I hear this word quite a bit. I hear it in my own head and from the mouths of friends and clients.
How many of us feel overwhelmed at home but manage to go out into the world, to work, or to the school gates and smile when someone, walking past, brightly asks how you are.
“Fine, thanks!” Even though the truth is nowhere near fine. But we’ve managed to get dressed and get out the door – so how bad can it be?
Why do we do that? Well, for a start, the person asking you how you are as they walk past you is being polite, but they’re not really asking how you are. And so that’s what we say. That’s what’s expected. Perhaps though, you’re desperate for someone to follow that, “How are you?” by stopping, looking you in the eye, and asking “Are you sure?” so you can say actually… no!
Overwhelm can creep up on you. It can be transient – it be can caused by not sleeping properly because you or your child has been ill or because you’ve got a deadline with more work to do than time to do it. It can also be chronic: you’re looking after your family which may include children as well as your parents; you have relationship problems and you’re spread so thin that your health is far from the top of your priority list.
In my experience, managing that feeling of being overwhelmed starts with recognising it. If your sleep is disturbed by stress or your heart is pounding and you feel anxious, try the following:
What you feed yourself is essential to how you cope with the amount that’s expected of you. I see women who take such pride in feeding their kids well – then put the kids to bed and curl up with a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta.
Eating well, for balance, for health, for pleasure, sounds like such a simple premise, it should be easy to achieve, right? Well, it is absolutely achievable and always worth the effort but no, not necessarily easy when the water is at your head.
But you need to be nourished as well and a nutritional therapist can help. I can support how you shop, what you buy and what you cook so that eating well becomes second nature and you become practised at getting nutritious meals into yourself as well as anyone else you look after, without having to think too hard about it.
Find half an hour or find 10 minutes.
Half an hour? Run a bath in the evening, put in a few handfuls of Epsom Salts. The salts are a source of magnesium which can aid sleep. Laugh. Laughter is such a balm for the soul (what else does laughter do?). Find a TV show you love and just curl up and enjoy it. And breathe.
Breathe. I’m talking about meditation. I know! It’s such a buzzword and WHO HAS THE TIME? But, it can just be 5 or ten minutes. Even five minutes of deep, slow breathing (try slowly breathing in so that your diaphragm rises, for a count of 4, hold that breath for a count of 6 and slowly, slowly release for 8. This takes a few attempts to get right but do persevere. This can help your body manage stress and anxiety. There are so many other accessible ways of doing this too. Try the Calm or Headspace app. I’m a person whose head is NEVER still and I find slow breathing really helpful, especially if I happen to be awake at 3am. Meditation is a huge subject and deserves a blog of its own – it can be so hard to master (and full disclosure: I’m the worst at implementing it in my own life) but it’s worth a try and it does take practice.
And you know what, when a friend walks past you and asks how you are, maybe put your arm out to stop them and say, ‘Actually, it would be great to talk, have you got time for a coffee?” Connecting with and being heard by someone who cares about you is nourishing too.