4 Ways to Reduce Overwhelm | Omega

Overwhelmed is the new normal. Busy is a badge of honor. Reclaim your life with a few practices that can help you reduce stress, stay focused, and have fun again.

We live in a culture of stress and overwhelm. Most people are juggling work, friends, family, health, travel, and that's if all is well. Here's a pretty typical scene:

“It’s just after 10 a.m. on a Tuesday and I am racing down Route 1. The Check Engine light is on. The car tax sticker on my windshield has expired. The cell phone I’d just been using to talk to one of my kids’ teachers has disappeared into the seat crack. And I’m late,” writes award-winning journalist Brigid Schulte in her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.

Can you relate?

She paints the picture for women in particular.

“You have to keep house like Martha Stewart, parent like Donna Reed, work like Sheryl Sandberg, and look like Jennifer Anniston. That’s nuts. We all know it’s nuts, and yet it’s hard to break away from those cultural expectations,” Schulte writes.

But people of all ages have their version of overscheduled and overwhelmed living.

“I think everyone today, if you asked them, ‘What’s the biggest problem in your life?’ They’d say, ‘I just don’t have time for anything!’” says Omega cofounder Elizabeth Lesser in an interview.

“We are almost afraid to slow down,” Lesser continues. “Because, uh, oh—I have built up so much stuff in there, I am afraid I would cry forever, or have to go to sleep for weeks, or I would want to make some changes, and it is all just so overwhelming that we just keep going and going and going.”

These overwhelming feelings of stress are ubiquitous. In a 2017 survey, 3 out of 4 Americans reported having at least one symptom of stress in the previous month, including insomnia, anxiety, irritability, anger, and fatigue.

1) Minutes of Meditation

Time and money are two major issues in most people’s lives, according to Marc Allen, author of The Magical Path.

“So many people feel they have to work 40 or 50 or even 60 hours a week—but half the time, they’re not being productive anyway,” Allen writes in his blog. “Sometimes during the day, it would be far better to take a nap, because you wake up with more energy and get more done in the long run.”

He recommends the Middle Pillar Meditation to help attract more abundance and to help alleviate stress.

2) Music Is Powerful

“Far too often, we get bogged down with our busy schedules and to-do lists and forget to put on music and let our minds recalibrate,” writes Gabrielle Bernstein in Miracles Now. She recommends using music to help calm down.

“Schedule a few minutes a day to sit in stillness and listen to an inspiring song or two. This ritual will begin a powerful meditative practice of turning inward and releasing worldly concerns,” she writes.

If you're not sure what to play, try a pre-made playlist on a streaming music service, where you can pick whatever genre works for you, whether you need to rock out or chill. 

You may also want to experiment with chanting as a form of meditation. Research conducted at some of the nation’s top research institutions, in conjunction with the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation, suggests that chanting can improve depression, sleep, and memory function.

3) Breathe It Out

Health and lifestyle coach Magen Banwart says we need to pay more attention to our breath.

“Most Americans are in this fight or flight response/stress-mode breathing 15 to 20 breaths per minute nearly all the time,” she writes on her blog. “A calm, centered person takes about six breaths per minute. If we slow breath down, the body and the mind think everything is alright, even if you’re in a highly stressful situation.”

She recommends the "Two Bells" style of deep breathing, named for Tibetan bells that chime every 6 seconds to signal changes in inhalation and exhalation. It can be enjoyed with or without bells.

  • Close your eyes
  • Make a mental checklist of how you are feeling
  • Close your mouth and touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth
  • Inhale deeply in through the nose 4 to 6 counts 
  • Exhale out of the nose 4 to 6 counts
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times

She says breathing exercises can also help reduce mental and physical fatigue.

4) Take More Time for Leisure

In contrast to all this overwhelm is leisure, which is defined as “that place in which we realize our humanity,” by the Leisure Studies Department at the University of Iowa.  

When was the last time you truly allowed for time to do nothing and just enjoy being human?

Sometimes, the best way to handle overwhelm is to ditch the to-do list and enjoy some rest and relaxation.

© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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