Raise your hand if you’ve thought any of these:
Don’t even get me started that there’s less than 2 months left of 2021.
Wasn’t this year supposed to be better?
Good night nurse, how much more can we handle? (Dear Universe, that was not an invitation…).
So here’s the thing: there will always be something.
Something that’s looking to threaten our sanity, extinguish our humanity, or just vanquish our patience. What’s a well meaning person to do (and visiting Todd at the liquor mart every week is not an option)?
I’ve complied 10 helpful strategies that won’t cost you a penny and can help you hold on to that tiny sliver of hope you’ve got.
Use any or all of these tips. Some take mere seconds while others take a little more time. The following tips are evidence-based (meaning lots of research has proven these methods work) ones I personally recommend to clients, and even utilize myself:
Feel the feelings. Really allow yourself to identify what is going on in your body AND your mind. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and identify where you feel those emotions in your body. Then continue to breathe into those spaces. It may feel really overwhelming. That is normal. That means you’re doing it right. Keep going. Remember, emotions are just vibrations in your body.
Find an outlet, and I don’t mean a shopping outlet mall. If you’re dealing with a deployment, a crabby boss, or juggling all the things, your body is likely in an elevated state of stress. This means your stress hormones are also elevated. Those need to come back down, as elevated stress hormones lead to inflammation and bad news for the body. An easy way to do this is by finding an outlet, preferably a physical one. Go for a run, go to Zumba or have a dance party, cry, laugh with others, paint or draw. Allow your body to complete the stress cycle.
Journal. When we get out the overwhelm that’s in our minds, it frees up mental and physical energy. Journalling is an easy and incredibly cathartic activity that can be done just about anywhere. I like to set a timer for 10 minutes and just give myself permission to write whatever comes up. Doesn’t matter if it’s a complete sentence, a doodle, or just the word “enough” written 17 times – it all works.
Stop comparing. We tend to minimize our emotional or physical suffering by comparing it to others who have it worse. There will always be someone who has it worse than you. So stop using comparison as a way to not feel your feelings.
Practice gratitude. If you can identify three things first thing in the morning you are thankful for, it sets your mind to start looking for the positive. It raises your vibrational energy and is such an easy habit to implement. Try to find three different things each day. Bonus points if you can also think of three things you were grateful for at the end of your day, right before bed.
Pray. I believe that we serve a really big God who loves us and wants to hear our fears. Turn to your faith or belief system in times of trouble because they are the bedrock of your life. Ask the tough questions. Seek wise counsel from those who see the world similarly.
Turn off the news. If you are someone who gets easily overwhelmed by what’s going on, you DO NOT have to watch the news or read about it. I promise if it’s important enough, you’ll find out about it via email or a breaking news alert on your phone.
Turn up the positive. Your mind absorbs whatever you put into it. So if you’re listening to talk radio that’s super conspiracy theory and it’s creating more anxiety for you, switch the station. Turn on podcasts, uplifting music, or an Audible book that feeds you. I’m not talking about checking out, though it is OK to do that for short periods of time. I’m talking about filling your mind and heart with things that excite and interest you, not things that stress you out and make you want to run people off the road.
Breathe. This one seems obvious, but it’s so incredibly cool. When we are stressed, the first thing that often happens is our breathing becomes truncated. This means that we don’t fully take in oxygen. There’s a super easy calming breath that floods your body with oxygen and calms the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s called 4-7-8, 5-5, or box breathing. There are so many great breathwork resources out there, even kid-friendly techniques.
Use distance language. When we immerse ourselves in the tougher feelings, we use language that reflects that. “I’m so overwhelmed right now.” “I’m really mad.” Next time you find yourself in the feelings, try and use your name (first person). “Ashina is mad.” “Mary Kay is overwhelmed right now.” It’s going to sound and feel weird hearing yourself say this. That’s the point. This process helps you distance yourself from what you’re feeling so it feels less intense.
As a trained therapist, I’m also a big fan of talking with a professional. If you find yourself overwhelmed, angry, upset, you get the idea, seek help. Reach out. You are worth the effort. You matter. Your feelings matter.