We all know how overwhelm feels. Constant pressure, worry, anxiety and exhaustion are just some of the symptoms that come to mind.
Overwhelm affects us all at some point in our lives. There are a million and one things that can trigger overwhelm, from intense work pressure, to coping with a health challenge, or even hormonal changes. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, overwhelm often results in anxiousness and exhaustion. Because our physical, emotional and mental health are so connected, we may also have physical symptoms. Overwhelm often leaves us stuck in procrastination, unable to make decisions, or to take any action.
Sometimes, it’s a phase that will pass after a short time. But left get out of hand, overwhelm can seriously impact our physical and mental health.
Although I may have some tools to help manage my feelings of overwhelm, I am by no means immune. I have felt it more than ever over the past 18 months. Working from home with a toddler is certainly difficult, and pressured. Covid restrictions have meant finding childcare solutions challenging, and often impossible.
Here’s a few of my personal strategies to get on top of overwhelm.
1. Take a breath Taking just five minutes to literally stop and breathe, can help ground us and bring us to the present moment. Try this simple breathing exercise. Inhale for count of 4. Hold (on full breath) for count of 4. Exhale for count of 4. Pause (on empty breath) for count of 4. Begin again. This is known as "box breathing". Continue for around 10 rounds at least, anytime you feel the waves of overwhelm.
2. Clear your space It is true, having a clean, uncluttered space can help the mind feel clear and uncluttered too. I find it easier these days if I just focus on one or two spaces at a time. If I’m working, it’s most important that my working space is clear and uncluttered. The rest can wait. On this note, there are two other things that you can do to help feel more organised and clear – make making your bed each morning a priority, and always go to bed with a clean kitchen! It really does help.
3. Focus on the most important thing to do today We get bogged down with our to-do lists. This means we procrastinate, and end up doing nothing. Instead, put your energy into doing the one most important thing. Acknowledge that you have achieved something, and reward yourself when you have done it. Another day when you feel less overwhelmed, you will get the other stuff done.
4. Stop multi-tasking Multi-tasking greatly reduces our efficiency, and means that we are not giving our best to any of the tasks we are tackling at once. Instead, focus on one task at a time.
5. Commit to 20 minutes of full focus This is thought to be a realistic amount of time that we can give our full focus to something. No phone scrolling, no getting up to make a cuppa. Just commit to staying focused. When your mind knows you will take a short break after, it will more easily settle. Then take a 3-minute stretch break, or check your phone, before you then commit to another 20 minutes.
6. Establish your boundaries If you are the kind of person who finds it hard to say no, this is a good time to begin. You may also need to establish your own personal boundaries. This can mean limiting distractions, setting yourself a clear goal, or ensuring that you take a walk or other exercise. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s more important than ever to set some clear boundaries.
Finally, it’s important to remind yourself that you will not feel like this forever. Like all feelings - challenging or positive - our feelings of overwhelm will pass.
If you find that you are finding it difficult to cope, that your feelings of overwhelm are causing you anxiety that you cannot manage, you may need the support of a professional.
I hope that you found this article helpful, and that it will inspire you to support yourself through an overwhelming period.
Article written by Kerry White.
Kerry is a Motherhood Clarity Coach, helping women get clarity around their desire to pursue an alternative path to motherhood.
She is also a Workplace Wellbeing Facilitator, Speaker, Shiatsu Therapist and Yoga Teacher. Kerry is especially passionate about supporting women feel well on every level - physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
Read more about Kerry here.