We all get overwhelmed at times, huh? I’m feeling it right now, so much so I could just go lie down and I’ve only just woken up! Xander was up all night with a temperature, my car is having issues and I’m on deadline. *Bangs head.
Here’s the thing, feeling overwhelmed is entirely normal and common, it’s our way of coping with the many and sometimes endless spinning of plates and inevitable f*** ups that is life. Stress is there to push us forwards and on wards, through it all yet it can so often do the opposite, stalling and stopping us in our tracks.
There are lots of ways we can help ourselves, though.
As always, I like to blog about the things which affect me personally in the hope my posts will be cathartic (blogging is therapy after all) whilst also forcing me to listen to my own advice and of course, with the intention it helps you all too.
We’re all DOING SO FLIPPING MUCH. We overstretch, don’t recover, sleep less, reach for more sugar and never seem to catch up with ourselves to replenish and recover.
I know ‘I’ve got this’ most of the time, that some how, I always get everything done I need to but I also know how debilitating and rubbish being frazzled and stressed out can feel like.
So how can we overcome feeling overwhelmed so we can get back on track and tackle what we have to do.
Here’s what’s helped me in the past and I’ll be putting these tips into practice once more (with a little help from my friends)!
- Take a nap. Yep, I know it’s hard to find the time to snooze in the day ( how I wish siestas were a thing in the UK) but a burst of yoga at my desk when I’m feeling fraught really works wonders to calm a busy mind. It allows me to break free from the chaos of that moment, when everything feels too much so I can breathe able to return with fresh eyes and renewed motivation. Others swear by mediation and I’m determined to try that soon too. My friend Ursula of Mumbelievable adores the Headspace app. She says, ‘Headspace is great when you’re starting out. I found the prospect of meditation quite daunting and just don’t have a lot of time by myself in a day to practise, but the sessions in this app are short and easy to follow so I can fit it in. Now when I’m feeling overwhelmed – which is often! – I sit with my back straight on the edge of my chair and take ten deep breaths and I feel calmer instantly’.
- Run/walk it out. I did this on Friday after literally 2 weeks of no exercise and a ton of excuses. I’m a girl of extremes and flip from running every day to literally nada. I need greater consistency and balance in my life and know that I must make exercise part of my everyday. I love it when I push myself to run, that rush of endorphins, breaking a sweat and feeling hungry and relishing my breakfast or lunch after a session, so I need to remind myself of all that when I feel freaked out and in need of diverting energy elsewhere. Having that space to run always clears my head. The same goes, for a walk. Fresh air and a change of scenery never fails to soothe me. Dr Juliet McGrattan, GP and runner agrees, ‘It can feel quite frightening when you’ve been struggling to keep your head above water and suddenly you feel like you’re drowning. It’s so easy to end up in this position and can make you become anxious, panicky and full of self-doubt. When you can’t think straight and don’t know what to do first, then taking an exercise break is a great solution. Activity causes the release of feel-good, happy hormones to lighten your mood and exercise can make you focus and concentrate better when you get back. If you choose an exercise which has a repetitive movement like swimming, running or cycling then the rhythmic sound of your feet, wheels or the water splashing has a calming, meditative effect too which will help you to relax and clear your mind. Exercising in a green space such as a woodland or by a river is particularly beneficial. Take a few moments to stand still and breathe deeply. Look around you, listen to the sounds and feel the air on your face. Try to relax and enjoy the moment. You’ll feel re-charged and be more effective on your return’.
- Track you progress. When I used to work for a film company, an assistant there would draw boxes next to her ever-growing to-do list that she’d tick off through the day. I try and do the same now and find keeping tabs on a to-do list document online means I can shift items around as priorities move. I’m personally someone who likes to get as much done as possible, as soon as possible and to the best of my ability. I’m a recovering perfectionist and whilst I do now follow the whole ‘progress over perfectionism’ model Marie Forleo advocates, I always try to over-deliver on everything which is great, but I need to remind myself I have a schedule for a reason and that to-do lists never end. It sounds so simple (and it is) but buying a big family calendar that now hangs in our kitchen has transformed our lives. On it, I mark everything we as a family need to do and I feel like we all have more structure and greater peace of mind for it. My friend Michelle of Michelle Reeves Coaching runs a free 5 day mini course on How to Overcome Overwhelm and has a super post on how to prioritise when you’re feeling overwhelmed which offers more tips.
- Speak to someone who understands you and your scenario. Peter, my husband, is my complete rock. He’s such a logical and calm person who sees the positive in every situation. He always reassures and reminds me that I’ve never failed to deliver anything in the past and that things will always turn out OK. I also speak to my manager, Neil several times a day, another calming force who helps relieve stress when it shows its ugly face, and keeps me focused.
- Be grateful. It’s so easy to take life for granted but it’s vital to remember what you have and appreciate how lucky you actually are. Keeping a list or taking time out to scribble notes in a gratitude journal reflecting all the pros in your life will remind you of how good you’ve actually got it, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. I do this with my kids most nights, we say or write different things we are grateful for. It’s a great ritual to practice as a family. Greater gratitude means greater contentment.
- Say no. A hard one I know, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed and dealing with an ever-growing list of requests just don’t feel you have the time, energy or passion for, you have to walk away. Ditto with additional commitments. If you’re busy, you’re busy. Cramming things in will only serve to stress you out more. Take control of your life and diary, exercise boundaries and start to feel the load shift.
- Have a spring or any seasonal clean (literally and metaphorically). I’m a bit obsessed with spring cleans IRL and online. I love to keep on top of cupboards, wardrobes, toys and more, regularly filling up charity bags of things we don’t need or no longer use. Importantly, I try not to over-consume in the first place but life happens hey, especially with kids. Equally, it’s crucial to remove or distance yourself from toxic people. The more positive life is generally, the easier it is to handle stress day-to-day so start streamlining your life, in every way.
Bonus point is take the day off. My great friend Uju of Babes About Town recommended a post by the inspiring Tsh which promotes time out to simply recover and feel inspired again and I’m going to be working this in once a month or more.
Tsh quotes from the book Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, ‘We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many. Unfortunately, in our time-starved era we don’t get that space by default—only by design’.
It’s inspired me to make time to take time out and with more time out, comes calmer and more rational responses day-to-day.
I hope my tips help. Let me know what’s worked for you!