How is it that overwhelm clutches at your chest at the worst time, every time? It seems to be everything is going alright and then – boom – you’re overwhelmed. Below are ways to help you manage overwhelm. Take preventative steps before you get to the point of overwhelm. And if that doesn’t work, there are also ways listed once you start to experience it to help you through those uncomfortable feelings and moments that overwhelm can bring on.
1. Deep Breathing
This is a good first step in managing overwhelming. It is immediate and something you can do wherever you are. You don’t even need to be obvious about it.
Focus on your breathing, slow it down, and count it out if you need to. A good type of breathing for moments that are intensely overwhelming is box breathing. This is when you even out your breathing and time it. Try inhaling for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 4, and then holding out the exhale for a count of 4 before inhaling again.
Repeat this process for a few clarifying breaths as you let the grip of overwhelm release.
Depending on your situation, this may not be enough, but it will slow your mind, your breathing, and your heart rate.
2. Take a Walk
If you have the time, take a walk – preferably in nature. Connect with nature, take it in, and let it refresh you.
It’s healthy to get fresh air and take in your surroundings. Whether in a city or park, you are refocusing your mind, letting your overwhelming thoughts pass or at least quiet a bit, as you concentrate on something else.
The movement also helps. Get your blood flowing a bit, even if it’s just a stroll. Move your legs, swing your arms, and let your mind rest as you take a walk and enjoy the outdoors.
3. Find a Happy Place
This can be mental or physical. If you are a visualizer, take the time to think about a place you want to be or a happy scenario that you’re looking forward to. Mentally expand your visualization and enjoy the process. This could be a good time to take a few deep breaths too.
If there is a room in your home or somewhere relaxing at work, or wherever you are feeling overwhelmed, that relaxes you, go there. Spend a few minutes surrounded by an environment that you enjoy and find soothing. Take it in as you let the overwhelm slip away.
4. Do Something You Love to Manage Overwhelm
Depending on where you are and what you’re doing, if you have the opportunity to do something you love this may help you cope with your overwhelm. Take a moment to make a cup of tea, or knit a few rows of the sweater you’re making. Maybe you can read a chapter of the latest romance you have on your nightstand.
Whatever it is that makes you feel at peace, take a moment to enjoy it. If that isn’t possible or convenient, look at pictures of you enjoying yourself when you did it last, or search online to bring you to your happy place.
Just a quick reminder of something you love can be a huge break for you at a moment you need it.
5. Write About Your Overwhelm
Write down what is overwhelming you. Look it right in the face and don’t let the overwhelm get away from you. Write it down so you control it. Whether it’s how being overwhelmed makes you feel, the physical reaction you have to it, or positive thoughts to negate it, write it down.
There are many different types of journals, daily journals, future self journals, and bullet journals to name a few. There’s no reason you can’t have a journal to keep ready for when you feel overwhelmed.
The best part of writing it down, or keeping a journal, is that you can refer back to it. When you are calm and no longer experiencing overwhelm, you can read what you wrote in those moments and consider how you can prepare yourself better for it in the future. Or to recognize overwhelm before it totally takes over.
This leads to the next way to manage your overwhelm.
6. Mindfulness As Prevention
Mindfulness is more of a preventative mechanism than a way to stop overwhelm in the moment. The more mindful you are the more aware you are of the triggers that can bring on stress resulting in overwhelm.
Being mindful means that you are present and aware of where you are and what you’re doing and feeling. The more you practice mindfulness the more you’re in tune with yourself. And if you’re in tune with yourself then you know what is bringing on overwhelm.
Once you know that, you can mitigate the cause before it brings you to the point of overwhelm.
Practicing mindfulness is a wonderful journey that really opens you up to yourself.
7. Focus on What You Can Control When You Try to Manage Overwhelm
In the moment of feeling wholly overwhelmed, it can feel as though you have no control. When you feel that way, and believe that you have no control, focus on what you can control.
What you can control can range from your emotions to your actions and even what you say in the moment. You can also control removing yourself from a situation that is causing your overwhelm.
On the flip side, let go of what you can’t control.
Don’t Let Overwhelm Take Over
You’ve got this. As long as you have a few coping mechanisms and you practice mindfulness to keep overwhelm at bay, you can stave off overwhelm.
Over time, you’ll be able to recognize the signs of overwhelm and take the steps to ward it off.
Reduce the stress factors that contribute to your overwhelm, lower your anxiety, and control your environment as you say goodbye to overwhelm.