Anyone else been having a hard time lately? Last weekend, our family was hit with news of the sudden death of one of my cousins. Coming soon after the passing of a beloved auntie in September, it felt like too much to bear. Then all the hurricanes, earthquakes, Las Vegas shooting… I wanted to curl up and hide from the world, gobbling chocolate cake and crying into a bottle of vodka.
Instead, I wrote a list of things to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed. (Ok, I’ll admit I also did gobble chocolate cake). Note: This is not a list of 21 things you have to do, just 21 ideas that might get you through a rough patch. Hope it helps!
21 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
Are you breathing properly? One of my 2017 resolutions was to learn how to breathe. This sounds a little crazy coming from a functional resident of Earth. Duh, I’m alive, so of course I’m breathing. But I’m not talking about that shallow upper chest thing most of us do, that actually leaves us more anxious by the minute. I mean deep solar plexus cleansing, mind-body-soul-connecting breaths. When life feels like it’s bearing down on you, your simplest act of resistance is to breathe through it. Have a go at these breathing techniques.
2. Let it out.
Cry, scream, rant, punch a cushion, kick a punch bag, tear up some paper, tear up your room if you must. Whatever you do, don’t bottle it all up. Turns out, even farting is good for you.
Write your guts out. Don’t worry about who’s going to read it. When my mum died, I couldn’t stop writing about it and created two of my most shared blog posts. You don’t have to publish what you write. Telling your story, in whatever form, has healing and magic in it. By putting things into words, we can come to terms with almost anything life throws at us.
4. Make a list.
This post started as a simple list. I’m a big lover of lists. Research shows making lists can help us deal with feeling overwhelmed. If you can’t control the world around you, at least you can organise your life into bullet points! Gratitude list, wish list, fantasy crush list… whatever bakes your cake.
5. Connect with your bestie.
Get together for pep talks, tea and sympathy, boozy sobbing, quiet cuddles, all of the above. If you can’t face anyone yet, maybe write them a postcard, letter, or even a post-it note. It’s a helpful reminder that, even at your darkest point, there’s at least one being out there who makes your soul glow.
6. Switch off the news and social media.
Seriously, switch it off. I love social media like the next mama. But when your feed starts to make your eyes bleed, it’s time to power down. I mean, who can help feeling overwhelmed when Crazy in North America is having what Matt Haig called ‘the world’s worst rap battle’ with Crazy in North Korea? Please, just detach yourself from the negative news cycle. Here’s more of what to do instead…
Now that you’re unplugged from the matrix, you can get back to simple pleasures. Enjoy the weight of a book in your hands, the smell of paper, words that get under your skin. Immerse yourself in someone else’s story to help make sense of your own. Children’s books are comfort food. If you want to go deeper, read poetry. I recommend ee cummings, Pablo Neruda, Carol Ann Duffy, Audre Lorde, Rumi, nayyirah waheed and Sharon Olds.
8. Turn it up.
Whether it’s Ludovico Einaudi or Ludacris, nothing can alter your mood faster than music. Put on some noise-cancelling headphones, turn on, tune in and let it take you over. Better, cheaper and less likely to rot your teeth than any drug.
Most days, you’ll find me dancing or sometimes hooping to my favourite tunes. If you’re not a disco bunny, try any activity that presses your buttons and pumps your heart faster: cycling, jogging, cartwheeling… Just get moving. Endorphins for the win!
10. Walk this Way.
No matter how wobbly the world seems, you can find a way to take it in stride. Walking is power (ask your nearest toddler). Listen to an inspirational podcast, set a timer/step count, and walk off your blues.
11. Eat a rainbow.
I’m all for self-medicating with cakes and chocolate. Cake is the answer, chocolate is the truth. But make sure you feed on the good stuff too i.e. something grown from soil or plucked from a tree. Colourful fruits and veggies will give you a much-needed boost. When life gives you rain, eat a rainbow. If all else fails, eat rainbow cake.
12. Spoil yourself.
Maybe you can’t afford a spa day or a fortnight in the Maldives. Indulge in little luxuries instead e.g. a mani-pedi or a pair of shoes you’ve been lusting after. This little gizmo will rock your world for less than a pound.
13. Take the day off.
No shame in pulling the odd duvet day. Allow yourself some ‘wallow’ time. Tomorrow is another day. And the day after that. Beyond 48 hours, perhaps you should seek professional help. Again, no shame.
14. Do something different.
Maybe you’re not lost, maybe you’re just stuck in a rut. Follow the same path day after day and you’ll develop tunnel vision. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try a mini shake up of your routine. New food, new outfit, new route, anything that makes you look at yourself/your life with new eyes. Perspective is #everything.
15. Make someone smile.
It’s a proven fact that one of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to make someone else feel better. You don’t have to turn their lives around Oprah-style. Start with our most basic human exchange. Smiling is fun and it’s free. Pass it on.
16. Be the light.
When crisis hits somewhere, rather than sitting in a pool of your own tears, take action. Donate money or supplies, sign up to support a cause, or start your own mini movement. Want more light? Be the light. Want more love? Be the love. Want more doughnuts? Ok, I’ll stop now.
17. Ask for help.
You don’t have to do this all alone. It’s ok to admit you’re struggling. Professionals, support groups, friends, family members, the Universe… help is everywhere. All you have to do is ask.
God gave us laughter to help us handle that b*tch called life. No matter how bad things get, there is always a funny side… eventually. If you can’t find any humour in your situation, seek out people, jokes, Facebook memes, YouTube vines, movies etc that make you giggle irrepressibly. Like these parenting truths.
Sleep is life. I repeat, sleep is life. Getting the recommended 6-8 hours of shut-eye can change your entire world. Tip: Write down a question you’re struggling with before you sleep. Quite often, your sleep fairy aka subconscious will have it figured out by morning!
We feel overwhelmed when the world spins out of control. But the truth is, the world is always spinning, and we’re never really in control. So why not free yourself from the illusion? Surrender your need to own, to order, to make sense of it all. Surrender to the mysteries of our existence. My favourite mantra? Let go, let God. Or like my man Rumi said: ‘You have been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.’
21. Remember what matters.
For me, it’s family and friends, wellbeing and balance, writing and creativity, enriching experiences, personal and spiritual growth. What matters most to you? Focus on what’s important, because what you focus on expands. Focus on love. Focus on your breath. The antidote to overwhelm? Focus.
What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed?