You’re rolling along, and then all of a sudden that familiar feeling returns. There is a knot in your gut, your heart rate jumps, you can’t breathe, and your muscles tighten. You feel like you’ll die. Anxiety sets in. It doesn’t matter what triggers you: thoughts about an upcoming surgery, a job interview, pressure at work, or being around someone with a temper. Your survival feels threatened. You’re in a state of fight, flight, or freeze. You feel frantic and numb. All thinking stops and confusion and indecision descend.
Overwhelm is what happens when we have too many responsibilities to do or too many topics to address and not enough time. It’s easy to lump everything together. Typically, we leap from specifics that need attention to global generalities. We launch into exaggerations and drama. Small things become earth-shattering and nearly impossible to do. We feel like we’re in a pressure cooker.
Stress is feeling there’s too much to do and too much pressure. It manifests as a need to control. Stress defines our culture today. We’re trying to juggle too many things–and sacrificing our health and well-being in the process. All of the feelings of overwhelm are interfering with our ability to truly relish the moment and enjoy our lives.
Regardless if we call it anxiety, overwhelm, or stress, the underlying emotion we are feeling is fear. The price we pay is agitation and a loss of perspective. It’s difficult to enjoy the journey or present moment when entertaining thoughts about all there is to do in the future. We lose efficiency. And because our minds and bodies are racing, we can’t hear what other people are saying and lose personal connection.
The Rx is simple. I offer 7 solutions
- Let This Fear Energy Out of your Body. Fear is the emotion underneath anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. It is a pure sensation in the body. And so shivering, like a body in shock after an auto accident or a dog at the vet, is the most natural and efficient method to quickly release fear physiology. Keep taking full, deep breaths to regulate your breathing and acknowledge what you’re feeling, “I’m just feeling fear. It’s okay.” Rather than holding it in, let the fear energy out by trembling, shuddering, quivering, and shivering.You must move fear energy out of your body by shivering, shaking, trembling, and quivering with vigor. Think of a dog at the vet or a person addressing an audience of 5000. Though it sounds silly, you’ll restore calm and clarity by shivering and reminding yourself, “It’s okay. I just need to move this energy out of my body.”
- Change Your Thinking. At the same time, interrupt those thoughts that convince you that this will never end and replace them with something reassuring. Look at things in specifics, attending to one issue at a time.Support yourself by picking one or two phrases that resonate and say them often, especially when you start getting anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed. Rigorously interrupt your fear-based thoughts and tell yourself:
- Everything is all right.
- This feeling is temporary. This will pass.
- Everything will be all right.
- Think small.
- Stay specific.
- One thing at a time.
- Little steps.
- Little by little.
- One Thing at a Time. From this more present and relaxed space, make a list of issues, topics, and projects needing attention, being concrete and realistic about what each entails. Cut each one into chewable pieces. Order your priorities, develop a detailed plan, and break down the mountain of responsibilities into doable steps. Focus on and do only one thing at a time, shivering when you feel stuck, renegotiating what’s not possible, and delegating as necessary.
- Make a detailed task list. Writing down a list of to-dos is a good way to break a big problem or all you have to do down into smaller, easier tasks. Make a list of what needs to be done and attend to one thing at a time. Remind yourself “One thing at a time.”
- Don’t go it alone. Delegate. Ask family members, friends, or coworkers to help. Be willing to ask for help so you can attend to what you need to do.
- Be gentle with yourself. Interrupt all critical thoughts about what you didn’t do well and what you haven’t attended to. Instead lavish yourself with appreciations and repeatedly remind yourself that you are doing the best you can or you did the best you could at the time.
- Get into the now. When you feel stressed or anxious, do something that gives you a short break and brings you into the now. Close your eyes and focus on taking some deep breaths. Shiver! Throw water on your face. Do some jumping jacks. Walk around the block. Or take a 15-minute nap.
If you practice any one of these strategies, you will notice a shift towards ease. Do several, or do them all, and you will find yourself feeling more content, more calm, and better able to get the upper hand over your life.