I’ve spoken to so many of you recently, particularly on Instagram, who have said you’re feeling overwhelmed and it’s taking its toll on your mental health. It’s not surprising – this year has been somethin’ else… In this quick podcast episode, I’m going to go through five calming techniques that can help those dealing with overwhelm.
1. Take a dump (a brain dump)
When I’m feeling overwhelmed or my mental health is strugling, my brain often feels like headphones that have been in a coat pocket for too long. It needs to be gently untangled to be useful again! I find that dealing with overwhelm is a lot easier once I’ve written everything down on paper. Brain dumping is ideal for this and so here’s a guide on ‘how to’ brain dump and the benefits of it.
2. What can you control?
Once you’ve brain dumped, it’s important to look at your worries and tasks objectively. What can you control in this situation? If you have things running around in your head that you can’t control, then let them go. This is so, so important for your mental health. We have so much going on this year and most of it is completely out of our control. These are things we don’t need taking up precious space in our minds. I know this can be easier said than done, however!
3. STOPP Method
If you’re struggling to let go of any of the things you can’t control or you just need a quick way to stop overwhelm in its tracks, then the STOPP Technique is ideal. Stop, take a step back, observe the situation (and your thoughts and feelings), find some perspective, and then proceed. Just taking a few minutes to practice this method can really help with overwhelm. I do this when I’m making a cup of tea every day! It’s a CBT method that has been proven to improve your mental health and reduce anxiety, so give it a try.
4. Tend and befriend
When we’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we produce oxytocin; a hormone that encourages us to seek support. So, seeking social support is really important when we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed. If you find your mental health is struggling, reach out and try to talk to someone when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can also help with the untangling in our minds!
5. ARA – Anti-Ruminative Activities
Have you ever found that you ruminate and dwell on things more when you’re sitting in front of the TV? Many of us let our minds wander during the day, it’s perfectly natural, but it can also be difficult when dealing with overwhelm. Not only that, but it can be bad for your mental health! Try finding some anti-ruminative activities where your focus is solely on one task and your mind doesn’t have much space to wander. Some ideas include:
- Read a book
- Play a game
- Tick something off the to-do list
- Dance or do some yoga
- Enjoy some mindful stretching
Dealing with overwhelm isn’t always a one-quick fix and it’s done kind of task. Many of these things you may have to practice and come back to, but that’s okay. Find one or two methods that work for you, then keep at them – even when it feels as though the overwhelm has gone. That way, you’ll be a seasoned pro whenever you feel overwhelmed once again.
A quick reminder: The Anti-Burnout Club Membership is launching on 1st January 2021! If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, this will be the perfect place to unwind. The goal is to improve your mental health and well-being every day, all in one handy little spot. We’ll be offering yoga, Pilates, stretching, meditation, mindfulness, breathwork and so much more. Pop yourself on the waitlist below if you’d like a calmer and more peaceful 2021.
Hello and welcome back to the Anti Burnout Club, I hope you’re all doing OK. I’ve spoken to quite a few of you on Instagram and other social media recently, and I know that so many of you are feeling overwhelmed at the moment, which is completely unsurprising considering the year that we’ve all had so far. So I recently put a poll up on my Instagram to ask, you know, who is feeling overwhelmed? And nearly one hundred people replied and it was one hundred percent yes!
So, I thought that I would do a quick podcast episode today to go through some things that we can do when we’re feeling overwhelmed. And I wanted to make it quick because these are all actionable things. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, you can listen to this quick episode and go and do something; one of the techniques straight off the bat. As with all my episodes, you’ll find a blog post that goes with this that kind of covers the techniques in a bit more detail over on theantiburnoutclub.com. If you go to the podcast section there, you’ll find all the resources and all of the guides to help you do some of these techniques.
OK, so let’s start with number one, which is to take a big old dump. Not like that, a brain dump! So this is one of my favorite things to do. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I often feel like my brain is, you know, when you put your headphones in your pocket and then you pull them out and they’re all tangled. That’s how I feel my brain is when I’m overwhelmed. And a brain dump can really, really help with this because it’s a way of just gently untangling those headphones or your thoughts and your feelings.
And I find that dealing with overwhelm is so much easier once I’ve written things down on paper. So number one is to take brain dump and I have written a whole guide on this too. I did this at the beginning of the week because I did a big old dump. (That will never not be funny.) I did a big brain dump at the weekend as I had just so much going on in my head. There’s so much to do at the moment, I feel. So put it all down on paper in different categories and I explain how to do that in the guide.
But basically just getting it out of your head is so calming and you can kind of have a look and be like, why? What have I got to do? What can be put off, what doesn’t need to be on this list at all? And so I wrote a big guide about it that hopefully will be really helpful for some of you. I spoke to someone on Instagram yesterday who is feeling really overwhelmed. And I was like, oh, I’ve just put this up, go have a look. ,And hopefully that’s been really helpful for her. So number one is to take a brain dump.
And number two follows on quite nicely from that. It’s what can you control? So once you have put everything down on paper, it’s important to look at everything that you’ve got out of your head and onto paper objectively. There are so many things out of our control this year. You know, we don’t have control over who we can see or what we can do for the most part.
And that has been really difficult for many of us. I mean, I’m a complete control freak. I like having control over everything. As anyone that’s ever worked with me or lived with me will tell you, I like control. And so it is hard and it can become really overwhelming when we try to control everything and those things are out of our control. So once you’ve written everything down, even if you don’t follow the whole three steps of the brain dump, even if you just write down everything that’s in your head at the moment, try to have a look at it objectively, which of these things can you control and which of these things are out of your control?
And it really helps because you realise how much you’re holding onto that, actually, you don’t need to hold onto. There’s nothing that you can do to change this situation. And so we have to focus on the things that we can control.
And I know it’s easier said than done to just say, you know, let go of all the things you can’t control and this is one that does take practice. But I do find that writing it all out on paper – and sometimes even having a list – so you’ve got on one side the things you can control and the things that you do need to work on and on the other side. Having the things that you can’t control and just crossing those off, just physically crossing those off, and saying these don’t deserve the space in my mind anymore. These are things that I cannot control and I’m going to get rid of them.
OK, so number three is the STOPP method or the STOPP technique. Those of you who regularly visit the website may have already seen this. I also did an Instagram post on this. The STOPP technique is something that I learned in CBT quite a long time ago now. But it’s something that’s really stuck with me because it’s such a good way of just regaining control of your thoughts and feelings. So, again, I’ve linked to the whole guide of how to do this, but I’ll just briefly run through it now.
So S stands for Stop, which basically means just physically stop what you’re doing, just stop everything, drop everything, then you’re going to move on to T, which is to take a step back. Now, I like to take a physical step back because I feel as though there’s something about taking that physical step that reminds me that this is what I’m doing. I’m doing the stopp method and this is what I need to do next.
O is observe and this is to observe the situation, but also your thoughts and feelings. So how are you feeling? We know we’re feeling overwhelmed. So it’s kind of just observing that and saying, OK, I understand that I’m feeling overwhelmed.
And the first P, because this is s-t-o-p-p is to find some perspective. So once you’ve observed your thoughts and feelings, it’s time to question them and to get some perspective on why we’re feeling like this or what’s going on in our lives that might be making us feel overwhelmed. This isn’t a chance to beat yourself up and go, oh, you know, I’m useless. I’m feeling overwhelmed. I can’t control anything. Or, you know, I just don’t feel great or whatever this is. You’re observing the situation and then you’re understanding the situation. It’s finding some perspective.
And then the final P is proceed. So once you’ve processed your thoughts, carry on making your cup of tea or watching TV or whatever it is you were doing. The second P also stands for practice, so this is one of those techniques that the first, I don’t know, 20 times you do it, you’ll be like, why has Bex told me to do this? This is useless. I just feel like an idiot just stopping and taking a step back from the kettle or everyone’s looking at me weird, but I find if you practice it over and over again, not just when you’re feeling overwhelmed, but actually in times where you’re doing something monotonous, like brushing your teeth or making that cup of tea, when you do start to feel overwhelmed or anxious, this comes in really handy because you’ve already got it in your toolbox.
You know what you’re doing, and you’ll stop. You’ll take a step back, you’ll observe, find some perspective, and then you’ll proceed. And many people call this CBT in a nutshell, because it is a very simple way of practicing mindfulness and being aware of your thoughts and feelings and grounding yourself. And it’s it’s so helpful. Like, it really, really does help, but it does take practice. So give it a go and see how you get on and then keep practicing it until it just becomes second nature.
Technique number four is called tend and bein-builtfriend. So the tend and befriend, response to stress is a really interesting one because it’s actually an in built biological instinct. It’s something that we’ve done forever. And when we’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we produce something called oxytocin. This hormone is sometimes called the cuddle hormone, which I just think is so sweet. But oxytocin is a hormone that basically encourages us to seek social support. And it’s important to listen to that when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
So this is basically a scientific way of saying speak to someone. What’s really interesting, however, is that more women do this than men. So when women are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, there’s a good chance that we will reach out to someone and we’ll talk to someone. And I see this a lot on Instagram. You know, people come and tell me that they’re feeling overwhelmed or they’re burning out and they’re mainly women. Whereas I live with a man who I can see sometimes is burning out or feeling overwhelmed, but he doesn’t reach out in the same way that a female stranger would reach out.
So if you are a guy and you’re listening to this, I’m telling you to talk to someone. It doesn’t matter who it is. It could be a friend. It could be a family member. Just picking up the phone and speaking to someone. I think this is important more than ever this year. Many of us haven’t been able to socialise in ways that we normally would. And when we’re feeling overwhelmed and we’re producing that oxytocin, we need to kind of listen to it and go, OK, I can’t necessarily give someone a cuddle at the moment, but I can reach out and I can give them a virtual cuddle and I can talk to them on the phone or I could go for a walk with them.
Just seeking that social support. This is also really helpful for untangling our minds as well. So it’s kind of like a verbal brain dump. If you have a friend that doesn’t mind you wittering on. I’ve got a couple. I’m sorry, guys, but if you’ve got a friend that is a good listener, then pick up the phone and pop your brain dump on them. But don’t forget to return the favor as well.
OK, and then finally, number five, I call ARA. I call it this because I can’t really say it right. It’s Anti-Ruminative activities. So rumination is basically where our minds kind of wander. And we focus on a lot of negative things. We tend to dwell on things. And this tends to happen – well, for me personally, it tends to happen when I’m not really focused on anything – so I find I do it when I’m emptying the dishwasher, when I’m making a cup of tea, when I’m sitting in front of the TV.
And it’s basically just our minds wandering, which is perfectly natural. It’s perfectly normal, but it can be difficult when we’re dealing with overwhelm because our minds tend to wander in a negative way. You know, we tend to think, oh, I haven’t done that. I really need to do this. I need to put this on my list. Oh, no, I forgot this. And that can be really, really hard to keep on top of.
So we need to find things that we can focus our attention on fully. And your mind doesn’t have too much space to wander. It’s kind of like I’m going to focus my mind on this thing and it doesn’t have too much space to wander. Now, be careful with this because this isn’t a way of kind of hiding from everything. This is definitely something that you should do alongside one of the other techniques, you know, talking to someone or taking a brain dump.
But this is something to give your mind a bit of a break and practice some mindfulness again, really. So I’ve got a couple of examples. First one is reading a book, but it has to be a good one. I’ve been reading so many like books for university at the moment that I couldn’t tell you half of what I read because I’ve been ruminating all the way through them. They’re so dull. So a really good book that you can’t put down that you can immerse yourself in.
Ticking something off the to do list. So this is kind of like a double whammy because it’s going to help with the overwehlm because you’ve got something done, but you also need to make sure that it’s something that doesn’t seem too daunting because you don’t want to be like, I’m overwhelmed now. I need to do more things. So find something that’s quick and easy that you can take off the list.
And if you have done a brain dump and you followed the three steps in the guide that I’ve put up, then you’ll know that the first one is to find quick wins. So write down everything, find some quick wins and take something off your list that you can focus on.
You could also practice meditation and mindfulness. I know that this is sometimes harder to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed, especially if you’re new to meditation or just to start with. Trying to focus on something completely different and focus on your breathing and everything else can be really hard not to ruminate during that. But I found the apps like Headspace or Calm have really good beginner level meditations that will help you learn these techniques. Practice these techniques, and then when you need an anti ruminative activity and then you’ll have that again in your toolbox, you’ll know how to practice those mindfulness moments.
We could play a game. Jake and I have been playing so many board games recently, I put a question up on Instagram and asked some of you for recommendations. And then we went and bought loads of them. So I find that that is really good because you’re using your brain. You know, there’s strategy involved in a lot of the games that we play, and it’s just a lot of fun. You’re kind of fully focused on that. It’s not like watching TV, but you’re scrolling on your phone and thinking about what you’re going to cook for tomorrow’s dinner. Playing a game you really immerse yourself in.
It could be a video game, a mobile game, just something that you can really sink your teeth into. I find I can play games like The Sims for 12 hours without a break. And I haven’t thought of anything negative in that time other than whatever’s going on with my Sim. Oh… she’s on fire haha. And so just find something that you can really sink your teeth into that you can focus on. And I do think games are good for us a lot of them require logic and strategy.
And finally moving. So yoga, Pilates, whatever you like to do, dancing around like you’re in a Beyonce video, which I do regularly,this will really help you stop ruminating. But it also produces endorphins which can help with overwhelm, too. So, again, it’s another double whammy. You’re focusing on something else. If it’s something where you’ve got a routine in front of you, like a dance or yoga or whatever, then you’re focused on getting that right. And once you’ve moved around for a little bit, then the endorphins will kick in and that can really help with any negative moods that come with overwhelm.
So these are five things that we can do when we’re feeling overwhelmed. But it’s really important to remember that this isn’t kind of a one quick fix and it’s all done, much better now, great. Many of these things you have to practice and come back to, and that is absolutely OK. So it might take a little while.
You might try one of these techniques today because you’re feeling overwhelmed and think, well, that’s helped for a little bit. But then it’s important to practice those things when you’re not feeling overwhelmed so that when the overwhelm creeps in again, you know exactly what it is that you can do to stop your mind from ruminating or to untangle your brain. And then you kind of become a pro at dealing with this.
When the overwhelm takes over, you’re like, right, I’m going to do the stopp technique, then I’m going to do a brain dump. I’m going to look at the things that I can’t control. And now I feel like my brain is finally untangled again.
I hope that these have been helpful for you! I wanted to give you a quick reminder as well that The Anti-Burnout Club membership is launching on the 1st of January next year. So if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I’m hoping this will be the perfect place for you to unwind.
You’ll soon be hearing from some of the teachers. We’ve got yoga, Pilates, stretching, meditation, mindfulness, breath, work so much more. I’m going to be doing podcast episodes with the teachers and will be going on Instagram and Facebook live just so that you can meet everyone and know what’s coming next year. If you’re not already on the wait list, get on the wait list. You’ll find it on the website. There’s a page called Join the Wait List or at the bottom of the article that goes with this podcast episode.
And I can’t wait. I’m so excited. I’m overwhelmed haha, but I’m practicing these techniques, so it’s fine. But yeah, I’m really, really excited, there’s so many of you on the wait list already! And yeah, I just think it’s going to be an amazing start to next year. A bit more of a peaceful and calmer start. Definitely. So that’s it for me today. A nice quick one. I hope if you are feeling overwhelmed that one of these things will help you today.
Do come and chat to me on Instagram. It’ll be really, really nice to talk to you and I’ll speak to you all again very soon. Take care.