Strategies on how to cope with stress when you are overwhelmed
There are times when life and everything that goes with it can feel heavy as the load we carry piles up on top of us and all around us. We have so much to get done, people to care for, relationships to manage, finances to juggle, pandemics to wait out, futures to plan. It can all be too much sometimes.
When we become overwhelmed and stressed, it can manifest itself in different ways for different people. For some, it brings a sense of teariness. Some people lash out at those around them in anger. For others, there are feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and even panic attacks.
Let’s just take a beat here to say that there is no wrong way to behave when things get too much. You are human, and you are doing your best.
When you start to feel overwhelmed or recognize that you are headed that way, the best thing you can do is cut yourself some slack.
Here are some strategies on how to cope with stress and overwhelm
Acknowledge that something isn’t right
A friend of mine Tina, started experiencing panic attacks in college. At first, she didn’t know what it was, and that made it worse. She told me that it felt like total despair. That breathing became physically painful. Her body felt heavy like lead. That she had never felt as lonely as she did in the hours that the attack gripped her.
Many years later, she is a Mom and a successful entrepreneur but still gets panic attacks. What’s different now is that she has learned to use them as a signal rather than give into them.
When we met up recently, she explained that she learned that her panic attacks happen when she is subconsciously ignoring something in her life that is stressful. Now, when she gets the first flutters of panic, she makes time to sit down and work out what she is avoiding.
What’s significant here is that Tina learned to recognize her stress signal and acknowledge it. This can be the first step to righting whatever it is that causes you to feel overwhelmed and get you back on course.
Being mindful of your body, your behaviors, and how you feel will help you identify when your subconscious is signaling for help.
Identify the culprits
Once we know our stress signals, it is a step towards learning to cope or make changes. The next step is to identify the culprits that are causing us to feel stressed.
We Moms often tell ourselves that we have to cope with the workload and the juggling act that is motherhood. Guess what, you don’t! So go ahead and admit to yourself if something is too much. Nothing can change if we can’t accept that it needs to.
Perhaps your stressor isn’t related to your to-do list. It could be a worry you have about something in your life like finances, health, a relationship, and general worries about what’s going on in the world.
“Stress is an everyday occurrence that we all experience. That does not mean that we should bottle it up and cope because everyone else is.” Says Sarah Purcell, a lifestyle writer at Draft Beyond and Last Minute Writing. “Dealing with our stress is essential for mental and physical wellbeing.”
Identify what is eating you up, and you are on your way to feeling better.
How to manage stress and feel less overwhelmed
You deserve to feel good.
There are a few ways of managing stress and feeling less overwhelmed. You can use one of them or all of them. Whatever works for you. Here are some examples.
When we feel overwhelmed, the simplest step to feeling better is recognizing that something has to give. Look at everything you are doing in your day, every commitment and responsibility, and ask yourself, “Do I have to do all of this exactly as I am?”.
The answer will nearly always be ‘no.’ Maybe let the laundry pile up an extra day, order takeaway once a week, so you don’t have to cook, carpool with another Mom for the school run and take turns.
You don’t have to do it all, and you definitely don’t have to do it all yourself.
Look after yourself
No one can care adequately for another person or their family if they do not first care for themselves. Daily care routines will reset your body and mind.
Make sure you get to have a shower each day – it doesn’t matter what time you do it – but that time is yours.
Try to avoid eating on the go and instead gift yourself time in your day to sit down and enjoy your meal. This will also aid digestion. Eating quickly when we are in a hurry can cause digestion issues, which can stress the body.
At least once a week, schedule in some time to do nothing that ‘needs doing.’ Instead, do something you enjoy, read, nap, sit in the garden, and switch off. At first, it might be difficult, but with practice, you will learn to unwind and stop your mind from running through your to-do list.
When there are unavoidable stressors in our lives – chronic illness, family worries, the future with Covid -19 – we sometimes must wait as they run their course. In these instances, distraction can be helpful. Once you have acknowledged that something is stressing you, look for a way to keep your mind from dwelling on it.
“Physical exercise of any kind is proven to reduce stress. Be it a brisk walk, dancing, or some sun salutations in the living room – it all helps,” says Gillian Shea, a health expert at Writinity and Researchpapersuk.
Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, ask for help. You don’t have to cope alone. Ask a loved one to help you with childcare, a spouse to help with chores, or even ask a neighbor to lend an ear when you need to vent.
There are organizations and helplines for finance stressors that you can turn to free of charge for advice and guidance.
How you feel is how millions of people feel the world over. It is not a weakness, and you are not a failure. Give yourself a break and reach out.