The last time I felt overwhelmed was – like many of us – in relation to COVID-19. I wondered whether I should be worried when I wasn’t worrying, and wondered whether I was worrying unnecessarily when I was.
When things really kicked off with coronavirus, I thought I was taking it all in my stride, but my body and actions told me otherwise. My phone pick-ups maxed out as I checked the news app and the Worldometer Coronavirus stats on loop throughout the day. A certain buzz vibrated in my body as though I’d drank two too many coffees.
I don’t imagine for a moment I was alone in this.
Time to focus on the things that will make you feel better, not worse
When I realised what was going on, I decided to take charge and went back to the things I know are good for me. Tried and tested lifestyle practices to downregulate and avoid getting caught up in my head.
In a matter of days my phone usage dropped significantly, I was once again in control of my life (as much as that is ever possible) and I felt back to my more balanced self.
Lifestyle practices that can take you from feeling overwhelmed to feeling more balanced
Below are four self-care tips that can help move you from a place of overwhelm to feeling more balanced. Four ways to look after your mind. Four ideas that work to ensure you don’t frazzle or feel uncomfortably buzzy.
The more you incorporate them into your daily rhythm, the more impact they may have on your life.
Ready to give them a go?
1. Give your mind a break from thinking, planning and doing
Being on the whole time isn’t good. It’s exhausting.
Meditation is one tool I use to give my mind a break.
If you’re not sure where to start, mindfulness meditation can help you to observe your thoughts. Don’t try and shut them out; just observe your thoughts. Loving-kindness meditation might be more relevant if you’ve had a rough time of late or had to deal with difficult people in the office. Guided meditations are definitely a good option for when you’re feeling easily distracted or overwhelmed.
Or if meditation isn’t your thing, try listening to music or watching a movie or doing something physical to get back into your body – all these things can help quieten the monkey mind, let you catch your breath and get ready to look at things again with fresh eyes.
2. Take a moment to reflect on what went well in your day and practise gratitude
Take a moment before you go to bed to think back on your day. Did anything surprise you? Did someone share a story with you or confide in you? Did you spot something beautiful or unusual?
We may have a built-in negativity bias but, according to Dr Rick Hanson, we can train our brain to automatically look for the positive, it just takes practise.2
In our family we share our grateful moments over dinner. It doesn’t mean that the day’s been all roses and sweetness but it does mean that the day ends with a conscious effort to remember the many little things that went right.
3. Learn to say no (often)
If you’re a people pleaser or suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), saying no is very straightforward in theory but incredibly hard to implement when you’ve got someone standing in front of you making a request.
As a recovering people pleaser, I’m getting better at this but still get caught out far too often.
A useful idea I heard motivational speaker, bestselling author, Kyle Maynard, talk about on The Tim Ferriss Show was to rate something out of ten, and you’re not allowed to use seven.3 Maynard was talking about it in relation to hiring a new employee, but it can just as easily and effectively be applied to saying yes or no to some thing rather than someone.
If you’re evaluating whether to do something (or not) and rate it below seven, well, you’d need a very good reason to do something you’re not that keen on.
If it’s above seven, it’s obviously something you want to do and should therefore say a big fat yes to.
4. Switch off your phone and put away your computer
Seriously. Have some time out.
Technology isn’t the enemy, but we all know that being constantly attached to a device isn’t smart. We also know that it’s impossible to multitask effectively, even though we keep trying.
So have your time with your devices, and then have your off time too.
Recently I heard an interview with New York Times bestselling author Jake Knapp who has next to no apps on his phone.4 Seriously. As someone who’s previously worked for Google on products including Gmail and Google Hangouts, he’s all too aware of how technology can steer us away (or not) from the important stuff.
And although it’s possibly a step too far for some of us, friends of mine choose to enjoy device-free days each week. If the very thought fills you with dread, you’re likely a prime candidate for doing this too, at least every now and then.
I’ve also recently been experimenting with putting app restrictions on my phone, which means for the first and last hours of the day I’m unable to get caught up in social or news feeds, and can ease in and out of the day more gently. In those moments the world doesn’t fall apart, and I feel a lot more level.
So there you have it. A few lifestyle practices to start experimenting with in your own life.
Let us know how you go.
Which of these tips will you implement? Are there any more you’d recommend? Please comment below and share what you know to be true.
References and further reading
- World Health Organisation. Depression: let’s talk” says WHO, as depression tops list of causes of ill health. 2017. www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-03-2017–depression-let-s-talk-says-who-as-depression-tops-list-of-causes-of-ill-health. Accessed 4 Jun 2019.
- The Jordan Harbinger Show. 192: Rick Hanson: The Science of Hardwiring Happiness and Resilience.https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/192-rick-hanson-science-hardwiring-happiness-resilience/id1344999619?i=1000436872462. Accessed 4 Jun 2019.
- The Tim Ferriss Show. 284: The Answers to My Favorite Questions. https://tim.blog/2017/12/03/the-answers-to-my-favorite-questions. Accessed 4 Jun 2019.
- The Kevin Rose Show. Jake Knapp – Creating Time and Finding Focus In Daily Life. https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/kevin-rose/the-journal-by-kevin-rose/e/58773466. Accessed 30 Sep 2019.