If you’re starting to feel like you’re not coping, it’s time to refocus and make self-care a priority
Sometimes it can feel like you’re performing a precarious balancing act, trying to keep all the plates spinning, and knowing if you neglect one they’ll all come crashing down. This isn’t uncommon in our busy world – life is speeding up and stress is on the rise. People are taking on more at work and working longer hours for less pay; we’re constantly inundated with bad news concerning politics and the state of the world, and we’re bombarded with conflicting information via social media…
…and that’s not on top of the daily stress of raising a family, and finding time for your relationship and social life.
There’s no shame in setting aside some time to look after yourself when you’re overwhelmed, so take stock of your mental state with these 10 warning signs:
1. You’re highly strung and nervous
Being overwhelmed can wear on your emotions, making you feel stretched to your limit. Feeling anxious and unable to calm down or relax can be exhausting and affect your work and home lives negatively, as small problems become panic-inducing in your overwhelmed state.
Give yourself a break, literally. Take regular breaks at work, spend time outdoors or go for a healthy snack. Sometimes moving away for a few minutes can break the tension and rebalance your emotions. Try a few breathing exercises to calm yourself down, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
2. You’re finding it hard to focus
When you’re overwhelmed, you might find your overworked brain becomes rather unhelpful, shutting down in an effort to force you to give it a rest. But feeling distracted and finding your mind wandering can take a toll on work and home.
High-pressured jobs where there are deadlines to meet often require your full attention, and lack of focus can add even more stress, resulting in an exhausting cycle. Lack of focus at home can also be damaging, as it may affect your relationship with your family.
Feeling overwhelmed often means you feel mentally and physically exhausted
Create a plan of action for the weeks or months ahead and write it down, as well as daily lists with tasks you can tick off as you go. Writing out goals and objectives helps clarify what you need to do and by when, giving you a clear path that’s easier to follow. It’ll also help you break large tasks down into smaller, more manageable actions, making it easier to maintain focus. A great way to do this is by starting a bullet journal.
3. You’re procrastinating
If your motivation has gone out the window and you find yourself endlessly procrastinating, things can start to pile up, further adding to the stress. Sometimes the sheer number of things on your to-do list can overwhelm you to the point where you don’t even know where to start… so you don’t.
Remember, you are only one person and there’s only so much you can do. Prioritise what you think are the most important items on your list and tackle them one at a time. Finish one task completely before moving on, as having too many unfinished projects can feel intimidating. Try not to look too far ahead, just maintain a steady, manageable pace, and don’t be afraid to ask for help where you need it.
4. You’re sleeping too little or too much
When you’re overwhelmed, your sleeping habits may change. No matter how tired you are, you might find it difficult to fall asleep, and struggle with restlessness. Conversely, you might find yourself sleeping too much and find it difficult to drag yourself out of bed in the mornings. Either way, you’re bound to feel the negative effects on your daily life and mental health.
Giving your diet an overhaul can do wonders for your sleep. Eat healthy foods that give you energy, such as veggies, fruits and healthy fats, and avoid too much sugar and caffeine. Exercise during the day can help to tire you out physically, while giving you a break from mental exhaustion.
Soothing drinks like chamomile tea might be helpful, as well as meditating before bed to encourage a calm state for a deep, replenishing sleep. If you’re still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, speak to your doctor to rule out possible medical causes.
5. You feel emotionally numb
Feeling an absence of emotions can be distressing, and can make you feel as if you’re sleepwalking through life, detached from yourself and the world around you. Although this could be your body’s way of protecting you from the constant stress that’s been overwhelming you, feeling nothing can actually be more worrying than experiencing stress.
Try to reduce your stress levels by eating healthily, exercising and sleeping well. It’s also important to reach out to people you’re close to and/or a professional to discuss the way you’re feeling. This could help you identify what’s triggering this state, and give you helpful tools for lifestyle changes to rebalance your emotions.
6. Your social life is dwindling
Feeling overwhelmed often means you feel mentally and physically exhausted, and can’t quite gather the enthusiasm to spend time with others. You may become withdrawn, as spending time around other people can feel like an effort instead of a pleasure.
Ditch the FOMO. There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself and relaxing with a book or snuggling up to watch a movie. However, try not to shut out the people who are close to you – don’t let go of friendships, but explain to your friends that you’re feeling overwhelmed and taking time to recuperate. They’ll most likely understand, and check in with you now and again to offer support.
7. You’re more sensitive than usual
Being irritable and lashing out or finding yourself becoming tearful over things that wouldn’t normally upset you can be unnerving and confusing, for you and those around you.
Make a point of taking time to rest and recharge, and pay close attention to your feelings. If you’re concerned with your emotional state, reach out to a professional. You should also speak to your friends and family, and let them know how you feel; ask for help and support.
Ditch the FOMO. There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself and relaxing with a book or snuggling up to watch a movie…
8. Your appetite has changed
You might find you’re never hungry and eat too little, or that you’re eating a lot more than you used to.
Establish a regular routine, sticking to three healthy meals a day – it helps to plan your meals ahead. Pack some healthy snacks to stop cravings for fatty, salty, sugary foods, which cause spikes and drops in blood sugar and negatively affect your mood. Avoid or limit caffeine, which dampens your appetite, and make sure you’re eating enough to provide the energy you need.
9. You’re forgetful
Being overwhelmed can induce forgetfulness in many ways, such as having too many things on your mind at once, not getting enough sleep, general stress and anxiety, and drinking alcohol. However, it’s worth seeing your doctor if your forgetfulness begins to seriously affect your life, as it could be other causes such as hormone imbalances, certain medications, and improper thyroid function.
Keep yourself mentally active with activities you enjoy, like crosswords, card games or learning something new. It’s also important to organise and stick to routines – keep your work and home areas clean and ordered, and keep your calendars and to-do lists in plain view. Try to limit distractions while you work, such as checking your phone or chatting too much to keep your mind on what you’re doing.
10. You’re suffering from headaches
The stress and troubled sleep that comes with being overwhelmed can often cause headaches – extremely unhelpful when you already have so much to deal with!
As with many of the symptoms on this list, headaches can be helped with proper self-care: eat healthily, exercise and try to regulate your sleep. It’s also important to stay hydrated, so add ‘drink water’ to your to-do list! Meditation and massage can also help, so take some time to calm your muscles and your mind. If your headaches worsen or persist, talk to your doctor.
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