them, imagining the tension falling away from that area and then move on.
  • Take a deep breath. Close your eyes, place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly and focus on breathing deeply from your diaphragm. Count to five between the inhale and exhale breaths. Try to do at least 10 breaths – this will slow your heart rate and increase the oxygen in your blood.
  • Turn off your notifications – The constant pinging of notifications on your phone can be draining. Turn of all unnecessary notifications – news, social media, even your work email after hours.  Even better, try turning your phone off completely for a pre-determined amount every day.
  • Take a quick break – just taking five minutes to walk around the block can help you feel clear-headed and refreshed.
  • Don’t become dependent – using a crutch such as drugs or alcohol is not a solution to anything. It may make you feel better in the short term, but the long-term effects can be very damaging.
  • Find you own way to self-soothe – just like we have to let our babies learn how to settle themselves down, finding a way that helps to settle is very beneficial. It may be looking at something beautiful – like a favourite picture or landscape; listening to some beautiful music that soothes the nerves; light a candle or incense that helps you to relax or snuggle up with a favorite blanket or have a hot bath and relax.
  • Write it down – writing down what you feel is a powerful way to release stress. Whether it is a daily gratitude journal – a daily habit that can change attitudes with consistent use, or a letter to yourself that expresses all your worries and emotions, the act of putting pen to paper and getting it out of your head is powerful and can be very healing. If writing yourself a letter, read it aloud and then dispose of it – burn it or tear it up and throw it away.  If its too much, pick a couple of areas that are causing the greatest stress and write them down.
  • Be organized – a little bit of planning goes a long way. Keep a diary so you always know what you have to do.  Use the alarm function on your phone to remind you of meetings and appointments. Use your freezer! Have a few pre-prepared meals can make a big difference to a busy person. Tell your partner that you may need a bit more support for the time being.
  • Ask for help – let your loved ones know you are struggling at the moment and need some help – better still ask them for some specific help – picking up the kids from school for a couple of days, or just be there when you feel like talking. Talk to your doctor for a referral to a therapist.

OQ Tip

Feeling overwhelmed by the stress of your busy life is not uncommon.  Take the time to do something about it sooner rather than later, as the longer you leave it, the harder it can be to resolve.