Stop Being Stressed and Overwhelmed. Here’s How You Can Relax.
Have you ever felt the stress of knowing that your bandwidth will likely be exceeded in the future with an upcoming change? If you’re going back to work in person, starting a new job or moving, you may worry that you won’t be able to meet the demands: yours or others. And if you’re anything like me, you can go into overdrive with what you know has worked for you to keep your life under control: checklists, a plan, structure, creating a routine and sticking to it, drinking too much caffeine. . .
But there comes a point when you’re struggling with more to do than you can reasonably handle and you keep pushing forward anyways, you may start having trouble sleeping, or experience headaches or stomach troubles or find yourself lashing out at others.
When you’re struggling to manage everything and it feels like you just can’t take it anymore, you may be experiencing overwhelm. If the feeling is that you may not be able to handle the demands placed on you in the future, that can be equally overwhelming, with a hint of anxiety and worry thrown in.
To be clear, I’m using the word overwhelm in the sense that it’s when the stress (or distress) is so big and all encompassing, it’s literally overwhelming, like a riptide that pulls you underneath the surface of the waves.
Mental & Emotional Patterns that Contribute to Overwhelm & How to Handle Them
To further the analogy, sometimes that sense of overwhelm is due to trying to anticipate and control everything, and pushing against something negative you don’t want to experience or have happen. And therein lies the key to understanding how to feel less physically and mentally overwhelmed.
Underneath some of the stress in the present and worry about the future may be fear, scarcity or the belief that you won’t be able to handle it. And starting to release some of the overwhelm starts with letting go of the illusion that you can control the outcome of every situation. While overcompensating may have worked in the past at certain times in your life, consider that you may be being asked to consider trusting you can handle whatever comes.
Know that your real power and ability to transcend overwhelm comes from stepping out of the energy of pushing and forcing things to happen, and even allowing a certain amount of surrendering. You may consider how you can allow and even trust that the universe is benevolent and that things can work out for you, even when you don’t immediately see the way.
And finally, remember that you are strong, capable and generally in charge of your life. If you’re feeling negative about your ability to cope, look for the evidence where you have been able to handle massive or small changes in your life in the past and trust that you will be able to handle this too.
3 Practical Tips to Feel Less Physically and Mentally Overwhelmed
1. Find YOUR Best Tools to Relax
Sometimes when I work with clients around stress management, they decide they need to start exercising or doing more self care to relax, yet it feels like just another thing to add to the to-do list. To get past this, it really matters how you approach it.
You really need to actually want to do the activity. So don’t try to start a yoga practice because everyone says you should. It may be just listening to music, doing puzzles, or any number of things you actually enjoy.
If you have tools you already know help you to let go, then go back to some of those. Or experiment to find what really works for you to help transition out of the day to day experience of life, and temporarily retreat in order to emerge refreshed.
Decide the smallest first step you can take and do just that.
Whether you ultimately decide you need a more formal, regular practice such as yoga or meditation to unwind and cope in healthy ways or you prefer to take moments throughout the day when you step out of the masculine energy of “doing” all the time, it all helps.
For myself, I know that sometimes I can get stuck in my head and that excessive mental energy can contribute to feeling overwhelmed. One way I like to release that is by doing a practice to drop back into the body as both a regular morning practice and also as needed when I become aware of tight shoulders, holding my breath, etc throughout the day.
I have a 10 minute guided meditation practice to help release overwhelm you can try, if you like here.
2. Think About What You Want, Not What You Don’t Want
Due to the negativity bias, it’s human nature to focus on what either already has or could go wrong. Bringing conscious awareness to these mental patterns can help to shift them. One common unconscious mental pattern I’ve noticed with myself and others when feeling overwhelmed is the belief that something will turn out badly or will be worse than it may really be. And in anticipating how negative or bad something will be, whether it turns out to be true or not, it creates more anxiety and emotional struggle in the moment than necessary.
Taking time to envision in the mind’s eye, journal, meditate or talk to someone about what you actually do want and dream and hope for can be a positive step towards creating it. If you go this route, you might start with asking yourself a series of questions. 1. What am I feeling? 2. What do I need? 3. What would I love?
3. Ask for Help
Probably the most practical step on the list: Ask for help. Something I have to work on myself, but always makes me feel better when I do it, is to delegate. Turn to those in your life who you know love and support you and ask for what you need, whether that’s to take things off your plate or just to be there to listen. We all need support, and it’s ok to ask for what you need.