4 Ways You Can Fight Back Against Overwhelm
We recently had our last Salty Series event before the summer break and it was all about dealing with that dreaded overwhelm.
To say people are feeling mega stressed by life these days may be the understatement of the century, but sitting together that day getting to know one another and sharing the things that bring us the most stress, the most fear, was not just cathartic, it was healing.
Healing because our expert speakers came armed with personal stories and advice about their own experience with overwhelm and how to keep it at bay, but also because our amazing attendees came armed with much the same - whether they realized it or not.
We learned A LOT, from everyone, that day and these were our top takeaways on how you can stop overwhelm in its tracks too!
1. BE STILL YOUNG GRASSHOPPER
We live in a knowledge economy and everyone expects us to know what's up, but unlike the movie About Time (or is it The Time Traveler's Wife?!), we can't all just freeze time so we can catch-up on our reading. Most of us are taking in information on the fly and the consequence of that is that we always have someone else's voice in our heads.
We also have a tendency to be constantly living in the future or past because... well... life's stressful AF these days and we're all hustling to make ends meet and live our best lives, while keeping up with every other expectation that is thrust upon us by society and social media.
It's getting caught up with this kind of externality, everything that's happening outside of ourselves, that opens the floodgates to overwhelm, because these are things we don't have control over. We only have control over ourselves, our own actions, and it can be confusing deciding what to do or what you actually need, when your voice is being drowned out by all the other ones that are swirling around in your head.
That's why one of the best things you can do to curb overwhelm is find stillness and quiet in your mind. Shut off your podcasts, television, music, or whatever it is that's making noise right now and just sit and be with yourself and your thoughts, even if it's just for a minute. When you find your thoughts are wandering off into the future or past, gently remind them to come back to the present and focus on how you're feeling right now, in the moment, and what it is you want and need removed from outside expectations. Forget words like "should" when you do this too because those words do not belong in this space. This space is all about you and your unbridled desire to wear socks on your ears (ok... maybe that's just me?) and that's A-OK!
You're probably thinking, isn't this just meditation? And you're right, it is. But it's a different way to think about meditation for those of you who feel meditation averse or like failures whenever you try (like I have felt many times before - trust me, you're not alone!!).
One of our speakers at the event, Jessie Hutton Nelson, pointed out that we all meditate all the time, whether we're conscious of it or not, and we're all already amazing at it! Ever thought about how pretty a sunrise is or checked in with yourself to see why you're hating on something? Then you've meditated like a #boss before and you can and should do it again.
When you know what you want and can separate the fact of your life from the fiction of the external, then you gain the upper hand against overwhelm.
2. PRACTICE SELF-GRATITUDE
When we think about what we're grateful for, we also often look outside ourselves. We're grateful for our friends, our family, and every privilege we've been told to be grateful for and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We should be thankful for those things! They're pretty awesome!
However, we need to learn to be thankful for ourselves in a way which is entirely introspective and personal too. We need to be able to stop and say, "I'm actually really grateful for this weird idiosyncrasy I have because it means I'm kicking ass on this project", and to be able to do that, it takes practice.
These aren't necessarily thoughts that will come easily or naturally to us - because everything about our society (think exams, likes, follows, awards) trains us to look for external validation - but they are a vital tool when we're navigating overwhelming situations.
Thoughts of self-gratitude empower us to love ourselves and find the good when everything outside of us seems to be saying that thing is bad, or wrong, or a weakness, or even a failing. They also allow us to shift our perspective from the negative to the positive and, when we're able to do that, the overwhelm loses.
If you're starting out with your self-gratitude practice and need some help, gratitude journals and planners that have prompts like this are a good place start for those who like putting pen to paper. Apps like Grateful: A Gratitude Journal are also worth checking out!
3. DON'T DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF - ASK FOR HELP!
One of our guest speakers, Steph Jhala, talked about the idea of it taking a village to raise a child when speaking about parenting. The idea is that no one person can look after every aspect of their child's growth and development and, when you think about the fact that we're all actually someone's child, then it's easy to see that even as adults we need some outside help, because that growth and development definitely hasn't stopped.
When you scroll through social media it's easy to think that perfection is possible and we should be doing everything ourselves, but, let's get real... it's not and we can't! And the sooner we realize this and the more often we tell ourselves this, the better.
We don't need to take on every little task ourselves and we don't have to be amazing at everything. As I said earlier, we live in a knowledge economy and reaching out for help is not only getting easier and easier, it's becoming the logical choice when you start to think about how much time you'd take to do something vs someone who has spent every day of their life for the last few years doing that one thing.
In just a few clicks we can have our groceries delivered (Save-On in Vancouver does this for only $5 fyi), organize someone to walk our dogs, or find that perfect person to do all that video editing work you've been putting off for months. Don't look at enlisting this kind of help as a failure, look at it as a way to free up your time to do more important things or a learning opportunity and chance to collaborate with someone new.
Tech has made our lives a lot busier, so we may as well take advantage of the things it can make easier for us too!
4. TALK ABOUT HOW YOU'RE FEELING
This was probably the biggest takeaway from our event. Having all those ladies in one room, dishing on all of their totally unique sources of stress, it just became obvious that while the situations were unique, the feelings were not. And being able to connect with someone and hear that you're not alone, that you're just a normal human being trying to get through life like everyone else, is probably one of fastest ways to beat that overwhelm. Sure, it doesn't make that particular issue go away, but it helps your brain put it in context and understand that this is a regular feature of life, not the insurmountable nightmare it was building it up to be.
Just remember, we all have feelings and and we don't need to cover them up, despite what we've been taught. As our speaker, Sarah Bryn, said at the event "If you're overwhelmed, there's nothing wrong with you. Just know that." It may feel tricky or even icky to tackle this kind of conversation with someone head-on, but chances are that when you do, you won't be the only person in the conversation sharing how overwhelmed they feel!