You know those days when you feel too overwhelmed to think straight?
Those days when everyone and everything is demanding so much from you that you really don’t think that you can take it anymore. Those days where it feels like your head is going to explode.
Let me help you manage the overwhelm. It IS POSSIBLE. It just takes some awareness and action.
#1 – Take deep breaths.
When we are stressed out, the first thing that we do is we stop breathing. Well, not literally stop breathing, because then we would die. But we do unconsciously hold our breath because of increased tension in the muscles used for breathing.
When you are feeling overwhelmed remember to breathe. Deep breaths into your belly in for 3 seconds and out for 3 seconds. Put your hand over your belly so that you can feel it filling up with air. Do this over and over until you feel a little calmer. Repeat throughout the day as necessary.
It will help you A LOT. I promise.
#2 – Go for a walk.
If it’s at all possible, take some time to go for a walk. There isn’t a woman I know who doesn’t say that her stress levels are always greatly reduced after a walk.
The thing about walking is that it kills two bird with one stone.
Walking encourages deep breathing which calms you down quickly. Also, for some reason, the motion of walking encourages clearer thinking. The rhythm of the stride and the increased oxygen intake can make something that was extremely overwhelming just 20 minutes earlier much easier to manage.
#3 – Identify what is causing the overwhelm.
One of the reasons it’s hard to think straight when you feel overwhelmed is that you don’t understand what is specifically overwhelming you.
A client of mine was SO overwhelmed with her life. She found that she had no energy to get anything done, she yelled a lot at her kids and she could barely stand being around her husband.
She figured that she was just too stressed out by her day-to-day living and she came to me to help her get more organized.
We talked for a bit and I came to learn that they have 3 new dogs in the house. 3 new dogs. And they were, you guessed it, causing the overwhelm, not her lack of organization.
Once we knew what was the cause we were able to find a solution.
#4 – Share your stress.
Sharing your stress with another person is a key part of dealing with it.
They say that what is kept inside the head is 4x more intense than what is spoken. Also, if you share your overwhelm you might learn something that will help you manage it. We all have things that work for us and sharing them with others can be very helpful.
If you have someone you can talk with about your overwhelm then absolutely do it. Be it a therapist, a life coach, a friend or a partner, let those overwhelming thoughts out of your head and into the world.
From there they have a reduced power and are easier to deal with.
#5 – Write it out.
Do you journal? Or write letters to yourself? Or scribble notes on post-its? If you do, great! If you don’t, it could be time to start.
Writing about things that are overwhelming you can be useful, especially if you don’t have someone with whom to share your stress. Much like speaking, writing allows you to get your stress out of your head and onto paper.
And when you can see your stress on a piece of paper in front of you, instead of having it rolling around in your brain, it’s much easier to manage.
#6 – Make a plan.
Once you have pinpointed the cause of the overwhelm it is time to make a plan. Without a plan the overwhelm usually doesn’t just disappear. In fact, it often gets worse.
For my client with the dogs, the plan involved crating up the dogs during the dinnertime and also again at bedtime. Not having the dogs bouncing around, distracting the kids and getting into trouble allowed my client to focus on the work at hand and not let it stress her out.
No more yelling at her kids. Phew.
#7 – Follow through.
The most important part of making a plan is following through. Even the best laid plans don’t work if you don’t follow through.
I have a client who is constantly overwhelmed by her life. She can’t keep her apartment clean, has a difficult time keeping appointments, struggles to do things that involve any planning and who would rather just stay in bed all day.
We made a plan for her to hire someone to clean her apartment once a week and to spend 10 minutes a day neatening up. She was so excited about the plan. And then she didn’t do it. And her apartment stayed a mess. And she continued to be overwhelmed. And even more overwhelmed because she had let herself down by not doing it.
So make sure that you follow through on your plans to deal with your overwhelm. If you don’t your overwhelm could actually truly overwhelm you and that will not be fun.
So now you know. When you are feeling too overwhelmed to think straight there are ways to get past it and get past it quickly.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed get outside and go for a walk, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Breathe deeply as you stride. You will see that your overwhelm reduces significantly right away.
As you walk, consider what is overwhelming you and make a plan to fix it. If you have someone to help you figure it, out even better. And then make it happen.
Manage your overwhelm. Don’t let it manage you.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.