Whether you are stepping into entrepreneurship while dealing with a crazy home life or secretly eating tomato soup for every meal while trying to create catchy content for social media, the feeling of overwhelm can be real, and it can be heavy. Learning to manage, understand and anticipate the overwhelm will not only safeguard your mental health, but it will help you in your feeling of accomplishment, everyday.
Here are 11 ways that I have learned to calm that overwhelm.
Everyone talks about making the ‘list’, you know the one. Where you write down absolutely everything you need to get done, then start with the small things. Yes, this works, but when the overwhelm is still a burden on your chest, you need to learn to triage. Ask yourself: What are the three things I can do today? That’s it, just three. Choose three things that you can get done today and focus solely on those three things.
#2 Calming Breath
We all know those moments where our breath gets shallow and our face feels hot. Maybe you had a challenging conversation, are completely drowned in tasks or are just having a low day, something we can all relate to. A technique I learned to slow the heart rate and bring yourself back down to ground is the calming breath. It goes like this, inhale for a count of two, exhale for a count of four. Find yourself a quiet space and sit with this breath for as long as you need to feel calm, I suggest a minimum of three minutes. Unapologetically, take as long as you need.
#3 Ask for help
We tend to take everything on ourselves, either because we feel we can, or because we think no one else will do it the way we want. When your plate piles up, there are two ways to get the job done: asking for help and delegating. Reach out to a family member, friend or even an expert in that particular field, and ask them for help. Very rarely will someone turn you away when you say, ‘I’m hoping you can help me.’ Another way to lighten your load is to delegate tasks to others. If you are in a leadership position and can delegate, do it. Most people are looking for a chance to expand their skill sets and responsibilities and will be happy to step up.
The word is ‘no’. It is vital to pay attention to our parameters and how much we can manage at once. This is a practice that takes time to master, but it is necessary. These boundaries will grow over time. The lesson here is putting self-love before pride or feeling of obligation with no need to justify. Saying no to opportunities that are not in alignment with your direction is extremely empowering, and truthfully, gives you more time to do what you want to do. Ladies, yes, we are superheroes no doubt, but part of that is learning who you are and setting boundaries around your time and energy.
#5 Time yourself
When life gets busy, a natural reaction is to put it off, the well known ‘procrastination’. As we know, this only serves to amplify the feeling of overwhelm because you’re losing time. I made it through University by, one, using the clock, and two, focusing on the task. This takes discipline, but it is a sure-fire way to get a chunk of work done. I learned that my optimum productivity time is an hour and a half. So, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. I was focused on pumping out the essay or creating that presentation, then I stopped and gave myself time to rest (for however long I worked for) and repeated. Your productivity time may be longer or shorter. Either way, find your time and focus.
My personal favourite. I’m not saying you must go full Zen hippy guru, if you do that’s totally fine too, but taking time to sit in silence is vital to connecting with your current self, and managing future overwhelm. Meditation comes in many forms: guided, mindfulness, mantra, chanting and so on. If you are new to meditation, I suggest starting with a five-minute guided meditation. Some benefits to a daily meditation practice are stress reduction, anxiety management, sleep improvement, decrease in blood pressure to name a few. The real beauty is that you can meditate anywhere.
#7 Sweat it out
Raising your heart rate and getting yourself into a sweat floods your body with beautiful endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that not only serve to fight your stress and overwhelm but put you into an overall better state. Set some time aside to get to the gym, do some laps in a pool or jump around on a trampoline (my personal favourite). Whatever activity you enjoy doing, walk away from whatever is causing you stress and go sweat.
#8 Put yourself first
I don’t just mean right now, but always. Making self-love activities a priority in your life will help to keep that overwhelm at bay. Set aside time for yourself daily, so you can fill your cup before pouring into everyone else’s. Weather it be a quiet morning routine, getting your nails done, running yourself a hot bath or even just picking up a good book. Whatever you can do to make time for yourself, you must, and I repeat, you must do it. Make yourself a clean meal, stretch your body and pamper yourself girl, you need it.
#9 Get organized
And I don’t just mean your pens and pencils. I mean your entire schedule. Paper planner, color blocked Google Calendar, the whole nine yards. On Sunday, I write out what I have planned for the week, and each night before dinner I set my schedule for the following day, so I know exactly what it looks like. What this does is limit the amount of decisions you have to make. When you are in a state of overwhelm and your plate is full, the last thing you want to do is add more decisions. So, schedule your life ahead of time and simply stick to it. From experience, this makes the world of difference.
#10 Brain Dump before bed
So, you can’t sleep. Thinking right? About all the things you must do, about all the conversations you had, where your life is going, and so on. Whoa girl, slow your horses. Bedtime is for the rest you desperately need right now. The brain dump technique is gold. With a pen and paper beside your bed, write down absolutely everything that is on your mind, or you think might come up while trying to fall asleep. Now that it’s all down on paper, you can pick it right back up in the morning; no stress. Once you have everything down, repeat after me ‘I deserve to relax, I deserve to release, I deserve to rest’. Repeat until asleep.
#11 Ask yourself: How does it get any better than this?
Asking yourself growth mindset questions like this allows you to switch the dialogue in your mind from seeing the overwhelm as a negative, heavy burden, to a privilege to be living such a full, robust, beautiful life. Shifting your mindset is a muscle we need to work daily. Start by sitting with this question. Write down your honest answers and begin to see all that you already have. See this individual day as a gift, because it is.
Beginning to shift your mindset and using calming techniques in times of overwhelm will not only help you in the present moment, but in times of stress still to come.
Creating time to make these tools a daily practice will continue to serve you far into the future.