I have, and I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that there were plenty of times where I’d let the overwhelm get to me, and when it did, it wasn’t pretty. Often, it was paralyzing.
This also meant that my self care would fall to the wayside. Thriving is next to impossible when you’re struggling to survive.
But I have gotten better at taking care of myself with practice, and after years and years of making mistakes, getting through them, learning, improvising and leveling up my ‘overwhelm-management’ skills, I’ve distilled the good stuff that helps me bounce back more quickly when things get a little too crazy, into this list of seven tiny habits (so you don’t get overwhelmed) that you can follow along to and start putting into practice today.
1. I think of three things I’m thankful for, the moment I wake up. The very first thing I used to do when I opened my eyes in the morning was to think about work. Then, I’d check my email, respond to messages, run through my checklist, and think about everything I wanted to get done that day. All while still lying in bed. This was good for getting an early start, but not so great for keeping my anxiety in check. So I replaced it with this tiny habit that helps me start the day feeling calmer: I think of three things (got more? Go for it!) that I’m grateful for before I do anything else. The emails? I get to them when I’m at my computer.
2. I decide what I’m going to eat before I step out for a meal. Having meals that help me feel energized and nourished, and don’t trigger my overeating tendencies is really important to me, so If I’m heading out to eat, I’ll take the need for willpower (which I know I can’t rely on) out of the equation by deciding what I’m going to order ahead of time (checking out online menus, if they’re available, really helps). I’ll also decide how much of what’s on my plate I’ll eat before I step into the restaurant (doggy bagging half my order sorts this one out easily) .
3. I keep my work space tidy. It all started with a fridge that broke down and left me with a big, soggy mess of expired food. Cleaning it up inspired me to change how I shop for food and tidy up the rest of my home. You don’t need to have a similar meltdown to start tidying up or plan a clean-up operation today (I did promise you tiny), so a great place to start with is your desk (at the office or a part of your home where you spend a lot of time in). Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing is my go-to bible for getting this done.
4. I add purposeful movement to my day. Moving with purpose, be it a CrossFit class, a 15-minute yoga practice or a long walk, disrupts my train of negative thoughts and helps me feel better prepared mentally and physically for whatever life throws my way. Not a fan of the gym? Just move more throughout the day: Take the stairs, cycle to the grocery store or turn your chores into mini workouts by adding rhythm to your movements and upping the intensity.
5. I spend time with someone who cares about me. When I feel like I’m close to breaking point and need a mental and emotional ‘refill’, I reach out to someone I can trust and whom I know has my back. Asking for help isn’t something that comes naturally to me, so this is one habit that I’ve had to nurture over the years.
6. I slow my meals down. This habit has allowed me to develop the ability to feel more confident around food because it takes a huge chunk of overwhelm out of eating by helping me to not overeat. I give myself up to 20 minutes to finish my meal, and as a result, end up eating less than I would if I were in a hurry.
7. I give someone else a helping hand. Nothing gets me out of a negative head space more quickly than focusing my attention on helping someone else. The next time you feel as if you’ve got the world’s weight on your shoulders, try giving a friend whom you know is going through a difficult time, a call and offer him or her a listening ear. You may not have the solutions to each other’s problems (who knows? Maybe you do), but here’s one thing I can guarantee: You’ll both feel less overwhelmed by the time your conversation is over.
Photo credit: Octavio Fossatti