Wars, misery and worldwide woe – add these global issues together with your everyday problems and suddenly life can feel a little overwhelming. I’m not a mental health professional, and if you think you can’t cope I strongly advise that you seek help and advice from somebody qualified – but if you’re just feeling a little bit like the walls of the world are closing in on you, then here are some tips that will help you start to feel like you again.
When you can’t see the wood for the trees…
Switch off the news
Doom, gloom and suffering – just what you need when you’re already feeling overwhelmed. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about global affairs, of course you should, nor that you should live in a bubble. However, being constantly sad about things happening at home or overseas that you can’t change won’t help humanity. Moreover, in the age of social media, we’re bombarded with sad stories 24/7 – people share and share and share again, and we can end up fixating: it’s not healthy.
If you’re starting to feel like you can’t cope with one more thing going wrong, then turn off the news. Turn it off for a day, a week, however long you need to start recovering some positivity.
Switch off social media
I just touched on how the news and social media are intrinsically linked – it’s hard to turn off the news completely when you’re bombarded with it the minute you turn on Facebook or Twitter. It’s more than that, though – it’s also people’s various moans and whines, it’s people’s issues and qualms, it can also be people wanting things from you that you don’t have the energy to give.
It doesn’t help when you’re feeling like you can’t cope with one more email or one more thing to have to organise or think about. Just put up a status akin to “be back later” and just turn it off for a while.
In fact, take some time out from your tech entirely
A quick glance at my phone reveals a quite alarming truth: there are currently ten separate ways people can reach me via that one device (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Instagram, Viber, Whatsapp, text message, email and ordinary phone, in case you’re interested) – terrifying, no?
No wonder we feel so overwhelmed – at any minute, one of those little icons could ping with an alert and somebody’s asking for a tiny, if not fleeting, moment of my attention. Hundreds of these a day and if you’re already feeling a bit rubbish, you start to feel drained – fast.
I say text anyone who might need to reach you in an emergency and leave one route, like a landline, open for absolute crises. Then put your phone in aeroplane mode and keep it that way until you feel you can cope again.
Have a safe place
I have several safe places. They’re usually small, enclosed, cosy areas within my own house. Everyone’s different, but most people know what makes them tick. For me, small, softly furnished spaces help me to relax, for some people it’s jogging, for others it’s going for a long drive. Whatever your safe place, find it and make sure you spend some time there when it feels like the world is imposing too much on you.
Cut back on non-essentials
I’m not advocating cutting yourself off from your friends, but sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed can be a result of overcommitting. Do you really need to have that coffee with a stranger right now? Do you have to go to that party?
Go through your commitments for the next month and start crossing off everything that you’ve agreed to attend out of obligation, rather than desire. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes when you don’t feel tied into something you don’t really want to do.
Make a gratitude list
Sometimes, feeling overwhelmed can come from a disproportionate focus on the negatives in life. When I start to feel like the bad things are outweighing the good, I sit down and make a list of things that I’m lucky to have. They don’t have to be big things, sometimes I’m just really grateful for the roof over my head, or the fact that I always have enough to eat. Once you really strip back and look at what you do have, life feels a lot simpler and everything other than the basics starts to feel like a bonus.
It will pass – it always passes. But if you have been feeling overwhelmed for a while and it’s starting to take over your life, then seek help. There’s no shame in fine-tuning your own wellbeing, visiting a counsellor or someone who can help you put coping methods into place that work for you.
Remember, your health and wellbeing comes first, no matter what. If you’re struggling, please do contact a professional or mental health organisation who can help you get back on your feet.