Feeling overwhelmed? So many of us are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety at this time, which makes sense. We’re all dealing with a brand new situation we’ve never experienced before in our lives and let’s be real: most of us have a lot going on right now.
But prolonged overwhelm can affect your ability to think and act rationally, inhibit focus, leave you fatigued, hopeless, and even compromise your immune system.
So today, I’m going to give you some strategies and preventative practices to help you better manage feelings of overwhelm so you can get back to living your best, one-of-a-kind life!
Let’s breakdown what overwhelm really is. Overwhelm is an excess of recurring thoughts in our minds that create feelings in our body. It can be paralyzing and even make the most simple day to day tasks seem impossible.
Here are 4 steps you can take to help you start to feel better now:
1. Get into acceptance.
It is vital to accept feelings of overwhelm because the more we fight it, ignore it, stuff it down or try to run away from it, the stronger it seems to get.
Feeling anxious or overwhelmed at times is part of being a human on this planet. Try not to pathologize it or make yourself “wrong”. Getting into acceptance with feelings that are uncomfortable, acknowledging that what we feel is real and then moving into compassion for ourselves are the first steps to overcoming a state of overwhelm.
2. Identify the thoughts that are adding to the overwhelm.
Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University did a study on human thought patterns several years back and estimates that a human being has about 60,000 thoughts per day.
His research also found that a whopping 90% of those thoughts are REPETITIVE.
For many of us out there, these repetitive thoughts are the NEGATIVE ones. These are likely the thoughts that are keeping you up at night, weighing you down each day, and yes, contributing to your overwhelm.
This kind of circular thinking might be going on subconsciously, so I want to invite you to bring these repetitive thoughts into the light.
You might be thinking things like “I’m never going to get it done in time” or “It’s not going to be good enough” or even “I’ll never meet the right person” or “I’m a terrible parent”. These repeating negative thoughts constantly humming in the background of your mind fuel anxiety and overwhelm.
In this week’s cheat sheet, I’ve included an exercise to help draw your attention to the thoughts that run on repeat in your mind and then steps to create positive, calming phrases to replace them. Grab your cheat sheet here and let’s get to the bottom of what you’re sweating because raising your awareness is key to making a positive shift.
3. Pattern Interrupt.
So much of the time when we’re feeling anxiety, our mind goes to the worst-case scenario over and over again, and that can tip us over into overwhelm and paralysis. Anything you can do to interrupt your thoughts when you’re in that circular mindset is helpful.
It is possible to retrain your brain. Here are some ways to pattern interrupt when your thoughts start spiraling out of control:
Try the STOP method.
Jon-Kabat Zin, Ph.D. is a scientist and mindfulness researcher. He developed this simple skill to practice mindfulness breaks anytime and anywhere to help foster present moment awareness and reduce stress.
Here’s how to do it:
S: Stop. Whatever you’re doing, just pause momentarily. (Actually saying the word “STOP” out loud or to yourself is a powerful way to start this exercise.)
T: Take a breath. Re-connect with your breath. The breath is an anchor to the present moment.
O: Observe. Notice what is happening. What is happening inside you, and outside of you? Where has your mind gone? What do you feel? What are you doing?
P: Proceed. Continue doing what you were doing. Or don’t: Use the information gained during this check-in to change course. Whatever you do, do it mindfully.¹
A Cognitive-Behavioral Tip:
Put a rubber band or hair tie around your wrist. When you catch yourself in a negative thought, lightly snap the band to interrupt the thought you’re having. Once your brain has “snapped” out of it, you replace the negative thought with a more calming, soothing affirmation (I walk you through this in the cheat sheet here).
- Soak your hands in ice-cold water or hold an ice cube in each hand. This can calm your central nervous system and take you out of a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.
- Get a change of scenery. Leave the room in, stretch, or go for a walk.
- Call or text a trusted friend or family member and ask for support.
- Pick up your journal, and write out exactly what’s in your mind.
- Try the 4×4 breathing method (it’s in the cheat sheet!)
4. Start a daily mindfulness and breathing practice.
Focusing on creating more internal space with breath or mindfulness practices is a proactive preventative measure you can take to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Meditation and coming back to your breath creates the ability to be more responsive and less reactive, which is important always, but especially if you are struggling with feeling overwhelmed.
Starting with as little as 5 minutes a day can really make a difference, and I’ve included free resources for you inside this week’s downloadable guide.
I hope that some of these suggestions spoke to you! Please let me know here or connect with me on Instagram @terricole.
You really do have the power within you to calm and care for yourself. You can be the boss of your own mind, it just takes a little bit of training and willingness to raise your awareness of what’s going on underneath the surface of your overwhelm. Only then can you consciously choose to do something different!
Reminder: there’s nothing’s wrong with you. We’re all feeling anxious and overwhelmed at this moment in our shared history.
If you liked this episode of The Terri Cole Show, please share it with your people because I feel like we could all use a little less anxiety and a little bit more joy. I hope you lovers have an amazing week and as always take care of you.