Updated: Jun 9
Last week I covered how to get moving again in the face of overwhelm by getting very clear on your next step. I’m going to go into to-do lists in more detail in the coming weeks, so stay tuned if you’d like help getting on top of your to-do’s in a bigger way.
Today though I’m looking at how to support your physiology so you are less prone to getting into a state of overwhelm in the first place.
I’m starting with the body because this is actually the basis of how we think and process the world. We think we do this in our heads, but most of our cognition happens through the body.
If your physiology is off, your thinking is going to be sub-optimal too. Before helping you think through WHAT you need to do, I’d like to help you give some attention to HOW you are when you do it.
Your body’s answer to overwhelm and chaos
Any time you are struggling, the temptation is to look for some hidden energy and push through a bit more. This strategy is deeply ingrained in our culture.
While there is a place for pushing that little bit harder, you simply can’t do that on empty.
If you are regularly overwhelmed, you have a much more powerful strategy at your disposal that you should be reaching for long before you try and squeeze any more effort out of yourself.
Many people never do this, because it's counter intuitive... but it really works.
When you are struggling to get through your day, forget trying harder.
The first thing you need to do is to take more rest.
Rest is your secret weapon.
If you can master this, as a matter of routine, not only will you find you are much happier and more productive, you will never burn out again.
We all know we have to rest when we’re tired or ill. Yet many of us can’t even manage this!
Few people really know how to stoke their own fire with active rest before hitting a wall.
I know this from hard-won experience. I’m highly sensitive, and I find things overwhelming that many people would take in their stride.
I often push through (because my expectations are set to “what is normal for everyone else” rather than “what is right for me”) and then I stop being able to function.
I can’t think straight. I’ll have a meltdown at the slightest upset. And I can’t get anything done at even a basic level.
I’ve learned that accessing the body’s natural renewal system is the one reliable thing that is going to get me back to my sweet, clever and effective self faster than any push. And these days, I’m more likely to climb into bed for 20 minutes when things get a bit hard than reach for a cup of coffee.
If you are chronically overwhelmed, strategically using your rest and recovery system is the biggest thing that you can do, right now, to turn your life around.
Here’s what to do.
>> Every hour you are working (use a timer), or the moment you notice you’re getting overwhelmed, drink a glass of good water and then do at least one of the following for a few minutes:
Move your body
Have a cuddle
Stare into space
Put your legs up the wall
Do a little bit of yoga
Walk round the block
>> Incorporate longer blocks of the following activities into your daily and weekly routine (as many and as often as you can manage):
Heat: Sauna/hot baths
Cold: cold showers, ice bath, wild swimming
Uplifting social time
Intentional sleep (naps, good sleep hygiene)
Your challenge is to do at least one thing from the lists above in the next 24 hours - and email me to let me know how you felt afterwards. I want to know what you picked!
I’m rooting for ya,