“You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– Christopher Robin
The enigma of stress is that it can be a positive force in your life or a negative one, but it is a human condition that we can’t avoid. If you feel overwhelmed, take heart. You are absolutely not alone! And the phrase, “God only gives you what you can handle,” is not true. Everyone has been given more than they can handle at one point or another. The good news is whatever you are dealing with; you do have the power to control it and come out the other end. These ten skills will help reduce the intensity of what you feel, help to get you past it, and be the controller of your fate!
When you feel overwhelmed, the best first strategy to use is to take a deep breath. During stress, we often experience adrenaline, which is the fight or flight response that makes you feel like you are going to jump out of your skin. Adrenaline will make your heart race and get you all “ramped” up. When that happens, your body responds by taking short and shallow breaths. Unfortunately, that fight or flight response doesn’t just happen in times of danger. When you are under extreme or prolonged times of stress, your body can be in a constant state of tension. And over time, that tense feeling can be exhausting and make it difficult to cope. Deep breathing techniques can help to relax your muscles, refresh your mind, and cope better with the stress in your life. When you feel overwhelmed, close your eyes, and fill your belly completely. Then, exhale slowly by counting to four, and repeat. As you breathe, you will begin to feel your heartbeat lower, your tension decrease, and your rational thought return. Breathing technique skills are one of the quickest ways to gain control over your emotions and find a healthy resolution to whatever situation or stress you are presented with.
2. Get Those Endorphins Going!
Exercise is one of the best tools you have at your disposal to reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed. Just a ten-minute walk is enough to lift your mood and make things seem possible again. And prolonged exercise will also help to keep your body and mind strong. If you aren’t someone who particularly likes exercise for exercise’s sake, find something outside that you like to do. The benefits you gain from working out really just requires getting your heart rate up. And also allowing natural endorphins to lighten your mood and make things more manageable.
3. Eat Not to Feel Overwhelmed
Nutrition is to your body what gasoline is to a car. If you don’t have the right kind or the right amount of it, you can’t function properly. Essential vitamins and minerals not only help your body organs and systems respond to and protect you from environmental stressors; they also help to keep your mind sharp and in control. When you feel overwhelmed, it is not unlikely to crave unhealthy foods or not to be hungry at all. But unhealthy eating habits will only exasperate the situation and predispose you to mood swings and the inability to think rationally. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a good look at your diet and see if it is working for or against you. Your feelings might be partly rooted in your body, not getting what it needs to overcome the challenges of daily life.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation severely impacts your ability to reason and maintain a healthy outlook. The average adult requires about 7 to 8 hours of sleep for mental health. But it isn’t just about the quantity of sleep that you get; it is also about the quality. Circadian cycles are the way that the brain restores and rejuvenates from the stress of the day. If you aren’t getting good quality sleep, then you aren’t giving your body what it needs to meet the challenges of your life circumstances, no matter what they are. Although it is difficult to rest when you are stressed about something, it is highly critical to being able to get past challenges and move on. Make sleep a priority and practice healthy bedtime routines like limiting caffeine, putting your cell phone away long before you close your eyes, and finding your quiet time to relax, shut your eyes, and allow your body and brain to heal. Sleep is one of the best cures for feelings of being overwhelmed!
5. Find a Higher Power
Sometimes it is hard not to feel insignificant and overwhelmed if all you have in your life are stressors and worries. Believing in something greater than you and whatever is going on in your world can make your problems feel a lot smaller! People who attend church, volunteer, and believe in a higher purpose experience better health, more satisfying relationships, and longevity over those who don’t. I’m not suggesting you run out and join a cult, but look around to find something bigger than whatever is bringing you down. Seeing the bigger picture might be just what you need to gain control over your feelings of being overwhelmed.
6. Take “you” Time
All work and no play doesn’t make for a very happy, or healthy, existence. Sometimes feeling overwhelmed stems from not finding any joy in what you are doing. If you want to deal with stress better, then find something that allows you to escape from it. Go for a hike, hang out with your kids, or just binge-watch your favorite Netflix show. If you never allow yourself any time for you, and to do what you want to do, then the journey might seem hard and arduous. Taking time to smell the flowers, behave like a child again, or throw caution to the wind, are a good way to reduce stress and to find that inner child who enjoyed the little things in life, mostly because they could see them and the innocence to appreciate them.
7. Accept Help for Your Overwhelming Feelings
Some of us have a tough time leaning on others, but during times of stress, the best thing you can do is gain strength from those around you. We were built as humans to support one another for the survival of the species. But during times of stress, it is not uncommon to withdrawn, isolate yourself, and try to go it alone. If people are offering support, take them up on it. They really wouldn’t ask if they didn’t want to jump in to help. Letting go of a bit of control might feel weird, but once you get used to delegating and trusting others to help, you will quickly see how much stress it will take off of you. And it will also allow you time to find other ways to destress and stop feeling overwhelmed by anxiety.
8. Find Support for Your Overwhelming Feeling
No matter how alone you feel, we are all in the same boat. No one, and I mean no one, has ever made it through life without stress or completely unscathed. Sometimes finding other people who are experiencing the same stress as you can make it feel less isolating. And they can also be a source of strength to get you through the rough times. Talking about your problems and letting off some angst and steam will stop it from building up and spilling over. There are thousands of support groups in your locale and online to discuss and talk through your feelings. If you are more of a one-on-one type individual, then a therapist is an excellent resource to hear yourself talk through your problems, feel less alone, and fight against when you feel overwhelmed.
9. Get Away When Overwhelmed by Anxiety
I know the last thing you are thinking about, amid your stress, is taking a vacation. But the world will not stop spinning without you. If you can find time to get away, even just for a day or a weekend, a little relaxation will do wonders. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries, but if you are like most of us, unless you get away from every day, you aren’t going to take a break. Schedule a weekend away from the kids, reconnect with your significant other, or take that dream trip. Sure, you might lose some time and even some ground on whatever is making you feel so stressed out. But think of it this way: when you return, you will have a new lease on life. And you will be ready to hit the ground running to push right through whatever crisis is keeping you so overwhelmed!
10. Have Time With the Person who Lifts Your Spirits
We all have that person in our lives who make us smile, feel young again, and bring out the best “us.” If you are feeling overwhelmed, now is the time to call them up and have a night of reckless abandonment. Sometimes it only takes one night to put things back into perspective and make light of all of the stressors that have been weighing you down. If you have lost touch with the people in your life who make you feel alive, reconnect! Some people are put in our lives as a lifesaver. So, throw yourself one and reach out when you feel as if you are drowning!
Stress is a necessary evil of the human condition that you simply can’t get away from. But not all stress is bad, and, in most instances, even bad stress can be useful if you approach it with a healthy attitude, take steps to minimize it, and learn to control it.
If, however, you feel overwhelmed by whatever your life situation is, it is essential to talk it over with someone who you can lean on for support. Or, someone who can help teach you the skills to better cope with whatever life is throwing your way.