Life is busy, whether it’s due to work, studies, personal or family obligations, or something else altogether. The demands placed upon us can sometimes feel relentless. Too much stress can lead to us feeling overwhelmed and it can sometimes sneak up on us without even realizing it.
If you find yourself feeling this way, try these 6 super simple strategies that can help you to feel calmer in the moment, when you need it the most.
The trick is to reset quickly and effectively, so you can recover and get back to what you need to do.
1) Pause and breathe
When you start to notice anxious feelings creeping in, try taking a deliberate pause and focusing on your breath. Breathing exercises can do wonders for reducing stress and bringing you back to the present moment. Here’s a simple exercise to get you started:
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your tummy should expand, and your chest should rise very little.
Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips and make a soft “whooshing” sound.
Repeat for several minutes or until you start to feel better.
2) Avoid catastrophizing
Feeling overwhelmed often leads our minds to spiral and imagine the worst possible outcome of a situation. It’s crucial to recognize when we’re catastrophizing and to challenge these negative thoughts, which aren’t always very accurate.
When you catch yourself in a cycle of catastrophizing, ask yourself the following questions:
Has anything like this ever happened before? If so, what was the outcome and was it as bad as you feared?
Even if something terrible were to happen, would worrying about it really help?
What would you say to a friend in a similar situation?
Will this still matter in 6 months' time? If not, why not?
Try to practice reframing your thoughts and focusing on more realistic and positive outcomes.
3) Ground yourself
Overwhelming feelings are generally rooted in anxiety, which can lead to worry spirals about the future and what might happen. Grounding techniques can bring us back to the present moment. They can also interrupt spiraling thoughts and give us a mini-moment of mindfulness.
Try this instant grounding technique:
5 - Look around and name five things you can see, right now.
4 - Listen and name four things you can hear.
3 - Notice three things you can touch, like the material of your clothes or the feeling of your feet on the carpet.
2 - Notice two smells: breathe in the pages of a book or your favorite scent.
1 - Finally, name something you can taste: take a sip of cold water, have a mint or just notice the taste of your own mouth.
4) Write it down
More often than not, things feel more manageable when they’re written down. Consider doing a brain dump about all the things you’re worried about or creating a ‘to-do’ list for the next few days.
Find a method that works for you. Simply getting your thoughts out of your head and down on paper or in your Notes app can help you to think more clearly.
5) Take a break
When you find yourself overwhelmed, it's crucial to take a break. Stepping away from the situation can provide much-needed relief and a bit of perspective.
Whether it's a few minutes of deep breathing, a walk outdoors, or watching your favorite TV series, try to get out of your head, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
If you find it difficult to let go and you're worried that taking a break will make things even harder, you can set a timer on your phone and give yourself a set amount of time to relax. The only rule: you can't get back to work before the time has run out!
6) Talk to someone
Reach out to someone you trust and talk about how you’re feeling. Just talking to someone can bring a huge sense of relief and give you some space to reflect on whatever is going on for you. It’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes and let others know that you’re struggling.
While these strategies aren’t going to solve all your problems, they can help to give you a bit of breathing space when you start to feel anxious and overwhelmed. You can find moments of calm amidst the chaos.
Try to remember that everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. You’re not alone! These feelings are temporary and they will pass.
However, if you’re struggling to get on top of your anxiety in the longer term and find that it’s starting to interfere with how you live your life, it’s important to reach out for professional support.