Picture the scene. You’re sitting at our desk anticipating your tasks for the day, when suddenly you feel frozen by fear and dread. You’ve got so much on your plate that you just don’t know where to start. So instead you sit, anxiety building inside you, unable to do the simplest task. It’s called overwhelm and it is one of the key symptoms of stress.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time. After all, if we sign up to society’s model of success we have to be all singing, all dancing super humans. However, when overwhelm takes over your life, it’s time to take stock and make changes. That’s why we want to share six natural ways to banish overwhelm from your life.
What is Overwhelm?
A little bit of stress in our lives keeps us striving for goals and moving beyond our comfort zone. However, our desire to fit in and get approval from others means that we often lose the capacity to say no when more responsibility gets thrown our way. After all, if you want to make it to the top, you’ve got to make some sacrifices, right? But one sacrifice we shouldn’t make is our physical and mental health.
Feeling overwhelmed, be it in the workplace, at home, or both is a sure sign we are under too much stress. It is often accompanied by feelings of being unable to cope, racing thoughts, brain fog, tightness in the chest, mood swings, and sweaty palms.
When stress turns chronic, it can lead to health problems such as heart disease, depression and anxiety, autoimmune conditions, and even cancer. The bottom line is in order to prevent overwhelm turning into a stress-related illness, it’s time to take proactive steps now.
1. Be present
Most thoughts related to stress, anxiety and overwhelm are rooted in an unknown, scary future, where a catastrophic outcome is almost certain.
‘If I don’t deliver the project on time, my boss is going to fire me for sure.’
‘What if they notice in the meeting I haven’t done any preparation, everyone is going to laugh at me.’
‘If I miss my daughter’s school play because of work, I’m a bad mother. But if I go, my boss will think I’m not taking the work seriously.’
You get the picture. Catastrophising about the future is a sure fire way to send your stress and anxiety levels shooting through the roof. So, in those moments of feeling overwhelmed, bring your attention back to the present moment.
How do we do this?
Remembering to breathe is a good place to start. It’s not that you’re no longer breathing, but probably your breath has become quickened and shallow. Gradually slowing down your breath moves your body from the ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system, into the relaxation-promoting parasympathetic nervous system.
Breathing also has the benefit of bringing you into your body. Feeling overwhelmed for most people is accompanied by circular, spinning thoughts. Being aware of our body, either through the breath or just feeling your feet on the ground or bottom on your chair, can short circuit the obsessive thinking.
Why not take two minutes away from your work and just breathe, feeling the breath entering and leaving the body? Your stress levels will reduce and you’ll feel more able to get on with the work at hand.
2. Learn to meditate
Conscious breathing and meditation are closely connected. By focussing on our breath we are rooted in what’s happening in the present moment. This focus also has other benefits for reducing feelings of overwhelm. A corollary of stress is the inability to concentrate, instead having scattered thoughts. Through meditation, we learn to train the mind to focus on one object. It could be our breath, a mantra, a candle flame, or even some knitting.
Mindfulness, a technique cultivating present moment awareness, is perhaps the most widely practiced form of meditation. In fact, there is even a mindfulness course especially designed to reduce stress. But whatever meditation technique you choose, the key is to be consistent, ideally meditating at least once a day. Try not to see your daily meditation as yet another task to get stressed about. By spending just 20 minutes in the morning before you go to work, you’ll see how normally stressful tasks are much easier to manage.
3. Accept you’re not perfect
There we said it. That image of perfection you’ve been striving for all your life is just an illusion. After all, who came up with this ideal of perfection in the first place? The bottom line is that you’ve been holding yourself up against some incredibly high bar for so long, you’ve lost track of who you are and what really matters.
Accepting our vulnerabilities and human weakness gives us the freedom to get it wrong sometimes. And when we do, we see that the world keeps spinning on its axis and the rejection we fear so much, probably doesn’t happen.
4. Ask for help
Accepting we’re not perfect also frees us from the shame of asking for help. From an early age, we’re taught self sufficiency and independence are important keys to success. But no man (or woman) is an island, and sometimes it’s OK to reach out for help.
For some reason, we’re gripped with a sense of shame at the thought that others might know we’re not coping. But in most cases, those around us are just waiting for us to reach out. The most likely outcome is that we will feel less alone in our misery and almost certainly, offers of help from those around us will lessen our burden.
5. Learn to say no
This is a tough one. In the age of positivity, we’re programmed to think that saying no when offered new responsibilities is diametrically opposed to success. However, if we are to have a long and happy working career, having firm boundaries are vitally important.
It’s long been said: “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” But ultimately, our bosses would rather give the work to someone else than have an employee signed off with a stress-related illness.
6. Look after your Endocannabinoid System
Overwhelm is a sign that our nervous system is out of whack. But did you know we have a master regulating system that keeps all our biological functions running smoothly, including our nervous system?
It’s called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and comprises a vast network for special receptor sites in our brains and central nervous system, immune system, and major organs. The ECS acts like a dimmer switch, bringing our bodies back into balance or homeostasis.
Sometimes though, our ECS needs some additional support. Step in CBD, the naturally occurring compound found in hemp. CBD has been found to strengthen Endocannabinoid tone, and many people find taking CBD products on a daily basis takes the edge off their stress levels. At MEDA we’re massive fans of CBD, as well as the other super-nutritional ingredients in our wellness drinks. But as Albert Einstein reportedly said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We believe CBD helps give the mental space to start making changes, but without addressing imbalance in all aspects of our life, overwhelm will continue to be our unwelcome companion.