When was the last time you felt overwhelmed? Was it last week, yesterday or even at some point today? Sadly, stress and the feeling of having take on too much is all too common in modern life. Whether you're juggling family responsibilities, constant work pressures, ongoing health concerns or simply worried about the ways of the world right now, its not surprising that more people experience burnout, fatigue and more complex health issues such as ongoing infections, pre-longed pain and anxious or depressive symptoms.
While we can't simply rid ourselves of things that are stressing us, there are small, every day habits that can help us feel more in-control, make better decisions and provide relief to an otherwise stressed body.
An overwhelmed body, is a body that is stressed. While occasional stress is inevitable and actually perfectly manageable, on-going or chronic stress, is dangerous as it negatively impacts every system of the body, from our brain chemistry and gut function to hormone and immune regulation. Overtime, this can lead to a myriad of complex issues and raises the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart attack and cancer.
Here are some every day ways you can help soften the blow of overwhelm and improve your long and short term health and wellbeing:
- Create a morning routine that encourages calm and clarity
Starting the day with calm and focus offers a number of benefits. While the majority of your day is likely to roll into a serious of ongoing demands from home and family to work commitments, making a conscious effort for some peace in the morning can help set the tone for the rest of the day and help you manage stress more effectively, thereafter.
Research shows we tend to be more productive as a result of solitude and reflection, especially first thing when you don't have the same distractions that you would in the thick of a regular day. Give it a try; wake up 15-30 minutes early to jot down your thoughts, go on a walk, meditate or do some stretching and see how the rest of your day pans out. Even 2-5 minutes of focussed deep breathing changes our physiology, allowing the body to relax and be more present. Try breathing in for 6 seconds, out for 6 and holding for 6. Start with a round of 5-10 of these breathing patterns and work yourself up, aiming to breathe from deep in your belly rather than from your chest.
- Get your heart pumping
When you think about the things that stress you out on a regular basis, it wouldn't take long before you end up with a long list- being stuck in traffic, that growing pile of paperwork, your nagging boss, a fight you had with a loved one. The body reacts to stress as if you are in danger and need to flight or flight (run away), producing energy in your muscles to be used. By moving your body and using this pent up energy through exercise, you're enabling this cycle of stress to end. It sends a physiological message back to the brain that you are now safe, and the body no longer needs to be stressed. It sounds silly, because of course you know you're not in any actual danger, such as being faced with a lion, alone in the wilderness, but the body's incredible and automatic response will react as if this is the case, building the body up to react in defence.
Engaging in some physically exerting exercise such as running, boxing, cycling or even a brisk walk, can help reverse this response and allow the body return to a normal, non-stressed state. Make exercise part of your daily routine, seek our fun clubs and classes to encourage you to make it a part of your regular activity. Exercise also release feel-good hormones called endorphins, so it's a win win!
- Take breaks seriously
In today's hustle culture, rest might be seen as being unproductive or even lazy. In actual fact, pushing yourself to 'keep going', work through lunch or having a 'just get the job done' attitude, is likely to result in mistakes being made, being less productive and creative, and contribute to the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. Our bodies aren't built to maintain constant momentum that we all seem to be akin to these days, with access to worldwide news 24/7, being on emails any time of the day and seeing edited lives of complete strangers around the world from a piece of plastic in your hand. It's no surprise the rate of burnout is higher than every before.
This is why taking breaks in your day between work and home, being online and available at the start and even the end of the day, is so important. Giving your body and brain a chance to relax will help you go on to be more present, calm and in control of your emotions and decisions thereafter.
Rest is especially crucial when it comes to eating, as we are in an optimal state of properly digesting food when we are in a state of calm- otherwise known as rest and digest. Taking a break in the day to go for a walk, have a cup of tea, stretch or get some fresh air helps to calm the nervous system and maintain normal function for both your body and brain.
- Have a 'shut down' routine
With so many of us routinely working from home now, it can be difficult to separate work and home life during office hours. But this can get tiresome, as the body and brain don't have the chance to reset, and the day can feel like one long work day, with the only chance to recover being at bed time! As a result, all too often people cannot sleep as they are too 'wired', and stay awake with anxious thoughts from the day.
Traditionally, once finished with the work day, you'd shut down your computer or hung up your uniform and physically move away from your place of work, commuting with a walk, train, bus ride or drive back home to then continue the remainder of your day, having also mentally (for the most?!) left work behind. This is so much harder to do if the office is in your bedroom or lounge, when you can so easily switch back into work mode, mindlessly moving from one state to the other.
If you, like me, are based mainly from home, create a sense of ceremony at the end of each work day by switching everything off, clearing your work space and going for a walk, to imitate your commute home. This is also nice to do before you start your working day, leaving 'home' behind and coming 'into' work.
Creating this space, for even 10 minutes will leave you feeling less wound up from the energy created at your desk and calmer for the rest of your day. A walk also helps you to reflect and detach from any emotions related to work, resulting in you feeling less stress and create better balance in your day.
- Reduce your tech time
Have you ever timed yourself when scrolling on social media, or browsing news sites, or watching Netflix? It's shocking how much time we can spend glued to screens, which some may argue is pleasure and leisure. However, when unmanaged, there are so many detrimental impacts to our wellbeing with tech at our fingertips, from anxiety to impaired sleep with content overwhelm and blue light exposure before bed.
Remove tech after a certain time, including emails, news alerts, social media app, even messaging like Whatsapp that can contribute to the feeling of overwhelm. Put timers on your phone, place on airplane mode and leave in another room. Read a book or talk to your partner instead!
- Add as much colour to meals as possible
It's easy to forget the role that food can have on how we feel, but the gut plays an essential role in determining our mental state. The brain and gut are linked through our nervous system. The gut is also where many of our mood enhancing hormones are produced such as serotonin and dopamine, so it's important to be mindful of the foods we eat to support mental resilience.
Studies show that people who suffer with anxiety and depression tend to have lower diverse gut bacteria. Eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables helps to feed the existing healthy bacteria that is found naturally in the gut. Furthermore, plants contribute to dietary fibre that is vital for removing toxins and helping keep the gut functioning optimally.
- Have that important conversation
We are creatures of habit and usually put off the things that seems difficult or uncomfortable. However, in my personal experience and that of a coach, it tends to be those things that make the most impact on our wellbeing. If for you that means speaking to someone about how you are feeling, not being happy at work, in a relationship or wanting to correct something or someone who you feel has wronged you, commit to helping yourself and your overall long term health, by speaking up. Sharing your woes and feelings mean that change can occur and you can be presented with new options about changing what might not be working. Often, this can lead to a simple solution and give you back control over how you feel and what you're able to do. Speaking your truth is one of the fundamental pillars of health, and so you owe it to yourself and your wellbeing to approach matters that will make a difference.
Are you struggling with overwhelm, understanding your physical symptoms or mental overload? Do you tell yourself it will be different tomorrow, but tomorrow just doesn't seem to happen?
Let's have a chat to see what you can do about it. Book a free call with me and find out how I can help.
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