25 February 2018 · posted in self-care
Yesterday I sat in my sofa, appearing calm on the outside but heart-racing-fingers-tingling-overwhelmed on the inside. There were a million thoughts racing through my mind and all of them were worries. Mostly worries about being overworked and other stressful situations in my day job but because of that also worries and doubts about how I'm building my life, what I plan for the future, ... basically a quarter-life-crisis moment. I felt like there was a massive amount of weight pressing on my chest, making it physically hard to breathe.
This massive overwhelming pressure, it's nothing new for me. I've had moments like this throughout my whole life and I think it's a result of living passionately. The highs are really high but the lows are really low too. When I'm feeling overwhelmed it's hard for me to focus and think. It's like a bomb of worries has exploded in my brain and pieces are flying in all directions uncontrollably, resulting in chaos everywhere. When I feel like that even the most basic questions like "what are we having for dinner?" are too much. At that moment I don't know anything anymore and I feel like I never will. And even though we all know that feelings are temporary and even the lowest of lows will fade, sometimes we just need some good advice and a strategy to get through it so that's exactly what I have for you today.
Slow down the escape
When I feel really overwhelmed, a lot of the times I just want to step on a plane, leave everything behind and start over. The older I get the worse this feeling of needing-to-escape becomes. I think it's because when you're younger you always have a natural escape plan: growing up. Even though it always seemed too far away when I was younger, it was there and it was something to look forward to.
But now that I'm all grown up there is no more natural escape coming. Everything that happens in my life is a result of the choices I make. That responsibility is sometimes heavy to carry and I end up feeling overwhelmed, stuck, lost. However the moment when you're feeling overwhelmed is not the right moment to make big life decisions. Rash, impulsive decisions when you can't think straight will only lead to feeling more overwhelmed down the road.
Get some air
When I'm so overwhelmed that it feels like it's physically hard to breathe, I like to go outside and get some fresh air. Especially in winter it really helps because the cold air seems to open up your airways and release some of the extra pressure. Untouched nature has this way of giving you perspective as well.
Take a cold shower
If you can't get outside or it's too hot outside to feel like fresh air, taking a cold shower/bath is a good alternative. A few times when I was feeling overwhelmed, I tried calming myself by taking a hot bath (because bath are supposed to be calming)but the pressure on my chest and the feeling of not being able to breathe only became worse so cold is definitely the way to go.
Drink some tea
Opposite to a hot bath, drinking a hot cup of tea really helps me when I'm feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. While I'm focusing on the drink, checking if it's not too hot, feeling it warm my body from the inside out every time I take a sip, ... I forget everything else just for a little bit. I prefer tea in mugs when I need to calm myself down for the simple reason that they take longer to finish, giving me those extra five minutes of complete focus on how my body feels ingesting the tea.
Take a step back
While you are taking your walk or drinking your tea, try and take some distance from your emotions. Close your eyes and try to look at your life and your feelings as if you were an outsider. Notice that your thoughts are racing, observe how it makes you feel but instead of being swallowed up by that tornado of worries, just acknowledge that it's there. It might be hard at first, but this outside perspective is something really powerful, as if suddenly you are no longer affected by your emotions. After a few minutes you'll realize that you are no longer feeling that pressure and are able to breathe more freely.
If you have found and read this post because you are feeling overwhelmed right now, I'm sorry that you are feeling like that. I am not here to tell you that everything will be okay, because you and I both know that even though that might be true, it doesn't make it easier to breathe now. However I hope that some of my strategies do.