In light of the terrible events going on in the world, I wanted to share some practical ways to help reduce the overwhelm that so many of us are feeling.
Watch the video above to hear my thoughts. What else do you do to reduce overwhelm?
Things can seem overwhelming some days. Especially now. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately for sure – it’s hard to avoid the feelings of helplessness, uncertainty, chaos, confusion and just the sheer enormity of some of the things happening in the world right now. Often it feels surreal doesn’t it? Like ‘is this really happening?’ On top of everything, we still have our lives to deal with too - work, kids, our spouse, health issues, relationship problems, supporting our teams and our families, just everything. It’s totally overwhelming some days.
Most people I talk to are experiencing some level of this feeling of overwhelm. It’s like this nervous, anxious, panicky energy. This inability to slow down, feeling like nothing is ever accomplished or complete, and that things are just coming at us all the time from all directions and being pulled all over the place. It’s a feeling of helplessness and not having the power to really change anything at all. It’s this energy of not being able to fully breathe.
Does that sound familiar?
When I feel overwhelmed it leads to me feeling anxious and not able to think clearly. I get irritable and snappy. Sometimes I just don’t know where to start and therefore I start nothing – it's like feeling paralyzed by all the things I need to get done, feeling paralyzed by thoughts and emotions and the thoughts just going round and round in my head.
Can you relate?
It’s such a terrible feeling isn’t it?
Remember, what happens when we’re in this state of overwhelm, our rational brain shuts down and the primal brain takes over. And that primal brain tells us to go into fight, flight, or freeze. And that’s exactly what happens. When I feel overwhelmed I feel irritable – that’s ‘fight’, I feel paralyzed – that’s ‘freeze’, and ‘flight’ is that feeling of wanting to run away from it all (this can show up as mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or binge watching the latest Netflix show). It's clear that these reactions do not serve us.
How would you rather feel?
Remember, we get to decide that we’re not going to let the primal brain take over. We get to decide that we will live into our values and be the person who is showing up as their best self each day. We get to decide to have control over our thoughts and feelings.
I’m not saying to ignore your feelings. I’m saying to feel the feelings, think the thoughts, but then decide what you actually want to think, decide how you actually want to be, decide how you want to show up. This is NOT easy. This is a PRACTICE. This is an everyday commitment.
So, how would you rather feel? What’s the opposite of feeling overwhelmed? Here are some ideas: calm, in control, empowered, peaceful, determined, strong, inspired, motivated, capable, hopeful.
Here are some practical tips on how to reduce overwhelm that work for me. I feel that if we don’t at least try to minimize the feeling of overwhelm, then we’re going to get stuck in a cycle of negativity and hopelessness. And that won’t serve the world at all. And right now we need to bring our best selves forward. It’s hard, but it’s necessary. If we all shine our light just a tiny bit brighter, then together we can create more love, more hope, more strength and more possibility for ourselves and for the people in our lives.
Start by breathing. Breathing calms the central nervous system. Breathing centres us, it brings us into the present moment, and it slows down our heart rate. Being intentional with breathing allows us to draw healing oxygen into our bodies. When we’re stressed our breathing gets shallow and quick. So taking a few intentional long slow breaths allows our bodies and minds and hearts to calm.
This doesn’t need to take long. Something that works for me is putting my hands over my heart, closing my eyes and taking three deep breaths. Do this every time you start feeling anxious or overwhelmed. And try to make it a habit. Maybe start your day with this – even before you get out bed. Or do it everytime you go to the bathroom or refresh your coffee. It sounds weird but it does help to create the habit. Or you can even set your phone to remind you or put it into your calendar a few times a day to remind you to breathe.
I have found journaling to be very useful. What I do is each morning I sit still, listen to my heart, and write down two or three feelings that I’m feeling in the moment. I then free write. It’s messy and often not coherent, but it gets the thoughts out of my head and helps me sort through my thoughts and feelings. It’s true that getting things out of our heads and onto paper is very powerful. I encourage you to try it.
And if you need a starting point for what to journal on, I post journaling prompts on my social media every Friday so take a look at those and use those to start.
Silence and stillness
It’s amazing to be in silence and stillness for a bit each day. Turn off the tv or radio and just be with your thoughts. Often we use the tv or listening to podcasts or music as a distraction from listening to our own thoughts or feeling our feelings. So take some time each day to just sit, stare out the window, do legs up the wall, drink your coffee in stillness, or lie in bed for a few minutes before you get up. Don’t underestimate the power of being with your own thoughts and allowing yourself time to process them before you move them through your body.
When you feel emotion – and you will - let it be. Let the emotion come to you, let it sit in your body, observe it, listen to it. But do not push it away or try to ignore it. It needs to be let out. So cry if you need to. Scream into a pillow. Just feel it. It’s okay to let it out. In fact it’s more than okay – it’s necessary to allow the feeling, in order to move it through your body and release it.
Move your body every day. Movement is important on so many levels including helping move the negative energy out and bringing positive energy in. Because if we just sit with negative feelings they can get stuck in our bodies. Now again, this isn’t about ignoring the feelings. We do need to feel them, let them go through our body, but then we need to move them out. Exercise is fantastic, but so is going for a brisk walk, and my new favourite - dancing. Pick a song that makes you feel good, put your headphones in and just dance. It's amazing how good this can make you feel.
Declutter your digital world
There is so much noise coming at us in the digital space and we spend so much time there. I really encourage you to declutter your digital space and curate the content you surround yourself with. This can look like unfollowing people or posts that you don’t resonate with or that make you feel negative in any way and being intentional about who you follow. There are many people posting content that is helpful, positive, and uplifting. Surround yourself with this good content.
Please reduce the amount of time you spend watching the news. I don’t watch the news at all and trust me, I’m not missing anything that is going on. We need to buffer ourselves and our minds from the constant fear mongering, the negativity, and the anxiety-causing messages. I’m not saying this from a place of burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the world. I’m saying this from a place of protecting our energy from too much negative noise. Protecting our conscious and subconscious mind from constant bad news and negative messaging and instead feeding our minds with kind, loving and inspiring news is the only way to stay in a feeling of calm and control, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious already.
Connect with others
Connect with a friend or family member and share how you’re feeling. Ask for a hug. Receive support. Give a hug. Together we can help each other feel better.
Help and serve others
Being of service to someone else is probably one of the best things we can do. It puts us into the energy of love and giving. It allows for compassion and empathy. And it puts us into action, rather than just sitting around ruminating or feeling helpless. Helping others can be as simple as calling a friend, making a donation to a charity, praying, asking a colleague how you can be of assistance, saying hi to people you pass in the store, or doing a random act of kindness.
Bring a bit more kindness and love into your interactions every day. I think we can all agree that we really need that right now.
Now might be the ideal time to make that change in your life you've been thinking about. I can help. I'll be alongside you for your journey of self-learning, defining and clarifying what's important to you, connecting with your purpose, and creating a life that is meaningful and fulfilled. Book a Discovery Call today
My mission is to help people shine their light more brightly so that together we can make a positive impact in the world.