We asked an expert to provide their top tips for managing feelings of overwhelm as we navigate the chaos of January. Here’s what they had to say.
From the pressure to keep up your new year’s resolutions to the stress of returning to work after the Christmas break, January can be a lot to handle. Add to that all the dark evenings and miserable weather – as well as the fact that last month’s payday has to stretch even further – and it’s the perfect recipe for feeling overwhelmed.
One thing’s for sure, we could all benefit from looking after ourselves a little more than usual over the next couple of weeks.
So, to give you the tools you need to protect yourself from feeling frazzled this January, we asked Becky Hall, an accredited life coach, leadership consultant and author of new book The Art Of Enough to share her top tips. From avoiding giving too much to creating habits that sustain you, here’s her advice for caring for yourself this month.
1. Set a sustainable pace
Trying to do everything all at once is bound to be overwhelming, so try to keep up a more sustainable pace as you ease into the new year. That way, you’ll be able to retain a sense of control over everything that’s going on.
“None of us have superpowers, however much we wish we had,” Hall says. “We all know that life has a pattern of constant renewal – we work, we use energy, we need to rest and recuperate – but so often we forget to schedule in this simple fact.
“This month, build time into your diary to do just that: rest, recover, resource yourself. It could be as little as setting aside 10 minutes between meetings or half an hour at the start or end of the day to collect your thoughts or just simply do something that gives you energy.”
She continues: “So many of us don’t take time to recharge because life is always so busy, so be proactive and schedule it in. Create a pace that works for you in the long term.”
2. Avoid giving too much
We all want to help people out where possible, but going too far can leave you feeling burnt out and exhausted. Instead, try to reserve your energy for the things that really matter.
“For most of us, it’s easy to say yes,” Hall says. “It makes us feel good, it gives us a sense of being helpful and it can be deeply satisfying to support others.”
However, Hall adds: “It’s harder to say ‘no’ when we’re already overstretched or over-committed. See if you can notice when you are already at capacity and learn to set boundaries. It will mean that you are more useful to others in the long term.”
3. Remember you have choices
When we’re feeling overwhelmed by everything we have to do, it can often feel like we’re stuck. But reminding yourself that you have choices – and taking steps to reduce the amount of pressure you’re feeling – can help.
“Most people I work with who are feeling really overwhelmed or snowed under have a sense that they have no other choice but to work as hard as they are,” Hall says. “This is a myth that creeps into our belief systems when we’re feeling really under pressure – and it is just that, a myth.
“However small, we always have choices and the first step is remembering this, even if it’s to take a two-minute breather between meetings or have a short walk at lunch time.”
Hall continues: “Remembering that you have some choice over how you live your life can be so liberating, especially when you’re under pressure, because it returns you to a sense of agency.”
4. Try a reframing technique
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, using a reframing technique to shift your thought pattern can make a surprisingly big difference. For example, you could try asking yourself what the situation you’re facing could be teaching you.
“However overwhelming you are finding things, it can be useful to think in terms of ‘what is this giving me the chance to learn?’” Hall says.
“It may be that you are very busy right now, so what could you learn about your capacity, your resilience or your need to make different choices?” she continues. “Again, this returns you to a sense of agency and reminds you that it won’t always be like this.”
5. Identify your support team
If there’s one thing that’ll help to reduce the sense of pressure you’re feeling, it’s the support of friends and family. Identifying those people you can go to for support will help you to feel more uplifted and make things seem more manageable.
“Who is it that has your back?” Hall asks. “Who can you rely on to take some of the pressure away? This could be about delegating if you’re in a work context or about reaching out to someone close to you to chat.
“Often when we’re feeling overwhelmed it can feel really isolating. We tend to focus on tasks not on connection. So reach out – imagine your team rooting for you. They invariably are.”
6. Create habits that sustain you
The things we do every day can make a massive difference to how we think and feel, so taking the time to introduce small, sustainable habits which make you feel good and enrich your life is a good place to start when you want to make a change.
“What we know about behaviour change is that it’s hard, and often it’s better to think about it in terms of small, incremental adjustments, rather than large, wholescale changes,” Hall says.
“When we’re battling overwhelm, the last thing we need is another big project or something that feels too hard. So decide something small that you are going to do, and make time for it every single day.
“Research suggests that it’s better to do something small every day – as the old saying goes, ‘we are what we repeatedly do’, so aim small and consistent. The only rule is that the habit you choose has to sustain you or recharge your batteries – if only for a short time each day.”
The Art Of Enough: 7 Ways To Build A Balanced Life And A Flourishing World by Becky Hall is out now
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