In the previous post, we discussed overwhelm and what it looks like. We also outlined 11 key strategies that you can immediately apply to help reduce your feelings of overwhelm.
Part 2 in this blog series will examine the first 5 techniques you can immediately put to use when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Let's explore each of these techniques in turn.
1. STOP Technique:
S= Stop - interrupt the mental chatter
T= Take a breath - slow breath in through the nose and out through the mouth
O= Observe - what feelings and thoughts do you notice in your body
P=Proceed = consider your options and how best to move forward
2. Acceptance, Presence and Serenity
Feelings provide us with information about our current emotional state. Accepting those feelings as they are in that moment is especially powerful when working through big uncomfortable emotions. Our instinct is to get over them, however acknowledging them, feeling them in their depth and messiness and observing their origins is important to help move through those feelings. Being present is intimately linked to acceptance.
Focus on the current moment- your current task or experience. As it is through being present, we then can accept our situation and emotions. Often our minds are ticking over so quickly, monkey mind chatter is unending. When we think too much about the future, it can all become overwhelming extremely easily. By pausing this chatter and moving into a state of presence and awareness, we can self-soothe and calm our emotions.
Whilst I was growing up, my father would often talk about the Serenity prayer and I remember reading it many, many times as a child and teenager. Little did I know that I was installing a mantra that would come to serve me as an adult. Whilst having a religious feel, it can be easily adjusted to Inner Wisdom, Universe or Divine instead.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
3. Check Your Thoughts and Reality
Sometimes we create a narrative or story that runs through our minds without any reflection or evaluation. The story we are telling ourselves may no longer be true or perhaps was actually not ever true in the first place. Take a moment to notice this story and the thoughts we are telling ourselves and question them. Are they true? Are they helpful? Are they kind? If they are not (and chances are they are not true or kind), look at how you can tell the story in a kinder and more helpful manner.
An easy trap to fall into, is to look to some external source for validation or reassurance or answers to questions about ourselves. Ask yourself what you need right now - as you are the best source of information about yourself and what you need. Feel into your body - what is it feeling? Where are feelings most evident? What could you do right now to feel less overwhelmed? (perhaps a 5 minute dance session, a stretch, some doodling for example).
The breath is increasingly being recognised as an important way of quickly and effectively soothing our-selves and our bodies. Taking 3-4 slow breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth can quickly soothe us.
5. Define Your Priorities, Delegate and Plan
When we are feeling overwhelmed, it can be a great opportunity to take a step back and list all the things we are actually doing. In this list, what absolutely matters the most? What have we said yes to, but would have rather said no to doing?
Our time and energy is not limitless - we need to prioritise our activities both personally and professionally. What are your key priorities in life? Are you doing those things or other things? Are the tasks you are doing helping you to actualise and realise your priorities or not?
Put 30 minutes aside today to sit down and diligently record your tasks and priorities. Review and edit this list carefully, as the choices you are making are the ones that will ultimately shape your life. What on this list could you delegate to someone else? What on the list is a non-negotiable for your well-being? What on the list have you been doing that is no longer necessary?
It is very easy to feel trapped by our circumstances and then wish for our lives to be different. Going through this process will help you identify those things that are most important to you to create a life you want and love. Perhaps in doing this you realise that you have allowed Netflix or social media scrolling to consume vast swathes of your time. There is nothing bad about this. Knowing this, you can then make more informed choices about how you spend your time.
It is not enough to be busy...The question is: what are we busy about? - Henry David Thoreau
Why Should I Plan?
As a result of identifying your main priorities and activities you are able to more effectively plan your day. For example, you may need to factor in school routines and after school activities into your weekly schedule. Consider making an appointment with yourself for yourself. This could be used to work on a passion project or have a nap. Additionally you may want to factor in your general wake up times and going to bed times. When you can see how many hours a day you have to dedicate to activities, it can create a more realistic view of your time and hence reduce overwhelm.
Many people struggle with the idea of planning their day, feeling that it puts unnecessary restraints and constraints on their time and also their creativity. However, many successful entrepreneurs and professionals swear by the benefits of planning. Taking an hour one day a week to plan your week ahead, can help you in a myriad of ways, especially in reducing your sense of overwhelm.
For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned. - Benjamin Franklin
In the next blog post, we will look at the final six strategies you can put to immediate use to ease feelings of overwhelm.
Did you miss Part 1?