Do you ever find yourself completely overwhelmed by all the responsibilities you have taken on (or that have been put on you)? When you think of your hectic schedule, do you feel your heart race, or your stomach tie up in knots? If feeling overwhelmed is keeping you from doing what you want or keeping you from being present at work or with your family then you need to learn how to stop these experiences in their tracks and regain a sense of calmness and sanity. Not only is this good for your mental health, but this will help you feel in control and be more in tune with others around you. This might seem difficult or even impossible, but fortunately it is not as difficult as you might think.
One key to interrupting feelings of overwhelm is using mindfulness techniques. Now this might sound too easy to be true but give the following steps a try and see for yourself. You’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised, and able to conquer your responsibilities one at a time with a clearer mind.
Take deep breaths
When you start to notice a sense of overwhelm coming on, BREATHE. Take as many slow, deep, belly breaths (let your belly expand rather than your chest) as you need to help you feel more grounded. This helps relax your body and prevent physiological symptoms from flaring up. These symptoms include rapid heartbeat, nausea, headache, and tense muscles, to name a few.
Tune in to your emotional experience
If you notice the physiological symptoms mentioned above but are unsure why they are happening, take several slow, deep breaths and consider what experience is causing your symptoms. Notice what emotions are coming up for you, and where you feel them in your body. Be curious, friendly, and accepting of your emotions and experience.
Remember that you don’t have to react to every thought in your head as it occurs. When you find yourself thinking of the 100 things you need to get done, tell yourself that you can only do one thing at a time. Re-shift your focus to what you are currently doing and remain fully present to your current task at hand. This not only helps you feel better, but helps you perform better.
Make a list
If you find it impossible to focus on the task at hand due to all the “floaters” in your head, write them down. This will help put your mind at ease knowing that it doesn’t have to hold everything in your consciousness. When you are ready for a new task, you can glance at your list and immediately retrieve what else needs to get done.
You will likely find that the biggest challenge is remembering to be mindful. It is easy to get carried away with the “what if’s” or how you’re going to handle something a month from now or how you could possibly get x, y, and z done before this deadline. But as you well know, overwhelm hinders productivity and creates countless uncomfortable experiences. So next time you find yourself heading down that path, stop yourself and remember these tools; remember to be mindful.
Let me know in the comments how these worked for you, or what tools you use to help when you feel overwhelmed!
About the Author
Kelsey Vincent is an intern at The Marriage and Family Clinic. She works with couples and individuals who struggle with emotional intimacy, as well as those who find themselves perpetuating destructive patterns. Kelsey enjoys all activities in the beautiful Colorado outdoors, including camping, mountain biking, snowboarding, and slalom water skiing.