3 Calming Routines When Overwhelmed By Your To-Do List
Stress is something we all have to deal with in life. There is no getting around that. But some days (or weeks) are just worse than others. Our to-do list seems never-ending, and we just don't know how we will get it all done. This feeling of helplessness is common, and no one should ever feel ashamed for admitting that they are overwhelmed. The good news is that there are many calming routines that anyone can utilize to help manage the stress of everyday life. First and foremost, please consider contacting me to walk with you every step of the way. And in the meantime, consider these three techniques that are easy, free, and only take a few minutes to complete.
That does not sound too hard, does it? Breathing is something you do on a moment-by-moment basis. So whatever situation you are in, you can breathe to help you calm down. That is the best part about using breathing as a calming technique. You can do it in the middle of the grocery store, in the classroom, at work, or anywhere else. And those around you will not even realize that you are engaging in any kind of de-stressing method. Unless, of course, you choose to pass on your secret to others because it is so great!
Now, I know what you are thinking. How will breathing help me to calm down? I breathe every second and it does not keep me calm. It is true that just breathing does not normally calm our nerves. But that is because we are not paying attention to it. Breathing is involuntary; we do it without thinking. But when we take time to stop everything else and focus on our breathing alone — blocking everything else from our mind — it becomes an indispensable method to still our racing hearts and minds.
To help us focus, various breathing exercises have been developed. One that I like to use is called the 4-7-8 Method. Here is how it works:
- Keep the tip of your tongue touching just behind your teeth
- Breathe in silently through your nose for four slow counts
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Whoosh out through the mouth for eight counts
And that is it! Memorize this handy technique, and it goes with you anywhere. When you feel overwhelmed, simply take a few minutes to complete these four steps once or twice through. Just make sure you focus on the breathing and nothing else. Ideally, this technique should be practiced two to four times throughout the day. Even though it takes just a minute or two, this practice can be considered a form of meditation, and it not only reduces stress, it prevents it!
Writing things down is another excellent way to take a moment away from the never-ending rush and slow down our thoughts. This takes a little more effort than breathing but it is nearly as easy of a habit to develop. It is a good idea to keep a small notebook and a few pens in your purse so they go wherever you do. It is an even better idea to pick out a journal you think is really beautiful and choose some nice colored gel pens. Just seeing them will be a bright spot in your day, reminding you that life is not all about the hurry and worry.
Once you find the perfect journal and pen, you need to create a strategy. You have to decide where to go and what to write when you need a minute away from it all. You may choose to pull out your journal wherever you are and jot down a few notes. Or you may decide that it would be a good idea to step away from the situation and go to a quiet space (for example, going to your car for a few minutes while grocery shopping). Whatever works for you. You must also have a plan for what to write. Here are a few ideas.
- Write one word to describe how you are feeling (ex. tired, overwhelmed, afraid, angry); then, choose one word to describe how you want to be feeling (ex. joyful, thankful, calm, brave)
- Write down three things that you are grateful for
- Write down one thing you can see, one thing you can hear, and one thing you can feel in your immediate vicinity
Remember that all these exercises can also be transformed into a morning routine. If you start the day out right, you are less likely to become overwhelmed in the middle.
Sometimes we need to physically move in order to get the nervous energy out. If you are that kind of person, consider simply taking a walk when you feel completely and utterly stressed out. Physical movement has long been known to decrease mental stress. So leave your shopping cart behind, step away from the meeting for a restroom break, or use the fifteen minutes in between classes to walk off the jitters. Feel free to walk at the pace that best serves you. Stroll along leisurely and imagine that you are leaving all your troubles behind like a boss, if only for a few minutes. Or take a fast-paced power walk with your chin held high. However, do not let anger or frustration fuel a fast walk. Instead, walk with purpose in your step and a smile on your face. Also, walk outside whenever possible.
Remember, you want to take your mind off your problems. So intentionally use your mind to focus on other things while you walk. Notice the way your body is moving, each foot stepping boldly in front of the other, hands comfortably at your sides, head confidently tipped up. You are ready to face the world! Or, focus on your surroundings. Notice the sun shining through the windows and the pattern of light and shadow it creates. Or turn your mind to something you enjoy: cooking, watching sports, playing with your pets, etc. You will come back feeling (and stepping) like a boss.
Like the other calming techniques, walking can become a routine practice and even a stress-preventing practice. Take a brief walk and watch the sun rise before you shower in the mornings. Or schedule time to walk or jog after work or school. You will probably end up looking forward to that time all day! By developing a consistent walking habit, you will reduce and prevent stress.
For more tips on stress management, feel free to contact me. I am committed to helping you live your life to the fullest.