Dealing with stress and overwhelm

Dog that looks exhausted and overwhelmed

Life’s been pretty full on for me recently. I’ve got a lot on at work, one of my kids is doing GCSEs and under a lot of pressure, a close friend is going through an awful divorce. So, I’ve been thinking a great deal about how to avoid getting completely overwhelmed by it all.

Maybe the most important thing I’ve learnt over the years is something that might seem obvious, but that for me was very far from obvious for a long time: looking after your health and well-being is a priority. In the past, whenever I was under pressure I would cut down on sleep, eat junk food, ditch any exercise, because I ‘didn’t have time’. It took me a ridiculously long time to learn that at times of pressure looking after yourself needs to come first, or you will quickly get ill and not be able to do any of the things you need to do.

Secondly, let go of anything on your to do list that isn’t essential, even if especially if it’s something you fear other people will judge you for not doing. You can’t do everything, and better to make a conscious decision about what has to go, than to unconsciously give up on the most important things, such as looking after yourself or your family.

Related to that, practise saying ‘no’. If this doesn’t come naturally to you then teach yourself to automatically use a delaying tactic. Whenever you are asked to do something you feel might be too much for you at the moment, say you need time to think about it. Then you can decide if it really serves you to do this now, and work out a nice way of saying no if it doesn’t.

For those tasks you do have to do, or do want to do, try breaking them down into micro-steps. Then as you tick off all the little micro steps you’ll feel a sense of achievement, rather than being stressed and overwhelmed by how much you have to do to finish the whole task.

Finally, no matter how busy you are, find at least 10 minutes a day to meditate, or at least sit and breathe deeply or walk in nature. There’s an old saying:

You should meditate for 10 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. In that case, you should meditate for an hour.

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