Do you ever feel like you are swimming against the tide? Spinning too many plates? Being crushed under the weight of… …well, everything? Whichever metaphor you choose, the upshot is you feel stressed, anxious, exhausted, run down and generally pretty rubbish.
So many of my clients are in this position. And some days, I am too. There is always more that could be done and never enough hours in the day. And in amongst all of this is you. Depleted, neglecting yourself and suffering for all your efforts, no matter how dedicated they are.
Isn’t it always when you are most pressed for time that things seem to go wrong? You make a mistake and delete the work you have been slaving over, you get distracted doing too many things at once and burn dinner? You dash to open the window before the firm alarm goes off and… you guessed it… end up fanning a tea towel under the sensor to stop the incessant wailing of the alarm because you didn’t quite make it in time.
These are the days when you just want to curl up in a ball and wake up when things seem a little, well, better.
Often our response to this is to feel stressed, annoyed and anxious. The worries surge in and we try to work faster to get everything done.
When we feel overwhelmed a sense of panic can set in. What happens then is that our body goes into fight or flight, bypassing the cortex (the rational part of the brain) and getting ready to respond to some hidden threat.
The brain releases the stress hormone cortisol and diverts blood to our limbs getting us ready for action. Of course, the threat is in our own mind, so we actually incapacitate ourselves and end up making mistakes because we are in panic mode.
In reality, the best thing to do on days like this is to stop. Just for a few moments. Stop and refocus. Stop and just breathe.
By taking a few minutes to calm the mind, focus on what actually needs to be done and then get things done.
But this can be incredibly difficult to do when we are in the midst of it. So here are a few tips to help you bring your focus back to the present, calm those anxious thoughts and reframe the moment.
· Firstly, stop. That’s it. Just stop and take a breath.
· Close your eyes for a moment and focus on your breathing – a deep breath in. Hold it. Exhale. And again. And repeat.
· Pop on a short meditation if you can. This will help calm the mind and bring you out of the fight or flight response to stress.
· Once you have done that, make a list and prioritise it. What must be done today? What can wait? Which is most to least important? Then start at the top and focus on completing each task in turn. Turn only to next task, once the previous is finished. It can feel like you are getting less done, when in fact, you get more completed, with less likelihood of mistakes, because you are giving each task your full attention.
And of course, all of these techniques can be slotted into your day to help maintain a sense of calm and reduce the likelihood of overwhelm occurring again in the future. In addition, daily practices like meditation actually change the structure of the brain for the better when applied consistently over time, enhancing your resilience in general, as well as calming you in the moment.