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What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Sometimes, it can all get to be too much. In today’s fast paced, technology driven, sometimes disconnected world, it makes sense that we can feel overwhelmed. If you pair together a life stress (or two or three), with the demands of our jobs, taking care of family members, trying to care for ourselves, and the news and social media infiltrating our lives, it is no wonder that sometimes, our stress levels rise, leaving us feeling overwhelmed.

One of the first things to do when feeling overwhelmed is to not beat yourself up for feeling this way! Sometimes, one of the first things we do (I’m looking at you, my highly sensitive and perfectionist friends!) when we feel overwhelmed is to criticize ourselves for feeling this way. This criticism may lead to feelings of shame, which naturally, add to feelings of stress. Rather than criticize, try to stand outside of yourself and say, “If my friend called me up, listed the stresses I currently have right now, and said they were stressed, would I criticize them for that?” The answer is very likely, no.

Here are a few things to do, and to remember, to help you in moments where you feel overwhelmed, stressed, overworked, and drained:

1) Have a routine. If you read my blog, you have probably heard me talk about how important it is to have a routine. Our brains and bodies thrive on routine, and having something our brain knows and expects each day can be grounding for our bodies, especially during times when there are many unknowns and things that are out of our control. A routine does not have to be extensive, it can be as simple as one activity you do for 10-20 minutes at the same time each day. A daily 10-20 minute routine can include walking your dog, listening to a Ted talk, yoga stretches, meditation, calling a friend or family member at the same time each day, taking a bath, exercising, sewing, or reading. It can be helpful, while getting adjusted to having a routine, to mark this time right when you wake up or before you go to bed. Doing so can help calm your nervous system and give you time and space to reset.

2) Schedule in rest time. It is important to rest your brain and body when you are in a stressed state. This can be very difficult, as your body is likely feeling anything but relaxed. Resting does not necessarily mean complete rest, or taking a nap. Resting can mean closing your eyes for 10 minutes while listening to music, taking a bath, laying down in a quiet room, or engaging in yoga stretches for 10 minutes. During this time, if worrisome thoughts are flowing through your brain- allow them. You don’t need to try to push them away. Just the act of actively trying to rest- sitting, stretching, or laying for 10 minutes intentionally, will still give you a bit of rest, even if it isn’t completely stress free. Sometimes one of the things we stress about the most is that we aren’t resting enough. Making it a point to allow yourself to relax for 10 minutes, even if you aren’t in a complete state of rest, does restore you. So, allow the thoughts to come, let them flow through you, and make it a point to set an alarm on your phone to take a break, or several breaks, throughout the day.

3) Schedule in worry time. It might sound strange to schedule in time to worry, but it can help. If you have a list a mile long of things to do, and a sudden worry comes in, it can feel overwhelming. When this happens, you can jot down the worry, and say to yourself, “I will worry about this later, at 7 pm.” (or whatever time you pick to be your worry time) When you have your scheduled worry time- in this example, we are using 7 pm- set an alarm for when this worry time ends. If you still want to work through your worries when the alarm goes off, know you will have time during your next worry session the next day. It can be helpful to have a task to do right when worry time ends, so you can break out of the worry session, such as a house chore, an errand, gardening, blogging, journaling or exercise.

To summarize, scheduling in a routine (morning, night, or both) for 10-20 minutes, and 10 minutes of rest time, can, surprisingly, make an impact and result in stress reduction. It is important to try to give your nervous system a break, and in doing do, your body can begin to feel relaxed. For some people, it can take a bit of time for the routine and 10 minute breaks to put a dent in the physical and emotional symptoms of stress, and for others, they can notice a difference right away.

Try this out and see if it helps you.Your brain and body deserve the rest. Now, go take a 10 minute break so you can come back refreshed and ready to take on the next task!

© 2018 – Laura Manderino-Martins- All rights reserved