14 Reminders for When You Are Overwhelmed

Part of the Food for Thought series:

I wrote this to myself a week or two ago during some sleepless, technically-over-my-head filled nights. I frantically was searching for it yesterday to type up, and I started to criticize myself for not having my documents in better order and the need to get a better, more centralized writing system. I had written it in the back of my notebook, which goes everywhere with me, in order to have it at all times. So my knee-jerk reaction of frantic searching and negative self-talk was for naught. And it was all for a list that I had written to transcend these sort of responses! I’m still trying to trust myself. It’s hard to do when you are afraid or overwhelmed. You just live with it, live in spite of the fear, and find small victories to help you establish newer, healthier habits.

When You Are Overwhelmed:

1. You are forgetting to breathe. Deeply.

2. You are not alone. You don’t need to do everything by yourself, including healing.

3. Surrender to whatever your brain is resisting. (In my case, sleep). Your emotions and psyche will thank you, as you should thank them. Surrender the idea of control.

- Read this self-love hack by Stefani from Paleo for Women to figure out how to start surrendering. Remind yourself often!

4. Think of how far you have come. Celebrate your achievements.

5. Forgive. It isn’t about saying what someone did to you is acceptable or ok, but not letting the issue get in the way of your life and your happiness. Most importantly, forgive yourself.

6. Remember your sense of self-worth. Remember that there is nothing wrong with who you are, as you are right now, and you deserve to be healthy, happy, and loved. 

7. Trust. Trust your instincts; trust your body. Trust yourself. You know what is right, you know the answer, you know how to heal. You just have to stop thinking so much in order to connect and figure out what that is.

8. Forgiveness. Self-worth. Trust. Remind yourself again of all the good things.

- I love this quote from 10 Daily Reminders at Marc and Angel Hack Life: “Stop discrediting yourself for everything you aren’t, and start giving yourself credit for everything that you are.”

9. Are you still breathing? Deeply?

10. It is perfectly ok to feel whatever you are feeling in this moment: sad, angry, frustrated, impatient, lonely. Experience it, but choose how you react carefully. Don’t do it in a way that promotes self-harm or lash out at other people. Open up. Share. Release your burden and grief, which is only compounded by silence.

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This was the original list, but I’ve added a few more after this weekend.

11. Take a break. Yes you have a ton of work to do. Yes the to-do list is piling up and getting larger by the minute. Yes there are so many resources to go through, so many things to learn, and so many people to stay in touch with. None of that is going to change if you give yourself a little time to recover, whether it be in exercise, meditation, spending time with friends in person and not at the computer, or SLEEP. Experience the life that inspires you. You will find that the break did you wonders, renewing your energy and drive and perhaps shifting your perspective in a more productive way.

12. Look for something to inspire you. I was at Primal Toad’s website because of a huge giveaway*, but seeing his new goal of walking across every state in America inspired me to add something new to my Celebrate Life list: go to countries where dance is an expression of the every-day joy of life, such as Uganda, Nepal, and Senegal, learn from people, dance, and make a video to share somehow. Inspiration, vision, and dreams keep us going when the next step to getting there is a tough one.

13. Take comfort in small routines. Create something physical with your hands, or find a routine that soothes you. I surprised myself when I found that sterilizing jars for pickling was not a time-consuming extra step, but a lesson in meditation. It revealed, for the bajillionth time, that what we anticipate or tell ourselves, or our perspective, is not necessarily the whole truth or the only way to view a problem. If the routine is what’s causing your problems, find a way to escape for a little bit (aka take a break). Go to a place where it is just you and your surroundings, and you can take a little time to reflect and adjust your perspective. It’s hardly ever as bad as we think.

14. Eat a sweet potato. Ok, well, what I mean is make sure you are nourished. Prioritize sleep. Eat whole, toxin-free foods and be wary of stimulants like sugar, caffeine, and other foods you may have an unhealthy relationship with. Drink water before doing almost anything else. Are you still breathing? Deeply?

I channel my stress into cooking. Yesterday I pickled, made herbed chicken meatballs (the ultimate in “wholesome” for me, especially with the superfood liver mixed in), worked on an ice cream recipe, put many things in a crock pot, and rearranged my entire kitchen cabinetry. I channeled my stress into activity, not eating. Yes I made all those things, but I didn’t eat them all. I made balanced choices. Hooray! (that’s celebrating a good habit right there, see #4). I’ve been a stress eater in the past. When I felt the urge to eat, I considered several factors. Was I hungry? Not really. I saw food in my kitchen and my brain wanted me to eat it. My body was actually ok at the time. I drank water while organizing the kitchen, because I’m normally no longer hungry mid-morning and I recognized I hadn’t been hydrating enough. Then I just had to get out and take a break after my re-organizing, because the smell of Coconut Chicken in my crockpot was teasing me! Sometimes you just have to get away from the food, or put it where your brain won’t see it and bring on a mind-only craving. I’ve found that a little time and distance always brings a better perspective.

That doesn’t mean that you should run away, bury your head in the sand, and stuff your emotions into some dark psychological bolt-hole. The cooking, organizing, and creating, however, was a chance to give myself a break from the work that was stressing me. And the small amount of time and distance left me feeling productive, soothed, and nourished in the process. Reinvigorated, I went back to work and tackled things one step at a time. I mean one, tiny, small, almost insignificant step. The to-dos were broken down into tasks, the tasks broken down into steps, and each step taken with caution, thrill, determination, and a lot of self-love. Please do the same with this list. If you try and do all these things at once, you’ll end up right back where you started: overwhelmed. I swear I spent an entire week just concentrating on breathing in response to a flare in flight-or-fight, panicky stressors. The next week I combined breathing with whatever number I felt I needed the most at that time.

Don’t worry. We all need to be reminded of these things. Worry is just negative energy. Practice positive energy: self-love, gratitude, kindness. Starting first and foremost with yourself.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed? Help us all out and share your thoughts in the comments! Do you know someone who could benefit from reading this? Please pass it on!

* Check out the Toadally Primal site: you can enter the giveaway and win food, t-shirts, cookbooks (including Practical Paleo, which is blowin’ up the cookbook scene with it’s awesome guides and customized meal plans), gift cards, educational seminars and guides, and an ancestral toilet! You get all of this, at once, if you win. If you don’t win, you can still leave Todd’s website totally inspired. Loved this post on 10 benefits to visiting your farmer’s market.