Feeling Overwhelmed? Try a 5-Minute Fix.

Hi, hello. I’m alive, I promise. It’s been a while – this might be the longest posting gap in LBTL history. Sorry, if that disappoints anyone. Graduating college, starting a new job, and starting the apartment search have been huge time commitments – but more than that, I just feel overwhelmed all the time.

I work at a small company of creative people, so I’m getting emails at all hours as people work from home. No one expects me to respond right away. But even just seeing that email notification on my phone makes me feel like I’m still at the office. I’m adjusting to not seeing school friends, getting used to living with four people and multiple pets after a year alone, and celebrating the end of the long-distance portion of my relationship. (The boy is now 10 minutes away and I couldn’t be happier!)

I do have enough free time, but when I thought about writing a blog post, I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t sure I had anything creative or useful to say. It became sort of a nagging, anxious thing in the back of my mind, a running count of how long it had been since I posted.

But whether I’m at work, at home, with friends, or trying to write a blog post, I know how to cope with being overwhelmed – it’s just a matter of doing it. So I tried a few things and realized “Wait a minute… This could be a blog post!”

So yeah, you could say it worked.

Simple Tips For When You’re Overwhelmed

All of these are quick and easy. Try one. Try three. Try them all. Just find something that works for you and then actually do it when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes, it’s that simple.

 

Actually meditate

I always figured I couldn’t meditate because I’m an easily-distracted snackfood lover, not a peaceful yogi. It turns out, meditating doesn’t have rules.

Set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and just focus on breathing and reconnecting with your body. You might realize you’re actually hungry, or actually thirsty, or, if you’re like me, you might realize you’re not hungry and you need to stop stress-snacking. Unless you’re some sort of magical meditative goddess, you’re probably still going to be thinking. You can’t just switch off your brain. So instead of berating yourself for your cluttered mind, just let thoughts come and go without attachment.

When you’re done, hopefully your mind will be a little clearer, and you’ll be better prepared for the rest of your day.

Self-Inventory

Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed, I get flighty and forgetful. A self-inventory is a great way to ground yourself. Now, I work in web development and write a blog, so I’ve got nothing against computers, but do me a favor and grab a piece of paper and a pen for this one.

In writing, answer these questions:

  • What was the last thing you ate, and when did you eat it?
  • What was the last thing you drank, and when did you drink it?
  • What’s the funniest thing that’s happened this week?
  • When was the last time you cried? Why?
  • What three words would you use to describe yourself right now?
  • What’s one thing you’re looking forward to today?
  • What’s one thing you’re looking forward to in the next year?

Sit with your answers a second, and think about how you want to answer them the next time you do this.

Indulge in “generic” self-care

Somehow, a mug of tea, a thick blanket, and a good book have become cliches. I’m not here to talk about why, but I would love to point out that self-care cliches are amazing, just because they mean self-care is mainstream enough to have cliches in the first place.

Realistically, is there any reality in which a warm drink and a fresh notebook don’t make me feel better?

Whatever your “basic” self-care indulgence is, just go for it. Latte with pretty art? Yum. Soft blanket and an excerpt of Tina Fey’s memoir? Heck yeah. Staring serenely out a window into the rain while holding a steaming mug of tea? Freaking go for it.

Take five minutes to do, eat, or drink something that makes you happy, and here’s the key: focus on it. Taste every sip or bite, be conscious and present every moment you take for yourself. Unless you’re working in some sort of high-stakes field, there’s nothing due that can’t wait five minutes. So take those five minutes for yourself, and yourself only.

Walk It Off

If you’re in the position to take a walk, do it! Leave your phone behind (or in your pocket, if you must) and go for a quick walk around the block, or an out-and-back stroll down the road. If you pass non-creepy strangers, give them a smile. (Apparently, people outside the Midwest don’t do this all the time.) Notice the weather, the plants and animals around, the traffic, the sky.

The key here is to live in the moment and focus on the walk. Think of it as a reset button – instead of thinking about everything, all the time, just think about whatever you happen to see at the moment.

If you’re in a familiar place, think about the times you’ve been there before. If you’re exploring somewhere new, find something you want to visit again. But as best you can, stay focused on the walk, not the other stuff that’s bothering you.

I like to think of walks as meditation for hyperactive people. Sometimes it’s hard to sit in one place and marshal your thoughts. But in motion, outside where there’s plenty to look at, you can distract yourself from stresses and take a break from freaking out.

Lift Up Someone Else

I would love to say I do nice things purely out of the goodness of my heart. And sometimes I do. But honestly? A lot of my good deeds happen because I love that “I’m such a good person!” feeling that I get afterwards. I’m really hoping that doesn’t mitigate the niceness of the things I do.

If you know a friend has had a rough week, send them a cheerful text. Someone on your friends list just accomplished something? Leave them a heartfelt congratulations. Help people when they drop things. Hold the door, even if the person behind you is at an awkward distance.

Your challenge is to make someone smile like this.

Your challenge is to make someone smile like this.

When you’re kind to people, they’re usually kind back. And making a connection like that is a really powerful way to break yourself out of a funk. But connections aside, consider this: Accomplishing one small tasks tends to make tackling the next one easier. Making people happy isn’t difficult. But if you set the goal of making someone else smile and achieve it, you’re priming yourself for success in the rest of your endeavors.

Also – and I’m trying not to get political here – for Americans, these past few months have been rough. I don’t think anyone’s particularly happy, each for their own reasons. A little extra kindness can go a long way in times like these. Or, at least, I’m hoping it can.

 

Bonus tip: Have You Tried Not Being Stressed?

“Wow, Megan, that’s literally the worst advice I’ve ever heard.”

Okay, fair. But hear me out. Maybe I’m alone in this, but sometimes, when I have a lot to do, I feel like I should be stressed. That seems to be what adulthood is about – it’s just a competition of who can claim to be the most stressed and the most tired. But forcing things into perspective has helped me in the past. Saying “realistically, I only need to get these three things done today, and everything else is just a bonus” is incredibly freeing.

As much as your job and other commitments allow, you get to choose what’s important to you. Don’t forget that.

Writing stuff for y’all is important to me. I made that choice. So expect more regular updates from here on out, and thank you for being patient with me. You’re the best people on the internet.