Feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Here’s how to stay emotionally healthy.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Is your stress level rising? Obviously, it’s been an especially difficult year. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out, you’re not alone!
What do you do when you’re overwhelmed and stressed?
When we feel overwhelmed, many of us revert to unhealthy coping patterns and bad habits, like overeating, drinking, and zoning out in front of the television. And while these aren’t the best ways to take care of ourselves when we’re overwhelmed and stressed, it’s completely understandable.
When we’re mentally, emotionally, and physically depleted, we don’t have any bandwidth left to think of and implement healthy forms of self-care. So, we revert to the fastest and easiest ways to comfort ourselves – things that we know will immediately give us some relief. And, let’s be honest, eating a bag of chips or drinking a bottle of wine will quickly provide comfort, numbing, and respite from our troubles.
However, we all know that drowning our problems in potato chips and wine isn’t actually going to help – and if we use them repeatedly, they will cause additional problems. Potato chips and wine aren’t real self-care.
What is self-care?
Self-care is an activity that you do to care for yourself, to improve your physical, emotional, or spiritual health. Acts of self-care can include going to bed on time, ending a phone call with a verbally abusive caller, writing in your journal, meditating, or going to the dentist.
As you can see, self-care isn’t just pampering yourself. In fact, self-care isn’t always enjoyable – it’s the stuff we need to do to keep ourselves healthy, so we can be our best selves.
Self-care can be a preventative activity that we do, to stay healthy, like exercising or eating healthfully. We also need to practice self-care in response to stress. And the more stress we are under, the more self-care we need. For example, if your spouse is in the hospital, you need to care for yourself in some additional ways beyond your regular preventative self-care routine. During this stressful time, your self-care might include praying in the hospital chapel, calling a friend, asking your sister to help watch your children, and so forth.
What do you need when you’re overwhelmed and stressed?
Of course, practicing healthy self-care is easier said than done. It can feel like one more thing to do when you’re already exhausted or on-edge. And, for some, it can seem selfish to do something for themselves when a loved one is sick, or you can’t pay your rent, or our country is in crisis. however, self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s meeting a real need that you have.
The feeling of being overwhelmed or stressed is your mind and body telling you that something is wrong, that you need to attend to your needs and rebalance yourself.
When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, what do you need? The answer will be different at different times, but you might need rest, emotional support, or to quiet your mind and stop worrying. Once you’ve identified what you need, you can figure out how to meet that need. For example, if you need rest, you might take a nap, or ask your partner to do the shopping so you can have a break, or you might call out sick from work.
When we’re under a lot of stress, our minds are overloaded and it’s hard to muster the extra energy and brain-power that we need to check-in with ourselves, find out what we need, and identify healthy forms of self-care. So, we want to make this process as easy as possible. Use the tips below to help you.
Tips for practicing self-care when you’re overwhelmed and stressed
- Make a list of self-care activities that might help you when you’re overwhelmed or stressed. Keep this list somewhere handy, like on your phone or next to your bed. You want to be able to access this list easily, so you don’t have to come up with new ideas when you’re already overwhelmed.
- Remember that self-care includes both what you do and what you don’t do. For example, self-care can be adding exercise or it can be limiting how much time you spend on social media or declining an invitation.
- Try to maintain your regular healthy habits and self-care practices, such as exercise, getting enough sleep, hobbies, and so forth.
- Ask yourself: How do I feel? What do I need?
- If you use an unhealthy coping strategy, give yourself some grace, and move on. There’s no need to beat yourself up for smoking a cigarette when you’re in crisis, even if you quit ten years ago. Forgive yourself and make a plan to meet your needs in a healthier way.
- Self-care is essential, it’s not a luxury or something to do if you have time.
- Remember, the more stressed and overwhelmed you feel, the more self-care you need.
Read more about self-care
©2020 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
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Do you hold yourself—and perhaps others—to extremely high standards? Do you have a nagging inner-critic that tells you you’re inadequate no matter how much you achieve? Do you procrastinate certain tasks because you’re afraid you won’t carry them out perfectly? If you’ve answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, chances are you’re a perfectionist. And while there’s nothing wrong with hard work and high standards, perfectionism can take over your life if you let it. So, how can you find balance?
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