Overwhelmed? That’s a normal state of existence for some these days, but that state of everything piling on top of you isn’t good for your health, let alone your productivity.
Eventually, feeling overwhelmed can lead to panic attacks. I suffered from them from the birth of my son, right through my twenties. These days, if I sense that I’m taking on too much, the reminder of those attacks helps me to pull back.
Let’s look at three ways to get out from under everything that’s weighing you down.
1. Be here now. Accept everything
Fear’s at the bottom of feeling overwhelmed. You feel as if you can’t cope with all your responsibilities. Since fear’s uncomfortable, we look for a way out, or for something to blame. That’s not helpful. Your brain’s operating system, brilliant as it is, becomes your enemy. You imagine the worst.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Focus on them. What can you see, feel, and touch? Catalog what you can see. If you’re in a coffee shop, pay attention to the servers, the clientele, and your surroundings. What can you smell? Exactly?
Sip your coffee: taste it. Feel the taste of it on your tongue.
If I could feel a panic attack coming on, I focused on my feet. I felt the floor, or if I was driving, the feel of the accelerator pedal. The more you can use your senses to be right where you are, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel.
You’re pulling back from your imaginings, right into the present, and what’s happening now. When you’re in the present, it’s easier to accept everything. Consider that you might as well accept what you can’t change.
Acceptance is powerful. It stops you from trying to run away in your mind. Once you accept, you can work on changing what needs changing, one thing at a time.
2. One thing at a time, always
Forget reading your email while you have lunch. Focus on the food. Just do ONE thing, and focus on it completely.
Multi-tasking is a medical and mental hazard, as this article on Harvard Health Publications points out:
Instead of trying to do several things at once—and often none of them well—Hammerness and Moore suggest what they call set shifting. This means consciously and completely shifting your attention from one task to the next, and focusing on the task at hand. Giving your full attention to what you are doing will help you do it better, with more creativity and fewer mistakes or missed connections. Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility, say the authors.
When you focus, you accept where you are, and what you’re doing. That focus will relax you. Life will become more interesting, rather than a struggle.
W. Timothy Gallwey’s written bestselling books about effectiveness:
The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations. If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.
Playing your own inner game: being right where you are, and paying attention, eliminates feelings of being overwhelmed.
3. Act, and BREATHE
Act, but do just one thing at a time. Focus on what you’re doing completely, and breathe. Breathe from your belly, rather than your chest. As you inhale, your belly should expand slightly.
Yoga Journal has an excellent article on breathing:
Move the Belly With the Breath: When we are at ease, the diaphragm is the primary engine of the breath. As we inhale, this domelike muscle descends toward the abdomen, displacing the abdominal muscles and gently swelling the belly. As we exhale, the diaphragm releases back toward the heart, enabling the belly to release toward the spine.
Acceptance, doing one thing at a time and breathing sound like simple ways to get out from overwhelm-stress. Here’s the thing. They work. Breathe… :-)