We have all felt overwhelmed at some point in our lives.
The reasons for this could have been something outside of our control, like a decision that pushed us outside of our comfort zone, or something that happened in our relationships.
Overwhelm can be so present at times that we tend to think it is just normal - and go into a position of feeling powerless and just accepting it as it is.
If that sounds like you, please know this:
You don’t have to go through life feeling overwhelmed every second of it.
You can have a fully active life, with your work, with your family and friends, with your hobbies - AND decrease your levels of stress and overwhelm.
The thing is, stress will always be present: sometimes less, sometimes more. That is just how life goes.
So, the key to managing stress (and taming your overwhelm) is not to eliminate it, but learn how to manage it. That way, you can have a full life without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
So, what can you do when you’re overwhelmed and feel like you can’t cope? Here are 5 steps you can start taking today.
1. Focus on your breathing
This might seem like quite a simple one - just breathing.
However, many times we are not aware of how we are breathing (or that we’re holding our breath!), simply because it is just something our body does automatically (imagine if we had to think every time we needed to take a breath!).
As we are not present with our breathing at all times, when we feel overwhelmed we will probably be breathing differently. We might find ourselves holding our breath or gasping for air.
The thing is, if you pay attention to your breathing, you can also control your heart rate and feel more relaxed. If you are feeling overwhelmed right now, watch this TED talk by Yogabody-founder Lucas Rockwood and try the breathing techniques suggested:
2. Protect your energy
Many times we feel overwhelmed because our bodies are simply way too tired. And do you know what happens when we feel tired? We are more emotional and it becomes so much easier for our minds to go into overwhelm.
We feel like everything is out of our control, that there are no solutions to our problems. We will feel like we can’t cope, like we don’t know how to move forward.
And this is why the second step to get out of overwhelm is to take care of yourself. Looking after yourself and protecting your energy can look different for everyone, such as:
Improving your sleep habits
Going for a walk in nature to break up your day
Drinking more water or
Taking a short mindfulness practice whenever you feel stressed.
Make a list of 5 things you would love to do that take 5 to 10 minutes. Choose one and do that one today. Start small and you will see that by just implementing one simple habit, your levels of energy will increase!
Check out this article from Harvard Medical School for more energy-boosting tips!
3. Focus on what you CAN control
While we cannot control every aspect of our lives, we can influence many.
We can’t control if a pandemic will happen, other people’s thoughts and actions, how the weather will be, or what our boss will tell us.
However,we can control how we frame it and respond to it:
Whether we resist and fight or accept the inevitable and adapt;
whether we assume well meaning or bad intent and respond accordingly;
whether we let it dishearten us and give up hope or whether we embrace all our grit.
So, when you are feeling overwhelmed, make a list of what is within your control right now and start taking action on those things.
Ask yourself, how can I take one step on one thing that I can control, today? If you'd love some inspiration, check out this list of 50 things you can control by tiny buddha. And, if you want to go a bit deeper into this topic, give a listen to this podcast episode from the life coach school.
4. Seek help
If you have been dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety, sometimes the most important thing to do is to reach out and ask for help.
The faster you look for help, the faster you will start shifting your life from highly stressful to just having normal levels of stress.
This will allow you to be more present in each moment, it will allow you to feel happier and to even start noticing what you truly want in life.
Seeking help might look like
talking with your loved ones
talking with your doctor
getting a referral to a psychologist or
talking to a coach.
Sometimes, all we need is an outside perspective - someone who looks at our situation differently.
Sometimes, as if feeling overwhelmed wasn't curse enough, we judge ourselves for it on top of that. We start telling ourselves that we shouldn’t be overwhelmed, we should feel well, we have nothing to complain about. But guess what: That makes us overwhelmed even more.
So what can you do when this happens?
First of all notice how you feel without judging yourself for it. Simply notice and be open to the experience. We cannot change what we do not understand and perceive.
Second, rremember that you are HUMAN and part of the normal human experience is feel higher levels of stress or overwhelm at times. It doesn’t mean it feels good because it definitely doesn’t. But it is normal. So when you feel overwhelmed, instead of judging yourself, simply accept that it is happening.
Third, be kind to yourself. Ask yourself, what you need right now and how you can make this experience a little more bearable for yourself.
The are the three steps to self-compassion. If this sounds like something you may need to cultivate a little more of in your life, head over to this article for more information, resources and tips on the topic.
If you are overwhelmed, follow these steps and you will start noticing a small shift every time you do so. It won't happen overnight, but most things don't. Remember that self-leadership is not about being perfect and having everything under control, but about taking small consistent steps in the right direction.
Mariana is a life coach who helps women unplug and detach from feeling busy to create their perfect life balances. She is an expat from Portugal and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Mariana has been through several stages in her own life that sparked her passion and drive to support other women to see all the possibilities there are in life and how we all can create a life we love.
You can find Mariana on Instagram @coaching.by.mariana.