Always Well Within

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6 Signs Overwhelm Is Taking Over and How to Reclaim Your Inner Calm

How to Reclaim Your Inner Calm

I’m delighted to share a guest post today by Liz Smith from the Connected Life.

When I rewind back several years, I was one of many doing the juggle between raising a young family, running a business, dealing with ill health and all that life throws at you. Amidst the daily goings on of life, there were moments when I felt that I was surely going to buckle under the pressure of it all. As a quiet introvert, I never intended to lead a frantic life, yet somewhere between newborn babies and an ambitious brain that just wouldn’t quit, I found myself knee deep in overwhelm.

My story is not unique, in fact I know it’s a sad re-account of countless women and men everywhere, all pushing and striving just to get through the day. When you examine the truth of it, most of us know the current pace of life is not working, yet the idea of slowing down appears more frightening than our frantic attempts to keep up.

Common Signs of Overwhelm

When you live in a constant state of overwhelm, consumed with anxious laden thoughts, there is literally no room for anything else. If you long to experience less overwhelm, firstly let’s take a look at what overwhelm may look like in your life.

  • Poor focus – Do you find it hard to focus on one task at a time or prioritise one task over another?
  • Frequently rushing – Are you rushing through your day? Do you watch the clock and constantly worry about not getting everything done? Do you hold a belief that you must do it all or things will not get done?
  • Dread and disconnection – Do you wake up with a sense of dread some mornings or a lack of enthusiasm as you move through you day?
  • You can’t say no – Do you find it hard to say no? Do you agree to tasks and activities that you know you don’t have time for? Are you worried about letting others down?
  • Tears and tantrums – Are you emotional often? Are feelings of helplessness, stress, confusion and frustration familiar to you? If someone were to ask “are you okay?” do you feel like you might break down and cry?
  • Indecision and inaction – Do you find it hard to make decisions and procrastinate on taking action?

If you find yourself reading along and nodding in acknowledgement of these signs of overwhelm, I understand. This was me a few years ago, trapped in a mind that didn’t know how to slow down and a body that was willing to be dragged along for the ride.

The problem is, deep down I knew my state of overwhelm was a choice. In my heart I wanted a life of deep, soothing, serene calm. I craved the bush hills of my youth, the dirt beneath my feet and the stillness in which to revel in it. It was this inner calm that my heart has been calling me towards, countless times throughout my life. It turns out I just needed to teach my mind and body how to get there.

Reclaim Your Inner Calm

While there is no silver bullet method to creating a life of calm, there are several things you can do to support yourself to reclaim peaceful moments. With regular practice, all of these techniques will assist you to grow in awareness around your triggers for overwhelm. When you know what overwhelm looks and feels like in your life, you can begin to make choices in support of a calmer life with more ease.

  • Understand your individual needs – Are you an introvert who craves regular bouts of solitude or do you need the company of others to feel energized and enthused? When you know the answer to this, you can make choices that honour your need for quiet space or personal interaction.
  • Set healthy boundaries – When instinct tells you to say “no thank you” to a request or invitation, trust it. Establishing healthy boundaries that honour your need for downtime, is crucial to your wellbeing.
  • Maintain rituals and routines – If you know that soaking in the tub for 20 minutes benefits your sanity, don’t give this up for a task you think you “should” do instead. Whether it’s walking, meditation, knitting class or yoga, if you love it, consider it an essential practice that connects you with your inner calm.
  • Start with hard tasks – At the beginning of each new day, tackle the “harder” tasks first. Don’t expend mental energy putting off a seemingly difficult task, only to feel bad about not getting it done by the end of the day.
  • Delegate tasks – While it may be true that others won’t fold the sheets as well as you, nor wipe every crumb clean from the bench, the real question you need to ask yourself is “what really matters here? I’d vote for your sanity and peace of mind and get comfortable delegating daily tasks.
  • Pour on the self-love – It may come as no surprise that your inner critic goes into overdrive when you are experiencing overwhelm. This is the time to be mindful of your internal chatter. Try pouring on the self-love with encouraging words that affirm you are doing the best that you can do.
  • Have a touchstone – I have a client who keeps a touchstone in her pocket. As overwhelm shifts to anxiety and panic, she reaches for her touchstone and brings her attention to its smooth surface. It provides a sensory anchor that directs her attention and thoughts away from the internal sensations of overwhelm. You might like to try this by saying a mantra, inhaling the scent of essential oil on a handkerchief or by gazing at serene photo.
  • Stop and notice – Acknowledge feelings of overwhelm when you first become aware of them. Be curious about its presence. Remind yourself that while the feelings and sensations of overwhelm in your body are real, the thoughts that create them are not. Most often the outcomes we fear will happen, rarely do.
  • Change one thing – As soon as you notice the familiar sensations of overwhelm in your body, slow down with the intention of putting some space between you and the sensations you are experiencing. Commit to changing one thing (the pace of your breath, a worrisome thought, edit your schedule) and see if this change dials down your experience of overwhelm.

The real possibility of more peace in my life, came when I made the decision to intentionally seek out calm whenever I noticed my overwhelmed state. While life continues to surprise me with its challenges, I am committed to recognising opportunities to create calm in the midst of a messy and meaningful life and you can too.

Through the process of awareness, curiosity, inquiry and self-care, it is possible to grow through your overwhelm and live in awareness of its triggers, as well as the touchstones that can bring you back to a calmer state.

If overwhelm has been a regular visitor in your life, I’d love to hear in the comments, some of the ways that you call upon your inner calm.

Bio ImageLiz Smith is a certified Life Coach, writer and advocate of a slow and intentional life.

She writes about simplifying your life, deepening your connection with self and honouring your desires to create a life in harmony with who you are.

You can find Liz coaching and writing over at The Connected Life.

-o-

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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21 Comments

  1. Oh boy do I recognize this: “Do you hold a belief that you must do it all or things will not get done?”

    I constantly remind myself that it’s my beliefs that create stress, especially this one! And the ‘stop and notice’ technique works really well for me, because it makes it easy to recognize the early warning symptoms.

    Really appreciate these wonderful ideas Sandra and Liz. 🙂

    • Hi Elle,

      You’re welcome and thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are not alone in having that stressful thought on repeat, this one used to get me all tied up in knots as well. Thankfully like you, I find solace in stopping and noticing and playing an equally repetitive loop that reminds me my thoughts aren’t true.

      I’m so happy to know you are so on to this Elle!

    • Elle, That one just came up for me in such a big way last night! I’m so glad for this reminder from, Liz. You have a good system and I’m glad you’re able to notice early on because the overwhelm gets too big.

  2. Thanks Liz for the tough reminder that we have a choice in all this. Sometimes a difficult choice, but a choice nonetheless. I also really resonated with the importance of understanding what our own needs are before we can fulfil them. It’s no good looking for cookie cutter advice – we need to explore what’s important to us before we can, as you say, pour on the self-love and meet them.

    I definitely bounce around overwhelm as I rush from one task to the next, I think this week I’m going to work on my healthy boundaries and say no to a few more things…

    Wishing you a calm week 🙂

    • Ellen I agree, cookie cutter advice can leave you wondering “why doesn’t this work for me?” and add an additional layer of stress. There really is no one right way and discovering your own personal needs is crucial to meeting them successfully.

      Yes to healthy boundaries, wishing you well as you honouring your needs this week 🙂

    • Ellen, I complete understand. Some of us seem programmed to live on overwhelm, at least I know I am. And it can be tough to make the hard choices at times that might mean doing less and not going at the speed we’re used to. I wish you the very best this week working on your healthy boundaries.

  3. Hi Liz and Sandra,

    Thank you for these tips to bring your life more into balance when you are feeling overwhelmed. “Acknowledge feelings of overwhelm when you first become aware of them.” is a great reminder to pay attention before things begin to pile up. We can make a life choice on how we deal with our challenges. The ideas that you suggest are helpful ways to lower your stress and anxiety level.

    • Hello Cathy!

      That is the crux of it isn’t it, the ability to make a choice right now about how we deal with overwhelm.

      When I first realised the truth about my experience of overwhelm, I went into delete mode and started editing out everything that I felt contributed to it. Nowadays it is often enough just to sit with uncomfortable feelings and notice that overwhelm is a temporary state. There is such freedom in that.

      Thank you for being here!

    • Hi Cathy,
      I’m a big believer in having an early warning system. I’m so glad Liz highlights that as well. I know you really understand it’s about the choices we make in each moment.

  4. As a classic Type A- and overachiever, I so get this article! I used to live in chronic overwhelm. Not until I was diagnosed with a life threatening illness did I learn that it was okay to press pause, take a time-out, regroup and find my center again. These days I teach other overachievers to do the same 🙂

    • I hear you from the Type A camp! Sometimes life has to bowl you over with the truth Peggy.

      I’m sorry to hear of your experience with a life threatening illness, though happy to know you are back where you need to be and helping your clients to do the same 🙂

      Despite our overachiever tendencies, it is so comforting to know we have a choice in this.

      Much love to you!

    • Dear Peggy,
      I’m so inspired that you’ve made such a huge shift in your life. I know your story will inspire others to see what’s possible for them too.

  5. I swear all the reminders I’ve needed today are landing in my lap! Thanks Sandra!

  6. I love that the universe is conspiring to ensure you to receive these messages Melissa 🙂

    Best wishes to you!

  7. Great post! I’m the type that shuts down when I feel overwhelmed, especially when decisions must be made. I spend way too much time in my head mulling things over to death. I’m trying to work through that by committing to taking action.

    I’m also learning how to say no and am discovering that there are awesome ways to do that without wrecking a relationship.

    I definitely have the need to spend time alone, which literally NEVER happens because little kids are all over me haha. It’s funny. I’ll be sitting on a chair meant for one person and my husband will be sitting on the big empty sofa and where do my kids sit? On me. 3 of them. It’s fun though and I know it’ll pass but that alone time is definitely my biggest struggle.

    • I completely understand where you are coming from Joelle!

      I’m happy you’ve discovered that committing to taking action, is the best way to quieten an overthinking mind. It’s easy to remain stuck in indecision when you feel overwhelmed, it’s wonderful that you recognise these moments for what they are.

      Time alone is so challenging to prioritise with little babies. I found it helpful to readjust my alone time requirements to shorter but more frequent stints. Sometimes this meant 60 seconds perched on the end of my bed in silence, whilst my youngest was safely strapped in his highchair. You certainly do have to get creative 🙂

      It sounds like you have found some loving ways to communicate your needs Joelle, that’s so important!

  8. Hi, This one is very timely for me, sometimes overwhelm is really taking over, just stop and be aware, it will make a lot of difference. Thanks so much for sharing a beautiful post.

  9. Great post Liz!
    I’ve probably check off all the common signs in the past. The biggest one was my inability to say no. I like helping people and worried about letting them down as you said.
    Establishing healthy boundaries was painful but necessary for me and my family. Doing the hard things first was also a big one for me. In some cases I tend to procrastinate the difficult decisions.
    Love the list…tough, tough reminders of things we need to follow.

    • Hi Kelvin,

      Thank you for sharing from your own personal experience of overwhelm. It can be hard to escape can’t it!

      Establishing healthy boundaries becomes easier when you know what you value. I’m happy to know you have been able to find workable boundaries for you and your family.

      Not everything on the list will work for everybody, though I do hope it highlights a few of the available options to keep overwhelm in check 🙂

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