When enough is enough. Strategies for combating overwhelm when nothing else seems to work

Life whether you recognise it or not is made up of seasons and so much of the journey is how you choose to respond. If you are in a “Winter” as some would describe or feel like you are currently experiencing your own Armageddon of a year, then you may find these suggestions helpful, as they did for me.

Interrupt your reactions to the situation

When something first happens, we likely have our tried and tested destructive, futile behaviours that simply put us further in the pit. A default go-to like hitting the bottle or biscuit tin, lashing out at loved ones or not letting anyone in to potentially help. Well, Spring is just around the corner! All it takes is you getting out of your own way, to get the emotions under control.

Start off with changing your environment by going to a place that normally brings you joy – yep they call it your “happy place” for a reason. Say you have a favourite nearby beach or forest you can simply take time out in, or perhaps go out in your garden lie flat on your back to stare at the clouds – it could even be getting in your car turning up the music loudly and just driving. Interrupt your feelings and give your mind time-out in order to be rational about how to deal with the situation, what tools you need to access or activities that could get you out of that negative state.

When you have your emotions under control, you’re more capable of doing what you love and to progress so that your unique gifts can be shared with the world after this crisis is over. And if taking action is your problem, then you must try the Mel Robbins 5 Second rule, more on that here.

Change your state activities

As you will all know, I love my experiences and like Tony Robbins, believe that if “we radically change our bodies, we change our state”. So managing your overwhelm, begins with getting in a different mindset and due to the heavy weight of the situation, you need to physically go out and do an activity to get into a better mental state. These suggestions may not be exactly for you but you can get where I’m going with the options:

  • Dancing in the Dark, Singing class, Comedy show (be consumed by the silliness of a situation or an activity that will make you laugh or at least smile)
  • Doing some Tai Chi, Yoga, Scrapbooking, Floating (either in a hammock or in a salt pod) – something that keeps you in the moment and mindful yet encourages introspective reflection throughout the activity.
  • Hanging with Animals or Children – the innocence in their joy is infectious.
  • Being on or in the water: SUP, Swimming or Surfing. Studies suggest that simply being around water can increase levels of “feel-good” brain chemicals (like dopamine) and sink levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Boxing, Squash or Running: simply something physically demanding and to get rid of the excess energy. You could even put on the super ballads playlist and clean the house or car – it’ll get the blood pumping and oxygen/clarity to the brain.

Journalling and Problem solving:

Once you have changed your state, it’s time to seek out the tools or practical ways to disable the power that this feeling of overwhelm is having on you.

  1. Identify the issue, detail the facts rather than how it’s making you feel.
  2. Realise it is only temporary and it has no power over you long term – you will find a way through this!
  3. Identify what the worst case scenario is and then break it into small parts to then find the solutions. Just rip the band-aid off, Eat the Frog, Big Rocks first…this will then motivate you, having had a sense of real achievement in one area.
  4. Ask yourself what skills or experiences have you had already that you can draw on to combat it.
  5. Who can help you in your network of family, friends or colleagues if you need outside assistance or advice?
  6. Decipher why this has really affected you, is there something bigger going on here? What are you afraid of and the current situation triggered inside? When you own your fear then the best thing to do is attack it like chipping off a rock, chunk by chunk at a time. For example, you could suffer from Impostor Syndrome, not feel valued or loved in an area of your life or have a fear of not having Financial freedom in the future. So to combat this, take the big overarching fear, then see how is it manifesting in your life and causing the overwhelm, then break it down into manageable steps or techniques that work for others that seem to not have the same problem- modelling off them can really help. Remember you can only control what you can control, so be focused with your energy.

Connecting with others who make you feel good

This could be the most obvious suggestion yet so often it’s the one we avoid. Having a catch-up meal, coffee or wine with a friend; not necessarily to spill your guts out to but to simply be in their warm or nurturing presence will make you feel better. Or if you are feeling really game, sign up to do some volunteering locally as thinking of someone other than yourself or doing something for someone like a neighbour or parent you know who’s been struggling with something is the best way to get your mind off yourself – it could even put your problem into a totally new perspective.

Or if you really don’t want face-to-face contact, write some snail-mail gratitude cards. Despite it feeling contrived, you will get a double whammy of goodness with this one; reflecting on how wonderful it is to have a certain someone in your life and then, of course, the love they show you when you get a thank you call or visit for sending the card…win-win!

Audit how you are spending your time

Contrary to popular belief, tomorrows don’t ever come and “I’ll do it one day soon” are a surefire way to disappoint. Your legacy and the milestones you seek to achieve in the future need to start with little baby steps today. Auditing how each one of your days is made up can help put your overwhelm in perspective. Is the problem related to you living in a state of abundance, is it linked to what you enjoy doing, who you enjoy spending time with and linked to your values or is it one of those events that are happening to you, sucking the life out of you and keeping you overloaded with fruitless endeavours? Then it’s time to start saying no, being busy is no longer the badge of honour. Choose deep meaningful work that helps you feel useful and plays to your strengths. Use your time well with activities that you get a kick out of and fuel relationships in your life that nurture who you want to be and are. Stop over-scheduling and being uber productive with tasks that don’t progress your life in the direction you’d like to go. Assess how you spend today as this adds up to your week, and of course, your year…this is your life!

Have a little faith

Faith is a word that conjures up a lot of meaning for people; faith can be in yourself and having the confidence that you are enough, faith in a God or simply faith in the universe or “luck” to play its part in your life. In testing times, it often pays to simply surrender to what the bigger picture could be, whatever that means for you and accept that you can’t do everything with your own will and might alone. As the Serenity Prayer goes “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We all have a spirit, so finding the language for you to express and connect with it is important. We often seek out “help” whether from a self-help leader like Eckhart Tolle or Gabby Bernstein, a yoga or meditation practice, a prayer to a God and guiding spirit or tapping into your own past experiences – faith can be the fuel to get you through.

Recognise that all emotions are good, you simply need to do the work

Overwhelm is about embracing the pain and not just the comfortable things. It can really help to question your assumptions whilst in the thick of it – you may find you are simply thinking of all the “what if’s” rather than what actually is going on and in your control. Try to remember that all emotions you feel are healthy and have their place; society shouldn’t encourage us to seek out only the positive things that happen in our lives as this is simply unattainable and takes the value out of the good times when they do come along. Like a muscle that breaks after a weights session, you need to tear open sometimes in order to repair, strengthen and grow. Because, if we are never tested, we can’t ever know what we are capable of. And if all else fails, simply know that you will survive this with simply putting one foot in front of the other, you are capable of so much just as you are. Then one day you’ll even be able to help someone short-cut a lot of the unnecessary heartache by being there for them due to your own personal experience and trialling of suggestions on this list.