What to do when you feel overwhelmed

posted in: Community, Mindfulness | 0

This week I received some not-so-good news. By itself, it’s really not a big deal, but this was just one more loss in a difficult two years of losses – loss of business, loss of loved ones, loss of security, you get the idea.

This loss, however minor, put me in a place of overwhelm, leaving me sad and even weepy at times. It’s like I hit my loss limit, a culmination of events great and small, and I just couldn’t take anymore.

I know I’m not alone in this, we’ve all had a tough couple of years, and for those of us who are especially sensitive to the world around us, it can take your breath away.

At times like these, and yes there have been others, I tend to spend time alone, to retreat within. I suspect that isn’t considered very healthy, and maybe it’s something I need to explore deeper, but from a non-judgmental viewpoint, who’s to say?

Let me clarify by saying what I feel is not depression. If you’re dealing with depression, if this feeling is on-going and persistent, it’s important that you not face it alone. Talk to a trained therapist without delay.

If left alone, overwhelm can lead to depression, and that’s why it’s important to recognize it and respond early. So what does response to overwhelm look like? It can be different for each of us, and it all boils down to self-care.

For me, I go back to my basics. I am generally a very happy person, in spite of all the loss over these past two years. I am grateful for the life I have and the people in it, and I am resilient when life throws me a curve ball.

A few years ago, I was developing a course on what I call the Four Building Blocks of Wellness: Mindfulness, Movement, Nutrition and Community. So I’m returning to these building block this week, to give me that little nudge I need to get through this.

Looking at my planning notes on the class, I realize that I’ve really strayed off course. Sometimes, I need a not-so-subtle reminder for a course correction, and this week that’s what I got. If you find yourself in that same place, look at those four building blocks of wellness and make an intentional plan to get you back on your path. Here are some suggestions from my own plan. Use what works for you or try your own. The important thing is, do the work, in the planning and the implementation, consistently on intentionally.

Create a personal retreat – My first inclination was to get away by myself to give me space and time without any other responsibilities to gain some focus. While that is ideal for me, it’s just not in the cards right now. So, I’ve set aside time each day for the coming week that I just unplug, meditate, write and plan. A sort of retreat at home. If you work outside the home, now is a good time to request a mental health day or two. Here are some other ideas for creating the perfect at home retreat.

Dig deep – The news I received this week was a financial hit. It wasn’t big and it doesn’t mean we can’t pay the bills. It will be fairly easy to replace. So why did it hit me so hard? That’s what I’m sorting out. I haven’t talked about it much because that’s the way I roll, in fact it’s difficult to share here. For me, journaling helps as does just quiet time alone. For others, it might mean sharing with a trusted friend or booking a session with a professional.

Mind your mind – Set aside time each day to engage your mind. Of course meditation is a big part of that. You can also engage your mind with a number of activities including: put together jigsaw puzzles, learn something new (musical instrument, language, dance, etc.), build your vocabulary with new words, play a card game (including solitaire), or change up your daily tasks. It can even be something as simple as eating with your non-dominant hand. In short, try something new that boosts your memory, concentration and focus. I have a new puzzle on order as well as a new Djembe drum to learn. And I’m writing down one new word from a book I’m reading every day and will use it throughout the day. Today’s word is, fittingly enough, “enervate” (look it up if you don’t know).

Get out and move – We all know that movement takes us out of a funk. Set aside 90 minutes a day to get your move on. That can be in any form, from dancing to bicycle riding to playing Frisbee with your dog. The main thing is to make it intentional moderate intensity exercise. And while 90 minutes sounds like a lot, you can divvy it up into two or three sessions. So this week, I am walking for ½ – 1 hour before breakfast and playing on an obstacle course of sorts on my property in the afternoon.

Nourish yourself – Although I know how important clean eating is, I have really slipped in this area lately and I feel it. Sluggishness, brain fog, whatever the symptoms, nutrition is huge contributing factor. Take this time to really concentrate on the food you put in to your body. I have found that a little too much sugar has been creeping into my day, so that will be a focus. I’m also using the Daily Dozen app to make sure I get enough of what make me feel good.

Spend times with friends – Take a hint from the South African tradition of Ubuntu which speaks to the importance of our connection to others. Simply stated, Ubuntu philosophy is “I am, because you are.” Read more about Ubuntu here. I walk with a good friend twice a week, which checks off a few categories, and lately we haven’t been as diligent as usual. Time to change that (I’m talking to you, Carrie). I’ve also scheduled tea with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, just because I miss her.

While I know this program will get me back on track, I also know that it’s easy to put it aside. I’m setting reminder on my phone with the sole purpose of setting aside time for this. If you find yourself in a funk, know that you are not alone, be kind to yourself and take steps to bring you out of it early.

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