The kids have been screaming all day. Your husband’s out of town. You had a hectic day at work and then had to sit in traffic to get back home. You’re way behind in your work. You haven’t been home all day because you’ve been running errands. Whatever the situation, it’s common to feel one big, fat emotion: OVERWHELM.
This is a sneaky emotion, because we think that it’s somehow useful, or at least normal, to indulge in it. But when we do, it can make life seem harder. We’re basically training our brains to believe that our lives are overwhelming and we can’t handle it. And almost 9 times out of 10, we’ll probably reach for food, or our phone, or a drink to deal. So while I know for sure that overwhelm is something we’ll all experience in our lives, I think indulging in it regularly leads to MORE overwhelm in the long run. It also causes many of us (I struggle with this often) to turn to mind-numbing things like junk food and TV.
So, here are 10 ideas of things you can do/think instead the next time you feel the overwhelm threatening to crush you.
1. connect with someone
If someone is there with you, put your phone aside and ask them about their day. If you’re alone, call a friend to say hi. Sometimes that simple connection with another human being can shake us out of the feeling that life is too much.
2. get outside
Take a deep breath and head out the door, even if it’s just on your front porch. Take a walk if you have time. Let the feelings come, and really try to figure out where they are in your body while you surround yourself with whatever nature you have.
3. watch your thoughts
What do I mean by this? Really examine your thoughts for a moment and try to redirect to something else. Not totally different, just a more accepting way of feeling the overwhelm. For instance if your thoughts are somewhere along the lines of, “I can’t handle this! I’m so freaking stressed right now, I’m going to explode,” try redirecting to something like, “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. But I’m kind of a badass. I’ve got this.”
4. write down your thoughts
If redirecting your thoughts doesn’t work, then try writing them all down on paper. This really helps me to get them outside of my head and somewhere where I can look at them. Sometimes expressing my frustration is the thing that I need to move on with my day.
5. dance it out/work it out/move it out
Turn on some music and dance through your feelings. Exercise, if you’re feeling up to it. Or just move in some way, shape, or form. Experiment with different movements or methods and find something that works for you. It could even be just pretending you’re in the music video to your favorite song: singing and dramatic movements included. 🙂
6. take a minute
If you’re at work, at home, at a party, or somewhere where you’re surrounded by people (and you don’t feel like interacting with them in your overwhelmed state), excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and just take a minute to process your feelings.
This one is like a mixture of #6 and #3. And a lot of people have a LOT of misconceptions about meditating. It’s not hippie voodoo magic. It’s just simply taking a moment to quiet your brain and tune into your body. There are some great meditation apps out there: Headspace, Calm and 10% Happier are some good examples. You can also find a TON of guided meditations on YouTube, but that’s never really been my thing. I prefer to just relax my body and focus on my mind and “watch” my thoughts as they come up.
8. Take 5 deep breaths
Just breathe deeply; in through your nose, out through your mouth. Think about relaxing your shoulders while you do this (or wherever you feel tension in your body the most when you’re overwhelmed). This one is great if you’re in a time crunch and don’t have more than a few minutes to regroup.
This is my all-time favorite. I usually combine it with #3 and really process my thoughts and feelings as I fill in a page in one of those adult coloring books. You can also just take a blank page and draw a picture reflecting how you feel. You’d be surprised at how effective this is, and what insights you can draw from it.
I hope that you find at least some of these helpful. Remember: the important thing is to watch your thoughts and redirect to different ones–without judging yourself for anything either. It IS possible. You can redirect your thoughts without beating yourself up. In fact, I IMPLORE you not to. You’ll just be resisting the emotion, which makes it worse.
Be patient with yourself, and also, care about yourself enough to take these little moments to process your feelings of overwhelm. Don’t try and suppress them or numb them away. DO try some or all of these tips! And let me know in the comments which ones worked for YOU.