Dealing with Overwhelm

Dealing with Overwhelm

What is Overwhelm?

At some point in our lives, most of us have felt that all-encompassing feeling that everything is “a lot” or too much. Sometimes it feels like your head could just explode, sometimes it feels like you just want to run away, other times you feel like crying because you have been under so much stress (whether that is work, family life, or your health) that you are completely overcome with emotion, but not in a good way.

This is overwhelm.

How Many Things Can We Handle?

Is your closet too full?

No, I’m not talking about decluttering or clearing out your wardrobe; I’m talking about clearing your life. Reducing that sense of overwhelm that’s been paralysing you.

I recently heard a fabulous description of overwhelm: simply having too many hangers in our already full closet. Let me explain. If we put one task from our project or item from our to-do list, for instance, on each hanger, how many hangers can we fill at one time without stressing out or hitting overwhelm?

Well, usually, the answer is about 5-7.

Why? Because that’s commonly how many things our unconscious mind can handle at any one time. If we have a shopping list, a phone number to remember, or some other task, we can usually recall up to 5-7 things. Anything more than that often gets lost or forgotten.

Anything more than 5-7 often stresses us OUT!

Ultimately, if we do this regularly, it can reduce our resilience levels, patience, ability to concentrate, and more over time.

Woman overwhelmed by closet

What Happens When We Have Too Much Going On

 

You know when you have too many programs running on your computer, and it starts to slow down – this is what our body does when we’re overwhelmed.

You may recognise the signs of overwhelm such as:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mental slowness
  • A racing mind
  • Impaired ability to problem solve
  • Inability to think logically
  • General irritability

When this overwhelm occurs over a period of time, we can also suffer from cognitive or nervous fatigue, which I spoke about in our last blog.

When this happens, the symptoms of overwhelm are usually heightened and can make us feel even more overwhelmed simply from feeling like we can’t function how we think we should be. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Recognising What Is Causing Your Overwhelm

One of the first keys to dealing with overwhelm is to recognise what is causing it. If you look at what is going on for you, in different areas of your life, you can often pinpoint what the leading cause of your overwhelm is. Some common ones are:

  • Work
  • Family life
  • Financial
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Relationships

It may be one, it may be two, it may be all, but regardless, working out what is causing your overwhelm is where you need to start.

Going back to our coat hanger analogy, it can sometimes look or feel like certain issues or tasks take up more than just one coat hanger. Some things can feel much more significant than others, meaning they leave less space for you to cope with other things. Pain, for example, especially when it’s constant, can be very pervasive. It can feel like it’s taking up several coat hangers at once, leaving only one or two coat hangers available for actual tasks to “hung on” – this is part of why we feel like we have such a short fuse when we’re unwell or in pain.
Taking up lots of hangers

How To Deal with Overwhelm

Now you have identified what is causing your overwhelm, let’s look at what you can do to help reduce the load.

Set Boundaries

Are you taking on too much with work? When you really need to be saying no, do you say yes to everything? Are you staying back late to finish everything off? It’s time to stop and put boundaries in place that allow your work to be done during your work hours and not for hours beyond that. Are you really the only one that can take on ALL the extra work, or can you say, “no, I can’t do that right now”?

Taking on more and more work and not getting adequate downtime will leave you, you guessed it, overwhelmed and essentially unproductive, likely causing you even more overwhelm!

Are You a Perfectionist?

Do you find yourself stressing over things and constantly thinking, “this could be better” or “I could do better”? The problem with this thinking is that you spend so much time analysing and stressing over that one task, that you fall behind in all the other things you still need to do, which causes your overwhelm to grow when things start piling up.

Sometimes you need to step away and say, “this is good enough.”.

 

Have You Tried Delegating?

If you’re a perfectionist, it can be hard to hand over tasks for someone else to complete; however, in doing so, you will free up time for yourself, and you can concentrate on what you specifically need to be doing. Whether than be a project at work that you can delegate tasks out to other team members, a part of your business that you can outsource to outside support, or asking family members to bring a dish at the Christmas or birthday celebration instead of taking on all the cooking yourself.

Imagine how much time you could get back and how much calmer your mind could be if you let a few things go.

Busy brain and time

Are You Catastrophising?

Do you think the worst when things don’t quite go to plan? “If I don’t cover all the tasks myself in this project, it won’t be done right and will fail.”, “Aunty Sue forgot the salad last time, and it completely ruined the day, I can’t let that happen again.”, “If I don’t say yes to all the jobs, they will think I’m not good at my job.”.

Take a deep breath! Will the project really fail if someone else helps out, was the family function indeed ruined, and are you sure they will think you’re not good at your job, or are these all assumptions in your head?

Simply becoming aware of these thoughts can help you let go of them. When they happen, take a minute to take a step back from the situation, catch your breath and then look at it again. Even have a chat with someone else about it for a rational and logical perspective.

Break Down the Tasks

Another element of this clever coat hanger analogy is how we deal with big projects. Chunking them down. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time – and that’s how we get projects completed, especially large ones. When we prioritise tasks, using the 80/20 rule (when 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort) to order them, we get the biggest “bang”, or results, for our “buck” of given energy and focus, and then just choosing one or two things to focus on.

But the first step is to “chunk” or break the project into bite-sized tasks. If we don’t break them down small enough, the tasks end up “hanging” on more than one coat hanger, leading us back to that feeling of overwhelm. Have you ever tried to tackle a step in a project and not known where or how to begin?
Sometimes the first step is not to take the measurements of the wardrobe you want to rebuild the inside of. It’s going to buy the tape measure so that you can take them.

Are You Looking After Your Mind and Body?

Are you taking YOU time? As the saying goes, our body is a temple, and we must treat it accordingly. If you’re going to treat it like a garbage dump, that’s how you’re going to feel, so it’s time to practice some self care!

• Take time each day to move your body, whether that is through exercises, yoga, daily stretches, or even dancing around your kitchen.
• Enjoy some chill-out time – listen to music, meditate, read a book, relax in the bath.
• Practice gratitude – the simple act of taking time to look at what in your life you are grateful for can do wondrous things to calm a racing mind.
• Good posture is important! We have spoken previously about how good and bad posture positively and negatively impacts the body. We must practice good posture to help increase our energy levels and positive feelings.

Blossoming Me can help you with this, address your pain, and get you well on your way to feeling calmer and pain-free.

Based on Sydney’s North Shore, Osteopath, Alexis and, Remedial Massage Therapist, Sarah are experienced in helping patients on their well-being journey and would love to get you back to feeling yourself once more.

Contact us or book an appointment online by clicking the button below if you’re ready to get started.
Is Nervous Fatigue Affecting You?

Is Nervous Fatigue Affecting You?

In our clinic, we see a lot of patients that have no one specific reason they have tight and sore muscles, joint stiffness and aches, and who are feeling tired and run down. One cause, and something not commonly realised, is nervous fatigue, and we are seeing more of this over the last couple of years. So, let’s talk about what nervous fatigue is, and what can be done to help.

What is Nervous Fatigue?

Nervous fatigue is a type of fatigue caused by excessive emotional stress – think studying or working for long periods without a break, dealing with overwhelming responsibilities over a significant period of time, living with mental health symptoms, and spending emotional and mental energy on worries, stress, and problems. While it isn’t uncommon to feel tired or even exhausted after a particularly mentally draining day, nervous fatigue isn’t something that a good night’s sleep can fix, and can have some rather intense effects.

Elements of Nervous Fatigue

According to Dr Claire Weekes, there are four elements to Nervous Fatigue – Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spirit. Some people find that they are affected in just the one way, while others are affected in more than one way, and sometimes by all four.

Physical

Muscles rest in a state known as “tone”, a balance between relaxation and contraction. When muscles are held in a tense state, for long periods of time, this delicate balance of “tone” is upset. And this creates a build-up of the chemicals of fatigue, which leads to the aching muscles. Often a sense of muscle weakness follows as well.

Dr Weekes explains that although these bodily reactions are temporary and ultimately unimportant, a sufferer, who doesn’t understand what is going on, can become intensely fearful of these attacks. And this fear of the body’s reaction, becomes larger than the original fear of the situation, thing etc. This “anxiety state”, when the sufferer is afraid of the effects of fatigue, allows this fear to affect their life. At this point, Dr Weekes says, the Nervous Fatigue has become an illness.

Emotional

When nerves are subjected to stress for a long time, especially with strong emotions, like fear, they effectively become trained. As I’ve spoken about before, the more this neural pathway is fired or used, or higher the intensity of emotion, the bigger and stronger the pathway becomes. Therefore, it fires faster and more intensely, with even the slightest of provocations. Dr Weekes, refers to this as “Sensitisation”.

Journey to healing and recovery
All emotions can be intensified: fear, anger, sadness, guilt, as well as love and joy. What a roller coaster! All these exaggerated feelings are tiring for the sufferer. To a point, the body can adapt to the stress of the emotional ups and downs, as long as the adrenal glands can keep up supplying the adrenaline and other essential hormones. When they become depleted, it can lead to adrenal or hormonal depletion and complete exhaustion.

Mental

Most of us can flit lightly between our thoughts. From idea to idea, subject to subject. With mental fatigue, this simple act is not so easy. Their thoughts either come haltingly and slowly, feeling like each individual thought must be specifically selected, making thinking feel like a huge effort. Or they stick together, so that if they begin to think about a certain thing, it tends to feel very difficult to let it go – particularly if it has a strong emotion attached to it, like fear.

“When sensitisation and mental fatigue come together, throwing off frightening thoughts can seem impossible.”

Spirit

Especially if the unknowing sufferer has been trying to recover by fighting their way out of fatigue, they may lose their sense of purpose, and wonder if the struggle to go on is worth it. They don’t need much, a sliver is enough to begin, but it is hope and courage that they need to pull through.

“We all have this strength, this power within us, and it will work miracles if we trust it to.”

How To Overcome Nervous Fatigue

You can relieve this by releasing these 4 types of fatigue, in the same order they built up. This is something that will take time, as we have previously spoken about before, however it will yield great results.

Facing, is acknowledging that even though external guidance support can help, the cure must come from inside oneself.

Acceptance is allowing the body to loosen as much as possible. Moving into the body’s response and letting it come, rather than fighting it. Like being right in the centre of a hurricane, in the “eye” of the storm, where the storm swirls around but cannot reach them. But first they must go through the storm.

The initial instinct is fearful tension, withdrawal or rigidly pushing and forcing, which produces hormones that make the “Storm” feel even stronger and wilder. Facing and relaxing the body into the symptoms with acceptance, on the other hand, help to dampen and eventually stop them.

self care acupressure points
This “allowing” takes time. To feel and to allow. To be able to trust that it will indeed pass. When it comes, it creates peace of mind and confidence built, not in the absence of symptoms, but the deep knowing, even in their midst, that they will pass.

Dr Weekes describes floating very much like breathwork or a visualisation. Allowing the body to relax and go as loose and limp as possible. Then deeply breathing in and slowly exhaling, whilst imagining gently floating, as if on a cloud. Allowing muscles to loosen and release.

Floating creates a sense of relaxation, but it also encompasses, Facing and Accepting, with grace and gentleness.
Dr Weekes says that “Physical support can help more than just physical pain”. Who knew?

Keep it light and simple – eg going to the gym – don’t go crazy making up for time you haven’t been, like the last 4 months during lockdown. Or as a therapist, light and gentle, through to firm, but don’t go hell for leather.

Personal connection is vitally important. What a surprise, she says! Whilst sufferers can overload and get tired very quickly, leaving them to their own devices to relax etc for hours or days at a time, is actually unsupportive. That whilst they may only have the energy reserves to do some activity, some activity is actually essential. Both from the point of view that leaving them to their own devices leaves far too much time for them to fall into negative, energy draining trains of thought, where they can expect the worst, beat themselves up, and generally lose energy.

And because doing things, an exercise or activity of choice, leads to having more energy, do what you can, within your limits, for yourself. In this way, building your own confidence that you can Face the fear. Let it pass.

“One finds strength quicker when active than when lying on the couch waiting for it to come”

 

Utilise our subconscious mind, in the form of simple routines and habits. Again, less is more. Rather than trying to stay relaxed all day, choose a set time, just once a day, to relax or meditate or whatever calming activity you like to do, then let it go for the rest of the day. Don’t worry about it, don’t even think about it. Slowly this will create a habit of success – what a surprise!

Even a short daily routine, like cleaning your teeth, can work. This simple action can give you something to do, something for the mind to focus on. Particularly if you use a manual toothbrush rather than an electric one that buzzes and vibrates in your head. This can help “calm the whirlwind within.”

Journey to healing and recovery
Emotional and hormonal exhaustion aren’t helped much by rest. Only by reducing stress. This is where we must “Face” our fears. Gently and with acceptance, not defensively.

We can gently change our mood. With acceptance, with time, and by moving through them gently, “floating” and allowing. I recall Louise Hay, motivational speaker and author, used to say that if you sit with an emotion and just allow it to pass through you, it usually only takes 10 minutes. Whilst for fatigue sufferers that may seem like a life time, simply allowing, rather than fighting them, will allow energy reserves to be maintained and the emotional energy to be released, rather than held and stored in the body.

Supporting the Spirit through the process; this is the part that sufferers really need help with, as a completely exhausted spirit has no inner source of joy to lift them from inside.

  • Help molehills not turn into mountains. Don’t trivialise their issues, but help them move past them, to other ideas to focus on.
  • Help them to float rather than fight through their journey.
  • Celebrate small wins and encourage flashes of normality, as glimmers of hope to which they can cling to.

“Each of us has unsuspected power to accomplish what we demand of ourselves, if we care to search for it.” – Dr Claire Weekes

If this sounds like you, and you’re needing a little extra help with how to gain relief from your fatigue, osteopathy and massage can assist in getting you back to your usual self.

Feel free to get in touch with Sarah, who provides amazing remedial and therapeutic massage services, for some further advice and guidance, or click the button below to make an appointment.

Notice, nurture, nourish: Simple tips for a healthier mind and body – Part 1

Notice, nurture, nourish: Simple tips for a healthier mind and body – Part 1

Instagram will have us believe that the path to an excellent life involves green smoothies and yoga poses on the beach. While that may work for some, for most people, building a strong and healthy body and mind involves a much greater investment of time and energy. 

Although this sounds daunting, don’t be put off, because the rewards are huge.

According to Gallup research, people who invest time into building a healthy mind and body are kinder, happier and more forgiving.

They have more energy, find it easier to maintain a positive attitude, learn new and more difficult things, can concentrate longer and are generally better problem solvers. 

And importantly, they deal better with stress, trauma and depression.

In this three-part series, we give you some easy, practical tips on how to feel more refreshed and energised so you can focus on creating your excellent life.

Part 1: Notice

By doing things that we excel in on a regular basis, we can maximise our sense of achievement, satisfaction, confidence and contribution. This can make us feel like contributing even more, further enhancing our productivity.

How to tackle those annoying tasks

We all have those tasks that we need to complete, but don’t particularly enjoy doing. Household chores, work emails, exercise… I could go on!

A practical tip to help you tackle those unavoidable tasks is to notice what time of day you feel most awake, strong and capable.

If you feel best first thing in the morning, great! Get those less inspiring tasks done and out of the way early so that you can enjoy the rest of the day. If it’s later in the day, make sure you set aside time then to get those items ticked off the list.

The next thing to take note of are your priorities. This will help you focus on the important items rather than what’s urgent. This can help you work smarter rather than harder and feel more in control. We can’t manage time, but we can manage our priorities.

You may have seen the idea of prioritising important tasks illustrated with a container being filled with large rocks then topped up with smaller rocks, then pebbles, then sand is added to fill in the tiniest gaps. And just when you thought nothing else could fit, a cup full of water is tipped in, to trickle into all the crevices. The point being, if you begin with the Big Rocks, your highest priorities, you can fit everything else in. But if you start with the pebbles and the sand, you’ll never get to the Big Rocks.

To illustrate this, here is a personal story about my husband and I, and our garden. Our garden had been neglected for a few months and was a complete mess. Feeling overwhelmed, my husband was stressed out and paralysed as he couldn’t see where to start.

To help remedy the situation, we created a list of all the things he could see that needed attending to. To our amazement, once it was all down on paper, he got his head back. His sense of overwhelm started to clear and he could make sense of what he wanted to achieve. We prioritised the list, by looking for just a couple of things that would make the biggest difference and that was enough to get us started.  He was also able to delegate jobs to me and clearly communicate what he wanted done in a way that I could understand.

Breaking tasks up

Another way to trick ourselves into success is to create 20 minute sessions. This allows us to work through larger projects that might look daunting. Once we’ve reached the end of the 20 minutes, we can choose to do another session, but we don’t get stuck there.

Breaking tasks up can be invaluable. Each component of the job, in its smallest possible piece forms a list. Completing these smaller tasks seems doable, almost a no brainer. They can often fit into these 20 minute bites and ticking them off can get addictive.

These 20 minute sessions can be interspersed with breaks to clear your head and re-energise. A few ways you can utilise these spaces include:

  • Meditation or visualisation. You can do this on the train or bus, a walking mediation while you’re walking through the park or by the water. Or just by sitting quietly and focusing on a positive, uplifting statement.
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  • Books, podcasts or music. Reading or listening to something uplifting can be a great way to keep your mind focused and positive. For example, reading about successful people who’ve already crossed those tricky minefields ahead of us can help us gain ideas, perspective and confidence.
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  • Incorporating daily movement. Going for a walk or even doing stretches at your desk are quick and easy techniques that allow our unconscious mind time to process, assimilate and file the previous experience and help us mentally put it away, rather than dwell on it.

Einstein said “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” In other words, no one is good at everything, so it’s important not to judge everyone by the same standards.

Let’s start by taking a moment to notice what we’re good at – our own personal strengths. Think for a brief moment about a time when you felt you were operating at your best.

Are you more likely to be:

  • Dealing with big picture challenges, or does getting into the small details light you up?
  • Energised by starting a new project, or by doing and completing an existing one?
  • Focusing mainly on tasks, or do you come alive when you are dealing with people?
  • Buzzed by doing the researching, analysing or refining of concepts or when you are sharing, presenting or selling these concepts?

Now that you are aware of some of your strengths, notice where and how you already use them, whether you’re at home, at work, in your local community or engrossed in a hobby?

How might you be able to utilise them even more?

When do you notice that you’re operating at your best? Let us know in the comments below.