Uh oh. You know that familiar feeling. It starts with worry and soon zooms right into anxiety. Breathing is hard, and your mind is buzzing, you are overwhelmed.
Life isn’t always smooth sailing, and sometimes the most intense waves hit you by surprise. Anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, being overworked. It can become awfully dark and dreary some times, a heavy whirlwind of emotion smacking us off right course.
In the moment it’s hard to navigate, so the best thing is to be prepared ahead, and save your brainpower for steering the ship. Here are a few ‘gear changers’ to help you stay afloat when stress comes pounding down.
1. Turn on the positives
Being grateful and appreciative for the little things isn’t just ‘nice’ to do. It is proven to reduce cortisol significantly. It’s hard to break habits at first, but what the mind focuses on is what it gets. So actively look past the current circumstance and choose to think about things you love.
2. Avoid energy zappers
Overthinking and over analysing stressful situations produces more stress. Try to turn off the ‘replay of events’ and also disconnect from technology for a while. Avoid escape behaviour like junk food, alcohol or shopping; these things just numb you. A good rule is to only ever indulge when you already feel happy.
3. Be gentle with yourself
Self compassion helps you manage stress. When you aren’t doing so well, watch your language with yourself. If you are beating yourself up and using degrading self-talk, consider if you would talk to a child this way. Be kind to yourself even if you stuff up. It’s ok to be struggling, and it’s ok to not be perfect all the time. Really!
4. Call on your tribe
New research shows our body produces oxytocin, a hormone that helps us connect to others, when we are stressed. Make sure you reach out for support. It helps to talk, to be hugged, and to know you are not alone.
5. Get some rest
When you sleep your body and your mind recharge. If you are pumped up full of adrenaline from stress, your body will not fully rest during the night. Spend some time switching off, at least an hour before bed and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Also limit caffeine, in particular in the afternoon and evening.
6. Eat regular meals
When you skip meals, your body is fuelled on adrenaline. You would think the body would just burn fat, but it doesn’t work this way. Without nutrition your body needs stress hormones to push you through the day. Make sure you eat something regularly, preferably with healthy fats, fibre and protein.
7. Meditate and breathe
Stopping to just follow your breath for even a few minutes can reduce your stress response significantly. Exhaling is the key to achieving a relaxed state. Think about it. A stressed nervous system is all about sucking air in. Let it go. Exhale.
We can’t control every circumstance and keep everything rosy all the time, nor should we have to. What’s important is to respond to ourselves with love and with light. This can have a significant impact on our mental and physical health. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed sometimes, in fact it’s perfectly normal. What we need is to learn skills to remain present, calm and centred in the midst of it. It can be done with practise.
Remember, this too, shall pass.
Note: If you feel like you are overwhelmed often and it’s not manageable, do seek help and support. Look to a health professional, yoga studio or meditation centre to help guide you with breathing techniques, diet and lifestyle.