Feeling overwhelmed used to be a daily struggle for me. I never felt like I could catch my breath! My mind would always be racing thinking about one thing after another. Getting good sleep was a joke! I would go to bed just thinking about everything I hadn’t accomplished that day and everything I would need to get done the next day. I felt like I was in a constant state of anxiousness. Always feeling like I was moving 10 steps backwards! One day I said to myself, “What are you doing?!” Living life has got to be more than feeling overwhelmed 24/7! Over the years I found 5 key tips to help me during times of stress. I know these techniques will help you too!
Breathing is the most simple and effective thing to do when you are feeling overwhelmed. Taking in deep breaths through your nose and exhaling through your mouth works wonders to get you grounded. If you can find a quiet space, it will work even better! I have plenty of times gone to the bathroom at work and did my breathing exercises in there! Now, you don’t have to use a bathroom for this but a quiet space is ideal. Dr. Andrew Veil’s 4-7-8 Breath Technique is what I like to use. After a couple of his recommended breath cycles, my heart rate would be back to normal and I would feel relaxed. I use this everyday before going to bed. When I am feeling overwhelmed my brain has this awesome tendency to NEVER shut off! If I can’t shut it off I will never go to sleep (this has happened too many times). Doing this in the comforts of my own bed allows me to relax, be calm, and actually get some sleep. If you haven’t heard of this technique already, GO check it out! Breathing is so important and but often easily overlooked. Now, you have a perfect tool to use the next time you feel overwhelmed!
2. Write it out
Have you ever had a million thoughts a second racing over and over again in your mind? Have you ever felt exhausted just from thinking? Well I have! Writing out your thoughts and feelings is a perfect way to get those racing thoughts on paper and out of your head! This idea works wonders in two ways. First, getting everything that is overwhelming you on paper means it is now out of your head! Allowing your mind to finally rest is relaxing in itself. Secondly, once all of those racing thoughts are on paper, you can read them! “Keeping a journal helps you establish order when your world feels like it’s in chaos,” said by experts at the University of Rochester Medical Center. I know when I do that, I am able to better formulate a realistic solution to my troubles. For some reason, I am unable to do that in my head, but reading them always sheds new light on the issues at hand. You don’t need a fancy journal for this, because writing your thoughts down just on a piece of paper is easy enough! So next time you find your mind spinning in circles, write it out!
3. Get outside
I don’t know about you, but just being outside always sends waves of calm my direction. When feeling overwhelmed, getting outside and breathing in some fresh air always does me good! If you have the time, go for a walk too! I love to go for walks, especially on a trail in the woods. Being surrounded by the birds chirping and even silence is music to my ears! I also find this as an amazing time to just think. This article on how Walking Helps Us Think sheds lights on how walking can be a great idea generator! Plus, light exercise can get your endorphins going which in return helps your sense of well-being. So don’t forget about taking a stroll outside the next time stress consumes you, and if it’s raining or snowing, just bundle up and grab an umbrella!
4. Say no
You would think just saying NO to something would be easy. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, saying NO to something that will only add to your already unbalanced plate should be an instant reaction. Well, I guess it is an instant reaction in our minds when a silent scream of NO is repeating over and over again, BUT what is said out loud is always, “sure!” I have plenty of times felt too ashamed to admit that one more thing on my plate was too much and I could not mentally handle just the simplest of tasks. When I started to care more for myself, I learned how to say NO to things. And boy does it feel good to ‘just say NO!’ It really gives you the feeling that you are in control. You are the one that can allow yourself some freedom from the overwhelming amount of tasks that could be building up on your front doorstep. You are able to tell the world, “Not today!” and not have an ounce of guilt saying it. So the next time someone asks you to handle one more thing on your plate and you know that will be TOO much, politely say no!
This is by far the funnest way to handle stress! I previously wrote a post called Smile first, think second where I talked about how the act of smiling sends happy signals to your brain. Laughing, just like smiling, triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. The amazing part about laughing, even if it is on false pretenses, your brain doesn’t know the difference! How amazing is that? Think about the last time you had a good laugh. I mean a head thrown back, tears a flowing, bellowing laugh. Do you remember how you felt afterwards? I know I always feel relaxed and at that moment, all my worries seem to disappear. I challenge you to try something. Start to initiate laughter when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It may seem silly at first, but trust me, it helps! Like I mentioned before, your brain can’t tell the difference between natural and self-initiated laughter! Just remember, “We can’t always change the outcomes in life, but we can change how we react to them.” Those wise words were spoken by Ida Abdalkhani, a laughter yoga instructor. Click this link to watch a video of her Ted Talk where she explains the health benefits of laughter and takes the audience through a short self-initiated laughing session. So the next time you are stressed but you might feel silly just breaking out in laughter and are afraid of what others might think, DO IT anyways!
These 5 tips have worked wonders for me! I know the feelings of stress and being overwhelmed will still make their presence in my life, but knowing I have the choice to not let those rule my thoughts gives me a sense of empowerment. I am in control of how I respond to life’s demands and it feels great! I know if you implement these 5 easy tips, you will reap the benefits of living more at peace too!