You worked late again, relationships are tense, all the clean socks are gone, and sleep seems like a distant memory. Or maybe you’ve lost your job, a close family member died or you’re losing your home. I’ve yet to meet one person who hasn’t experienced moments of overwhelm at some point in their life. But before you give in to the stress, here are 5 strategies to help you cope when those overwhelming moments come knocking on your door.
- Change your environment
Staring at a mountain of paperwork won’t make it disappear. Take a break from your desk- even if it’s for only 5 minutes – and go for a walk outside. The overwhelm is keeping you from doing it anyway, what’s another 5 minutes?! The fresh air and physical movement may be enough to help you re-energize and refocus.
- Welcome your emotions
I don’t believe in good emotions or bad emotions. All emotions serve a purpose, it’s the intensity of those emotions that can make life difficult. Avoiding difficult emotions will only make them stronger. Accept whatever feelings you are experiencing and believe in your abilities to handle them. In doing this, you may find those intense emotions quickly diminish.
It’s easier said than done and I do acknowledge not everyone finds breathing a calming exercise, but if you have never tried intentional, meditative breathing it’s worth a shot. It’s free and you can literally do it anywhere. If you need some guidance in your breathing there are many free apps that will walk you through it. My favorites are Calm, Headspace, and DARE for anxiety. You can also find breathing videos on YouTube.
- Ground yourself
Like breathing techniques, grounding isn’t helpful to everyone but it can be a very effective technique for managing overpowering emotions. Overwhelm usually stems from thoughts of the past or worries about the future. Look around the room and identify 10 things, then name them out loud. You can call a friend or family member. Light your favorite candle or diffuse some essential oils then try to identify the different scents. By “grounding” yourself you are intentionally connecting your thoughts with the present moment.
- Curb the all-or-none thinking
During periods of high stress it’s easy to fall into the trap of all-of-none thinking. If we can’t knock out our entire to-do list we feel like total failures and give up on finishing tasks for the day. What if you gave yourself some grace to do just one thing on that list and let that be enough?! Think about what needs to be done and do the thing that seems most doable right now. Let’s say you have 4 bills that need to be paid today, but you only have enough money in the bank to pay one bill and half of another. Pay the one and a half bills and call it a day. By focusing on what you CAN do you’ll be able to take action on tasks that move you closer to the life you want. Focusing on what can’t be done or what seems too big will likely paralyze you and keep you stuck where you are. Change won’t happen overnight, but those small manageable actions will snowball into big actual change.
If you spend more days than not feeling overwhelmed, it’s ok. You aren’t alone. You may find it helpful to contact a mental health professional so you can learn more in-depth ways of coping with overwhelm. If you live in the Coral Springs area you can contact my office to set up an appointment. I’d be happy to assist in any way I can. If you are in immediate crisis and need to speak to someone right away, you can call the National Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or you can text HOME to 741741 to speak (for free) with a trained crisis counselor.