You’re not alone. Feeling overwhelmed is normal and right now, it’s expected. Whether you have felt this way for a while, or the impact of COVID-19 on your life has made the world feel like too much, there is hope. I’m here to share some of that hope and offer guidance on the small (and proven) steps that can help when the world feels too much, enabling you to re-focus your thoughts and priorities.
When we seek change that lasts, the answer is more than a quick-fix. In this post, I will share with you a holistic approach to diffuse feelings of overwhelm, bringing positive energies to your interconnecting mind, body and soul. Let’s start with your mind, as I’m in no doubt that it is the the one that is craving the positivity right now.
1. Accept Emotions
If you feel worried about what is happening or might happen, it’s OK. If you feel guilty for having a good time or not being there for others, that’s also OK. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. The same applies to the feelings of others. You might have noticed some changing behaviours lately, whether a friend has stopped responding on WhatsApp, or a relative has become short-tempered. We all respond differently in a crisis, or to change. What is the same for everyone is that we are all in a completely new situation. There is no rulebook and no one has the answers, so accept that this is a new experience and that your emotions may be too.
2. Connect with Others
Being close to, or valued by, others is one of our basic needs. Interacting with people or feeling that we belong can have a positive impact on wellbeing in both the short and long term.
During social distancing, connecting with others might only be virtually (or through older means, remember letters and postcards?!) and let’s be honest, might take some getting used to. Video chats, rather than phone calls, can help limit distance and are great for group chats. If you need a reason to connect, now is the perfect time to check in on an old friend or relative, ask for help or just arrange a spontaneous catch-up.
3. Take Notice
Perhaps you have found yourself with time to notice things you wouldn’t normally, like the sound or movements of birds (it’s the little things!). Value these moments. We live such busy lives and rarely take the time to just be, yet taking the time to be mindful can broaden your awareness and do wonders for your inner strength. Looking out the window, decorating your home with plants to enjoy or clearing out clutter are all steps to help take notice while you are self-isolating.
It is no secret that learning stimulates the mind. If you have the time, this can be an incredible opportunity to indulge in one of the many online courses and workshops available (many of which are free). Whether it be learning a new skill or developing an existing one, this is a great time to challenge yourself or research something you are interested in. Reading books, indulging in crosswords and sudoku puzzles, or fixing something at home are also stimulating opportunities for learning that could take your mind to a more positive place.
1. Be Active
Your physical fitness has a significant impact on your mental fitness, so we can’t talk about one without the other. If you are naturally the active type, or are ready to embrace the opportunity to try something new, there are countless YouTube living room workouts and tutorials on everything from dance to yoga and martial arts. You don’t need YouTube to move around though and being alone is the perfect time to put on your favourite music and dance like no one is watching. If you are able to go for a walk or have a garden that you can prune, consider combining some fresh air (and hopefully vitamin D) with rewarding your body with some activity.
Treating your body well is not all about moving around. It is also about how we breathe and practise stillness. Meditation is one of way of doing this. Allow yourself the time to take slower, deeper breaths and embrace moments of calm. Guided imagery, tai chi and yoga can also help to relax and control your breathing.
3. Eat & Drink Well
What we put into our bodies determines how they feel (physically), which will of course influence how we feel (mentally). Having a positive influence here might mean introducing some healthier eating habits. It might also mean reducing caffeine and alcohol intake. Find your balance. I always consider food as something to enjoy. If you punish yourself with food, you will have a bigger impact on your mind than your body. Enjoy what you eat and drink, but think about why you enjoy it and what it brings to you.
Ah, the soul! This is perhaps the most neglected of the three. Please don’t neglect your soul. It is who you are. One way to feed your soul is to give outwardly. This might be though acts of kindness, which reward your sense of being. Through this global crisis, we have opportunity on every level to contribute outside of our own needs. Consider contributing to community life, by helping out neighbours, volunteering or sharing information on social media. This can offer perspective and reduce feelings of overwhelm. Socialising (virtually!) can also contribute to this sense of giving.
2. Practise Gratitude
Gratitude is hugely powerful and simple to introduce as a habit. At the end of the day, or week, write down three things that you are grateful for. It could be anything from a conversation you had, the air you breathe to the help you received or the health of those around you. The more time we spending focusing on what we are grateful for, the more our mindset shifts to that of positive thinking. This enables us to enjoy our time, rather than feel intimidated by it.
I am not asking you to turn on a self-love switch. If you can, that’s great, but it’s not as easy as that for most. Instead, self-appreciation means taking some time to completely lose yourself in something you love, or doing something small and positive just for you. If you think you don’t deserve this or would feel guilty about the dedicated me-time, think about the advice you would give to a friend or relative: should they have the time to do something they really love, for their own happiness? Self-appreciation at a deeper level might include letting go of a fear of failure, forgiving others or allowing yourself to dream. Remember to smile, be kind to yourself and be you.
This isn’t intended to seem like a to-do list. It’s actually a reminder that the way out isn’t that grand. It isn’t about huge actions, or taking control of external situations. It’s about owning your mind, body and soul. Bring your focus inward, on the smaller things, and the bigger things will not be as overwhelming.
Most of these steps are based on the NEF’s well-researched and much documented Five Ways to Wellbeing. When the world feels too much, focusing on the holistic needs of your mind, body and soul can diffuse feelings of overwhelm and allow you to be present, calm and focused. This can have a positive impact on how you react to situations, communicate to others and move forward. There is hope and there is a way to overcome these feelings. I wish you all good health and happiness as we keep moving forward together.