What to do when you’re overwhelmed with life: Supporting the mind
Many of us experience feelings of stress and anxiety in our lives. But not many of us really know what to do when we’re overwhelmed with life. It’s not a subject typically taught in our schools or even dealt with particularly well in our families. So we’re often left flailing with mental health issues and emotions we don’t know what to do with. And for many people, especially older generations, there is a taught tendency to suppress and sweep these emotions under the carpet.
But we are here to raise your awareness and acceptance levels around your feelings, thoughts and everything in between. These struggles are particularly prevalent in regional issues where droughts, floods, bushfires and more have left people overwhelmed and even traumatised. In these areas, learning to cope with this overwhelm is more important than ever.
In our first article of this series, we explained what overwhelm and trauma are. We also investigated why people living in regional areas may be dealing with these mental health issues.
Now, in the second article of the series, we discuss how focusing on supporting and strengthening your mind can help you cope better with overwhelm, particularly living in regional areas.
What to do when you’re overwhelmed with life
When you’re in trauma, you’re often stuck in survival mode. When you’re stuck in survival mode, even the smallest issue can reactivate that fight-flight–or freeze feeling and re-traumatise you very quickly. However, there are ways you can tackle this issue.
One of the best ways to start is by focusing your mind to ease stress and overwhelm.
Ways you can help your mind
Don’t judge yourself
First, try to work on accepting the feelings that you’ve been pushing away. Resistance or denial can often compound the problem. Instead, we want to address the emotions in a healthy and responsible way. Try not to judge or shame yourself, and remember that feelings of overwhelm are a natural response to experiencing difficult times.
Conscious, deep belly breathing (not into the chest) helps signal to your nervous system that you are not in danger. This can be the first basic step when trying to pacify feelings of stress or anxiety in the moment. As newborns, we know how to fully engage the diaphragm to take deep breaths, but as we get older we often shift to shallower chest breathing.
Relearning deep belly breathing can help slow our heartbeat, stimulate the vagus nerve and activate the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Check out this video for a guide on diaphragmatic breathing.
Talk to a professional
These are issues we often can’t deal with alone and it’s always best to consult an expert. Fortunately, living in a regional area is now far less of an obstacle to seeking help. In fact, there are many psychologists and counsellors offering sessions via phone or video conference.
Head here for a list of online services, support groups and other helpful resources. You could also consider the government’s Better Access initiative.
These crisis support services are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Challenge your negative thoughts
While more serious mental issues should be talked through with a professional, for smaller stresses, try to challenge those worrying thoughts. Break them down to understand the root cause and brainstorm practical ways you can find a solution.
For example, if you’re struggling with feelings of isolation or worrying that you won’t have any support in the case of more natural disasters, reach out to others in your community. Whether you grab a coffee or a beer at the pub, it’s likely you’ll find that they’re worrying about similar things. Together you can work out how to support one another in times of crisis and make those worries smaller day-to-day.
Take small opportunities to destress
Taking regular time-outs to practise self-care and calm your nervous system might help you to deal with your anxious niggles before they become a more serious issue. What brings you peace and serenity? For some, this may be a relaxing bath listening to soothing music, while others may get clarity and calm from a walk out in nature. Others may practise breath-work, meditation, gratitude or mindfulness. Listing 4 things you are grateful for before you go to sleep is a great practice!
Develop a positive coping strategy for your mind so you know what works best for your individual needs when you’re experiencing moments of extreme overwhelm. This will ideally help you when life’s little challenges pop up. Educate yourself by reading widely and finding online resources from reputable providers. HOLGRO offers a range of courses that will help support and strengthen your mind, such as Easing Stress and Overwhelm and SEEDS OF HOPE – The Survival Series.
In this article, we explored what to do when you’re overwhelmed with life and how you can help your mind cope. Make sure you check back in to read the next three articles in our blog series for more suggestions on how to support your body, business and spirit during times of stress.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article should be considered general advice only, and professional advice should always be obtained.
If you need to speak to someone, please call:
Lifeline: 131 114
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636