Taking a Break to Manage Day to Day Overwhelm

Overwhelm, stress, tension. We all have a different name for it and it affects most if not all of us at one time or another. Feeling overwhelmed affects our physical health, our ability to focus, be productive, think clearly, make decisions and feel satisfied at the end of the day.

Every time I allow myself some “time away” whether it’s a walk on the beach, working on my jigsaw puzzles, learning guitar or a few days away, I get the break I need to re-energize and take on, with pleasure and focus, all of the activities that fill my day. For me, overwhelm is a matter of not necessarily having to much to do, but thinking I have too much to do. In essence I create the overwhelm. A break helps me recognize that and focus on those things that really bring me joy and satisfaction.

Friday, I received this email:

It’s not flowing.  Rather it is overwhelming.  The little dinky stuff keeps piling up.  What do you tell people to do to get out from under feeling overwhelmed…like it’s all going to crush them?

I responded:

I usually start with “walk away from it”.   Doesn’t have to be long, a few minutes sometimes is enough.  And when you get away do something unrelated to the tasks – get outside, engage in a hobby for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and visualize calm…there are a number of things that can help “quiet” you.  What works for you?

I know it seems counter intuitive because there is “so much to do” but in reality, the break can help you recognize what really needs to get done, find clarity on a problem and put the “dinky” stuff aside because at the end of the day you may find it truly is “dinky” and not satisfying work.

Taking a break – whether for a few minutes or a few days – is one of the first suggestions I make to clients or friends who are trying to manage day to day overwhelm. It doesn’t cost anything, require special equipment doesn’t take a lot of time and can bring some fun into your day. It can help you focus, find answers and improve productivity. Bottom line: taking a break works.

Practice: If you find yourself feeling stressed, tense or overwhelmed this week allow yourself a few minutes to get away from it. Engage in some other activity that allows you to take your mind off the stress and focus on fun or relaxation. Notice what that’s like. Is it: Challenging? Refreshing? Frustrating? Think you don’t have time? That’s when you need the break the most.

Your thoughts may still drift to what you left behind, mine often do. Because your focus is on another activity you can relax more and allow ideas and clarity to flow naturally and with more ease. You may experience an “a-ha” moment simply because you took time to relax. And that right there makes the break worth it.

What do you think? How do you manage overwhelm? Do you forge through or allow yourself some time away? What works for you?

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  • http://www.joydiscovered.net Jodi at Joy Discovered

    I absolutely agree with your advice here. Take a break, walk away–and then come back refreshed and ready to tackle the overwhelm. The first thing I do (after the break) is clear away any clutter. I always feel like I can get a grip better in a clear space!

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