I think we all go through moments when the world crashes down on our heads. In fact, it happened to me yesterday. Being busy and taking on simultaneous challenges, both work and personal, can stretch our bandwidth to the breaking point.
Many of you who already know me, know that I’ve always placed a high value on wellbeing, and recently I’ve taken a special focus on mental wellbeing. I’ve been meditating and practicing mindfulness, trying to be present in the moment and accept my emotions (as well as others) for what they are, and I try really hard not to assign any judgment to them. But inevitably, some days (dare I say some times in our lives) will be harder than others, and we will ultimately feel overwhelmed.
While I’m far from perfect, here are some tips that have helped me cope when I feel the world crashing down around me.
1. Walk away from the problem
Your blood pressure is rising. Your breathing is getting faster. Try to take a break. Have a sleep. Take a walk. Distract yourself. You will still need to ultimately solve the problem, but sometimes distance helps. Whether it’s for an hour or 24 hours.
2. Talk about the problem
Sharing the problem with someone is a problem halved. I use my “imaginary” board—don’t worry, they’re real people. I determine which “board” member I go to depending on the specific problem I’m facing. These “experts” typically have far better ideas than me. Why is that? Because they aren’t emotionally invested they way I am. They can see things a lot more clearer than I can at that moment in time.
Create your own board. It could be your partner, your mum or a colleague.
3. Think about the quick win
Try breaking down the problem into smaller steps. Determine the immediate steps you need to take to reduce your stress. And just do them. You may instantly feel better, and you may be able to address the overarching problem with a clearer, more level head.
4. Take out the emotion
This is hard because, let’s face it, we’re emotional beings. And we are all guilty of overhyping things—especially things we care about. But the reality is, the world won’t really end. Follow Step 1 and just put things into perspective. It's usually not as bad as we think it is once we can remove the emotion and look at the issue more logically.
5. Always reflect
When I get stuck on a problem, or usually problems (since I’m feeling overwhelmed), I have learned to take some time to reflect. I’ve learned to stop and think, “If this happens again tomorrow, how would I handle it differently?” It’s this iterative process of accepting that I can always improve, handle things better and therefore affect a better outcome, that has been instrumental in my personal growth and success. It’s not always easy—looking at yourself and knowing there are areas for improvement often isn’t—but having this mindset has been key to my mental wellbeing.
6. Plan or delegate better next time
As much as I do not like to admit it, when I get overwhelmed, it's usually because I am prioritising badly or not delegating properly. While I’ve learned the importance of not trying to hold on to too many tasks, I still find it hard to let go sometimes. It’s important not to take on too much and, ultimately, only you know what your limits are.
7. Whatever happens, remember your health is top priority
We could die tomorrow. I know it sounds a tad dramatic, but think about it... Nothing is more important than your health. And because our physical health is entwined with our mental health, we have to take care of both. No matter what’s going on, keep it in perspective. If life ended tomorrow, all our problems would be gone, but so too would all those things that bring us joy, that help us maintain perspective when we’re feeling overwhelmed, like our friends and our families and the hobbies that keep us balanced.
A simple system I use is a list (for me it's a simple spreadsheet) where every day or two I add any new tasks. I assign a high, medium or low priority ranking to each task.
High means do it now (you will be stressed if you don't).
Medium for me is keep it in view and work on it soon, but do the high items first.
Low means under control and but don’t ignore.
And when the task is completed, I delete it—and I have to admit that’s the best part.
I add categories pertaining to different parts of my life, including my personal and business activities. I try to keep it simple, and if I wake up feeling anxious, it's usually because I have too many tasks on high.
My mission in life is to be organised enough to have a list of predominantly medium and lows, by managing my highs!
What works for you?