6 Tips for dealing with Overwhelm
Today I woke up feeling completely overwhelmed. In my head I was running through the list of things I needed to do - write and submit this column, plan and carry out client sessions, do the food shopping, taxi my children to holiday clubs, book travel for a forthcoming holiday - and much more. I could feel the panic rising, I was getting all those classic symptoms of anxiety - a racing heart and shortness of breath.
In our fast-paced, modern lives we all experience overwhelm. As the feeling of panic rises, so too does our level of cortisol, the stress hormone. It all starts to feel too much - we literally become paralysed with fear and indecision. We are in the freeze state of the fight, flight or freeze response.
When overwhelm creeps in, it can feel as though you have no control over what is happening, but these simple steps will help you.
Accept your feelings
Don't attempt to fight what you are feeling. It's there for a reason. Acknowledge what is going on inside, and say to yourself, "I can feel this and still be OK." Every single emotion you've ever had has come and gone, and this one is no different.
Breathwork will help centre you. Simply breathe in for the count of 6, and out for the count of 6. Do this for a few minutes and notice how much calmer you become. You could turn it into a mini meditation by listening to a relaxing piece of music or repeating a positive self-talk mantra such as, "I am OK. All is well."
Remove yourself from the situation - go for a walk, do something else. This releases the pattern of negative thoughts and shifts your state. Forcing yourself to step away when you have so much on your plate can seem counterintuitive - but ultimately it increases your productivity by allowing you to get back on track faster.
What one thing
Ask yourself - "What one thing can I do today that will make everything easier?" and then focus your efforts on doing just that. Often you will discover that the simple act of completing one task provides you with the inertia to do more.
Chunk it down
If the sheer size of your task is causing the overwhelm, consider how you could chunk it down into more manageable blocks. Tackling one element at a time will make the whole task seem much simpler. You could also try blocking out time in your day for specific tasks - but don't forget to include some breaks, too!
Get comfortable with saying NO
If you are someone who tends to overcommit or doesn't like saying no to others, then setting and maintaining healthy boundaries that you are comfortable with can help reduce overwhelm in future.
This article first appeared in the New Stour & Avon Magazine on 27 August 2021