As we near closer to the busy and chaotic Christmas season and winding down of the 2018 year, it is only fair to assume many of us are beginning to feel the nagging sensations of stress and suppression. With workloads piling, nagging bosses at our heels, and demands that never seem to stop coming; we begin to feel the dreading, looming, and all encompassing feelings of being overwhelmed (duh, duhh, duhhhh!!)
This isn't to say that this only happens around this time of year, but with the colder weather smacking us in the face and the constant isolation, its bound to creep up when we least expect it. And let me tell you...it's a harsh reality to come face-to-face with. As someone who has always been a keener for being ahead of the game and putting more stress on herself than was really required, I can truthfully admit that I am the poster child for what it looks like to run out of steam. Actually, if you looked up overwhelmed in the dictionary, you'd probably see a not-so-cute photo of me glued next to the definition! All jokes aside, being overwhelmed is no way to live and, in fact, it can take a lot of the joy out of our day-to-day life. Out of my time as a new therapist thus far, I have seen first hand what daily stress can do to an individual and how it can really bring out the negatives. Not only does it bring us down, but it makes us become self-critical and judgemental of our own abilities to just pick ourselves up and give ourselves a break. These two demons love to infiltrate our thoughts and inhabit our ability to cope with daily stressors, which eventually lead to our feelings of being burnt out. So, in the spirit of positivity, I have compiled a quick reference list of tips and tricks to combat feeling overwhelmed and give some spark back into your life.
1. Take time for yourself!
Every time I say this to a client, they usually look at me like I have 4 eyes and say, "well I just don't have the time." Taking time for yourself is not finding the time, but rather it is MAKING the time. Although we have crazy schedules and demanding lifestyles, there is never an excuse to give yourself a little breather, especially when it's something you need to do for your self-care. Taking time for yourself can be as simple as a 10-minute walk around your neighbourhood, a quick outing to coffee with your good friend, partaking in a hobby you enjoy, or treating yourself to a nice dinner out with your partner. No matter the season, taking time for yourself is giving yourself validation that you are worth it and your sense of self needs a little break in order to recharge and get back on the horse. I often use the analogy with my clients of a glass that is full of water. Throughout our day and work-week, when we are constantly giving, our glass depletes until it is empty. Without taking time for ourselves and allowing our glass to be refilled, we end up hitting the glass bottom so many times until we reach a point of exhaustion. Therefore, take the time to refill your cup, whether it's ¾ full, ½ full, or right above empty...you'll be glad you did!
2. Fit in some physical activity
Physical activity has been long known for its effects on the mind, body and soul. As we partake in a form of rejuvenating exercise, our body releases chemicals and hormones that help suppress stress and help us feel good! Although we notice how daily activities like climbing stairs becomes easier if we exercise regularly, when it comes to our brain and mood though, the connection isn’t so clear. Once you start exercising, your brain acknowledges this effect as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF, also known as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This BDNF protein has a protective and also reparative component to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising. At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. Your endorphins' main purpose is to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria...aka happiness! So, although exercising seems like a complete and total waste of our limited energy, it is actually an opportunity to repair your brain from the damaging side effects of stress, and give it some much-needed refuelling.
3. Give yourself a break
This doesn't mean that you have to head online and book yourself the next flight out of here (although you can if you want, just promise to take me with you!) but rather it means to let go of the leash a little bit and let things happen as they may. In other words, give yourself credit for what stressors you've been under and how you've managed to cope throughout the process. Giving ourselves a break helps to begin the validation process and accepting that there may be bumps in the road, but at the end of the day they are just bumps and they can be patched up and overcame. It is also giving yourself permission to loosen up, enjoy the little moments, and allow more space for positivity to lighten up you everyday's.
4. Practice mindfulness
Ahh mindfulness...the practice of becoming one with yourself, in the moment, and totally at peace with your thoughts. You're probably thinking..."what mumbo jumbo is this woman on about now?" Well, this mumbo jumbo has actually helped many people become more centred and calm throughout their day, which helps them overcome daily stressors even better. Mindfulness is simply the practice of becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions as well as your awareness of your body. In other words, it is like a brain training exercise that helps connect your mind and body together in a single moment and help to dispel any of the negative energy you are experiencing. When clients come into my office and talk about stress, I suggest and even practice mindfulness in session with them to demonstrate the benefits of taking a few minutes out of your day to practice a calming ritual. When we become more in-tune with our body-mind synchronizations, we are able to better rein in our stressors.
I hope this little check-in was able to give you some helpful ideas on how to tackle your feelings of being overwhelmed and perhaps give you some tips on how to begin the stress management process. For more information on stress management or if you would like information on counselling with me, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!