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What to do if you're feeling overwhelmed...

Updated: Feb 8

The feeling of overwhelm is an anxiety provoking and stressful one, and this is often down to feeling out of control over things in your life. Lack of control = anxiety majority of the time. As humans we like feeling like we've got everything under control and when the pot starts to boil over panic and stress kicks in.

So, what can we do when that overwhelming feeling sets in? Here are some tips on how to manage overwhelm...

1. Take some emotional time out and learn to say 'no'

Just take a moment to take a breathe. Take some time out to sit with your emotions and allow your mind to clear for a second, remember when you're feeling overwhelmed and stressed you most likely won't complete your best work or think straight anyway so taking some time to clear your mind will be beneficial in the long run. With that, learn to say 'no'. We don't like letting others down, its human nature to want to please others however when you start to feel your plate being overloaded that is the time to say 'no'. Remember it's okay to say 'no'!

2. Breathe, Mindfulness or Meditation

As part of my Doctorate we have to obtain a certain amount of personal therapy hours each year, for a lot of my sessions last year I spent time talking and practicing mindfulness with my therapist as this was an area I was unfamiliar with. I remember one week I was feeling totally overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to get done by a deadline and my therapist asked me if I had practiced my mindfulness this week. I looked at her in disbelief and said 'I just haven't had time'. She told me 'usually when we really need mindfulness or meditation is when we don't do it because we think we don't have time'. That comment really stuck with me and now if I am feeling overwhelmed I give myself at least 10 minutes of mindfulness, to just remember to breathe and I often feel a little clearer afterwards.

I find the headspace app really good if you're a beginner at mindfulness and meditation!

3. Write lists

If you're feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start, break things down into smaller tasks. Make to-do lists or priority lists and make a note of how much time you think each task will take so that way you aren't overloading yourself and giving yourself impossible tasks in little time.

4. Go for a walk

Another tip I did a lot towards the end of my first year of my doctorate. Often I had to be told by my parents or my boyfriend to stop for a minute and take myself out for a walk when they could see I was getting overwhelmed. If you can take someone with you on a walk that can also help as it can help clear your mind by talking things over with someone else, but often its nice to have some alone time outside to think clearly. I guarantee you will feel at least a tiny bit better afterwards!

5. Do something completely different for a few hours

You know that thing you try your best not to do, procrastination? Do it.

Sounds crazy but often when you completely shift your focus for a few hours, when you return to the overwhelming task you could approach it in a completely different way and feel more positive and clearer about things.

6. Talk to others

Talk it through with a friend, family member, colleague or therapist. It's amazing how much better you will feel after getting it off your chest and talking everything over with someone else. Sometimes talking to someone else about things will allow them to give you a different perspective which can be beneficial in reducing some of the overwhelm.

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