7 Light-Hearted Tips to Help You Relax When You are Feeling Overwhelmed
Sometimes it feels like we live in an online game or a dystopian film - our world feels slightly surreal, full of unpredictable occurrences and uncertainty.
And even if you are trying hard not to listen to the news or dwell on the negativity - sometime you cannot help it but overhear stories - stories that might make you feel sad. And sometimes you cannot help it but feel stressed out and overwhelmed because, well, life happens.
But trust me, it is quite normal to experience those emotions. That's what human beings do - we feel for other people, we worry, and we stress out.
A bit of stress is actually good for us, according to research. It helps us to avoid a total self-destruction. It helps us to move forward. Daniela Kaufer, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, put it this way:
“Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.”
It is not beneficial to have too much stress. It can lead to severe anxiety and burnout. A through evidence-based article on what stress does to our body could be found here.
Hence, it's essential to deal with too much stress as soon as possible.
I give you my 7 light-hearted tips to help you relax when that uncomfortable, sticky feeling of overwhelm is breathing down your neck. It should form part of your self-care routine, so make sure you do not neglect it:
1. Take a walk with a difference
Go for a walk but choose a different route to the one you normally take.
Walking is one of the best ways to clear your head. It's my favourite way for sure.
But a walk as an instrument to help you refresh your head is one thing. The main reason for a good unorthodox walk is to help us break the cycle of negative thinking and fear that might lead to burnout.
So try choosing a route that you are not very familiar with. Forcing your brain to work harder on how to navigate you across the unfamiliar terrains will help it stop thinking other unhealthy thoughts.
Do not use your phone map if you can. Have it as a backup plan. But allow your whole body to be preoccupied with a task at hand.
2. Watch or Read Something Funny
Pick the funniest or the most ridiculous film you could think of, be it Zoolander or Pitch Perfect - and watch it!
I love reading Damn you Autocorrect extracts when I am feeling stressed. I giggle uncontrollably after a few minutes.
It might not eliminate the overwhelm. But it will give you a brief breathing space - which might be enough for you to think in a more relaxed manner.
Talking about breathing, breathing exercise might help as well.
3. Stay Active
Go for a jog or a run. Or choose another physical activity, such as cycling. But choose something relatively active to give your heart a good work-out.
If you can't go outside, there are other types of activity you can try, such as yoga and pilates, there are myriads of classes available online.
Or try progressive relaxation technique recommended by NHS, also known as Jacobson's progressive relaxation technique. This practice is easy to perform. It involves tensing and then relaxing certain body parts to release tension in them. This method encourages the mind to relax as the body muscles become less tense.
4. Have a Little Boogie
Even if you don't feel like it or if dancing is not your thing, try it, anyway! If it does nothing else - at least it will boost your happiness hormone.
Listening to an upbeat music and dancing might give your body a good workout and get you into a new frame of mind. This, in return, might help to break the vicious circle of negative thoughts, which is a significant benefit.
5. 'Polish Silver' or Do Something Unusual
You don't have to actually take out your grandma's silverware and start polishing it. Unless that's what you fancy doing.
The purpose of this activity is to snap you out of your negative thought processes by doing something repetitive but unusual.
I, for instance, don't enjoy cleaning my car. I do not do it very often. Our car just remains dusty until we take it to the car wash.
But if I am feeling overwhelmed - my car gets such a good polish! It works because I apply different approach. It helps me to think about the steps I need to take to solve something.
But, it's not too strenuous that I would make myself worse off.
This task also serves as a body work-out and helps to relax your mind.
6. Lie Down and Daydream
Lying down and doing nothing or daydreaming might be tougher than you think - but you persevere! It's worth it!
Find a quiet space. Make yourself comfortable by acquiring a horizontal position (as in lie down).
Lie there for a few minutes, trying not to think about anything. It's called Savasana in Yoga Practice - an asana or a pose used to relax and re-energise your body after a more challenging pose.
Once you have mastered Savasana, start daydreaming about something pleasant, such as your last holidays, your future holidays, your childhood holidays, etc.
There are real benefits to daydreaming. Read about them in my article 3 Ways Daydreaming Could Be Good For You.
7. Take Some Time Off
Take a day off if everything else fails.
But follow these simple rules in order to gain real and lasting benefits from your time off.
Limit phone usage to a minimum.
Don't use social media or check your email.
No TV - especially no news!!
No news (this point is repeated as it's important to watch no news).
No cooking, no tidying up, no cleaning (buy a ready-made or a take-away, treat yourself! You deserve it!)
Rest or do what feels right, with as little effort as possible.
Go for leisurely walks
Journal if you feel like it
Drink your favourite tea
Watch the rain/the sunrise
Read something light or inspirational (read nothing sad, controversial, negative, challenging - not this time, leave it for the day you've sufficiently recovered)
When you feel rested enough and the overwhelm has subsided, you can reintroduce other activities into your daily routine:
Cook something fancy.
Go out for a long walk or run.
Read something more challenging.
That's it from me! But you could also try more powerful and actionable tips to help you feel less overwhelmed.
Do you have your go-to activity when you are feeling overwhelmed by things around you?