Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed. This is mainly because I’ve been unwell but also because we have had a very cold, wet and grey Winter (my least favourite season) and I really need some warmer weather and sunshine to brighten my mood.
Life, of course, is very busy and although most of the time I seem to be keeping my head above water, it’s times like now that it just feels harder.
I certainly know that I’m not alone. Recently, some friends and family have confided similar feelings to me. And my observations of others indicate that even those not talking about it are struggling a bit.
So if like me, you are feeling a little weighed down with everything right now (for whatever reason), here are some tips that might help ease the pressure.
1. Feed your soul.
Everyone has different things that feed their soul – those things that fill up their energy jar. Mine is time alone by the ocean. I get a deep sense of calm and inner peace by the smell, sound and sight of the ocean.
Find what feeds your soul and do it regularly.
2. Be kind to yourself.
If you normally can do a thousand things in one day, but you just can’t manage it today, that’s okay. Be kind to yourself and take some shortcuts.
If you absolutely, positively cannot face doing exercise today, have a day off but do everything possible to do some sort of physical activity tomorrow. If the prospect of cooking dinner tonight feels too hard, head to the supermarket to buy some fresh pasta, frozen vegetables and a jar of pasta sauce. If even that feels too hard, buy takeaway.
I think the key here is to be kind enough to yourself to ease the pressure, but don’t let this become an ongoing way of life. Healthy food and regular exercise are wonderful contributors to feeling good.
3. Concentrate on what has to be done.
If you are really feeling overwhelmed and don’t know what or where to start, write a list of everything that you need to do (sometimes just getting that list out of your head helps lift the weight). Then put an asterisk next to those tasks that have to be done. Be really honest with yourself here – we often assume that most things have to be done, when they are really nice to do’s and can wait another day. Also consider whether those jobs that have to be done need to be done by you? Or can someone else do them for you?
If there are too many jobs on your list that really have to be done by you, see if you can prioritise what absolutely has to be done today (or at this current moment if they are all screaming at you).
If that feels too hard, pick anything and just start. This approach can be applied to almost anything – particularly with starting to exercise or eat healthier.
Also, try not to get too bogged down about where to start. Pick any point and just get on with it.
4. Pick three things (maximum) to focus on each day.
I know that this can be hard, particularly as there are so many things that have to get done. However, I think this strategy really helps to give you focus and a sense of achievement to your day.
I recently experimented with this at work and felt a greater sense of purpose and got more tasks finished each day. Depending on your job, this may not always be possible. But try to find an uninterrupted chunk of time each day where you can focus on a few tasks.
5. Focus on one thing at a time.
Recent research indicates that multitasking is actually less effective in getting things done and more effective in increasing stress. I know that when I try to do too many things at once, I often feel disappointed at the end of the day because tasks took longer and I got a lot less done than I expected. Focusing on one thing at a time takes a lot of discipline but can have great results.
6. Allocate more time than you think you need. Find the pause.
I am a serial undervaluer of time – particularly when travelling between appointments. I regularly underestimate how long I need to get to a particular place and so often do ‘just one more thing’ before I leave. This means that I end up stressing because I’m running late and feel that I’m rushing from one thing to another.
Allocate more time than you think you need to complete tasks or (in my case) travel. Try to build a pause between activities. When you finish a task, stop, take a few deep breaths and look around you. Then start the next task. This can be a great way to build greater awareness and focus into your day.
This is my favourite tip but probably the one that I’m least good at doing. The more overwhelmed I feel, the faster I move and the faster I speak. This increases my inner chaos leading me to feel less in control and more overwhelmed.
I suggest trying to deliberately move slower, talk slower and think slower. Slow down the voice in your head to stop it jumping from one thought to another. Be mindful of what you are doing at this very moment to create a greater sense of calmness within yourself.
If all of these tips are too overwhelming for you today, just try to:
“Smile, breathe and go slowly” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh
and hopefully tomorrow will be an easier day.