How to Reduce the Feelings of Overwhelm
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
So, you're overwhelmed? Hey, it's okay - it happens to everyone and it is normal. Feeling overwhelmed is so common these days with all the stuff that's going on in the world around us and within our own worlds, too. When you look up the definition of "overwhelm"online, the associated words that come up in relation to overwhelm are: defeated, submerge, bury, overpower. Sounds pretty daunting, but to be honest, it's words that I can completely resonate with when I'm feeling overwhelmed. There are many factors that contribute to these feelings of being overwhelmed, and when it all comes to a head, it can feel difficult to navigate what's going on and how to make sense of it all.
I've been feeling quite overwhelmed lately. I haven't really been listening to myself and my body, I've been saying "yes" to too many things and I haven't given myself the alone time that I very much need when I'm doing too much. In order to feel rested, relaxed, productive and whole, I need a balance of being out there with people and having secluded alone time. I've been doing way too much of the former, and although I LOVE being with people, working with others, being with friends, family and loved ones, volunteering, and being out and about, there comes a time when it all becomes to heavy. Feeling heavy and weighted down is no fun and it's of no benefit to you or anyone else when you take on too much. I'd much rather give someone my whole self than this tattered piece of me that's exhausted, stressed out, and in much need of a pizza in bed alone with awful TV shows (just kidding)... (not really). That feeling of being swallowed by multiple tasks, work, events, social gatherings, endless to-do lists, combined with several other feelings linked to self-worth (in my case, anyway) can feel pretty, well...overwhelming.
I tend to link my self-worth to the amount of things I can do and that is not a fair equation when I come to think of it. Just because I take on more things and say yes to even more things, doesn't make me a better person nor does it make me be someone of value. I end up producing lower quality work, have little to contribute to relationships and then end up letting it get to a point where I can't even function properly throughout the day. So yeah, it's not a good time. Feelings of being overwhelmed is normal and I'm not going to say "don't feel that way!" because it's not fair to tell someone what they can/can't, should/shouldn't feel. Your feelings are yours to feel but I do want to gently remind you that feelings are not facts, and that you can also help reduce your feelings of overwhelm. I'm going to share with you some tips that help me when I get to this state and I hope it can help you, too!
1. Ground Yourself
Engage in some grounding techniques, mindfulness, meditation - whatever kind of grounding works well for you. Slow it right down and get to a point where you can actually hear, feel and count your breaths. Breathing - what a thing! It's amazing what happens when you focus on your breath. My favourite kind of breathing is to take a big breath in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then a big sigh and exhale out the mouth. In addition to breath, you can also try out this awesome exercise that I've learned from a few therapist friends and through online coping techniques. You start it off by taking those big breaths I just mentioned. Then, you will say 5 things you can see, followed by 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This is an excellent grounding technique. It will help you slow down and to bring you to the present moment. One thing with being overwhelmed is that we tend to live in the future and are worrying and stressing over lists and things that haven't happened yet. So let that fall to the side and just be with yourself and those senses.
2. Say NO to Things and People
Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you - I STRUGGLE with this. But damn, it's so important to say that two lettered word sometimes! When you say no, you are valuing yourself and your time. You are respecting your limits and you are respecting the boundaries you set out for yourself. In return, people will respect you and your boundaries, too. I'm not saying to say no all the time of course, but if you are tired, upset, stressed out, overworked, or you simply just need a date night by yourself....say no to others and say no to extra-curricular stuff. When someone tells me no or says they can't hang out because they are tired, stressed, don't want to, or whatever, I respect the hell out of them! I thank them for their honesty as well and for sharing that with me. Know the power in saying no and that it is not a negative thing. It's a positive and a benefit to you and your health.
3. Schedule in Some Time For Yourself
Take yourself on a date and do something that makes you feel happy. Whether that is taking a yoga class, going for a walk in nature, painting or drawing, reading, writing, going to the movies solo or simply staying in and chilling on your couch. Get creative with this as well and try new places or sights to see as well. Re-connect with yourself and take the pressure off. This tip seems simple and easy enough, but it can be tough sometimes to schedule in time for yourself. We can often times feel guilty or selfish for needing time alone to do our own thing. I totally get it, but please try to remember the root of why you're taking the time for yourself. Pull out your agenda, write in a block of time or a day or however long to yourself, and stick to that schedule.
4. Break it Down
When it comes to actually handling the stressful and overwhelming situations itself (i.e. work, school, chores at home, etc), try and break it down into smaller things. When you break it down and simplify, you're also de-cluttering your mind at the same time. Set out a schedule for when you can accomplish the small tasks at a pace that is favourable to your well-being. Take it easy on yourself and remember that you're human here! Take each big task, chunk it down into smaller tasks and then check the box and pat yourself on the back with each thing that gets completed.
5. Set Your Boundaries
This last tip ties a lot of the previous tips together. Set some boundaries for yourself and decide what you will and won't put up with, what you do and don't want, and recognize the signs when you feel that overwhelm onset. Firm up your stance and know that these boundaries are in place for your overall health and well-being. Your healthy boundaries might feel a bit awkward at first and that is totally normal. It'll soon become ingrained and second nature.
Even just writing these tips out has helped my overwhelmed state. I'm going to go utilize these throughout the next few days and bring myself back to the state I desire so I can feel happier, healthier, more grounded and more productive. What tends to help you when you're feeling overwhelmed?
Take care everyone,