Despite our best efforts, none of us are immune to the feeling overwhelm... myself included!
With the start of another year, I felt that black cloud closing in as I navigated the first week back at work, juggling the many demands of work and life on my time.
Fortunately, over time, I have established a well prepared toolkit to help me dissolve its effects when this feeling starts to creep in.
My word this year is SPACIOUS. The intention of this is that I intend to live a spacious and expansive life. One that enables me to prioritise my own health and wellbeing. I've found that sticking to these 5 things on a weekly basis has also helped to manage the inevitable feeling of overwhelm and feel more in control of my days and my time. So much so that I have scheduled Slow Mornings in my diary, twice a week.
#1. GET OUTSIDE
A growing body of research and even a new stream of science called Ecopsychology have shown that spending time in nature is good for our health and wellbeing.
It can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self esteem, reduce anxiety and improve mood.
The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, meaning "forest bathing", boosting immunity and mood and reducing stress.
Now this isn't to say that you need to go on a 3 day hike through the remote wilderness, although that sounds amazing if you can make it happen! Just spending 20mins going for a walk in the local park, looking at the trees, feeling the grass under your feet, connecting into the earth can have similar effects.
I'm fortunate enough to live close to a bush reserve and even just a 30min walk helped me to feel calmer and more connected to the world around me.
The added side benefit of this, is that I find walking like an active meditation. Enabling me to unravel all the thoughts in my head and to make sense of my feelings, thoughts and emotions.
#2. SWITCH OFF
Carving out an hour of your time to disconnect when you already feel like you have so much to do and not enough time, may feel counter intuitive, but trust me the opposite could not be truer!
Taking this time to slow down, and remove the external stimulation enables your mind and your body to also slow down. We live in a world where we a constantly bombarded by external stimulus from social media to email notifications, showing us what are friends are doing, the latest health trend that we should be following or a request from our boss/client asking us to respond "ASAP". All of these external factors are only adding to our mental load, of all the things that we "should" be doing!
Taking this time to reconnect back in with yourself, how you're feeling in your body, the aches and niggles that feel, the beating of your heart. These are all are tiny messages from the wealth of knowledge that exists within us, helping us to navigate the world around us. When we take the opportunity to listen into our body, we can find the answers to the questions we seek and hear what it is that is the most important priorities for us.
Using this time to meditate, journal or read can help you to tune into your body, clear your mind and empty out all the thoughts and feelings that you have ruminating around in there!
I find journalling a great way to get all the thoughts, feelings, emotions, judgements, expectations that are swirling around in my head out on paper. It's a great way to help me make sense of them, articulate them and release what's unhelpful and find clarity in what action I can take.
#3. BRAIN DUMP
Similar to journalling, getting everything that is on my mental to do list down on paper shifts a huge load out of my brain and onto paper. The simple act of writing it down shifts it from something that I feel I need to remember, into a list that I can work with.
I also use this list to get down any thoughts that I'm having that may be weighing me down. Often we are carrying around concerns or worries about things that exist beyond our control, however also contributing to our mental load and feeling of overwhelm. Whether it's the health of elderly parents, the demeanour of a colleague toward you or concerns about the impact of illness spreading around us, these are all valid concerns and worry's, however they are not situations that you have any control over.
By focusing on what is within your control, your thoughts and actions on things that you can influence, you can begin to take back a sense of control bringing with it a sense of stability.
To do your brain dump, get everything that is swirling around in your head down on paper. I like to list them out in two columns; work + life, listing everything that is worrying me, I've been ruminating on or needs to be actioned.
Once it's all down, work your way through the list and identify what is within your control and what's not. For those things that are not within your control, find a way to acknowledge that and surrender the fact that despite your best intentions there is nothing that you can do to change how these situations and events will unfold. I know easier said than done, but for your own wellbeing, it's best to find a way.
For those things within your control, I go through and categorise them.
Prioritise - what are the most important things that I need to get done that is on the list?
Delegate - can I ask someone else to help me with this? Partner, children, colleague, boss...
Delete - does it really need to be done? Perhaps it's something that you would love to get done but in the end its a nice to have not a must have and would lighten your load if it wasn't there, enabling you to focus on what is truely important.
#4. DO SOMETHING FOR YOU
Spending time doing something that makes YOU feel good, helps shift your energy from one of expending, to one of receiving. Whether it's getting a massage, doing a pilates class or going for a walk along the beach, by investing your time and energy in doing an activity that fills your tank, you will begin to shift your energy, refuelling you.
When we are constantly in a state of giving our energy, without taking the time to refill our own tank we reach a point where we feel so extended, overwhelmed and exhausted that resentment and bitterness can creep in. And whilst we have the best of intentions in supporting, caring and helping those around us, if we have nothing left in our own tank, then we are pouring from an empty cup and nothing good can come from this.
Start by making yourself a list of all the things that make you feel good. By having this list handy and accessible, you have created a quick reference guide to check in with and pick just one activity that you can do in a moment of overwhelm to help refuel you.
Put your own oxygen mask on first.
#5. 3 QUICK WINS
Going back to your brain dump and your newly created list of things that you can influence to focus on, what are three quick wins that you could action from that list to make you feel like you've moved forward?
Ticking things off our to do lists make us feel good, because with each time we feel like we've done something good, our brains reward us with a dopamine hit, the feel good drug. It's a positive feedback loop for the action we've take, which in turn motivates us to want more of us and continue the forward momentum.
It could be sending an email, returning that phone call or paying that bill. You will guaranteed feel lighter immediately!
What are three, quick and easy things that you can tick off your list to make you feel like you've moved forward?
Putting these 5 steps in action when you start to feel the dark cloud creeping in, can quickly dissolve it enabling you to feel the expansiveness of the blue sky above.
CHAOS TO CALM | 5 DAY CHALLENGE
Ready to go deeper? Over 5 days, I'll share with you ways that you can consciously take back the reigns & get from chaos to calmness, by reconnecting with the life you want to live.
LIVE A LIFE BY DESIGN
In this 6 week immersive experience, I'll guide you through the frameworks, tools and resources that I have lovingly curated to help you live a life full of joy, clarity and purpose. To take back the reigns of your life and live a life of your own design!