Is Overwhelm Your New Normal? | Omega

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Ask any person how they are doing and more often than not you will get a response like, “fried,” “busy,” or “swamped.” If you're feeling like overwhelm is your new normal, here are 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 particularly felt in the workplace, as most people manage meetings, emails, PowerPoints, paperwork, and coworkers. In fact, more than 8 in 10 American workers said they are stressed out on the job, according the 2013 Work Stress Survey.

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.

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 her book, 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.

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.

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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