Practical tips for recognizing and dealing with overwhelm during the holidays.
First we have to define what overwhelm means and how it affects us?
There are an overwhelming number of definitions of 'overwhelm.' 😉
This is one definition I relate to most:
"Overwhelm - Bury or drown beneath a huge mass."
Except that I'd change the definition to 'bury or drown beneath a huge mess.'
But the holiday season can be prime time for feeling overwhelmed!
Added to everything else, we know we're supposed to be smiling, full of good cheer, and our minds are racing away with thoughts of what's still to be done!
Shopping, travel, parties, wrapping, kids events, parties, greeting cards to send (yes, lots of us still love to send Christmas Cards!), church commitments, work, end-of-year, etc. The list goes on and on.
So how does that translate into real life? How can we manage all these different demands competing for our time and attention? The following tips can help you reduce your stress levels and fight overwhelm:
Every day we deal with tons of information, opportunities, to-do lists, challenges, and many other stressors. And because we live in a fast-paced society, feeling overwhelmed can be a real problem.
Do you feel your to-do list is never-ending?
That you make goals but cannot follow through because you can't get to it all? Do you procrastinate starting something new because you feel you can't catch up?
If you are feeling anxious and nervous more often than not, it's probably a good sign that you are dealing with some overwhelm.
The first step to feeling less stressed and overwhelmed is to step back and realize that things are getting too much for you now (more on that later).
Next, make a conscious decision to fight the stress and overwhelm.
Tips for dealing with Overwhelm!
I like meditation because you don't need any fancy equipment.
There are many benefits to begin to include a meditation practice in your life.
- More relaxed muscles
- lower blood pressure,
- reduce levels of chronic pain,
- and have higher energy levels.
Let me tell you; that meditation has had a real positive impact on your life. If you're new to meditation, start with this video.
Neuroscience experiences show that listening to music can increase our positive emotions.
Studies like the one conducted by the National Institute of Health have discovered that listening to music has a direct impact on our psycho-biological stress system.
Listening to music is just good for you. I've found that belting out my favorite songs in the shower can significantly increase my good mood (maybe not the mood of those around me … I can't carry a tune!)
There's lots of evidence to support the relationship between sleeping well and reducing stress levels. But, like with many suggestions to fight to overwhelm, I believe that baby steps are crucial to long-term success.
Begin by going to bed 15 minutes earlier than your usual bedtime.
#4 Mild Exercise
Because chances are that your schedule is already super full, starting by simply going for a walk. It costs nothing, and it's easy to arrange.
If your schedule is super crowded with appointments and to-dos, start by going for a 15-minute walk.
And if you want to unplug for a while, leave your screens behind.
Although it's hard to imagine nowadays, there was a time when we didn't have phones in our pockets 24/7!
Another easy way to start exercising is to begin a yoga practice. If you've never practiced yoga, I recommend you start here. Fun fact, yoga practices date back more than 5,000 years!
#5 Get Organized
Putting time and effort into a less cluttered environment will help you feel more in control. And once you feel like you're regaining control, you'll begin to notice a decreased feeling of stress.
Make time to connect with your partner. Studies suggest physical intimacy can lead to lower stress hormones flowing through our bodies.
In essence, physical intimacy can lead to lower cortisol levels (cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal gland when we feel anxious or stressed).
And one other thing: being open to talking about what bothers each of you about your days reminds you of "Oh yeah. This is why I love this guy!"
#7 Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
Include gratitude journaling into your daily routine. Focus your mind on the positive aspects of your life.
You don't have to write a novel; find one of two things you are grateful for on any given day and write them down.
If you use a planner or a bullet journal, you can dedicate one page per month for gratitude (more if you like).
#8 Limit Screentime.
I'll be the first one to admit that this is hard! On some level, most of us are addicted to our screens. Most of us have become incredibly dependent on our phones and the need to be available 24/7.
Don't get me wrong; I like to be just as connected as all of us. But I am becoming increasingly conscious that we're paying a massive price for this. Due to the nature of my work, I spend many hours behind a computer screen.
A few months ago, I decided to reduce my own screen time drastically. And to this end, I've decided (at least for now) to stop watching the news.
And that's been a real game-changer in controlling my feelings of anxiety, stress, and overwhelm.
#9 Say No!
Saying 'Yes' often seems like the only choice. But, at the same time spreading ourselves too thin feeds our sense of being overwhelmed.
Like so many of us, if you are a people pleaser, you'll find it hard to say no (I know I do!).
That gets worse when we over-schedule ourselves and begin to stress about disappointing others when we can't keep up our commitments.
Practicing to say no is a learnable skill; it can help you fight the feeling of being completely overwhelmed.
Reading can help us to reduce overwhelm and stress. And according to a Yale University School of Public Health study, reading might even increase your longevity!
Just make sure that you are reading something that relaxes your mind. I am not talking about catching up on the latest breaking news on Google News!
Find subject matters that don't increase your anxiety. You want to relax. If you feel reading a whole book is too overwhelming, pick up a magazine.
My own (audio) bookshelves are full of books that I'll get around to reading one of these days!
Listening to an audiobook can also help you to relax. Being dyslexic, audiobooks are my favorite way of consuming books.
Drawing, photography, knitting… Devoting ourselves to learning new skills (you should see my studio - filled with the instruments of the learning journeys I've taken over the past several years - maybe one day, when I know you better, I'll share!)
Spending even a small amount of time on something you genuinely enjoy will put your mind into that place where 'this is exactly what I want to be doing right now.'
Writing down your thoughts can be a powerful tool to help you fight overwhelm—Journal your day's experiences.
If you are familiar with time management techniques, you know how powerful 'brain dumps' can be. Journals pretty much work the same way.
There is something about writing things down on a piece of paper that helps us process them intellectually and emotionally.
#13 Reaching Out to Friends
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood. - Seneca
Reach out to a trusted friend.
You're likely to find that just sharing your feelings of overwhelm with a friend helps you feel more relaxed (and maybe even some things to laugh about!!
Sharing your stress and anxiety will help you feel less tense.
Your friends can listen, commiserate, and provide different takes on how you can deal with holiday stress.
Final Thoughts About Fighting Overwhelm
Overwhelm can make us feel helpless, anxious, and scared. But it doesn't have to be this way.
All of us can actively do things to lessen the effects of overwhelm. I hope you found these tips helpful.