3 Ways to Overcome Overwhelm

Photo by  Carolina Heza  on  Unsplash

by WITHIN Cofounder Hannah Knapp

It’s overwhelming, trying to keep up with everything: getting work done on deadline; finding the time to get groceries; replying to at least most of the emails that hit your inbox…let alone having an appropriate response to all the craziness going on in the world.

It’s easy to be hard on yourself for not doing it all - or not doing it all as well as you think you should - especially when it feels like you’re the only one who can’t get your act together (thank you, social media!).

When you stop and remind yourself that you're doing the best you can, it can be a huge relief. There’s actually no need to go above and beyond into some mythical realm where you are capable of doing everything. The best you can do, is to show up for life as it happens, and roll with the punches.

Here are three of my favorite ways to stop overwhelm in its tracks, before it overwhelms me:

  1. Tune into your body. When you're overwhelmed, you become wrapped up in your thoughts and disconnect from your body. You can ease that sense of overwhelm, just by reconnecting with what's going on for you, physically. Sit down, close your eyes, and breathe. After a few deep breaths, notice where you're feeling tension in your body. For most of us, that's in our shoulders and our faces. Just allow yourself to notice the tension, without judging it or trying to make it go away. Sit for as long as you like, just breathing into the tension, and breathing out.

  2. Shift your perspective. Overwhelm happens when we believe we should be able to do everything that's asking to be done in our lives. We get panicked, believing we must be superhuman, able to say "yes" to everything and do it all. But, the truth is, you're human! just like everyone else. Try believing this: Everything that truly needs to get done, will get done; do your best, and let the rest go. Tape that sentence to your mirror, or put a reminder in your calendar. Each time you see those words, repeat them to yourself, and take a few deep breaths, allowing it to sink in.

  3. Get some distance from your thoughts. All day long, our minds are constantly planning, remembering, and judging. Without realizing it, we live in those thoughts, rather than in the present moment. Instead, take a few minutes to pause, and watch your thoughts as they fly by. As you watch them, they lose their overwhelming power, and you find that still, peaceful center that's always there inside you, underneath the chaos. That's exactly what we do in mindfulness meditation. Try it on your own, or sit with us this week and get the extra support of a teacher, and a group of people who are also choosing to be here, now.

Trying to optimize every last detail, or beating yourself up for falling short, won’t add a single minute to your life, any more than worrying. But pausing to really notice what’s actually happening, right now, just might. At the very least, you’ll know you actually lived for those moments.