Five ways to manage the feeling of overwhelm.
Functioning through day-to-day life is not easy when you are feeling overwhelmed. Emotional overwhelm is an intense emotion that makes everything feel bigger and difficult to manage. In a pre-pandemic survey, 74% of people in the UK have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Your mind is so full, there just isn’t the capacity for anything else. I remember very clearly the sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach, the creeping anxiety through my body and a feeling like “I’m drowning.”
I recollect thinking “How the hell am I going to fit everything in?” So many demands and not enough time in the day. The To Do List isn’t going in the right direction. I had no patience or ‘time’ to have a conversation with anyone. When I did, I wasn’t present, my mind was thinking, “can this conversation hurry up, I don’t have time.”
Time continues to pass at what seems like a rapid rate; you’re not moving anywhere ahead with the work you need to be doing. Very little is achieved because you can’t focus on any one thing.
And if you’re anything like I was, you’ll keep going until you crash.
Does this sound familiar to you?
What causes overwhelm?
There are many causes, and they can happen to anyone of us at any time. It can be one single trigger or an accumulation of events that build over time to leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Issues in relationships, financial insecurities, career, and work, buying a house, getting married, sleep deprivation, having a baby, combining managing a household, being a parent and having a job!
Feeling the overwhelm of life due to the pace of modern living is major factor. We are a society that is always on the go. Workplace culture demands more and more of us and our time, it never stops. Almost 60% of the Spanish workforce experience stress due to the demands put on them in the workplace
From the moment we wake until we go to sleep, we are engaged with some form of technology. You only must go on public transport to see people are lost in their phones, how disconnected we all are from our surroundings and from each other. Our social interrelations come more from our mobile devices than any face-to-face contact.
Whilst I try to keep up with world events to feel connected, I found even switching on the news for 5 minutes, I’d start to feel a sense of overwhelm. It doesn’t mean I’ve shied away but I’ve learnt not to absorb or lose myself in the ‘news.’
Setting my own personal boundaries in how much time I spend each day on my devises has helped me significantly to manage my wellbeing and the feeling of overwhelm.
How do you manage overwhelm?
1. Step away and breathe
When you feel the sensation of overwhelm arise, the immediate action is to remove yourself from the situation. This way you are taking control and not allowing the overwhelm to increase.
Recognise that this is a temporary feeling, and it will pass.
If you are able, step outside and breath in the fresh air. By bringing attention to the breath, it will naturally begin too slow.
Try to make your exhalation longer.
Breathing in for a count of two and exhaling for a count of four, this sends a message to your brain to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Which is the response that takes your body out of the stress response (fight or flight) and brings you to a calmer more relaxed state by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
If the feeling of overwhelm is happening on a consistent basis, it’s a sign that you need to listen to what your body is saying to you. It’s a signal that you need to make a change.
2. What should I be saying No to so I can say Yes to myself?
“How many times have you said YES when you should’ve said NO?”
It’s a sentence I’ve heard many, many times. If you googled this sentence, you would see pages of images with this as a quote! And yet, I still find it hard to say no or ask for help.
Because there’s always that fear of being judged. What will they think of me? That I’m not good enough or I can’t cope.
Probably a YES to all the above!
The stubborn perfectionist in me has made many tasks bigger than they need to be! I’ve been guilty of taking on too much and unable to say no.
I feel awkward. I don’t like letting people down. I want to help.
Which is very honourable. Yet, I seem to find it very easy to let myself down. By saying yes to someone else, I’m saying no to myself and to my own wellbeing.
I’m also saying no to allowing the space for something bigger and more purposeful to come.
Yes, I recognise this in me now. But I didn’t always.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
It takes courage to reach out and ask for what you need. No one is ever going to want you to feel afraid of asking for help. Despite what you may think, people are not going to think any less of you. They will respect you for it.
Your loved ones are there for you. Talking things through with another person will help to ease the load and open opportunities to receive the support you need.
Think about what you need to do to make this better, to make things simpler.
4. Set personal boundaries for your wellbeing.
Let’s talk about your personal boundaries. They are there to protect you and your wellbeing. Your personal boundaries guide and inform others exactly where they stand. They empower you to stop saying yes when you really mean no. Personal boundaries are like the ultimate act of self-care.
Keep them small so they can be maintained. Don’t be hard on yourself when they slip! They can be easily re-implemented.
My personal boundaries are a little pact, a promise or a vow I have made to myself…
- I will not reach for my mobile phone until after I’ve eaten breakfast.
- I will dedicate the first hour of my day to stretch my body, breathe and for mantra.
- I promise not to overcommit myself and make plans that then leave me feeling overwhelmed.
- To commit to taking time in my day to breathe in fresh air.
- After 9.30pm I will not engage in social media.
- To dedicate the last 15 minutes of my day to reflect in my meditation
- Wednesday mornings are my time to walk and be with my own thoughts.
5. Manage overwhelm through meditation and mindfulness
Taking a long-term approach to your wellbeing is what will give you the strength and insight in how to manage your emotions as and when they arise. Learning mindfulness and meditation techniques that bring you to the present moment will help reduce your anxiety and feeling of overwhelm.
All these techniques below are completely free and readily at your disposal:
Commit yourself to spending 5-10 minutes per day to connect with your breath. Breath awareness is one of the most powerful practices you can master for your mental wellbeing. You can gauge so much about your current state of being by monitoring your breath.
Follow this link here to learn 5 yogic breathing practices you can use every day to calm your mind and emotions.
One of the simplest ways to bring yourself into the present moment is to spend time in nature and tune into your surroundings. I love my Wednesday morning walk by the beach. Regardless of the weather I take myself away and often sit with my eyes closed tuning into the sounds around me. I value this time.
There is a wonderful mindfulness practice that takes this a little further. It is called the 5-4-3-2-1 method where you tune into your five senses. You can access a video of this meditation by clicking this like to access a 5-4-3-2-1 meditation practice
Making a commitment to develop your awareness through meditation you learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without any judgement or attachment. At the same time releasing any tensions in the mind.
Over time this awareness transfers to your external self, where you learn to be less affected by all that is happening around you and what life throws at you.
You become more present. And because you are more present, it helps you to make better decisions, manage and your emotions. Here’s a link to access to a 10-minute meditation practice that will help to quieten the mind and balance your emotions.