For the past few months, my life has been one of near-overwhelm. My work demands have often been of the “I can’t breath” variety – opening my laptop as I open my eyes at 6am, rushing to the kitchen when my desperate body demands some form of breakfast (usually after noon), working until late evening and sleeping fitfully with a tension-filled body and over-active mind.
Through this period, my husband has been travelling nearly constantly, my eldest child has been preparing for his final high school exams, my commitments to friends and family have continued, and our car has been in the workshop with a variety of unexpected and aggravating mechanical failures.
Yes, it’s been intense. But there are some quick and simple tools that have been keeping my emotions off boiling point and my weary body just above the waterline of anxiety and overwhelm. They include:
Self-awareness: This is the obvious place to start. If you are not willing to keep a tiny portion of your attention directed inward, then you are not ever going to be able to avoid the greatest pitfalls, navigate the most demanding interactions or recognize your most dire moments. With all the demands of “out there” I encourage you to dedicate a part of your awareness to yourself, at all times.
Moments of Mindfulness: Meditation is probably the thing you need most when you are under great pressure. But, let’s be honest – when your schedule is full and your demands are plentiful, there is a good chance you are not going to find the time for 20 – 30 minutes of ‘quietening the mind’. What you can manage, however, is spontaneous moments of mindful breathing. Take a few minutes, whenever you can, just to focus on the sensation of your breath as it enters and exits your nostrils; to breath deeply into your diaphragm and feel the rise and fall of your belly. This simple exercise can be practiced anywhere – in the shower, at a red light in the car, or between phone calls – and it will help you maintain a sense of mental clarity and balance.
Vulnerable communication: When your time is in short supply, it is inevitable that emails and other messages will not be replied to. In my case, even delightful messages from friends “just checking in” have felt like an extra burden on my already stretched resources. Instead of adding to my emotional overwhelm by worrying about unacknowledged messages, I have chosen to be open and vulnerable. Those in charge of my workload have been told “I’m at capacity”. Beloved friends have been sent a message “I’m so sorry, I won’t be able to reply often, but I love to hear what’s going on in your life.” When you are feeling overwhelmed, be sure to communicate your limits and capabilities clearly to those around you.
Gratitude: On the darkest of my recent days, I had a body trembling with tension and a heart weary from angst. On that afternoon, I stood quietly in the sunshine of my front yard and summoned gratitude – I mean I consciously and deliberately placed my life in context and recognized the immense blessings in my world. I was overwhelmed and tired; but my family were all safe and healthy. My car had accrued a large repair bill; but we were in a position to “find” the necessary money. My days were tense and demanding; but I had my home and a soft, warm bed. In those few blissful moments, my body glowed with joy, grace and understanding.
It takes raw honesty to find gratitude in times of overwhelm – a stressed mind would much rather play the victim than count blessings – but if you are able to brutally, truthfully place your situation in perspective, you will find reasons to be thankful. And, in those moments, you will be rewarded (however briefly) with a remarkable sense of lightness and ease. Don’t be grateful because you ‘should’; be grateful because you deserve to feel good.
Sleep: When you are highly stressed, it can be difficult to get a good night’s rest – but it is imperative that you make sleep a high priority. Avoid screens 30 minutes before bed; create and adhere to a gentle bedtime routine. Charge your phone outside of your bedroom (I know, that one’s tough!). If you can, take advantage of your natural afternoon ‘slump’ for a quick nap. And if, like me, your stressed body keeps waking in the night, seek advice on natural or medical sleep aids. Make sleep an important part of your routine, and do whatever it takes (within healthy guidelines!) to ensure you are rested before you begin each day.
Kim Forrester an award-winning author, educator and intuitive consultant. She combines cutting edge science with spiritual philosophy to inspire holistic wellbeing, psi awareness and fullness of living.