Getting Over the Overwhelm

December is flying by and I have to admit, I’m exhausted.

It’s been a long year with highs and lows and everything in between. And now it’ time to muster up the energy for holiday shopping, parties, etc. on top of everything else.
One thing, for sure, is that the busyness of life never ends.
If you are like me, your days are full. Endless to-do’s, too much responsibility and constant rushing is what usually fills my waking hours. As a single mother of two young children, there are days that I feel paralyzed with overwhelm, not able to focus and sometimes it just triggers a good ‘ol cry.

“A smooth sea doesn't make a skilled sailor.”  My Health Coach, Paul, recently said this to me and it struck a chord. It’s not productive to keep doing the same things and just hope that life calms down, it is our responsibility to become more skillful at navigating it.

Most of us have gone years living in a constant state of overwhelm without giving it too much thought until a major event or health issue wakes them up to how they have been living. But we don’t need to wait for something big to happen to start showing up to life in a new way.

Overwhelm is an emotional response to our full spectrum of thoughts and experiences. Overwhelm increases anxiety and stress which hinders our ability to thrive and experience fulfillment. Symptoms include dread, avoidance, depression, indecision, procrastination, and the one I experience often, the inability to focus. I begin to feel mentally paralyzed and then spiral into a sea of negative thoughts and emotions.

If you can relate, keep reading!

Here are 8 daily practices to conquer overwhelm:

1 – Pause (and breathe)

Just taking the time to stop and notice helps the nervous system to relax and allows you to actually notice what’s happening in the moment. It gives you a chance to think before reacting or stop yourself from being a victim to your thoughts and emotions. Become the witness without judgment and observe.

2 - Reframe it

First realize being overwhelmed is normal. Then instead of beating yourself up over it, realize it’s an opportunity to grow and learn. Ask yourself, how can I deal with this in a different way? How can I become more skillful now? 

In addition, reframe your thoughts that start with “What if…” Mostly every time a phrase that starts this way, ends with a negative. Turn it around and make every what if statement a positive! Not only will it reduce negative energy and anxiety, it will help you start thinking about what you want and desire! And who knows…the universe might surprise you!

3 – Make a list and prioritize

When I have a million things to do, I write everything down – EVERYTHING. After making your list, ask yourself what can come off the list, maybe something that you don’t really need to do or is something you just don’t want to do. Then prioritize! Put the most important things first and assign each task a date/time when you will complete it. If it’s a big project, break it down to smaller steps and tackle each one at a time. Nothing feels better when you live with overwhelm then to have a bunch of things crossed off your to-do list at the end of the day!

4 – Monotask

To do one thing at a time is what mindfulness is all about. By being present in the moment, your mind will not wander as much to the future (where anxiety lives) or in the past (where depression lives). Staying present in the moment will bring you the most peace. In addition, research shows that by focusing on one thing at a time without distraction improves productivity and also reduces mistakes by 40%.

5 – Stop dramatizing

Instead of making the challenges in life bigger than they are, can you ground yourself in reality of the situation. Ask yourself will this matter in 6 months? 1 year? 3 years? Most likely the problems you are dealing with right now won’t be an issue then. Remember past challenges that seemed so overwhelming at the time but aren’t an issue anymore. You survived!

6 - Adopt a new attitude 

One of my favorite mantras these days is "good enough is good enough"! Like when I sent my son to school the other day with two different socks on because I didn't have time to do the wash and couldn't find a match. At least his feet were warm. Good enough. Being a perfectionist just adds to the level of overwhelm. If you need help embracing this attitude, read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.

7 - Ask for help

For many, asking for help is so uncomfortable. I am so bad at it. Even at work. I recently asked someone on my team how I was doing in my new role. Her response was "You suck at delegating." No joke, I even have trouble asking those who report to me to help. This is not a good trait when drowning in overwhelm. Ask for help. People are usually happy to help and are honored that you have thought of them. 

8 - Be extra kind to YOU

Give yourself a break. Get sleep. Eat well. Drink lots of water. Take care of yourself. When you don’t feel well, it is extra hard dealing with overwhelm.

I hope these tips help you kick off the new year right!

Wishing you many blessings for an amazing holiday!